Archive for sinthome

Hentai and the Perverse Core of Japanese Censorship

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan
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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Fractal Signifiers: Lacan and Psychedelics?

Posted in Pure Theory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

Image credit: http://www.fractal-recursions.com (c) Jock Cooper

I recently got back in touch via Facebook with an old acquaintance, Diana Slattery (of Glide and The Maze Game). Her xenolinguistics research on “language in the psychedelic sphere” has inspired me to ponder about basically the same thing, or a more Lacanian version thereof: what happens to the Borromean rings in a state of “high”? A more practical question would be: Of what is the image above a signifier? For when one experiences actual psychedelic experience, reality as such dissolves — one enters a completely different realm of the Symbolic.

Reducing psychedelic experience to mere neurochemical reactions are but a premature response. Seeing all the theories around altered states of consciousness as the source of creativity and even language (Terence McKenna’s famous “stoned ape” hypothesis), I would argue that a psychoanalytic venture into the realm of psychedelics may prove to be a very productive research. I am not a naive idiot and believe right away those hypotheses without reading further, of course, but does the mere fact that people make those hypotheses in first place not speak volumes about the nature of psychedelic experiences? And when one takes into account Lacan’s theory of art and literature being a symptom as the fourth ring (synthome) that binds the three other Borromean rings together even in the case of Symbolic foreclusion (recall his reading of James Joyce in the later seminars), how should we read the dissolution of “common sense” reality under the effect of hallucinogens apropos the rings of Lacan? Furthermore, if we are to talk about the actual “entheogenic” — literally “God inside” — experience, does this not coincide with Lacan’s notion of the non-phallic sexuality of mystics?

I am not a new age fan or a pseudo-quantum-physicist celebrating altered states of consciousness with trippy fractal visions as the ultimate harbinger of nature’s true reality. I do suspect, however, that this xenolinguistic venture of psychoanalysis could help understand better how desire evolves. As the unconscious reveals so much of our desires, who knows what the altered states of consciousness may reveal? Perhaps it is here that we are to make meaning of Timothy Leary’s 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness in a psychoanalytic sense — digging up into the possibilities of transcendent mystical experiences instead of down into the vaults of primal instincts.