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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

Something to get animated about: A brief overview of toonophilia

While researching previous blogs on the Furry Fandom (i.e., those individuals who derive sexual pleasure from dressing up as an animal and/or derive sexual pleasure from having sex with someone dressed as an animal) and objectum sexuality (i.e., those individuals who develop deep emotional and/or romantic attachments to specific inanimate objects or structures), I kept coming across various online references to toonophilia.

Toonophilia is a sexual paraphilia in which individuals are sexually and/or emotionally attracted to cartoon characters (including Japanese anime characters). There are a number of slightly different definitions found online some of which claim that toonophilia only applies to those individuals whose primary or exclusive sexual interest is in cartoon characters. There also appears to be other similar paraphilias such as fictophilia (in which individuals are romantically and/or sexually attracted to fictional characters in books) and gameophilia (in which individuals are romantically and/or sexually attracted to fictional video game characters such as Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft). One website claimed that toonophilia is seen as a life-style and that “due to the absence of physical contacts between humans and cartoon characters” most toonophiles’ sexual activity (unsurprisingly) comprises masturbation.

I’ve only come across one academic reference to toonophilia and that was in a comprehensive list of paraphilias in the 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices by Dr.Anil Aggrawal (Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, India). However, there is nothing more than a one-line definition. The same book also notes that tooniphilia is also known by another name – schediaphilia. I also checked out Brenda Love’s (normally very reliable and all encompassing) Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices but there was nothing on toonophilia at all.

One of the most infamous toonophiles is cartoonist and comic book artist Robert Crumb who has gone on record saying that as a youngster he was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny when he was dressed in drag. More specifically he said:

When I – what was it – about five or six? – I was sexually attracted to Bugs Bunny. And I – I cut out this Bugs Bunny off the cover of a comic book and carried it around with me. Carried it around in my pocket and took it out and looked at it periodically, and – and it got all wrinkled up from handling it so much that I asked my mother to iron it on the ironing board to flatten it out, and – and she did, and I was deeply disappointed ’cause it got all brown when she ironed it, and brittle, and crumbled apart”

In one of the regular polls carried out on the Deviant Art website, 58 “deviants” responded to the poll “Do you have toonophilia?” with 60% responding that they did (n=35), 14% responding “not really” (n=14), and 16% responding “sort of”. Yes, I know it’s not scientific and it’s a very small number of respondents, but that was the only numerical data of any description I could find. An article in a 2008 issue of the Huffington Post reported that some toonophiles wanted to make their relationships with cartoon characters official. They reported that the Toonophile Planet website were offering marriage certificates (assuming the character was not already married to another toonophile). At the Go Petition website, there is a genuine petition asking for relationships and marriages between humans and cartoon characters to be made legal. The petition said:

“Toonophilia is a growing belief. Not only do our kind love cartoon/videogame characters, we feel their presence and our love for them are as real as you and I. Toonophiles are registering marriages to their virtual lovers on the Internet and the number of virtual marriage certificates are growing. An example of toonophile oriented websites are: www.sonic-passion.com, www.toonophilia.net. These marriage certificates sadly are only virtual. We desire to have “legal” marriage certificates with our name and loved one’s name written on it. I have never been interested in relationships with real people and am only interested in virtuality. This petition will be sent to the BBC as soon as enough signatures have been signed. We the undersigned request that you allow the marriage between Humans and virtual cartoon/videogame characters be permitted in the UK”

The Huffington Post article also noted that other websites (like the ToonsPortal) featured obscene and/or pornographic images and videos of many different cartoon characters (like The Flintstones) having sex. In March 2012, Willow Monroe wrote an online essay about toonophilia. There was nothing to back up what was written but she claimed that:

