Feminism and porn

This week I’d like to strengthen my autoethnographic research through a closer examination of how my own perspective and lived experiences frame my understanding of the hentai culture I’m studying. As Dyson (2007: 39) says, the autoethnographic “author and researcher necessarily reveals his or her hand, or voice, up front”. For me this means being open about the ways in which my personal beliefs and attitudes underscore the relationship that has begun to develop between myself and my chosen field of study. This kind of transparency is crucial for the author to then begin asking questions about how their own position acts as a lens that filters, refracts and interprets the cultural phenomenon they are studying (Ellis & Bochner 2000: 739).

As autoethnographic research is generally framed around recollections of important event’s in the researchers life (Philaretou & Allen 2006), I think it’s critical that I discuss my growing awareness and deepening concern for feminist issues as it is the gender representations in hentai that has been most aggravating to me. A few years ago I did not identify as a feminist, but came into contact with the idea during my studies. Since then I’ve begun to notice more and more the way in which daily occurrences that are normalized and institutionalized in this culture perpetuate the patriarchy and reinforce gender inequalities.

Feminist views of pornography fall into three broad categories: anti-porn feminism, liberal feminism that advocates freedom of expression and choice, and pro-sex feminism (McElroy 2002). My personal views on pornography lie somewhere between anti-porn and the liberal feminist position. I think that many women consume pornography for their own enjoyment, and they have the right to not only view it, but participate in it, however the porn industry is explicitly geared toward fulfilling male sexual desire and representations of women in pornography in its current form are harmful, degrading and rarely empowering. In other words, the porn industry doesn’t exist for both genders, rather it is more about showing “women as submissive sexual objects presented for the sole purpose of providing pleasure to men” (Reinhard 2010)

(Photo courtesy of Cambridge University Press)

In my limited experience of hentai so far I’ve seen almost exclusively sexist and damaging representations of women (and girls), in many cases blatantly misogynist… here I am referring to the productions that depict not sex, but rape. While these images are disturbing, they are not as confronting or surprising, as they should be. I know very little about gender and sexuality in Japan (and I will endeavour to research this further in my next post), however as a female that’s grown up with Western mass media, I am all too familiar with the objectification and domination of the female body. I remember hearing as a young girl that “Barbie” had a negative influence on body image because she would not physically be able to support her figure in real life, and I can certainly say this would be the case for most of the female characters in hentai with their tiny limbs and grossly oversized breasts.

One of the few non explicit images I could find in Google

 

Dyson, M. 2007, ‘My Story in a Profession of Stories: Auto Ethnography – an Empowering Methodology for Educators’, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 32(1).

McElroy, W. 2004, ‘A feminist defense of pornography’, Free Inquiry Magazine, 17(14), viewed online at http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/mcelroy_17_4.html

Philaretou, A. G and Allen, K. R. 2006, ‘Researching Sensitive Topics through Autoethnographic Means’, Journal of Men’s Studies, 14(1)

Reinhard, C. D. 2010, ‘The rise of hentai in America, part 2’, It’s playing, just with research, viewed online at http://playingwithresearch.com/2012/08/12/the-rise-of-hentai-in-america-part-2/

 

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One comment

  1. I too became a feminist at uni, and while I have not watched any Hentai, I have seen images of how females are depicted. It feels strange now to think that before embarking on media studies I was quite ignorant towards the way women were treated. So many people have differing views on the likes of porn and subsequently hentai. Even within a feminist view, like you have mentioned within your post. I haven’t fully decided where I stand on the subject, as I am like you in the sense of being stuck in the middle. I understand how it can be empowering for women, however when I see the way some are treated it does infuriate me.

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