Even though this will be my last written post in this series on hentai, it’s certainly not where my role as autoethnographer ends. Or at least autoethnography as I’ve come to know it, which is as tool for engaging with social and cultural phenomenon underscored by cultural reflexivity and a reflection upon one’s own experiences to frame one’s understanding of that phenomenon. While this is a research process that involves writing down your thoughts, I think that this form of self-reflection is also a very useful exercise in mindfulness.
Throughout this study I’ve confronted many of the paradoxes and challenges I’ve often come up against as a student, woman, human being. Let me explain. I went into this study as a student of DIGC330, and only that. I wanted to investigate hentai as a weird and quirky subject matter, based on the fact that I didn’t understand the appeal of animated pornography when real porn is so abundant. Shortly into my investigation I was approaching the work as a feminist, then as a kind of feminist-historian, but always as an outsider, never quite coming to terms with the subject matter I was seeking to engage with.
The way women are portrayed in the videos and pictures doesn’t shock me, but I still feel affronted by it. I feel that it warrants attention as part of a global trend toward the fetishisation and objectification of women’s bodies. As the autoethnographic process necessitates, I could not simply research as a student of DIGC330, I had to take ownership of my values, beliefs and understanding about the way gender and sexuality functions in this world and apply this to my study. My reflections were always punctuated by a variety of other sources, however my interest always piqued at information pertaining to gender representations and changing gender roles, as opposed to, say, information about how the internet has affected the proliferation of hentai or hentai fandoms online. I admit that in the end this probably obscured or overtook more hentai-specific research paths I could have been taking, however those were the avenues more relevant to me.
Indeed I think if I had a broader scope for research I would delve more deeply into the online culture of hentai, i.e. how hentai consumers interact with each other online. In relation to this I barely touched the surface, yet one comment I will venture to make, because this surprised me, is that the language used by participants in the few forums I visited seemed quite tame, reasonably respectful and didn’t contain any degrading remarks about women, be it in the videos or real life.