Absurdities of Censorship

Japan is infamous for bizarre porn. Seriously bizarre porn. Porn so weird that Germans would probably say, “Was tun sie? Scheiße, das ist so verkehrt!”[1] even though Germany is also known for some seriously fucked-up sex videos.

One of the oddest things about Japanese porn is that it’s censored. The vague obscenity laws have been interpreted to mean that: no pubic hair can be shown (some people used to have part-time jobs putting stickers on naughty bits in magazines, or scratching out pubes on negatives), no genitals can be shown, or no vaginal-penile penetration can be shown. From the wide variation in the extent of censoring, it seems that nobody really knows what’s allowed and what’s not.[2]

But it’s perfectly okay to stuff live baby eels up a woman’s ass and show her shooting them out in a stream (anal openings are apparently a-okay to show, by the way) as long as her snatch and thatch are covered, or show twenty guys forming a line to spray semen all over her face and hair, or have her dress in a maid costume and cat ears so she can lick poop off some guy’s feet with a vibrator shaped like a dolphin shoved into her panties[3] as long as everyone’s genitals are properly pixilated.

‘Cause it’s totally the penises and vaginas that are offensive here.

This leads to some absurd contrasts when movies have some nudity intrinsic to the story. I recently watched Cashback, which had quite a bit of full-frontal nudity. It wasn’t particularly salacious nudity, but there were some shots of women with no clothes on.

In one scene the main character is talking about how, when he was about five or six, a Swedish exchange student came to stay with them. “Being Swedish, the walk from the bathroom to her room didn’t need to be a modest one,” he narrates as he reminisces about the first time he saw a woman’s genitals. On screen, matching his words, the camera follows the girl’s naked backside and cleft as she walks slowly upstairs. At least, that’s what I’m assuming it showed, since what I saw was her bare back, part of the outside of her butt, and a big fuzzy circle of digital blurring over the area in question.

It’s not that I really, really want to see the nudity (although I wouldn’t mind) it’s the fact that the censoring is so obtrusive that you can’t help but notice it. In this case, the unclothed state of the women is tied into the plot and narration. The nudity was not done in an overtly sexual way, but it was censored more thoroughly than most Japanese porn.

Yet, there are shows here on late-night broadcast TV that have bare boobs, regular commercials that might not pass FCC regulations for implied sexual content or too much skin, and “game shows” where AV (adult video) stars or figure models participate in activities designed so that partial nudity is inevitable, and the cameraman is right there zoomed-in on the action.

Japan can’t make up its mind. Sometimes it’s a dirty old man who loves kinky sex — the nastier the better. Sometimes it’s a prudish dried up old maid who thinks anything related to the human body is unnatural and shameful. And sometimes it’s downright Swedish in its matter-of-fact acceptance of the human form and functions.

I’d argue that the censorship drives some of the more extreme pornographic acts like bukkake[4] since it’s a way to show hardcore action when showing genitals and penetration is apparently forbidden. It also encourages fetishization since things like clothing, shoes, costumes, and role-playing can be shown, while the actual sex act or genitals that people would otherwise fixate on cannot.

  1. “What are they doing? Shit, that is so perverted!”  ↩

  2. Article 175 of the criminal code prohibits the distribution of “obscene” materials without definition of what is obscene, and there have been very few court cases to clarify the issue.  ↩

  3. I swear, this last is the only example that I made up. I have personally seen the first two videos. This scenario probably exists somewhere, I just haven’t seen it.  ↩

  4. Lit: “pour” with an intensifier prefix. Refers to a sex act where several to dozens of men ejaculate on the woman.  ↩