Re censorship etc.

Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow onogerow
Sun Dec 20 09:04:33 EST 1998

John Dougill wrote:

>>From a more personal angle, I simply don't think that any culture in
>which used high-school girls' panties are sold at stores, where SM and
>rape fantasy is a major part of the porn industry, where chikan is a
>genre in itself, where tosatsu (hidden camera shots of women undressing
>which are being sold in video stores) is running rampant, etc., is free
>of sexual hang-ups....
>I don't understand the logic of this.  It appears that the writer is the
>one who feels uncomfortable.  Surely then it is the writer who has the
>hang-ups...If homosexuality makes you feel uncomfortable, who has the
>hang-ups - you or the homosexual?

As the co-owner of the list, I should warn you about your use of language 
here.  Personal attacks are a no-no on this unmoderated list.  Accusing 
another member of having hang-ups is a borderline case, but I must 
emphasize to all that we must remain civil in our use of language or 
KineJapan will lose what, I hope, is its current high level of 
discussion.  Please refrain from such usage in the future.

As for the statement that I am uncomfortable with homosexuality, I 
haven't the slightest idea how you got that from my original statement.  
My original post didn't even mention homosexuality. Please read my posts 
more carefully before commenting on them.

>If the assertion of the writer is against sexual harassment, then I do not
>have any argument.  But as I understood it, we were discussing sexuality in
>fantasy i.e. on film and in manga.    The suggestion that a country has
>more sexual hang-ups because of its rich fantasy life as compared to a
>culture (America, say) where statistics for real life violence and sexual
>violence are immeasurably higher seems altogether peculiar, not to say
>perverse.   I may be wrong, but I have the feeling that the Japanese are
>being criticised here because their fantasies are different - and as
>Orientalists we all know that the Other is always worse.  Personally
>speaking, I have found Japanese attitudes to be refreshingly honest
>compared with the hypocrisy that reigns in the West.  The Christian and
>puritan legacies are still all too evident in the readiness of some to
>condemn what they neither like nor understand.

I second Birgit's astute analysis of the problems in this statement.

Clearly the crucial issue here is the question of how much we can suppose 
about a culture by looking at its representations.  If we took a simple 
realist view of cultural representations, the Japanese would surely seem 
quite messed up indeed.  But as many people have pointed out on this list 
and elsewhere (Fred Schodt, Ian Buruma), it is clear that there "seem" to 
be more representations of violence and "aberrant" sexuality in movies 
and manga than there are in "real" Japanese life.  Many argue that such a 
"rich fantasy life" may serve as the perpetual "letting off of steam" 
that keeps Japanese society so peaceful.  

I've always had problems with that argument, first because I don't think 
Japanese society is as peaceful as it supposedly seems.  The examples 
from my post, a rather crude list but somewhat serviceable, includes 
quite a number of cases from "real" life.  Chikan are not just a genre, 
they are a real social problem (as many of my femal friends here can tell 
you), as is tosatsu.  Rape is also a major issue, especially date rape, 
which is only now becoming a topic of discussion.  Also, only the tip of 
the iceberg of domestic violence, especially towards children (including 
parental rape of children), has been seen (the Mainichi has been bravely 
reporting this this year).

Second, if a "rich fantasy life" supposedly lets off steam, then 
shouldn't the US have fewer sex crimes because its pornography is less 
censored than Japan?  Comparing cultures to teapots, or even 
psychological entities, is always a problematic proposition.

While I don't endorse this position, I must also emphasize that there is 
a long history of discourse that says the exact opposite about Japanese 
film and manga: i.e., that such representations are responsible for 
whatever LACK of harmony Japan is suffering.  This, of course, is the 
discourse of PTA groups and censors, but I should stress that this 
argument has been gaining force in the media in the last few years.  
Especially the recent spate of youth violence (the Kobe killings, etc.) 
has been strongly linked in such discourse to violence in manga, movies, 
and video games and that is one reason Eirin recently toughened its 
stance towards violence.  One can safely say a dominant view of youth in 
the media is that "they have no grasp of reality because they live on a 
world of manga and video games."  While I don't agree with this, this is 
a discourse with a strong and undeniable presence.

What then are we to make of these representations?  When confronted with 
some posters asserting a healthier "real" Japan, I just wanted to point 
out some alternative realities. Part of my goal was also just to try to 
complicate broad-sweeping generalizations about Japan or the US, which I 
rarely find productive.

But I also wanted to argue that we shouldn't simply just write off all 
representations as "harmless fantasies" that have no effects, social, 
cultural, or discursive, at all.  This is a sticky problem which I don't 
have the time to get into here (tomorrow's class preparations await!), 
but if we accept even the statement that texts have ideological effects, 
that reality is always also a discursive reality, that discourse has a 
powerful role in shaping culture, then we do need to pay attention to how 
representations are articulating categories like sexuality and violence.  
That does not mean those representations are directly "causing" or 
"reflecting" behavior; rather that they, like my examples from manga, 
embody certain articulations of the discourse of sexuality that need to 
be taken into account when doing cultural analysis.  If anything, I was 
merely asking people to avoid broad-sweeping statements about Japan or 
about any other culture without doing precise analysis of the texts and 
their contexts.

I've enjoyed this discussion and hope it continues.  Let's just keep it 

Aaron Gerow
Yokohama National University
KineJapan list owner
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