Corporate sales, creator identity, and audience heterogeneity lead yuri to an awkward place in terms of genre identity. Is yuri the schoolgirl romance created by men for a male audience who consider love between girls pure, or is it the girl’s romance that has roots in S literature for a female audience who fondly remember their days admiring upperclassmen at all-girls schools? Or is it for lesbians, whose stories are nominally acknowledged in narratives of self-awareness of love for a member of the same sex or feelings of being different, without any use of the word lesbian? The heterogeneity of creator and audience causes difficulty in both definition and scholarship. Who gets to define yuri?
Fans, almost inevitably, have their own terms. Fan organization Yuricon has taken the broadest possible look at yuri, which both includes lesbianism and acknowledges nonlesbian sources, that is, admiration (akogare), platonic romance, or intense emotional connection. Fan language is free to shift and change with fashion and need, so that it often runs ahead of both commercial and research terminology, hand in hand with creators.
Friedman, Erica. 2017. “On Defining Yuri.” In “Queer Female Fandom,” edited by Julie Levin Russo and Eve Ng, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 24.
This article is a wonderful look at the history of the term “yuri” and the complex way it interacts with the sexual identities of pro/fan creators and readers, inside and outside Japan. Required reading for anyone with an interest in femslash, especially terminology issues.