Friday, 27 July 2012

Tits and Ass(es)

Chewing The Cud, Part One



Herbivorous men. Grass eaters. I’ve touched on this before, and I promised (to myself if no-one else) that I’d come back to it later. So here we are.

In all honesty I’m not sure quite where to go with this, I just hit upon a very clever (and I do mean very clever) little opening conceit, and thought I’d run with it a bit. Of course, having now taken it for a little jog I’ve realised that it’d be better as an opening to part two, so you’ll just have to wait until then. It’s definitely worth waiting for though; as I said, it is very clever.

So in the meantime please join me on a directionless thrash through gender politics and social ossification in early 21st Century Japan. Don’t pretend like you’ve got anything better to do.

Let’s try to agree on some basics. Cute=Childish=Feminine. Are we happy with that? No? Fair enough. Let’s try to work backwards to that point.

Hello, er,  ladies?

If ‘pretty’ is beautiful without the sophistication, then ‘cute’ is one step down from that again. It’s all been described in more detail before, by people far smarter than me. It’s not so much that Cute=Childish, but that cute contains aspects of vulnerability that ‘pretty’ mostly avoids, and ‘beautiful’ eschews altogether. Beauty is Truth, Truth is Strength, and other sub-Wildean aphorisms. Cute is beauty without poise, self-assurance or confidence. Cute wants to be taken care of. This will be important later.

So if we take Vulnerability as the defining aspect of ‘cute’, it’s not much of a stretch to see that Cute=Childish. What defines a child if not an inability to look after itself? We rightly bemoan children ‘growing up too fast’ or ‘losing their childhood’ if they have to take on too much responsibility too soon, and the words 'independent' and 'adult' are synonymous in a large number of cultures and situations. The human child is born massively early compared to other species (heads and brains, pelvises and walking, risk and reward, you know the kind of thing), and so this is really, literally true. At least for the first few years.

Cute=Feminine might take more explaining, especially to those of us who grew up in the Anglophone West after the Sexual Revolution. Many of you would rightly take issue with me if I were to claim that women, or more specifically ‘femininity’ was inherently childish. It’s really not. Adults, adult women, are completely different from children.

They're taller, for one.

This is why I’m always slightly confused by people who claim that the current trend for total pubic depilation is because ‘men want women to look like little girls’ (again, this will be relevant later, please believe me). I mean, I can understand why women feel that’s what it looks like, but most men don’t have the same frame of reference. By which I mean that most normal men have never seen a girl that young naked. Even if you’ve got a sister or two, if you're old enough to remember all the details you're probably also well past the age you'd feel comfortable bathing together. Unless you work in the medical profession, there really are no other legitimate reasons for having that knowledge first hand.

Equally, porn stars are often held up as both the cause and result of this trend. Porn stars who are also typically famous for all manner of other surgical enhancements which don’t really tick the ‘little girl’ boxes. As secondary sexual characteristics go, tits the size of barrage balloons and hip-to-waist ratios which would be more suitable on a wineglass are pretty unambiguous indicators of adulthood. That’s the appeal of the completely bare look as well, I reckon. It’s not about how it looks so much as it’s a clear indicator that a woman thinks about sex and thinks of herself as a sexual being, and most right-thinking adults find that a massive turn-on. Plus, fewer choking hazards.

(For what it’s worth, my own personal view – formed through many hours of purely scientific study – is that a completely shaved muff is like a tattoo. When it works it looks phenomenal, but that’s only in a very small minority of cases. All the other times it just looks a little odd.)



It’s not so much that feminine=childish, so much that feminine=vulnerable (and childish also=vulnerable). In the Post-Sexual Revolution West, with all our talk of empowerment and fish and bicycles, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that most of the rest of the world still holds on to gender relationships which are more, shall we say, ‘traditional’. Bluntly – from an evolutionarily perspective – human partnerships are primarily economic transactions where women and men trade exclusivity for protection, to mutually improve their chances of successful reproduction. For all that we really should be moving beyond the paradigm of the bare-foot and pregnant mother and the strutting male provider, these roles are hardwired in a way which makes them difficult to break out of.

You’ll be noticing the assumptions that I’m making. Gender equality. Female independence. Sisters doing it for themselves. I’m taking it as read that all these are good and necessary things, and that you feel the same.

And they are good. I’m not about to turn into an apologist for cultural relativity all of a sudden; but it’s important to realize that for all that it’s correct, it is actually something of a minority view, globally speaking.

Japan largely conforms to the majority view, in that respect. There are endless examples of this. My wife’s maternity provisions are incredibly generous whereas my paternity provisions are non-existent. Divorced fathers will often cut off all contact with their children. Many female TV presenters disappear completely from the screens once they get married. You can fill in the rest yourself. Women take care of the kids, and the men ‘take care’ of the women.

