You're (probably) Wrong About Yuri


Hello youtube, and welcome to my first video essay. If you're watching this, you're either a yuri fan already and know everything I'm about to say, to some degree. Or, you don't know as much about the yuri genre as you'd like. In both cases, welcome! Please keep an open mind. Adult content will be discussed so children please back out before your parents overhear.

As for me, I've been a fan of the genre for a pretty good while, and I've really gotten to see it come into it's own. So it really annoys me to see so many people with outdated or just plain wrong ideas about the genre. For this video I'll be focusing on yuri from japan as that's what i know the most about, but if anyone has good resources on korean, chinese, filipino, or any other non-english speaking country's gl I'd love to hear them!


Let's start with short history lesson about yuri, just to get the rest of y'all up to speed.

Yuri as we know it today is a fairly new genre, but it's roots run all the way back to the early 1900's with class s stories (1). Class s was a homoerotic subgenre of shoujo born from the advent of all-girls catholic schools in the early 1900's.

These stories had lots of queer subtext with little outright stated, and even so often still had tragic ends. An older girl in a pure, sexless fling with a younger girl. Emotions run wild, but they are separated by circumstance and succumb to the inevitable fate of death or heterosexual marriage. Class s tropes still get used some today, but aren't the same ball and chain they used to be.

Yuri officially became yuri in the early 2000s, and comic yuri hime started publishing soon after, cementing it as it's own thing. After getting a name and a dedicated magazine, the yuri genre still needed a few years to grow into it's own. Class s aesthetic and tropes still dominated this era, and subtext was often preferred to textual queer relationships. If it wasn't subtext, the stories were most likely either fluff or tragedy.

The 2010s came in and marked an era of change for the genre. The early 2010s saw a slow but noticeable shift with more direct yuri and less tragedy. Citrus and kase san came out of this era, both products of the slow shift. Citrus was refreshing with yuzu explicitly questioning her sexuality instead of passing it off as a one-off attraction. While Kase san had the characters explicitly dating each other from early on, as well as making plans for a future together later on.

So while it wasn't the only yuri dabbling in it's topics at the time, bloom into you was the real snapping point for the genre's now rusted shackles. The relationship is markedly physical, but not pornographic. Men exist, and some would be valid romantic options. For girls who liked men. Adult lesbians exist and live happily, while sayaka takes pride in her lesbianism and suffers an extremely relatable middle school situationship. Other sexualities beyond lesbianism are also acknowledged with maki's asexuality and yuu's questioning of her own allosexuality. It's not perfect, but it boldly renounced many class s tropes that were hanging on for too long. Even going so far as to have them explicitly bang in the last chapter just to put a final nail in the coffin for the pure, exclusively emotional flings of yesteryear.

And more importantly, it made bank while doing so, letting mangazines know that these stories won't chase off ther customer base and might even bring in new ones (2). After bloom into you, the yuri genre boomed with interesting new stories. Even subtext fitting within the previous limits of the genre was able to get more explicit in the characters attraction to women. And the porn! I don't have the numbers, but i remember the last chapter of bloom into you coming out and suddenly there was so much more porn getting multiple volumes to tell a story.

But demographics are what many outsiders are really curious about. Cold, hard, numbers especially. Without those, how do I know it's not for men? How do you know queer women actually read this stuff? And for that there's limited research. But what there is out there doesn't suggest what people like to assume.

Maser's study of japanese yuri fandom gives a good snapshot of what it looked like in 2011. Right on the precipice of change for the genre.

Maser found that yuri fandom was fragmented, with a lot of different subgroups who weren't always on good terms. Contrary to the assumptions most people make which are either:

It's about lesbians, so it's for lesbians


It's about lesbians so it's porn for straight men

The survey showed gender was a very even split down the middle with a couple percent lean towards women (3, pg. 143).

So we can see yuri isn't specifically preferred by one gender or the other, what about the reasons?


While yuri dabbled in pornography and pornographers sometimes used the term, at this time a large subgroup of the fandom considered it no longer yuri once sex was involved (3, pg. 115). An interesting bit to note here is that that's likely a mostly heterosexual group, as queer women surveyed commonly express annoyance over the ambiguity of yuri at that time (3, pg. 153).