“Sexy for the Toonophile need not be a blatantly erotic character like Jessica Rabbit, or Betty Boop, rather, the subject of affection and desire can be any animated or sketched figure from Bugs Bunny, to Ms Pacman. Toonophiles are known to carry pictures of their adored character and even collect the plush toy and figurine versions of them. Some Toonophile friendly sites even allow members to wed their preferred character, provided that character is unspoken for.There is an abundance of sites on the web that cater to this fetishist’s fantasies. A range of characters can be watched performing pretty well every – and any – kind of sexual act imaginable. By far the most popular form of cartoon pornography on the internet is served up courtesy of the Japanese anime market. The pornographic cartoons in the anime style are casually called Hentai. The word’s etymology gives insight into what the original artists of this style thought of their work, as the word can be translated as ‘perversion’”

I spent an idle hour scouring toonophile forums and I came across dozens of people claiming to be in love and/or having longstanding sexual relationships with cartoon characters.For instance, here are a few (genuine) confessions and just the tip of the iceberg:

  • “I think I have schediaphilia because whenever I watch a show with the particular anime character I like, my heart beats like crazy. I can almost hear it beat and my stomach does a flipping thing, and I even have sexual dreams about that character. I have a full on crush on this anime character”
  • I’m the neighborhood toonophile. I’ve known I’m one for a good 4 years now, but even long back into my childhood days when I didn’t even realize it. I’ve always had a fascination with cartoon characters, and it just grew in my adulthood. Can’t really explain it to most people because they’ll be like ‘whaaa?’ and some don’t even think it’s a real thing, but it really is honestly. I can’t really find attraction in real people. I honestly get sick to the stomach at the thought of having sex with a real person, it’s just not my thing, but with a certain character like Beast from Beauty and the Beast, it’s a real turn on for me”
  • “Ever since I was 15 I fell in love with a cartoon character by the name of Amy Rose [a character in the Sonic The Hedgehog video game]. To this day I am still in love with her and share my life with her. Most of you will think ‘what a loser, loving a fictional character. Get a real girlfriend’. But Amy makes me happy, so let’s leave it at that”
  • “I am a Toonophiliac or should I say fictosexual since I’m attracted to fictional characters and not just toons. I just noticed that I wasn’t attracted to real people but that I had sexual and relationship fantasies about fictional characters. I imagine myself with a fictional character, having a relationship then having sex. Depending upon the character, it might be more sexual or more relationship based. One day it’s one, the other day it’s another. It’s like polygamy, but none of them are jealous and there’s no risk of getting a disease or ending up pregnant”
  • “I have no idea how it finally clicked, other than a strong fascination with cartoon characters since childhood that sort of matured with me. It’s physical for me too, of course – things like ponies or Beast or cartoon dragons or Pokemon or Digimon. They’re literally physically attractive to me in their base state. I think part of the appeal to me is that, by being attracted to characters that by definition don’t necessarily confine to reality like that, it lends itself to more ‘creative’ or ‘unrealistic’ fetishes too”

From my research into video game playing, I can certainly see echoes of toonophilia among younger players when looking at video game characters such as Lara Croft. In previous articles, I have asked myself what explains Lara’s immense popularity. At one level this may seem fairly obvious – she’s a big-breasted digital icon. However, most Tomb Raider players aren’t lusting adolescents. I questioned a group of players and asked them about why Tomb Raider was such a good game. The single most important factor appeared to be the problem-solving component as part of the treasure hunt genre. Her physical attributes didn’t seem to be important for most players apart from the youngest teenagers. Maybe it’s among this group of teenage video game players where some toonophile tendencies begin to develop?

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.

Griffiths, M.D. (1998). Shrink Rap: The Croft Report. Arcade, 1 (November), p. 49.

Love, B. (2001). Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices. London: Greenwich Editions.

McCombs, E. (2008). Toonophilia: Is it porn? Huffington Post, October 1st. Located at: http://www.asylum.com/2008/10/01/toonophilia-is-it-porn/

Monroe, W. (2012). Fetish of the Week: Schediaphilia (Toonophilia). ZZ Insider, March 12. Located at: http://www.zzinsider.com/blogs/view/fetish_of_the_week_schediaphilia_toonophilia