This article is Ancient (archive 2011)

Hentai Virus Spreads to US

The word “hentai” has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary, which means that a casual hazard/goal of being an internet-person has turned into an actual, recognized thing of the English-speaking world, which means that we might as well start talking about it outside of internet-people saloons. For those readers who didn’t wile away their high school years talking to strangers on servers, hentai is essentially porn in anime form, a genre with a rather vast panorama of bizarre fetishes, aggressively unrealistic anatomies, and a forest of ill-intentioned tentacles which has led to rather paranoid speculation about the psycho-sexual state of our friends from across the Pacific.

That’s not to say that all hentai contains bizarre fetishes or tentacle porn (I can’t make the same caveat for hentai anatomies, or mainstream anime anatomies for that

matter) but a decent amount of it is, and in the world of heterosexual(ish) hentai the female characters rarely consent even in ostensibly vanilla pieces. The action in most hentai wouldn’t change if the featured girl was replaced with a blow-up doll that made pained whining noises, which sort of speaks of a weird, implicit element of domination that goes a little bit beyond American male porn stars and their wannabe-rockstar/wannabe-gangster grunts.

Most of the time the scenes and acts portrayed in hentai straddle the line between “illegal” and “impossible,” which turns the sexuality of said pieces into a sometimes esoteric thing, a kink that requires a peculiar mental scaffolding to appreciate. All of this is not to say that hentai’s bad so much as just weird. It’s tempting for a commentator to exaggerate the genre’s strangeness to the point where it seems like the sole province of hunched, warty men in stained wife beaters, but in reality most of the people who look at hentai probably wash their shirts as much as anyone else. I do, at least.

Understand, I’m no connoisseur of cartoon porn, but I grew up with a modem. Most of my friends did too, and at the critical age of sexual awakening I’m pretty sure a lot of us busied ourselves with the task of figuring out as much as we could about that thing the adults were hiding from us. It wasn’t something we talked about often, so I’m not entirely sure, but given the sheer amount of the stuff available I can’t imagine that hentai was somehow overlooked. I mean, if the movies about bygone years are anything resembling true, finding a dirty picture could’ve been a weeks-long task that jeopardized life and limb, and kids still managed to do it. For us it was just a matter of calculating how long our parents would be out of the house and making sure the browser was clean before they got home. With such efficient machinery, how could the results not multiply?

Since porn has wrung the hands of moral guardians for decades, I feel a little bit like someone who’s lived through the blaring of the seventh trumpet just to have the Mark of the Beast turn out to be a lick’n’stick tattoo. Documentaries like Porndemic (Warning: Porn) suggest that I should be living through some sort of horrible fever dream that turns the touch of another person into something alien and unsatisfying, but, to be honest, my exposure to this blasted wasteland of unrealistically curvy lines takes up as much space in my mind as Minesweeper takes up in my hard drive. As fascinating as the image of a penis penetrating a nipple is from a Freudian perspective, there’s little about it that would make one want to do it in real life, and even less to make one think that it’s biologically possible. Even for the stuff that doesn’t feel like it comes from an actual fever dream, it’s not as if people haven’t had less-than-ideal fantasies since forever. Most important, hentai barely resembles actual sex. Hell, even real-people porn barely resembles actual sex. IRL, [in real life, for the layperson] the view’s different, the choreography’s more complicated and the dialogue’s funnier. Hentai, and porn in general, is more like a series of incredibly lazy thought experiments, the sort of thing that occasionally leads to a novel bong idea but doesn’t get anywhere near to a dormful of engineers trying to take out a power grid. It’s the mental masturbation of physical masturbation, something that you’d have to be both incredibly cloistered and an incredible asshole to take seriously.