In high school, we had an AP Physics teacher who was one of my favorites. His limbs fell about the classroom in the goofiest way, and his brain was...way over my head. Fast forward a few years and my partner and I are discussing our alma mater’s boldest and brightest. For the purpose of anonymity, because I doubt my teacher thought he’d finagle his way into a sex toy magazine, I’ll call him “Mister.” “I loved Mister; still do,” I said. My partner laughed, “well yeah he was hilarious, but he always used sexualized imagery. Remember? Those anime figures. That made me uncomfortable.” We proceeded to have a back and forth where I questioned his memory and he questioned… my ethics I would guess. The conversation quickly devolved from highschool physics into the complexity of Hentai, without the proper use of the term. 


So, what is Hentai Porn?

At that point in our conversation, my partner and I were referring to the imagery as anime or manga. It seems that Hentai is the sexy version of those genres; like how Palma is the sexy version of regular jewelry. The Japanese term literally means a sexual desire or act, more often than not construed as perverse. 


What is its history?

Before Hentai– which, as far as the Internet is concerned, made its debut in 1984– there was Shunga. This form of erotic art is dated back to 704 AD; this is not amateur hour. Shunga took form by way of ink and woodblocks, illustrating “life’s pleasures” to be shared amongst partners and friends. But it wasn’t Brave New World forever, as Shunga was banned in 1722; as all sexual trends, it waxed and waned with denouncements and words of praise alike. Along with a multitude of opportunity spaces that emerged following World War II,  “indecent” materials that sprouted from Shunga resurfaced and continued to evolve freely; like women entering the workforce, Hentai entered porn. Fast forward to the 1990s where sexualized anime and manga go live in the US of A. 


Who produces it? Where to find it? Are there Feminist options?

There isn’t just one producer of Hentai or even a group that monopolizes Hentai. The genre emerged from something written, drawn, imprinted; something shared amongst individuals with no one artist. And this remains the same today… with the Internet being its canvas. If anything, most sites that produce Hentai are anonymous; or, they’re Luscious.net which found themselves, well, compromised after leaking users’ emails.


There are, though, some artists that are worth highlighting:

Toshio Maeda is pretty much the Frida Kahlo of Hentai, best known for introducing tentacles to this porn genre; an innovator to say the least. He is, after all, the tentacle master (self-proclaimed, according to his twitter), and is basically known as the founding father of Hentai. He even collaborated with Supreme for an NSFW collection that brought Hentai into the limelight of the mainstream. The catch is his genre is better known as tentacle rape. So.. when it comes to feminist ethics, Hentai proves to be highly controversial. Artist Maria Forque has expanded Hentai to incorporate a DJ set and meditation, putting a more approachable spin on something that might seem foreign or, to borrow from the Japanese literal meaning, perverse. 


In terms of ethics, as I said, it can get tricky. But like most porn, the best bet is to find sites where you pay for your porn– you know your money is going to the artist. Fakku avoids pirated content without skirting on the amount of porn available, along with MangaGamer if your Japanese is limited. If you’re interested in feeling your Hentai, J-List is your best bet to purchase books, body pillows, and a host of other boob knick-knacks. 


There’s always going to be tension when it comes to porn. You might be an Andrea Dworkin, a feminist theorist who sees porn as legitimizing the use of women with no room for empowerment. Or perhaps you’re a Margot St James who believes the reclamation of porn creates a palatable erotic market that can educate. After slightly dipping my toes into Hentai research, I’m not sure where I fall. I think there are ethical ways to approach it, just like any porn. And like any genre, I think it’s best to leave your judgment behind and come to a conclusion that is not filtered by what others say, especially when it comes to high school physics. 

 

Abigail Glasgow is a human that appreciates storytelling on paper and in person, especially when it comes to marginalized/taboo topics and individuals. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, she now lives in Brooklyn awaiting the day she can foster cats.