Relatedly, there's an interesting anecdote from a lesbian yuri author included in this study (3, pg. 155). She mentioned writing yuri to some girls in a lesbian bar, and the assumption was that it was for straights, but in the sanitized almost but not quite lesbian way. Not the way I usually see english speaking queer folk assume, that being porn for straight guys. No, the assumption was more in line with class s and it's target audience of straight women.

And then given that only 30% of the straight men responding gave sexual arousal as one of the reasons they liked yuri, it's almost certainly not the major attracter for them (3, pg. 151). At least, not any more of a draw than it is for queer women as the same percentage of queer women also reported reading yuri for sexual arousal. So, yuri smut is not specifically attracting straight men and it's not what attracts them to the genre.

And as for the queer girls, at this time yuri was less about clear cut romantic love, and more about a tantalizing in between. Homoerotic relationships of the type that often end after high school. The type of relationship that a lot of sapphics have very bittersweet memories of (3, pg. 115). That indefinite something you have with your best friend that is ruined when she ditches you for a boyfriend.

Despite this, "because i also like girls" IS the main reason queer women gave for liking yuri, with about 75% of queer women saying so (3, pg. 150). There was less choice in this era, but even so explicit queerness wasn't enough to push a yuri to the top. Queer women would commonly express annoyance at the lack of choice, but they're still more than ready to use their imagination to put the finishing touches to their favorite yuri (3, pg. 153).

Out of the top 5 for each demographic, aoi hana is the most clear about sexuality (3, pg. 146). At least, if I remember correctly, even though strawberry panic and shoujo sect do go so far as physicality they don't address queerness itself, being a girl who likes girls, as much as aoi hana. And evidently that was neither enough to push it to the top for queer women, or to scare off all the straights since it has about the same percentage of support from the other 2 main demographics. The biggest points of difference are actually shoujo sect and yuru yuri, with yuru yuri dominating the polls for straight men and shoujo sect not even registering for straight women, replaced by madoka magica. Shoujo sect's disappearance makes sense for straight women since it's smut, but yuru yuri's placement for straight men belies their most agreed upon reason for liking yuri, which I'll get to later. Shoujo sect was also 5% more popular with straight guys than queer women, but they tended towards greater agreement on the top 5 in general. And certainly still not popular enough to explain why the other 85% of them are here. But that answer is available, people just don't guess correctly.

Really, the bigger mystery to me is why straight women are attracted to yuri. Part of it can certainly be attributed to just a lot of them needing to consider their sexuality a bit more. After all, 10% of them gave sexual arousal as a reason for liking yuri which doesn't come off as heterosexual to me. There's still plenty who probably are straight though, since they make up a full third of the women in the fandom, with women being 52% of the fandom total (3, pg. 143). So why? I don't know and the sparse studies I've found haven't addressed it so I simply won't know. For now, at least. My best guess right now is simply that yuri, bl, and straight romance often have different vibes. So, for women who like romance yuri is one of the options to cycle through depending on what you want. But, no solid information on that one yet.

Compared to the makeup of the women, only 1 in 9 of the men are queer, so queer men aren't one of the main demographics (3, pg. 143). I wouldn't be surprised if a significant portion of straights of either gender realized they were less cishet than they thought as society progressed and they were more willing to question it. Especially given some highlighted comments from straight guys and the aforementioned 10% of straight women who think yuri is hot. But again, that doesn't explain all of the ones who probably aren't.

So if it isn't to jerk off, why are straight men reading all this girly shit? What have I been teasing for up until now?


If you know much about slice of life anime, you've probably heard of iyashi kei. Anime and manga with a focus on just being a good vibe, invoking a feeling of healing in the audience. These stories are usually slice of life, low stakes, character focused, and overall optimistic even in pessimistic settings.

Iyashi here is referring to the feeling iyashi kei stories are trying to evoke, that feeling of healing. A good portion of yuri at this time definitely fit a lot of criteria for iyashi kei, and it anecdotally makes sense parallel to how a lot of straight women like bl to escape the reality of heterosexual relationships.

And as previously mentioned, there's still a good chance that a lot of the people interpreting their healing feelings this way are misinterpreting feelings of gender euphoria, but that's probably not it for everyone, just like women with bl.

