Octopussy: The strange world of animated pornography and ‘tentacle erotica’

In a previous blog, I examined toonophilia (i.e., a sexual paraphilia in which individuals are sexually and/or emotionally attracted to cartoon characters). I also mentioned in the same blog that some toonophiles are very specific in regard to what they find erotic and that one particular sub-type of tooniphilia involves those individuals who find Japanese ‘anime’ characters particularly erotic. While researching that blog, I came across the lecture notes of an unnamed academic (posted by one of his/her students) that I found interesting (although I don’t know what the primary sources for the notes were). I’m aware that Japanese comics are known as ‘manga’ and that cartoon pornography is highly prevalent (inside and outside of Japan) and is known as ‘hentai’ (but I can’t claim to have known much else before researching this blog).

“Enthusiasts [of anime/Hentai/Manga] are technically known as otaku (Japanese for anime fan), and most of these cartoons have a hardcore, bondage, or rubber/latex flavor. Erotic art has been around, of course, since antiquity, but anime and hentai are more like the adult versions of ‘new animation’ cartoons (like Sailor Moon). The Japanese government requires censorship (blotting out) of genitalia in any picture showing penetration (with the toon showing that ‘look’ of painful enjoyment), but easily downloadable programs like G-mask can remove the censorship masking. Other cartoon images range from Betty Boop, Disney, the Flintsones, and Jetsons to highly erotic fantasy artwork (sometimes featuring penetration by laboratory devices, aliens, or cephalopod squids). Manga art is the most popular American variant, coming from the underground comix culture of R. Crumb and followers. The mutant alien (with tentacles) space theme is probably the most popular, followed by a vegetation or animal fetish, and then only about 30% thoroughly enjoy that degrading ’look’ on the victim’s face. A higher percentage enjoys something of the same ‘look’ in hardcore cumshot photos”.

As I said, I have no idea where the claims made originate (particularly the percentages given), but they appear to have good face validity based on my own anecdotal reading of the popular literature that I have tracked down online. Unsurprisingly, the most popular consumers of hentai are men. The Wikipedia entry on hentai also adds that:

Eroge games [erotoc games] in particular combine three favored media, cartoons, pornography and gaming into an experience. The hentai genre engages a wide audience that expands yearly, with that audience desiring better quality and storylines, or works which push the creative envelope. The unusual and extreme depictions in hentai is not about perversion so much as it is an example of the profit-oriented industry. Normal sexual situations don’t sell as well as the more unusual situations, such as depicting sex at schools or bondage. Dr. Megha Hazuria Gorem, a clinical psychologist says, ‘Because toons are a kind of final fantasy, you can make the person look the way you want him or her to look. Every fetish can be fulfilled.’ Dr. Narayan Reddy a sexologist, commented on the eroge games, ‘Animators make new games because there is a demand for them, and because they depict things that the gamers do not have the courage to do in real life, or that might just be illegal, these games are an outlet for suppressed desire’”.

Another aspect of hentai that I kept coming across was ‘tentacle porn’ and ‘tentacle rape’ (or ‘shokushu goukan’ as it is known as in Japan) that a number of articles I read says it dates back to the eighteenth century although the more recent tentacle rape genre is generally attributed to Urotsukidoji, manga created by controversial erotic cartoonist Toshio Maeda who emphasized the elements of sexual assault. Maeda claims to have introduced tentacle porn as a way to circumvent Japan’s very strict censorship laws. These laws didn’t allow the depiction of penises but at the time (in 1986) didn’t forbid sexual penetration by anything else (such as tentacles or robotic appendages). In an online article on “depraved fetishes that are older than you think”, the author Nathan Reed reported that:

