Do You Even Pixelate, Brah?

The strange history of why Japan—one of our foremost purveyors of kink—blurs out the dicks in its porn releases.

When it comes to sex and porn, Japan deserves a lot of credit. It’s been a trailblazer in the world of kink and has ventured where few have dared to go before. From tentacles and plushies, to manga and the extreme corners of BDSM, the island country has been at the forefront of erotic innovation and playing with subconscious desires. Not to mention their sex toys would make gay men in the U.S. blush. You can fuck an ear. You can dress your cock in panties and then fuck a brain. You can get drilled by a cob of corn. You can breed a grenade. You can put a uterus on a pillow and then fuck it too. You can plow a toilet. All while bathing in piss perfume inside of a body bag. So like I said, if you’ve got a kink, maybe thank Japan.   

But if you’re truly a porn aficionado, you may have noticed that a lot of their sexy gay porn actors have their cocks entirely pixelated. Huge cumshots simply morph into white squares while stiff boners become odd geometric or amorphous shapes, especially when a hand is wrapped around them. Personally, it’s not enough to turn me off. I still watch it regularly. Probably because it’s still hot. Plus, what goes unseen always leaves room for the imagination. But considering that being tentacle fucked by an octopus is one of its biggest cultural exports, Japan is the last country I’d expect to have a problem showing an erect penis on the Internet. What gives?

Considering all that Japan has given the world when it comes to sex (think back to explicit and recognizable shunga designs in the 17th and 18th centuries), it would be a mistake to simply attribute pixelated dicks to a history of social conservatism or prudishness.  

Instead, all the blame can be directed to Article 175 of the Criminal Code of Japan. It states: “A person who distributes, sells or displays in public an obscene document, drawing or other objects shall be punished by imprisonment with work, a fine of not more than 2,500,000 yen  [that’s roughly $23,000] or a petty fine. The same shall apply to a person who possesses the same for the purpose of sale.”

What exactly defines “obscene” under this law? According to the Japanese House of Representatives, something is obscene if it arouses and stimulates sexual desire, offends a common sense of modesty or shame, and violates proper concepts of sexual morality.

If you watch some Japanese gay porn videos carefully, you can notice the levels of pixelation across cocks changing from time to time. Producers are trying to pixelate as little as possible while simultaneously avoiding above law. But sometimes it’s not enough and people get arrested. And then producers start to pixelate more. Just to be on the safe side. 

Reading these laws might lead some to say that this truly is a reflection of a sexually regressive society. That a nation’s laws are actually just reflections of its morality. If that simpleton claim somehow even is the case, then said reflection must be coming through a broken mirror. The censorship laws have a lineage that dates back to its military dictatorship in the 18th century, hardly a reliable voice of people’s sexual desires. Second, Japan has one of the largest sex industries in the world, valuing in over $100 billion. People are just as horny in Japan as everywhere else. And a lot of their flourishing kinks have found ingenious ways to circumvent the law. For example, if there’s no actual genitalia involved, it’s hard to argue that it falls under the court’s definition of “obscene.” *Octopus enters stage left.*

Whether or not these censorship rules are going to stay around for long is hard to tell. Laws regarding sex hardly ever match up with what people are doing in the sheets (Don’t forget, gay sex was a crime in the United States until 2003.  That certainly didn’t stop anyone. And it’s hardly a reflection of how gay people fought to live to their fullest, sexual or otherwise). 

But in the meantime, if a guy asks me what I’m into, I’ll honestly and unashamedly say, “8-bit pixel fucking and sweet corn. hbu?” 

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