Like man, I know i keep harping on it, but man some of these responder comments getting spotlighted are so eggy (3, pg. 154). Like okay, so you like yuri smut but feel like it gives you a very different feeling than arousal? Interesting. Oh you read yuri because you hate your manhood and want to escape to a world where you don't exist? Ok bestie.

But that's not true for all of them, and even for the ones who aren't eggs it still makes a sort of sense beyond using it to hide more shameful reasons. Sometimes an idealistic life through the eyes of a character that is just like you is more bitter than power fantasy. You'll never have that, so why does this guy get to have so much fun!? But if you make the character less directly relatable, put them in an idealized life in a way you will never try to experience sometimes that's healing in it's own way.

I know it still sounds very trans, and it kind of is, but even without gender euphoria feeding this feeling it still makes sense. Let me put it this way. I think most of y'all watching like anime, and for me personally? I found a similar escape in anime growing up. I knew japan wasn't the kind of paradise it is in anime, but i also knew it wasn't small town America and i wouldn't be reminded of every big American pass time every teen but me got invited to with every episode. American teen dramas just pissed me off because i was the little autistic kid nobody invited anywhere, and all the power fantasy elements were just rubbing it in that nobody gave a shit.

but cultural festivals? Sports festival? School swimming pools? Those didn't exist anywhere close to me, why would i be sour about missing out on something i never even had a chance to not be invited to? It gave me room to fantasize and enjoy stupid power fantasies without being reminded of my own shitty school life.

But of course, there's a drawback to this line of thinking and weeaboos are known specifically for it. Fetishizing the unknown. Like how weeaboos dream of a japan that never existed and are weird about japanese culture, straight men can be weird about a fictionalized version of the female high school experience. And like how a weeaboo can use japan as a tool for escapism while still justifying american war crimes, straight men can use fictional lesbianism for escapism while hypocritically being homophobic in real life (3, pg. 154). I suspect the escapist but-not-quite portion of the straight male yuri fandom made up a decent portion of the group wanting to limit yuri to being more than friendship and less than romance.

And beyond the plain homophobes, I'm betting a lot of that group just finds the addition of explicit romance and turmoil too real. Too relatable to their own school experience. After all, the sentiment of "no ill will to lesbians, but yuri isn't about it" was common enough to note (3, pg. ). It is definitely homophobia of it's own sort, don't get me wrong, but it's a much different version than the "lesbians are hot actually" sort people attribute to male yuri fans. They're using us as a form of escapism, and the real struggles of queerness are stressful, not an escape. Once the girls kiss they gotta figure out where to go from there and it's hard. If they decide to go to university together, they've gotta figure out how that's gonna work. Once they enter adulthood, they're gonna have to figure out how to deal with the compulsory heterosexuality that's everywhere, it's just stressful.

But on an optimistic note, much like how weeaboos seem to have chilled the fuck out over the years, given the current make up of the yuri genre I'd be willing to bet this crowd has also chilled out. You can participate in this kind of escapism while acknowledging the issues faced by the target of said escapism. I could escape American high school through anime while knowing intellectually i would've had a way worse time there, and these guys can escape into a fictionalized lesbian experience while acknowledging the issues faced by lesbians.

70% of het men gave iyashi as a reason they like yuri manga and anime, as opposed to about 60% of the queer women and about 50% of het women (3, pg. 150). It was a very important aspect of yuri for the het male crowd, even the most important one. So straight men have their own reasons for liking yuri and it's more complicated than "girls hot". And given that they seem to like about the same yuri everyone else in the fandom likes, we still can't label slice of life or subtext yuri as the "man" thing here.

Even in a modern era with way more yuri to choose from, there are still plenty of queer women who enjoy subtext and slice of life yuri, not just the straight men

In many ways it just seems like a difference of reading. The queer women read more queerness into the stories, while the straight men just vibe and try not to remember stressful realities

Something to really underline and bold here, is that every demographic had essentially the same top 5. There are different reasons for liking yuri and disagreements about definitions, but ultimately there is no clear line between "yuri for queers" and "yuri for straights". There's yuri that leans one demographic or another, there's yuri in gendered magazines, but essentially none of it is categorically "for x demographic". A singular series may have a distinct audience buying it, but those same tropes can be found in other series with a different distinct audience.

