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The Different Treatment of Sex Scenes: Japan vs. America

LemiusK

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Two years ago, Warner Brothers released an adaptation of their highly controversial graphic novel, "The Killing Joke", and there was an additional scene previously non-existing in the book: Batigirl fucking Batman. Yeah, fucking Batman. Let's just call it what it is.

Of course, with the kind of relationship both characters previously had towards each other (a father and daughter kind), the Internet went crazy. America went crazy. It was treated as disgusting and highly inappropriate. The film received mixed reviews and was harshly criticized.

Fast-forward to 2018, when I posted my thoughts regarding Swan Song and its unnecessary sex scene. And that got me thinking about the voice-acting process... What if Tara Strong (voice of Barbara Gordon in the aforementioned film) was asked to similarly voiced a sex scene like that? Think about it. Think about the reactions of American voice actresses. "What is this? I didn't sign up for pornography." And yet, thousands of Japanese VAs have willingly put so much effort into voicing cringeworthy sex scenes for very serious stories like "The Fruit of Grisaia" or "G-Senjou no Maou".

It's rather interesting how the two culture treats sex as a taboo (or not). I've always known Japan was more promiscuous when it comes to sex, being rather open-minded to it. But this comparison got me wondering about the kind of thoughts VAs must be having voicing serious dramas while still being asked to moan in orgasm. Must be an interesting voicing session.

Edit: 10 minutes after writing this, I stumbled onto another sex scene in Kara no Shoujo. It's as if you'll accidentally trip into a sex scene just wandering around Japan.



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What if Tara Strong (voice of Barbara Gordon in the aforementioned film) was asked to similarly voiced a sex scene like that? Think about it. Think about the reactions of American voice actresses. "What is this? I didn't sign up for pornography."

Actually it's not that much different in Japan tbh

See, the thing with your quote is that it's Tara Strong. She's well know, of course she wouldn't do any random pornographic scene. Now back to Japan. Did you tried to look for eroge voice actresses? A lot of them go by alias and good luck if you happen to find a single pic of their faces (Of course there are exceptions, like Aoba Ringo). They mostly do eroge and eroge only. And actresses like Sakamoto Maaya and Kawasumi Ayako don't do eroge, except in all ages versions console ports. They're also more well know and they show their faces in events and such.

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1 minute ago, MaggieROBOT said:

Now back to Japan. Did you tried to look for eroge voice actresses? A lot of them go by alias and good luck if you happen to find a single pic of their faces (Of course there are exceptions, like Aoba Ringo). They mostly do eroge and eroge only. And actresses like Sakamoto Maaya and Kawasumi Ayako don't do eroge, except in all ages versions console ports. They're also more well know and they show their faces in events and such.

Yeah, I did have a hunch it was along the lines of something like that, considering that the more popular Steins;Gate and Fate/Stay Night either didn't have any sex scenes or, in the latter case, voiced sex scenes. Grisaia was relatively obscure compared to those two.

Well, it makes more sense now. Still, it's kinda funny, people being asked to voice porn games with serious plot. It's just hard to imagine, considering most American porn stars aren't really talented actresses in the first place. Sure, it's just voicing but... it's just an amusing image, voice actresses asked to act and moan. Obscure eroge actresses or not, they do still offer a decent amount of acting skill in eroge games. It's not something half-assed like in a nukige, where you could tell that the actress barely put in any amount of effort at all. You get stuff like G-Senjou no Maou or even School Days, where a certain amount of convincing emotional voice-acting is required.

I guess it's because I've associated "porn" and "sex" with the more westernized kind of ideas and images that went with those keywords, so it's rather difficult for me to take "porn with serious plot" seriously. Whenever I see a "serious" VN like Kara no Shoujo suddenly pull up a h-scene on me with all the moaning that accompanies it, it's just hard to take it seriously and throws me off the story. It feels like unnecessary filler and could have easily been trimmed down to tighten the plot. So it only makes me wonder what eroge actresses must be thinking. Are they comfortable with it? Or do they simply not care? With many "eroges" having serious acting, you could hardly sum it down to companies hiring half-talented actresses for sex scenes that could easily be acted out by porn stars.

