So the Web has been abuzz about the novelty of Japanese erotic game shows. The girl in the above picture, in example, is an Idol no ana contestant doing her best in one of the many licking tryouts in a show whose title literally translates as ‘The hole of an idol’ – where ‘idol’ is the Japanese term for a talentless but good looking girl catapulted at a very early age into a career of singing, then softcore modeling followed by harder and harder porn videos and, rarely, a second run as a minor television celebrity.
Girls fight off for a chance to become next year’s biggest idol, and they are subjected to many allusive tests among which the aforementioned lickings, sucking stuff from tubes, disrobing mannequins without using their hands and openly changing into cosplay costumes – freezing mid-gesture whenever they are told to, to allow a lecherous cameraman to better expose them.
The other video is even more shocking. That’s the highlights reel from Orgasm wars: a 40-minutes long contest to see whether a fat, male gay bar owner can manage to get a male porn star to come using all his secret fellatio techniques. Even if the crotch area is hidden by a small screen it is as graphic as you are imagining (not to mention the veryweird sounds of it all), with a commenter giving a moment-by-moment account of the action.
I’ll spoil this for you: the bar owner wins and the star reluctantly comes. Just like contestant number three in this older game show about… er… sucking off microphones while hidden brushes stimulate the contestants between their legs? That’s not even half as bizarre as the ass-kissing show in the third clip, or the quiz show where people give their answers while whipped by a dominatrix, or… well, you get the idea. But what does it all mean?
Japan has many unusual customs to westerners’ eyes, that’s true. But equally true is that it isn’t half as crazy as our media paint it – especially when it comes to sex. It’s just a matter of context. To understand three quarters of it you just have to remember that it is a Shintoist and Buddhist country, blissfully free of the absurd sense of guilt and shame the Christian, Jew and Islamic religions impose on sex and sexuality. As soon as genitals are just another body part and sex is just a common, everyday activity, approaching it playfully and publicly appears much more reasonable. Shows like Idol no ana do receive some flak by moralists, but most people see them as nothing more than one variation among many – on the same plane with cooking, fitness or music shows.
The second important aspect to consider is how Japan remains a very formal society. Just look at the beginning of the Orgasm wars clip: a differently-oriented stranger comes up to forcibly suck you off before cameras, and the normal reaction is to politely exchange business cards, bow and very quietly state that you won’t succumb to his techniques. Most American males would have run away shouting insults, terrorized they had “turned gay” just because they were in the same room as one. Most game shows are not about skill, but about not losing face – that is, keep your honor and your family’s high even in the face of adversity. Accepting any challenge, no matter how weird, is a big part of it.
Knowing all of this, eastern kinky shows take on a very different meaning. They can be shocking, controversial and ridiculous, but not as alien as they look at a first glance. After all, it is just a matter of remembering that everybody lives sex in a different way – and until they remain safe, sane and consensual, no interpretation is “better” than the others.