December 4th, 2005


The golden age of masturbation

In the ID magazine Japan Special, Tom Vanderbilt, reviewing Lionel Lambourne's book Japonisme, says: "Japan has evolved from consumer-goods economic powerhouse to a more "soft power" form of cultural influence. The modern metropolis, in any country, now pulses to a beat of chopsticks clicking over sushi... We devour manga and anime and horror films like Ringu, chronicle the strange goings-on among school girls (Lolita one day, Betty Boop the next)..."

In a slightly oblique way, Tom seems to be suggesting that part of Japan's "soft power" (which is also, of course, software power) includes porn. Now, I'm not sure what the consumption figures for Japanese porn outside Japan are; I know the Japanese porn industry is meant to represent more than 1% of total Japanese GNP, but figures on its overseas consumption are hard to, well, come by. I do know that J-porn has brightened up my life ever since I bought my first multi-system VHS player in 1992, though, and particularly since the internet ushered us into "the golden age of masturbation". I now don't care to look at non-Japanese porn at all; most of it looks vulgar and crude to me, its gurning rockstar actresses seeming marginal and decadent beside the wholesome and generous milkmaids of J-porn. So I keep an eye on sites like Babypink and CPZ, if only for purposes of—ahem!—cultural criticism. After all, as Vanderbilt says, "we would be vastly disappointed if suddenly we learned there were no more incredibly minute schoolgirl obsessions, no more odd game shows, no more bizarre animated characters."

Aside from the obvious attaction of porn (the procurement of fabulous orgasms), there are incidental joys and values to be had. Porn is a kind of social work sometimes, a way for disadvantaged men to live out vicariously the experiences of the advantaged, and for attractive girls to share their beauty with the largest possible number of admirers. Beauty is not egalitarian, but porn shares it out. It also portrays a world of utopian embodiment, a world radically free from guilt, a world in which the incompatibilities between instinct and civilisation noted by the late Freud are blown away completely.

Sometimes, too, it's just very funny. Take this movie, Senior, Your Dick is Just Only Mine. The wildly optimistic wish fulfillment is a scream, but the Jinglish alone could make you cream. As far as I can see by, well, screwing up my eyes, the strapline reads "Hinata is a brand new art club member. In this club has many strange kind of people who let me wear various costume every day and touch my body... But in fact I am very fun to be in this touchy relationships and to have intercourse..." In even smaller type, we read: "My panty began to get wet again because of thinking about such a erotic things... ah, how long is the club activity time?"

Coming soon, I should think, Hinata-Chan! Thank you for your tiredness!