Then again, on the other hand, I guess you could also say that Japanese people take their sex scenes seriously, and they put in that much effort to ensure the love-making scenes contain that much passion and believability. It's something that I could picture Japanese people thinking.

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What Maggie said. They usually go by aliases, so it's not like they absolutely don't care about being recognized as eroge voice actresses.

However I think it's true that there's a big conceptual difference in the way Japanese people see their porn in VNs. Because yeah, most of the times, h-scenes are just porn, the cases when it actually adds something to the story in any form being pretty rare. Let's call it what it is, and it is porn. 

The thing is, in the west in general (and EEUU in particular, I dunno, I'm not 'murican) we kind of have a really hard time wrapping our heads around how porn could be anything more than porn. Either it's a porn movie, or a 'normal' movie. No in-betweens. That doesn't seem to be the case in Japan. You can have an amazingly written story with some porn on top of it to spice things up a little, and nobody bats an eye. And honestly, being so used to it nowadays, neither do I anymore.

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11 minutes ago, Thyndd said:

However I think it's true that there's a big conceptual difference in the way Japanese people see their porn in VNs. Because yeah, most of the times, h-scenes are just porn, the cases when it actually adds something to the story in any form being pretty rare. Let's call it what it is, and it is porn. 

The thing is, in the west in general (and EEUU in particular, I dunno, I'm not 'murican) we kind of have a really hard time wrapping our heads around how porn could be anything more than porn. Either it's a porn movie, or a 'normal' movie. No in-betweens. That doesn't seem to be the case in Japan. You can have an amazingly written story with some porn on top of it to spice things up a little, and nobody bats an eye. And honestly, being so used to it nowadays, neither do I anymore.

Yeah, you summed up what I was thinking writing this blog entry. It's that very different perspective in what a porn scene should be, and I just get the feeling that Japanese people might actually be more passionate and serious about sex scenes, while the more westernized viewers might think of it as something frivolous or for the sole purpose of masturbation, hardly romantic at all. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Japanese people are like that. I've read articles that they have embraced sex as something more sacred than our westernized views, so it's not surprising if they associate "love" and "love-making" with "porn" much more easily.

Still, it just goes to show that there's still a lot more about the Japanese culture, anime, and VNs that the rest of the world still needs time to comprehend. It's just that fundamentally different in ideology.

Edited by LemiusK

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Just now, LemiusK said:

and I just get the feeling that Japanese people might actually be more passionate and serious about sex scenes, while the more westernized viewers might think of it as something frivolous or for the sole purpose of masturbation.

Well, I don't know how they actually see it, but I get why at least on this side of the planet people would think of it as nothing more than masturbation fodder :leecher: I mean, I know I do.

And the reason is that sex scenes are usually so over the top that they often feel like a parody. I know I'd love myself some more intimate and romantic h-scenes, but heh, good luck with that. It's like in anime related media everything has to be exaggerated, including sex. Well, when you think about it and compare it fairly with every other aspect, like comedy, it actually makes a whole lot of sense.

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5 hours ago, Thyndd said:

Well, I don't know how they actually see it, but I get why at least on this side of the planet people would think of it as nothing more than masturbation fodder :leecher: I mean, I know I do.

I'm pretty sure Japanese people don't see them any different, they're just not embarassed/bothered about having pure fap material in their narrative games. And remember, in you watch anime for example, you might notice that while the approach to sex is in many ways more relaxed in Japan (although it's, as always, pretty complicated and nuanced), eroge players are not exactly the most respected group in society and the games themselves not completely devoid of stigma. There wouldn't be laws forcing mosaics over everything in a country fully accepting of pornography. 

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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3 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

I'm pretty sure Japanese people don't see them any different, they're just not embarassed/bothered about having pure fap material in their narrative games. And remember, in you watch anime for example, you might notice that while the approach to sex is in many ways more relaxed in Japan (although it's, as always, pretty complicated and nuanced), eroge players are not the most respected group in society and the games themselves not completely devoid of stigma. There wouldn't be laws forcing mosaics over everything in a country fully accepting of pornography. 

