Hentai and the Perverse Core of Japanese Censorship

Hentai Manga by Fuuga Utsura in TSK

Hentai Manga by Fuuga Utsura in TSK

The Japanese law of censorship has always been a source of fascination to us porn researchers. Clearly, it does not in the least prevent the Japs to be perverts (but by all means I have no Illusions; I am not doing cheap stereotyping to the Japanese since it just applies to those few, most of which I love). One may even say that it takes Japanese porn producers to create such things as zenra Kung Fu (probably NSFW) or the seemingly mechanistic orgy of the famous 500 People Sex (totally NSFW) video.

Some people have discussed how the censorship law of not allowing the genitalia to be completely shown gives birth to such things as tentacle hentai. Although further research show that the Japanese have been making tentacle hentai as early as 1820, I would claim that this thesis is not totally wrong. Rather, however, I prefer to read it in the opposite direction: the Japanese have long realized that the phallus could not be adequately symbolized by the genitals alone, so fully showing the genitals would paradoxically reduce the sexuality of sex itself (recalling the Baudrillardian desperation). Is this not the reason many US porn filmmakers today are urged to learn from their Japanese counterparts how to film the non-genital, non-breast parts (lips, hair, back, etc.) in a way not less titillating?

Among the most interesting appropriation of Japanese censorship could be found in hentai manga. The censors are very scanty to such extent that it seems insignificant, only in the form of lines hiding virtually nothing. What catches my attention in particular is how the very texture of the censors above the genitals literally seem to function more to cross out rather than cover up — instead of covered because of some taboo, the genitals are barred, as it were, to prevent them from becoming full signifiers of the phallus.

The Japanese censorship law is already in itself a promise to enable this crossing-out of the real genitals in order to strengthen the imaginary phallus. The law does not at all say, ” You can draw anything but the genitalia because it is harmful!” Instead, it serves as a reminder, “Remember that your sexual potency is much larger than what it looks outside, do not fall into the illusion that the penis is all there is!” The crossing-out of real genitals thus paradoxically strengthens the imaginary phallus. The perverse censorship law does not castrate — it performs merely privation, thus putting pornographic art into the realm of pure fantasy in which castration does not happen (which is why underage-looking porn, rape, and incest is all the more popular theme in hentai manga).

Properly speaking, this makes hentai essentially a psychosis. For its Western counterpart, on the other hand, castration is implied and acknowledged but at the same time denied, making pornographic art in the West essentially a perversion. Literary work as a substitute of psychosis is of course the themes of Lacan’s later works of the Joycean sinthome (analogies can also be drawn between the unfamiliarity of Joycean writing to the more common writing and the strangeness of Japanese fetishes to the more common sexualities for the West), which thus makes it possible to claim that it pornography plays a crucial role in the psychosexual development of the Japanese society, which has family practices rather uncommon to their Western counterparts (the routine of bathing together, etc.). But as for a detailed analysis, I have not yet made it, and so for now I will say that this Japanese-versus-US sexuality difference idea is still questionable.

Another interesting point to note if we are to discuss hentai manga (and, in fact, manga in general) is how highly it treats the object little a, as proven by their extensive use in abstract forms to symbolize the gaze, the voice, the breasts, and the bodily fluids. Perhaps it is only by crossing-out of the genitalia, by putting bars over the real phallus, that Japanese hentai artists (and pornographers alike) can avoid falling into the trap of fetishizing the biological genitals, as the majority of Western pornographers do, and explore more on how to capture the object a in its visualizations. But on the other hand, however, this is also why the fetishistic tendencies of Japanese porn can easily fall into other, often more bizarre objects and situations.

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One Response to “Hentai and the Perverse Core of Japanese Censorship”

  1. I tend to agree with your assessment, although I hadn’t thought as much into to it before now. Hentai censoring is fairly impotent in it’s attempt to cover areas but looking at it from the perspective of it being used to refocus as opposed to censor anything is new perspective.

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