Unraveling the Eroticized Power Play: From Subjugation to Shared Sovereignty

“Somatic” living habits discern that the annals of sexuality and emancipation from the actuality of sex are not interchangeable. Pavlov’s dog’s conditioned reflex can furnish us with inspiration. Certain human habits are so deeply ingrained in the corporeal realm that alternative possibilities elude my imagination. Altering them would induce physical anguish, possibly leading to self-annihilation. Observe drug addicts; some prefer death over renunciation. Culture constitutes a collective habitual lifestyle, akin to a broad life habit. Analogous to “lifestyle diseases,” lifestyle habits can metamorphose an individual’s physique and constitution. As cultural living habits, they can reshape one’s cognitive processes and sentiments.

Previously, a slogan in the women’s movement advocated for a transition “from a woman embraced by a man to a woman embracing a man.” However, a disillusioned voice emerged, lamenting, “I attempted it, yet still find greater joy in being embraced.” Opting for perpetual embrace wouldn’t astonish a woman entertaining such sentiments.

The title of Hatsumi Kiyono’s “Something to Say – Women and Men Seeking Mutual Understanding” (2009) epitomizes this perspective. Personally, I find disquietude in the book’s title. Why? The author posits that women aspire to “understand each other,” whereas men do not share this inclination. However, is this truly the case? It is common knowledge that men and women can engage in sexual congress devoid of mutual comprehension. If we echo Ogura Chikako’s assertion in Chapter 7 that “Women seek relationships, men pursue possession,” men seem inclined solely toward “possession,” detached from any need for a “relationship.”

The book contends that when a wife declares, “I have something to say,” her husband recoils in terror. This, according to the author, is a line employed by women aspiring to foster equal relationships with men at home. While perusing the book, a recurrent thought arises: “Isn’t this accurate?” The relationships sought by “relationship-seeking women” are diverse and extend beyond mere “reciprocity.” Many cannot kindle passion without a vertical hierarchical dynamic.

The late Azusa Nakajima, writing under the pen name Kaoru Kurimoto, founded the literary realm of “beautiful boy.” In the book “Beautiful Boy Scholar” (Nakajima, 1998), Nakajima confessed that a relationship lacking hierarchy and distinction fails to captivate them. Within the gay community, some seek relationships mirroring father-son or brotherly dynamics. Certain feminists posit that homosexuals pursue “equal sex” due to aversion to the asymmetric power dynamics of heterosexuality—an interpretive stance, not an absolute truth.

If a woman genuinely pursues a “reciprocal relationship,” she would not ideally favor an older, taller, or highly educated man. The proclamation “I can only love men who respect me” merely underscores women’s willingness to subjugate their desires to men. Similarly, a man declaring, “Only young and cute girls can make me fall in love with women” confesses his ability to control his affections, limited to those he dominates and possesses.

In my treatise “Estrous Devices: The Script of Pornography” (1998b), I asserted that pornography is contingent upon cultural and historical circumstances. “A woman’s neck is very sexy” and “A woman’s curved legs make people’s hearts beat” represent the body embodying cultural imprints. Pornography, as the “estrus device” of culture, demands intellect and education.

When a woman “has something to say,” a man might construe it as her “rebellion.” Initially, wives sought no “reciprocal relationship,” but as the power dynamic shifted, women began to “rebel.” The mighty lose their dominance, revealing their vulnerability. As age progresses, the marginal age difference between men and women loses significance. Academic qualifications, status, and height diminish as sources of power. The wife’s “rebellion” signifies an inversion where “the bottom overcomes the top.” Husbands, understandably bewildered, assert, “I haven’t changed since we married. You are the one who has changed.”

Taroko Haiko, once a model of the “self-reliant woman,” chronicled her divorce from Tarō Kotaro in an essay. Initially, she, as a reporter, apprenticed herself to authoritative critic Tataro Kotaro, absorbing his wisdom like a sponge. They wed, yet she retrospectively deemed it a “master-disciple relationship.” As she ascended as a reporter, the mentor-student dynamic tilted, leading to his infidelity. In her eyes, he replicated the mentor-disciple relationship with other women. It is the wife who metamorphosed, not the husband. A man might only fall for a woman he guides, granting him an advantage. The woman, before “graduating,” experiences the pleasure of being “dominated and guided.” She is not solely a victim.

Upon marrying Masako, the current crown prince vowed, “I will do my utmost to safeguard you throughout my life.” This declaration resonated profoundly with many Japanese women. If you were moved by this statement, it signifies your embodiment of the “eroticization of power.” “Protection” entails confining and dominating a person for a lifetime. The nature of the enclosure, whether a conservatory or a prison, is immaterial. Masako faced the unvarnished reality of being a “prisoner.” Furthermore, when a man “protects” a woman, his adversaries are often other men of greater power. “Protection” is a guise for “ownership” yet has become synonymous with “love”—the “eroticization of power.” I don’t mean to mock the Crown Prince; he likely earnestly used the term to express sincere affection. However, the word “protect” unequivocally conveys that a man’s love manifests as ownership and dominance.

Simultaneously, women’s love sometimes manifests as submission and ownership. Expressions like “I will follow you” and “never leave me in your life” typify this disposition. Women equate “love” with diligently tending to a man’s daily life. This behavior mirrors the historical reality of housewives reduced to unpaid houseworkers in the lower bourgeoisie. If a woman hails from aristocracy or the bourgeoisie, becoming a bento relegates her to a maid, unworthy of a wife.

Pornography, initially imperceptible and formless, assumes cultural expression contingent on historical context. The concept of the “eroticization of power” may seem daunting, yet it manifests in our daily interactions.

A relationship pattern is, likewise, a lifestyle habit. Over time, living habits evolve and can be transformed.

Regardless of drug addicts being advised, if they renounce addiction and appreciate the joys of a healthy body, memories of drug-induced happiness will fade. Yet, if the original state of a healthy body is unimaginable, the allure of the momentary happiness persists. Similarly, a person habituated to an unnatural stooped posture may resist treatment, fearing intensified pain. Culture is akin to a model forcibly imposed on our bodies and minds. Removing this model may lead to collapse, akin to a patient unable to walk without orthopedic support.

Nevertheless, a model is just a model, both malleable and subject to change. Altering lifestyle habits is arduous, but recognizing that it’s habit, not fate or destiny, is enlightening.

Misogyny and homophobia find common expression in the “eroticization of power.” Originally foreign entities, porn and power can be disentangled, returning power to its rightful place and infusing porn with richer diversity. This transformation is not unattainable, as evidenced by an emerging trend.

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