Hmm, but who exactly are we talking about? I'm pretty sure most of us here on fuwa are not embarassed/bothered by 2D titties either, y'know. If it's only eroge players both in Japan and elsewhere, then there might not even be a difference in mentality to speak of. Maybe the average Japanese denizen is not so open to porn in their entertainment media. Maybe since the otaku culture was born in Japan they are more aware of its existence so they don't get so taken aback, but at the same time they may be who reject it the most. 

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19 minutes ago, Thyndd said:

Hmm, but who exactly are we talking about? I'm pretty sure most of us here on fuwa are not embarassed/bothered by 2D titties either, y'know. If it's only eroge players both in Japan and elsewhere, then there might not even be a difference in mentality to speak of. Maybe the average Japanese denizen is not so open to porn in their entertainment media. Maybe since the otaku culture was born in Japan they are more aware of its existence so they don't get so taken aback, but at the same time they may be who reject it the most. 

Well, yeah, sure, in the confines of our rooms at least. Remember the recent "should I tell my gf?" thread. :P And yeah, I guess I was mixing two issues. One is that I think plain porn is always plain porn and I don't think Japanese people have magical powers to extract deeper meaning from hentai. There simply is none. The second is that we shouldn't overstate the "liberal" approach to sexuality in Japan. It's different, but it doesn't mean pornography or eroge are as "accepted" or "mainstream" as some people would like to believe - I was mostly reacting to some statements by the OP, like that Japan's culture is "more promiscuous". 

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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I think it has more to do with a different approach to fiction than being more open minded about sex. Most western magazines for women below a certain age contain sex advice and some cheap erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey can become a mega-seller in western countries. Japanese culture values personal space very highly and prying into someone elses business is considered impolite, so people don't complain about fiction they are not the intended audience for. And Japanese media seems heavily targeted at certain demographics. So when companies release a game or VN they think more about what the target audience wants than what is socially acceptable. Most Japanese young male shut-ins (as seems to be the way eroge-readers are seen) like porn scenes with their waifus so developers include them because they lead to higher sales and nobody who is not part of the target audience is going to complain, like it would happen in western countries. That doesn't mean there is no social stigma towards these things in Japan, it's just that it affects consumers (by getting socially isolated) of such media, not the creators.

As to why some voice actresses do porn scenes, my guess would be that it's hard to make a living in this job in Japan if you don't do it.

 

edit: Reading my post again I think I didn't get my point across that well. What I was trying to say is that in Japan disapproval against certain content doesn't show itself through public outcry since that would mean openly shaming consumers which would be considered overstepping your boundaries. Instead these consumers suffer from social stigma which has more subtle consequences. 

Edited by alpacaman

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3 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

Well, yeah, sure, in the confines of our rooms at least. Remember the recent "should I tell my gf?" thread. :P And yeah, I guess I was mixing two issues. One is that I think plain porn is always plain porn and I don't think Japanese people have magical powers to extract deeper meaning from hentai. There simply is none. The second is that we shouldn't overstate the "liberal" approach to sexuality in Japan. It's different, but it doesn't mean pornography or eroge are as "accepted" or "mainstream" as some people would like to believe - I was mostly reacting to some statements by the OP, like that Japan's culture is "more promiscuous". 

Well, your explanation doesn't explain why VAs are so willing to voice serious stories if they're equally embarrassed about sex and porn then. You seem to be talking about eroge players, but what "the OP" was actually talking about was the VAs, not the players. You missed my point and went a little off-topic a little there.

 

1 hour ago, alpacaman said:

As to why some voice actresses do porn scenes, my guess would be that it's hard to make a living in this job in Japan if you don't do it.

This post - ironically enough since I had previously put him on ignore - at least answered my question, albeit to a small extent. Thanks.

But it still makes me curious about their voicing sessions. I mean, this is all making voicing porn sound like something that's forced out of circumstances, AKA money. I guess you could compare it to the likes of certain actors/actresses in America who give a decent performance in movies, but were really only doing so for a quick paycheck. So I guess it makes sense that money could be enough to persuade these talents to phone in a decent enough performance, in spite of their embarrassment.

