Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities

Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities

Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities

Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities

Synopsis

This book is the first to look at the wide range of contrasting images of the gay male body in Japanese popular culture, both mainstream and gay, and relate these images to the experience of an interview sample of Japanese gay men. In so doing, it touches on a number of important issues, including whether there can be a universal 'gay identity' and whether or not strategies developed for increasing gay and lesbian visibility in western countries are appropriate to the social situation in Japan.

Excerpt

Whose homosexuality?

The subject of this book is elusive as it is by no means clear who, exactly, is to be included in the concept of 'male homosexual' even in English; in Japanese, as will be described below, problems with terminology are even more serious. in the west, recent developments in lesbian and gay studies (see for example, Dorenkamp and Henke 1995) as well as in the study of sexuality generally have led towards the increasing problematisation of all terms used in a nominalising manner which try to name a person in terms of the gender of his or her preferred sexual partner. This shift has largely been due to the influence of postmodern ideas which have entered academia via feminism and gender studies, and yet it is not new. Even in the late 1940s, Alfred Kinsey, in the first large-scale empirical survey of the sex life of American men ever conducted, was warning against the use of terms like 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual' as nouns describing distinct types of people. He writes:

Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. the world is not divided into sheep and goats… It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separate pigeon-holes. the living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. the sooner we learn this concerning human behavior the sooner we shall reach a sounder understanding of the realities of sex (1948:639).

Although I endorse Kinsey's warning against the desire to organise human sexuality into tidy categories, I am sceptical that the 'realities of sex' can ever be fully understood, not because of deficiencies in our methods of approach which are, after all, humanly produced and therefore culturally encoded, but because 'sex' is an ideological and

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