December 19th, 2009


Boyish GALS one-shot mook

In June of last year I penned an eloquent elegy for the endangered bukkake genre of Japanese porn. So what seems to be replacing that Shinto ritual of repression and release? Since nature -- and porn -- abhors a vacuum, what new fetishes are represented on the combini racks and the DVD shelves of Japan, in the areas designed to get customers a little hot, shifty and breathless?

One answer seems to be provided by a magazine I spotted in my local Family Mart last night, while buying wholesome things like Muji stationery and soup. Boyish GALS is, to be pedantic, a one-shot mook shrink-wrapped with a DVD. I didn't buy it, but as a keen amateur sociologist I couldn't let it go unnoted in these pages.

My analysis of bukkake inevitably raised Shinto's focus on seed -- and agrarian fertility in general -- as a framing device. Using that same frame, what does the rise of "boyish gal" porn tell us about the Japanese sexual psyche in late 2009? Is it a gay development, or a feminist one, or some kind of softcore misogyny, or part of a semi-hikikomori fear of the otherness of the other sex?

One mook doesn't make a winter; I don't think it would be fair to say that a desire for Japanese women to become more boyish represents a step towards sterility and austerity. Certainly you could say that bukkake, invented in 1986 at the height of Japan's profligate economic bubble, represents a certain spendthrift tendency, a gloriously reckless waste of the national seed (something like the necessary lack of necessity Bataille built into his idea of the accursed share). By contrast, a trend for boyish gals would represent mere thrift. A boyish gal won't (in symbolic terms) give birth, which in turn means you won't end up paying money to bring up a child in a difficult world of recession, economic downturn, and so on.

But we should look at this in a wider context. This is an age where pregnancy and giving birth is very highly valued in Japan. The new government is promising wads of extra money to parents, conscious that something needs to be done about Japan's longterm demographic decline. Magazines like Crea (which recently featured a heavily-pregnant Kahimi Karie) and MiLK (Isshiki Sae) have recently fetished female fertility as never before.

It's worth noting the target audiences of these magazines, though. Boyish GALS is aimed at men, whereas Crea and MiLK are women's magazines. Could it be that while Japanese "grass-eating" men (the kind for whom even having a real girlfriend is mendokusai; too much hassle, too costly) dream of ever-less-fertile, ever-more-boyish women, Japanese women fantasize themselves as massive matriarchal baby machines with ever-bigger, ever-more-fruitful bellies?

Bukkake is hardly a fertile genre, if you think about it; sperm delivered to the wrong areas won't make babies. So perhaps it's less a question of fertility falling out of fashion in hard times, and more a question of men liking their sex non-reproductive and women liking it fruitful? We'll continue our penetrating investigations into Japanese fertility when we have more data; watch this space.