In that context, it’s completely understandable that women should choose to play up their ‘vulnerable’ aspects, in lieu of more aggressively sexual qualities. I hope you realize why I say ‘aggressively’ instead of ‘obviously’.

Not that they're mutually exclusive,
of course

If not though, it’s because this is an environment in which women are still largely dependent upon men for protection and provision (both through necessity and choice). More specifically, it’s an environment in which many/most women feel that they are largely dependent upon men for their protection and provision, and the men feel it’s their role to provide the same. Which is why the ‘vulnerability’ thing is a sexual quality. ‘Take me in your big man arms and protect me’ (This is something we have in the West too, it’s just here it’s been pushed to a point where it looks like something totally different, to flog that horse again).

Witness the passivity of the women in most Japanese porn. The endless yelping and moans of ‘iyada’. ‘Don’t’. That’s if they’re saying anything at all, beyond yelping like a puppy’s rubber toy with a broken squeaker. Maguro, it’s called, ‘tuna’. Lying there like a dead fish. Hubba hubba. Compare that to the more vocal, participatory female sexuality in most western porn (you’ll have to search for links yourself. My browser history is incriminating enough as it is).

So instead, here's a picture of a pretty flower.

It’s not that I’m obsessed with porn, honestly, but pornography is explicitly sexual (the only reason you come here is for searing insights like that, don’t deny it). That’s why I’m using it to explain why vulnerability is an obviously sexual quality in Japan. Porn is a business like any other, and they don’t make stuff that doesn’t appeal to their customers. If the overriding theme of Japanese porn is overt female vulnerability – and it is – then it’s a fair conclusion that female vulnerability is sexually attractive to Japanese men.

I know there are many, many holes you could pick in these ideas, and I would encourage you wholeheartedly to do so, but then I did say this would be a directionless thrash, didn’t I? Western porn stars may not look like little girls, but they do look like dolls and you can extrapolate from that yourselves regarding concepts of ownership and objectification. So by that measure you’d hardly argue that we’ve got a better or healthier attitude towards female sexuality overall. It’s just screwed up in different ways. Crucially, many people seem to realize that it’s screwed up, unlike in Japan.

That’s not really fair, either. I hate to keep harping on about AKB48, but I was genuinely shocked when I first saw the video for Heavy Rotation. I mentioned it to a few Japanese acquaintances, and they had no idea because they’d never seen it. For all that AKB are the current dominant pop culture behemoths, they’re still not really mainstream. The clever people explain it better over at Neojaponism. And whilst I'm sharing frankly too much about what floats my boat then, yeah, there's definitely something to the AKB girls, but there's also something off about them too. I imagine that sleeping with one of them would be like getting a rim-job from a Care Bear.

And maybe a reach-around too.

You can follow that rather disturbing train of thought as you like. Here's something else to help you on your way. I’m not going to get into it any further here, because I’m meant to be talking about Herbivores (remember?) and this is far more than I hoped I’d ever write about pornography. Other places have covered the darker stuff and I have no interest in doing so here. But it’s important to try and establish why ‘cute’ is the overriding expression of female sexuality in Japan. The next step is working out why it seems to apply to more and more men as well…


Part 2 here.


13 comments:

  1. OMG I was going to blog pretty much about the same thing but it's still in my head and you've said it so much better.

    Here you see woman dressed the same as their daughters because the daughter is dressed like an adult, in Japan you see it because the mother is dressed like a young child. Both are disturbing if you ask me.

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    1. Cheers. I don't know about better. Even by my own slipshod standards this little series feels pretty ragged around the edges. Be interested in seeing what your view is, if you still feel like writing it.

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  2. I've seen a few members of AKB48 on TV far removed from their roles in the group and just being themselves on several occasions. They were surprisingly normal and seemed quite able to separate themselves from the weirdness. I give a lot of these cutesy girls here a fair bit of credit for being able to milk their image and make it pay off for them. Unfortunately, they have to be on their game almost 100% of the time since they're usually being pushed into making an appearance somewhere. What's sick is seeing girls who seem to feel the need to emulate them around their boyfriends.

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    1. Thank you for this, because it let's me both continue talking about porn, and mention Bobb Sapp in the same comment.

      My own view is that consenting adults are entitled to do whatever they like to earn a crust. Good luck to them. However, the problem with porn (putting aside the obvious dangers with 'consent' and 'adult') isn't so much the production as the distribution. Once Ron's put his tool/s away, then his personal liberties are less of an issue than the effects of his work on wider society.

      I always had a sneaking kind of admiration for Bobb Sapp. He very clearly knew his time in the sun would be limited, and was determined to milk it for all it was worth. He always seemed completely in on the joke.

