Why Some People Think Hentai

Are So Damn Bad!

Bad hentai! Bad! Bad!

The people who dislike hentai can put their objections in a nutshell: "They're training for people who want to torture and rape schoolgirls."

They think this because the women who appear in hentai have very young-looking faces by U.S. standards, with large eyes, tiny noses and mouths, and pointy chins. They also think this because the women are often in school and wear uniforms most often associated with Catholic grade school and high school girls. And they think this because the women rarely have any pubic hair, which some in the U.S. still associate with pre-pubescence.

Finally, the women in hentai are often tied up and/or raped in the course of the feature.

You can see how the imagery in hentai can easily lead the average observer to that conclusion. But hentai are not the products of U.S. culture, they're the product of Japanese culture, and if you want to understand them for what they are, or something close to it, you have to know a little bit about the way the Japanese see them.

We can dispense with the schoolgirl thing pretty easily. Yeah, they look like middle school girls, but that's because of some differences in the Japanese school system and Japanese graphic conventions.

Almost everyone in Japan goes to school after high school. Those that do not go to a university go on to two-year school that is equivalent to, but not exactly like U.S. trade schools (I'm getting this second hand from sources in Japan, so I'm not sure what the difference is between the two). The people who go to the two-year schools are of course college-age, and they're the majority of high school grads. What's more, they wear uniforms that are very much like those worn by U.S. Catholic grade and high school girls -- because they're modeled on them, or perhaps on the English schoolgirl uniforms the U.S. Catholic schoolgirl uniforms are probably modeled on.

Except that the uniforms are worn by COLLEGE AGE girls in Japan. In Japan, those uniforms signal that the wearers are "college girls," young adult women who are OK in sexy roles and situations, whereas in the U.S. they signal that he wearers are schoolgirls and not at all OK for sex.

In short, the schoolgirl uniform thing is a cross-cultural misunderstanding. So is the "young" face thing.

The tradition in anime has always been to portray lead characters who have huge, Walter Keane eyes, something they picked up from Disney and amplified on. Big eyes don't just mean "kids" in anime, they generally mean "not middle aged" (middle aged characters often don't have big eyes, though they sometimes do. All characters aged up to the 20s and early 30s have big eyes, as a general rule.)

The small lips, tiny noses and round faces? Japanese adults generally have tiny lips and noses and round faces, especially in relation to Americans.

The lack of pubic hair? For some reason, the Japanese authorities considered pubic hair obscene right into the 90s (in the U.S. we dropped the whole pubic hair thing in the 70s) but for some reason, drawings of vaginal lips were NOT considered obscene in Japan (I think photos of vaginal lips were verboten, though). Yeah, I know, a puzzler, but there it is, naked pubes were the thing in Japanese hentai until the Japanese censors unlaxed themselves about pubic hair sometime in the 90s.

I don't blame folks for being suspicious. It does sound like an elaborate set of rationales made up by peddo rapist cartoonists for drawing things the way they wanna, but the facts are there if you care to look.

There are also some internal consistencies that prove out these observations. Frex, the big eyes/small/mouth/tiny nose/round face thing is true of anime action heroes and heroines as well as the ones that show up in hentai. These people are portrayed as young adults just like the hentai leads, and there's no sexual content in many of them. Unless you believe that anime characters in general are pandering to peddo tendencies, you have to acknowledge that this is just the way the Japanese portray young adults.

Another internal consistency: although Japanese women generally have smaller breasts and hips that American woman, the women in hentai tend to have pornbodies -- huge, bulging breasts with large nipples, slender waists but wide hips with big round buttocks. Peddos tend to like their women with tiny breasts and slender hips.

Finally, it has become the general fashion for fans of adult porn to like women with shaved pubes. This does not seem to be a "young" thing so much as it is a "naked" thing -- so long as the woman's pubes are covered in pubic hair, they are for the most part concealed.

(Which is why you get so much more full frontal nudity of women in mainstream movies than you get full frontal nudity of men. Men hang out there. Frex, in the movie "Romance" we had the first nude crotchrope scene in a mainstream flick, but it really wasn't anything much because the lead actress' pubic hair was so thick and dark that the ropes disappeared into it just south of her navel, not to be seen again until they popped out of her butt crack on the other side. No sign of any genitals under that bush, of course, it was far too thick. A pair of panties would have been LESS effective concealment.)

Now, as for the prevalence of rape and bondage imagery in hentai. Why can't the hentai just have tons and tons and tons of consensual sex imagery, over and over again, like U.S. porn?

Well, clearly, tastes differ in this respect in Japan, and the simple fact is that bondage imagery is much more acceptable in Japan because consensual bondage is much more acceptable in Japan. To understand just how much more acceptable it is, imagine that in the U.S. every young couple that gets married is given a copy of The Joy of Sex and in that copy was an extensive section on bondage, showing happy couples with the woman being fucked while she is tied up in various ways.

Now, imagine that this custom has been in place for centuries so that American couples accept bondage as a normal part of the marital bed, something they can do with the full expectation that they will be considered normal by society.

That's the case in Japan, where "pillow books" depicting various sexual techniques, including bondage, have long been a proper gift for young newlyweds.

In tightlaced America, it's really hard to get a grasp on what this means to a culture, but basically, the Japanese have managed to completely sidestep the notion that sexual bondage is shameful, evil or wrong. So naturally they find sexual bondage imagery in porn much less frightening than we do. Sexual bondage is fun between lovers to them.

(In fact, the models and actresses who pose for sexual bondage porn in Japan have their names proudly displayed, because to them it's a form of being a model/actress, not some shameful misdeed to be committed anonymously.)

There's another reason that Japanese don't find sexual bondage and rape imagery as horrifying as we do. It is this: according to the crime stats, rape is much less prevalent in Japan. The rate of reported rape in Japan is 1/20th what it is in America. This compares favorably to the rate of rape in most European countries as well.

Women in Japanese cities are able to walk the streets at night completely without fear of rape, something that does not occur in American cities at all. It's hard for us to understand what that's like with all the rape and consequent fear of rape in the U.S., but it's obvious that it would make images of rape a lot less frightening and more fantastical to the Japanese. And obviously, if the rape and sexual bondage imagery which is so much more commonplace in Japanese hentai than in American porn were a function of the real incidence of rape, you'd expect the Japanese to have considerably MORE rape than Americans, not considerably LESS.

In a society where sexual bondage is a commonplace experience for most adults, it's not at all surprising that sexual bondage imagery is commonplace in sexually oriented hentai, is it?

And what looks so horrific to our eyes isn't nearly so scary to the Japanese because Japanese men don't rape women in real life nearly as often as American men do, sad to say (well, sad for us in America who care about the women around us).

We Americans see hentai very differently than the Japanese who created them. If you WANT to see hentai as rape training videos for peddos, you can do that. We don't agree but we can't stop you.

If you want to see them as dramatic sexual fantasies by, for and about adults, created by a culture that is much more comfortable with sexual bondage imagery, well, that's pretty much what they are, and that's they way we think of them.