Straight men will write problematic and smutty yuri certainly, but women will write just as nastily in a heartbeat. I mention smut specifically because i think western audiences have difficulty understanding this so i will say it clearly

There is no "tell" for whether x yuri, including and especially smut was written by a woman or not, or whether women will read it. Gender essentialism is bullshit, and this is just it rebranded. We can criticize aspects of stories we take issue with, we can feel discomfort, we can even hate it. But every time you boil it down to "only a straight guy could like something so kinky" a lesbian loses her strap.

Women can be horny, and they can be horny in ugly, nasty ways and it's normal. For every problematic yuri you call "for men" that is actually written by a man, there are 10 that are written by women who are only committing the sin of being horny and having weird kinks. If being excited to see magia baiser animated and hoping for an asumi chan adaptation makes me less of a woman, then you can keep your sanitized lesbianism.

You can hate these stories, you can criticize them. Hell i have a lot of my own issues in many cases! but enjoying the ride despite my issues with various individual stories doesn't make me less of a woman and the problems with the story doesn't erase all the lesbians reading and enjoying it. And it doesn't erase all the women writing even more of this stuff you're gonna call by men too.

Being by or for men isn't a criticism, it's an observation and in the case of yuri often a wrong one. If your only criteria for a lesbian story being "for men" is that a story is horny or problematic, that is just lesbophobia flavored gender essentialism

An interesting tidbit to note in this context, is that out of the respondents, 50% of the women said they made yuri themselves, compared to only 30% of the male responders (3, pg. 145). Zeria's more recent categorization of 150 yuri authors by gender (if known) also found a significant skew towards female authorship (4). So, keep that in mind before assuming that the horny writer behind your beloathed manga is a man

Modern Yuri

Now what about modern yuri? I've talked a big game about how yuri is different in the modern era, so where's the numbers? A direct counter to this research is not available, as I said, research on the yuri fandom is sparse, but we can piece some things together

A little more detail on zeria's survey, It is only 150 authors but there's some big names there (4). In 150, 90 are women, 20 are men, and 37 are unknown. Sexualities aren't listed because many people are understandably not open about it, but important to note for outsiders, not mostly men writing it.

It's also apparent that companies that aren't bandai are starting to realize that canon lesbians aren't enough to chase off their audience and might bring in more. D4dj recently introduced hayate and kokoa, 2 girls in an explicit lesbian relationship including realities of homophobia getting discussed. For reference, this is a gacha game. The higher ups wouldn't have let this happen if they thought it would lose money.

Then of course there's everything i mentioned in the beginning, and what i anecdotally see which is more and gayer yuri manga. Even the slice of life subtext yuri getting more explicit with character's love of women.

We got Bocchi the rock with all it's casual lesbianism, machikado mazoku with the not-marriage as an end goal, manga time kirara running a bunch of new manga about kissing girls. It's not something that would be happening in 2011. The boss girls in new game! are even canonically married now!

And even toxic yuri is having a very evident but difficult to quantify evolution. I think my best description is that in the old days it was generally a Camilla type of toxicity, with a bad evil lesbian girl luring in some innocent maiden and ultimately losing to the man the maiden marries. Then it just was a tragedy with the toxic girl dragging them both down. But now there isn't generally a clear cut toxic girl. Well there often is, but the "victim" is generally very ready to match her wavelength (I don't mean in a victim blamey way, I mean like it's an active, reactive pair that works together to spiral rather than the perfect victim seen in older stuff). It's not an innocent maiden lured in by a lesbian anymore, it's 2 lesbians working hard to make each other worse and i think it's a cool evolution.

But tangents aside, i think I've made my point. I hope to make more videos soon if i can keep my focus long enough, but we'll see. Maybe try reading some yuri, and if you already do that maybe try something you haven't yet. Maybe you'll be surprised

Thanks for reading! If I got something wrong or anything feel free to let me know. Even on the best days my brain is an open water bottle on a gravel road so I do my best but sometimes the information leaks out. My sources are just below. For more information, the yuricon website is a great starting place and erica friedman has a book published on yuri, by your side. I still need to read that one, but I needed to do this before all motivation left my body and I began to hibernate


(1)General Yuri Info: Yuricon

(2)Tokyo Anime Awards Festival: TAAF

(3)Maser: Beautiful and Innocent pdf

(4)Zeria Database: Author List