      Trouble is, that joke was 'black men are angry and scary.' And there are a large number of people who are not Bobb Sapp, and who didn't get paid like Bobb Sapp, who really didn't benefit from that deal at all.

      I've really nothing against the individual AKB girls (more's the pity, fnarr fnarr), but the whole enterprise is just so breathtakingly cynical. I don't especially want to say that they're being exploited, because they're adults and that would be pretty patronising, but if not, then they're complicit in creating/exacerbating that 'sickness' you mention.

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    2. "My own view is that consenting adults are entitled to do whatever they like to earn a crust." That reminds me of my sister and I being perplexed by some of the "schoolgirls" on our train line that looked way too old for high school. Apparently girls hang on to those uniforms so they can make $$$ dating in college.

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  3. I for one have always been kind of disappointed in myself when I see an attractive Japanese girl walking down the street with way too much of her upper thighs out, and heels on for what I can only assume is the first time EVER. Why disappointed? Because my mental reactions are equal parts "Someone needs to be taking care of this poor girl" and "Yeah, I'd fuck that." I guess I've been in Japan long enough to have gotten acclimated to the sexualized displays of vulnerability...

    And yet, I've got enough of a western sensibility to find something repulsive about it. I remember watching some show where they had a woman on who specialized in teaching unmarried 40somethings how to be all sexy to get a man. Aside from "let him feed you chocolate" one of her biggest pieces of advice was squealing "kou iu no, HAJIMETE" at every possibly opportunity. And I don't mean like "I've never done butt-stuff before." It was like, I've never been to a private onsen, or I've never had this much fun at karaoke. I'm sure she would advise applying the same principle to butt-stuff, but the point was (as most sex-writing about Japan agrees) Japanese men go for the ingenue. I would rather not be responsible for initiating a girlfriend into EVERY ASPECT of a date though. In a similar way to the fashion, yeah maybe there's something that provokes a sexual response in me, but it also makes me suspect that the woman in question might be functionally retarded.

    The woman who says "no, it's too much, okashikunachau, stop" but actually really enjoys it fantasy is by no means unique to Japan, but the fact that it's the DOMINANT FANTASY in mainstream porn really speaks to your point.

    I'm looking forward to your herbivore post, just because I think it's something that is so fundamentally misunderstood by about half of the foreign population in Japan. No pressure.

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    1. Wow, that's really cleared up something I suspected about dating Japanese men.

      I'd meet guys who'd say stuff like "have you been to Shinjuku?"

      I guess answering with something like "of course I've been to Shinjuku, you moron. I've lived in Tokyo for more than 6 months!" is not the way to win hearts. Still I'd rather be alone than listening to someone try to "teach" me something when I probably know more about it than them.

      As to that fantasy, it's not just mainstream porn either. I take it you've never read a Mills & Boon or other female-oriented "literature".

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  4. No, can't say that I have. But I meant more like, in Western mainstream porn you find a variety of modes of expression of female sexuality. I know you can find woman-on-top, in control stuff in Japan too, but by and far, I'd say with 90% regularity, it's the "iya dame" stuff that kamo is talking about.

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    1. Bobby and Kathryn both -

      Something I've been trying to work in to my little 'unsound conclusions' series on Japanese TV is how bloody surprised the audiences (comprised overwhelmingly of women, it seems) appear to find EVERYTHING. Obviously Nani Kore is a prime offender, but it happens constantly for the most mundane shit possible. You're the insider Bobby, I'm guessing they're primed a bit for this, but I'm also guessing they don't need all that much egging on? Although if Nani Kore ever did an episode on pegging, even I'd admit to being mildly surprised.

      As to the softcore, you're all aware of this 50 Shades of Grey business, I take it? I'm not sure how to expand on that, but then that's true for most of this stuff. Very nice to get some longer comments and a bit of back and forth. Thank you both

      I'm staggering this triptych over the fallow summer months, so don't hold your breath for the latter parts ;)

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  5. Nice Vagina..er...Flower ;)

    I know little about porn. I suppose when my dick breaks I'll learn it all....it ALL!!!

    It AAAAALLLLL!!!
    A HA HA HA HA HAAAA!!

    **prays that day is a LONG way away**

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    1. And yet you seem so very excited by the prospect ;)

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  6. Summer is a delightful season for bird watchers... everyone's keeping an eye out for the beach dwelling double-breasted mattress thrashers.

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    1. :) Nice. But unfortunately ignores the fact that being of celtic extraction, at this time of year I melt if I go anywhere near sand. Or outside at all, really.

      Still, that's what binoculars are for, right? Who's with me?

      Hello?

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