YAOI (also known as BL or Boys' Love) makes for a challenging comic genre to describe. Inspired by a genre of Japanese comics depicting male/male relationships created by women with a female audience in mind, the genre has found a sizable enough audience with American readers that a few comic publishers have created specialized imprints dedicated to these stories. YAOI stories vary greatly in tone and degree of romance/sexuality and the types of stories can run from high school drama to police procedurals or stories in historical settings.
But there has always been something of a divide between YAOI's core female fanbase and gay men. Some gay men have criticized the genre for fetishizing gay male sexuality (similar to the way that straight men fetishize lesbian sexuality) and for depicting gay relationships unrealistically. The genre's female fanbase responds that the stories aren't meant to portray gay men, that the characters aren't really gay and that the genre should be left alone from male interference since there are so few places where women are allowed to express their fantasies freely.
Now, that division doesn't represent everyone who reads YAOI. There are plenty of gay men who find emotional resonance and escapism in certain YAOI titles, just as there are plenty female YAOI readers who are happy to find gay men with similar tastes to share their interests.
But I'm wondering if there's a truce on the horizon. Bay Area-based publisher Iris Print has announced that they will be publishing an anthology magazine next year, BL Twist, which will focus on these male romances. What's striking to me about the press release is its opening sentence, where Iris names itself as the publisher of a Lambda Literary Award finalist. By establishing itself as a publisher that's gotten praise by a respected voice on LGBT literature (but still emphasizing that the primary audience is women) Iris seems to be trying to strike a middle ground between the two groups.
Iris has three stories from its BL anthology When Worlds Collide that you can download to get a taste of Iris Press' take on the genre. But if you're impatient, after the break you can see the page from Paintings of You where the couple meet. What do you think? Does BL Twist look like a promising fix for escapist romance, even if it's not made with a gay audience in mind?