But are they unhappy about their jobs? What about VAs who return for sequels, like Kara no Shoujo Episode 2? Do they just think, "Hm, I'm disgusted by my job, but I'm going to need more money anyway, so might as well." Because if the next highly-acclaimed VN I'm reading like G-Senjou no Maou is being voiced by a bunch of actors and actresses who only lent their voices out of obligation to earn money... that does put an interesting spin of perspective on my playthrough. Certainly does make the VN industry sound almost shady and not that different from the porn industry, where certain porn stars also acted out of obligation for the paycheck.

Edited by LemiusK

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1 minute ago, LemiusK said:

Well, your explanation doesn't explain why VAs are so willing to voice serious stories if they're equally embarrassed about sex and porn then. You seem to be talking about eroge players, but what "the OP" was actually talking about was the VAs, not the players. You missed my point and went a little off-topic a little there.

Well, indeed, but I think Maggie addressed that well enough. The thing is, eroge VAs are not really mainstream celebrities. They chose a relatively lucrative niche where voicing porn scenes is a requirement, but you won't see many of them talking about it in cable TV. And if you ask Kana Hanazawa or some other highly-popular anime VA to voice straight-up porn scenes, I imagine they would decline the same way the Western VAs would, just maybe with less ideology attached to it.

On the other hand, if there was a booming eroge industry in the West requiring skilled VAs capable of doing both dramatic acting and voicing hentai, I'm pretty sure you'd find similar amounts of talents willing to do it (even if under pseudonyms etc.). Especially because I imagine that voicing an erotic game is still not comparable to working in the sex industry, or something similar that would borderline disqualify you from finding a normal job.

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Well, that's all well and good, but it certainly changes my perspective of VNs now, and not in a positive way. If the hentai scenes are as hollow as you've described, and these companies are only adding them because they're catering to the rather niche demographic of eroge players, then it also explains why h-scenes are so superficial, adding nothing of value to the story. Kinda makes me glad I skipped just about all of them, save maybe the one or two exceptions that actually have some valuable story content, but again, disappointed. Kinda cheapens the value of VNs with h-scenes, makes them look like glorified porn games with decent plot.

I mean, not that I'm one to criticize porn games, since I do have my share of nukiges, but the thing is, I'm usually not proud of my fapping to these games and similar pornographic content, and frankly embarrassed by it. I see it as a human need, but not a very respectable one. So yes, I think "respect" is a good word to use here. A loss of "respect" for VNs and what they are, catering to these base needs of human nature for profit. Certainly doesn't make them as appealing anymore. Definitely more laughable if someone decides to call one of these a "masterpiece."

Edited by LemiusK

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1 hour ago, LemiusK said:

Well, that's all well and good, but it certainly changes my perspective of VNs now, and not in a positive way. If the hentai scenes are as hollow as you've described, and these companies are only adding them because they're catering to the rather niche demographic of eroge players, then it also explains why h-scenes are so superficial, adding nothing of value to the story. Kinda makes me glad I skipped just about all of them, save maybe the one or two exceptions that actually have some valuable story content, but again, disappointed. Kinda cheapens the value of VNs with h-scenes, makes them look like glorified porn games with decent plot.

I mean, not that I'm one to criticize porn games, since I do have my share of nukiges, but the thing is, I'm usually not proud of my fapping to these games and similar pornographic content, and frankly embarrassed by it. I see it as a human need, but not a very respectable one. So yes, I think "respect" is a good word to use here. A loss of "respect" for VNs and what they are, catering to these base needs of human nature for profit. Certainly doesn't make them as appealing anymore. Definitely more laughable if someone decides to call one of these a "masterpiece."

You seem to be in a pretty foul mood today. :P

Well, I don't think you're wrong, but my approach to this is more treating the h-scenes as a necessary evil and focusing on the other values the plot-focused VNs have. Just like microtransaction in many "normal" games, they might be something marketing staff pushes into products (making them less enjoyable for me personally but more lucrative overall), but it doesn't minimize the passion and creative input of the people that worked on it. Plus, not all VNs are eroge and at least with some of the 18+ ones we can hope for proper all-ages releases.

