copied from a reply to a survey; i wrote bits and pieces here before, but this is a good summary.
what got me interested in yaoi was, many many years ago, zetsuai, which is pretty much THE classic of the genre. a gay friend showed it to me (there goes yer theory that gay men don't like yaoi). i thought the art was fantastic, and i thought it was way cool that this sort of thing existed. but that was that. i didn't seek out more yaoi at the time.
then fairly recently, in need of wank material because my own fantasies were falling short, i went looking for something different. and i found that het porn is boring and artificial when it's not plain disgusting, and that gay porn is boring when it's not plain disgusting (but at least it has no plasticky women in it who could learn something about faking orgasms from meg ryan) -- real people porn just doesn't turn my crank. hentai is eye-rollingly disgusting and has even more annoying female characters than RP porn. ah, i remembered, what was that, yaoi? and i searched, and saw, and fell in love. it is awesome, and turns me on like nothing else. impossibly beautiful men, no annoying women, angst, crazy passionate romance, forbidden lust, love against all odds, sex everywhere one can imagine (and some places i hadn't imagined), beautifully drawn sex at that -- mmmh-mmh. and the best thing? drama CDs one can listen to while reading, or, uh, falling asleep. japanese BL seiyuus are love.
in the category of "the personal is political" one aspect that i especially like is that yaoi is so far outside the hetero-normative world in which we live. in much yaoi, homosexuality is perfectly accepted, it's what's normal, every man even if he starts out straight will become gay by simply having a bit of a french kiss with a gay man (or another straight one, for that matter, should he accidentally, uh, fall on him). something in me just delights at how this turns the real world upside down. mind, i also like the stories in which society's judgment provides a major source of angst, but even in those our beloved fags win in the end. being as i am an active supporter of gay rights, and disgusted with many of my fellow human beings for their horrible gay bashing, it makes me happy to live in a fantasy world in which teh gay wins all the time.
and, the art. let's not forget the art. and i don't mean that like "i read playboy for the articles". i really dig the art. some of the art is stunningly beautiful, and more generally so than in shoujo, for example.
mind, there is plenty of yaoi i don't like. keep shota away from me, and i don't like S&M any better drawn than in real-life. i don't like girly uke -- the more "feminine" the uke, the more helpless with copious tears, the less i'll like him. and when a mangaka starts dressing the uke up in maid outfits, i throw the book against the wall. i roll my eyes at the "uke who falls in love with his rapist without much ado" device (i think yaoi could do with a complete moratorium on raping). i like both men to be strong men (they can be sensitive and quiet, but not weepy); i prefer reverses/switches over very clearly typed seme/uke. i want story with my porn; PWP rarely does anything for me (i'm looking at you, chitose piyoko). too much fluid turns me off too (points at the queen of splooge, murakami maki).
for the record, i do not often identify with either character, i just watch them. when i do identify, it's more likely with the seme if the boys are typed that way. i wish for more internal dialogues from seme, dear kami of yaoi. we always hear from the uke. i know, it's easier. ganbatte.
i read some yaoi (mostly of the shounen-ai variant, but also low-smex content like kusatta kyounshi no hoteishiki) just for the story, not for the porn at all. that's sort of separate, i feel; it's more like i read hikaru no go for the story too, not to slash hikaru and akira.
mangaka whose work i seek out: oki mamiya, kouga yun, minami ozaki, abe miyuki, kozuma kodaka, kawai touko, yumeka sumomo, koide mieko, yamakami riyu, takashima kazusa (yo! finish more stuff!), yamane ayano, nitta youka, maruya kae, minase masara, kujyou aoi, sakuragi yaya, toujou asami, sugiura shiho, takanaga hinako, kunieda saiko, naono boura, nishida higashi.