“For men, the [tentacle rape] fetish appeals to those who enjoy seeing women humiliated and subjugated by something that isn’t even human. While [Toshio] Maeda may have created the modern tentacle rape, he wasn’t the inventor – not even close. Maeda was preceded by Katsushika Hokusai, an artist from the late 18th and early 19th century. Hokusai was the artist of the ‘Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji’ an internationally recognized series of prints that earned him fame both locally and globally…Hokusai’s ‘The Dream Of The Fisherman’s Wife is speculated to be the first instance of tentacle erotica…[Also] check out ‘Tentacles of Desire: The Man Who Loved Cephalopods’. Contained within is the story of Joshua Handley, an English artist in the late 19th century whose travels to Japan resulted in an obsession with tentacle erotica. Handley attempted multiple times to publish some of it in England, even coming up with some of his own to add to the table. People were appalled – not by the tentacles, but at the notion that the women in the stories were actually enjoying themselves, because for some reason rape would make it much less disgusting”.

A 2001 paper by Dr. Danielle Talerico in the academic journal Impressions showed argued that although Western audiences have usually viewed Hokusai’s painting as rape, “Japanese audiences of the Edo period would have associated it with consensual sex”. This is also echoed in the Wikipedia entry that claims ‘tentacle erotica’ can be of a consensual nature “but frequently has elements of non-consensual sex”. It also notes that it has become much more popular outside of Japan and Asia and has found an audience among people in both Europe and the US but “still remains a small, fetish-oriented part of the adult film industry. While most tentacle erotica is animated, there are also a smaller number of live-action movies featuring this theme”.

Some academics believe that tentacle rape – even in animated form is a step too far. For instance, a 2004 book chapter by Dr. J.P. Dahlquist, and Dr. L.G. Vigilant asserts that:

“The experience of hentai is morally distancing. Tentacle hentai offers the telegenetic signs of the most perverse and debased sexualities. It opens for fantastic examination a sexuality that transgresses all ‘simulated’ moralities of the ‘real’ world, where tentacle sex between nubile girl-women and cloned boy-men monsters are the order of the day – a monstrous sex-feast of the most abnormal acts: pedophilic bestiality, sex with machines, sex with cyborgs, sex with dangerous protruding tentacles, and, of course, an endless stream of the most debasing, brutal, and humiliating rape images”.

Whether animated pornography is less ‘harmful’ than non-animated pornography is something I will leave to others more knowledgeable than me to debate. However, there is clearly a market for hentai more generally, and tentacle porn more specifically as evidenced by those who sell it commercially. The whole area raises interesting moral questions which I hope to return to in a future blog.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Absolute Astronomy (2013). Tentacle rape. Located at: http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Tentacle_rape

Dahlquist, J.P., & Vigilant, L.G. (2004). Way better than real: Manga sex to tentacle hentai. In D.D. Waskul (Ed.), Net.sex: Readings on sex, pornography, and the Internet (pp. 91–103). New York: Peter Lang.

Ortega-Brena, Mariana (2009). Peek-a-boo, I see you: Watching Japanese hard-core animation. Sexuality and Culture, 13, 17–31.

Reed, N. (2010). 6 Depraved Sexual Fetishes That Are Older Than You Think. Cracked.com, March 30. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_18472_6-depraved-sexual-fetishes-that-are-older-than-you-think.html

Talerico, D. (2001). Interpreting sexual imagery in Japanese prints: A fresh approach to Hokusai’s Diver and Two Octopi. Impressions: The Journal of the Ukiyo-e Society of America, 23, 24-42.

Wikipedia (2013). Hentai. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hentai

Wikipedia (2013). Manga. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manga

Wikipedia (2013). Tentacle erotica. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tentacle_erotica

Wikipedia (2013). Urotsukidoji. Located at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urotsukidōji

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on July 4, 2013, in Crime, Paraphilia, Popular Culture, Pornography, Psychology, Sex, Video games and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It’s interesting that in a recent CSI episode, they went to a nightclub that featured a back room with a woman and an octopus writhing in a bathtub to ask her questions about a crime she witnessed. It wasn’t clear whether she was clothed or not. I don’t know whether there are actually VIP rooms in Las Vegas that exist where this happens.

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