Plus, we're talking about the entertainment industry. Everything here is ultimately done for profit and when the bottom line tramples creative concerns, we're getting exploitative shit instead of a compelling product. But it doesn't mean there are no masterpieces created within the VN/anime industry or the compromises necessary to make them profitable should make us disregard their positive qualities.

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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As someone who admittedly skips the majority of H-scenes in VNs, I still wholeheartedly support their existence and I believe that they have more value than simply being porn. H-scenes are an excellent catalyst to show the fruits of the development of a relationship, to show the audience a major emotional and dramatic moment that occurs between the characters. Even the whole physical aspect, the meat-grinding and moaning and all that other stuff, can contribute to the emotional catharsis because this is a display of the characters as they break themselves free from their previous bonds that haunted them in previous chapters, as they display their feelings that were kept locked away all up until this moment.

Yes, most H-scenes are boring and I end up skipping them because they don't really move me (or there are simply too many of them in succession). But there are still good ones that contribute to the story and character development wonderfully, and I don't think it's necessary or even advisable to tone them down to more "socially-acceptable" levels. Sex should be viewed as a beautiful thing that is embraced by media as one of the facets of humanity, not always hidden away and restricted to nukige and pure porn films.

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1 hour ago, Ren'ai Arrow said:

As someone who admittedly skips the majority of H-scenes in VNs, I still wholeheartedly support their existence and I believe that they have more value than simply being porn. H-scenes are an excellent catalyst to show the fruits of the development of a relationship, to show the audience a major emotional and dramatic moment that occurs between the characters. Even the whole physical aspect, the meat-grinding and moaning and all that other stuff, can contribute to the emotional catharsis because this is a display of the characters as they break themselves free from their previous bonds that haunted them in previous chapters, as they display their feelings that were kept locked away all up until this moment.

Yes, most H-scenes are boring and I end up skipping them because they don't really move me (or there are simply too many of them in succession). But there are still good ones that contribute to the story and character development wonderfully, and I don't think it's necessary or even advisable to tone them down to more "socially-acceptable" levels. Sex should be viewed as a beautiful thing that is embraced by media as one of the facets of humanity, not always hidden away and restricted to nukige and pure porn films.

Oh, well, you're definitely disproving my point about hentai being narratively empty. :D But I think there's a difference between erotic scenes that are made to titillate the reader in subtle ways and have a significant narrative function (like the 18+ scenes in Kindres Spirits or Highway Blossoms) and plain fanservice. Hentai is mostly plain fanservice - which is not a bad thing by itself, I don't want to deny anyone their fapping material or deny that a good romance story and porn can complement each other. The problem arrives when every adult-oriented VN needs fanservice h-scenes to sell and money people shove them in where they don't belong.

I'd get minus 500 karma if I wrote it on r/visualnovels, but I'm actually all for portrayal of sex in VNs. I just think that typical eroge hentai scenes are a very shitty way of doing that. :wahaha:

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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3 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

You seem to be in a pretty foul mood today. :P

Well, sorry if you feel that way. "Mood" and "tone in speech" are both rather difficult contexts to comprehend in text form, almost impossible even. You can't really judge whether someone's in a foul mood or not from the way he writes.

I remember that I tend to add a lot of emoticons because I was worried that people might think I wasn't joking or was in a bad mood. But then, one of my friends called me out on that and said it was, and I quote, "fucking annoying and makes you look like a retard." Yeah. Needless to say, I didn't speak to him again from then.

Back on topic.

 

3 hours ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

But it doesn't mean there are no masterpieces created within the VN/anime industry or the compromises necessary to make them profitable should make us disregard their positive qualities.

Yeah, I know what you mean. As someone who often talks about narrow-mindedness, I am at least open enough to appreciate that there's a decent story to be found even among superfluous sex scenes. It's just... I really hate filler. And this might be narrow-minded of me, but for me, to define a "masterpiece," I usually need to consider its flaws and impurities. Filler material is an impurity. For me, a "masterpiece" of a story needs to have everything in it contribute to a significant part of the plot. Red herrings are fine, since they act as an element of deceiving the reader for a greater purpose... but h-scenes, they are like you said, fanservice material. Food for the crotch. Even if they were intended to carry a greater purpose like @Ren'ai Arrow described, displaying the love and affection the girl has for the protagonist, too much of something still feels like filler. "Less is more," as they say in writing 101. Unfortunately, most h-scenes are just that dragged out for the purpose of fulfilling customer satisfaction.

But to be honest, I don't really care, in spite of what I said above. I just wanted to get my thoughts out on the pointlessness of h-scenes and their value in a story, but I think even with these "impurities," I don't really care enough to restrict the label of "masterpiece" from eroges. I'm not that uptight. It is annoying, and I do find myself bored by them, but I guess it all comes down to a case-by-case basis after all is said and done. If the story's good enough, I might hardly care at all.

I'll just say this at least, that you make a really good point here:

40 minutes ago, Plk_Lesiak said:

The problem arrives when every adult-oriented VN needs fanservice h-scenes to sell and money people shove them in where they don't belong.

"sell and shove them in where they don't belong." I don't like feeling like I'm being sold a product I never wanted in the first place. If I bought a VN because I expected a good story, I expect that I'm paying for 100% story, not 80% story and 20% fap material that I didn't want. So it does feel annoying that way, like I'm buying an extra hental DLC that I don't want.

Edited by LemiusK

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What Ren'ai Arrow wrote makes a lot of sense to me. As someone that reads every h-scene because why not, I read what they give me, :nokia: I also agree that it can indeed mark as a relationship upgrade for the main couple, but still, I think it would be far far FAR more effective if they showed them hugging or cuddling then whispering sweet things then fade to black and showing them waking up close to each other. AND JUST THAT. The description of where the MC's dick is hitting have absolutely no purpose other than fap value. The quotes below are from my stash of bad h-scene quotes. It's supposedly from a important moment for the relationship between the MC and the heroine, but really, can you tell me with a straigth face that it's more than laughable bad filler and a disservice to the characters???

Quote

"My towering rod is grotesque and menacing compared to the beauty of her body."
"Her stomach bulges a bit. Proof that I am now deep inside her."
"I quickly pull out of her spasming walls."
"My shaft pushes easily into her wet tunnel."

I think maaaaybe the only games that could be better with detailed descriptions are darker eroge, for shock and grotesque value, but even then people are mostly in for the fap :P 

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2 hours ago, LemiusK said:

Well, sorry if you feel that way. "Mood" and "tone in speech" are both rather difficult contexts to comprehend in text form, almost impossible even. You can't really judge whether someone's in a foul mood or not from the way he writes.

I remember that I tend to add a lot of emoticons because I was worried that people might think I wasn't joking or was in a bad mood. But then, one of my friends called me out on that and said it was, and I quote, "fucking annoying and makes you look like a retard." Yeah. Needless to say, I didn't speak to him again from then.

Back on topic.

Well, I was getting that from the substance of what you wrote at least as much as the form. Especially the fragment where you bashed me for going off-topic felt borderline-unpleasant, so I was mostly trying to unload the tension. I most likely failed. ;p

2 hours ago, LemiusK said:

"sell and shove them in where they don't belong." I don't like feeling like I'm being sold a product I never wanted in the first place. If I bought a VN because I expected a good story, I expect that I'm paying for 100% story, not 80% story and 20% fap material that I didn't want. So it does feel annoying that way, like I'm buying an extra hental DLC that I don't want.

Aye, sadly, we might be in minority even among the Western VN fans and if what Dergonu usually says is true, we would definitely be in minority among Japanese eroge fans - there h-scenes are pretty much always an appreciated bonus.

[Redacted] I think my brain got fried today with all the crap I'm working on, probably should stop posting for today... :wafuu:

Edited by Plk_Lesiak

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