Video Porn and Audience Translation

 

One day late at night, I found a Japanese gay pornographic video clip unofficially uploaded by an anonymous person on an aggregated free-porn website. The anonymous uploader invited comments about the video clip by initiating a thread on the website. The thread title reads, as the uploader translated a popular Japanese gay video porn company JAPAN PICTURE’s product, “Straight Asian Twink Gets Tied Down and Worked Over by Two Gay Guys.”[1] Reading this thread title, I couldn’t help but wonder who would make such a translation. The thread title captured me with three linguistic features—which probably also interest those engaged in debates about the relationship between language and gender/sexuality (Cameron and Kulick 2003; Levon and Mendes 2015; Livia and Hall 1997), and, in particular, those who examine audience reception within porn studies (Attwood 2007; Williams 2004).

 

First, the uploader uses “Asian” to register men in the Japanese gay pornographic video clip. However, the unofficially uploaded video clip’s original Japanese sales copy describes the male casts simply as otoko/男 (men); the sales copy is accessible on JAPAN PICTURE’s official downloading website JAPAN STORE.[2] Although JAPAN STORE is not a bilingual website, official English descriptions of JAPAN PICTURES’ products are available on the affiliated bilingual downloading website GLOSSMEN.[3] On GLOSSMEN, I have not been able to locate the official English translation for the unofficially uploaded video clip. Yet it is most likely translated literally, since literal translation dominates in English descriptions of other JAPAN PICTURES products on GLOSSMEN.[4] In these products, male casts are generally (represented to be) nonke/ノンケ (straight) and simply Japanese (rather than Asian) men.[5] Additionally, my Japanese buddies and I rarely refer to one another as “Asian,” as we are prone to seeing ourselves as Japanese, just like modern Japan has constructed its national identity as Japanese by distinguishing it from Asia vis-à-vis the West (Oguma 2002). Back to the title of the thread about JAPAN PICTURE’s video, the term Asian appears out of place as far as the uploader sounds “foreign”.

 

Second, the word choice “twink” for one of the three male casts does not really correspond to his description in the Japanese ad text. The term twink is a gay English slang for androgynous, hairless, and youthful(-looking) men, evoking both masculinity and femininity. And yet the Japanese ad text does not code such characteristics as androgyny, hairlessness, and youthfulness onto the body of the male cast. The original text discursively represents his male body as surimu hoso maccho (slim lean macho) without evoking femininity. The use of “twink” in the thread title seems to signal the uploader’s racialized fantasies about “Asian” or “racially castrated” men (Eng 2001), not to mention the uploader’s familiarity with English and Euro-American gay scenes in the first place. My encounter with the above two linguistic shifts in the thread title encourages me to adopt a multimodal approach to an analysis of translation (Pérez-González 2014), as language entangles with other modes of meaning-making (e.g., imagery), just like the anonymous uploader translates the Japanese male model as a “twink” based on his “Asian” appearance.

 

Third and notably, the uploader identifies two of the three men in the video as “gay” and the third as “straight.” Yet, their sexual orientation all remains unspecified in both the entire video and its ad text available on JAPAN STORE; (only) one of the few images in the ad text does have a caption “nonke shasei batoru/ノンケ射精バトル (straight wanking battle)” as if to code the models as straight. Aside from this caption, the Japanese text describes the two sexually commanding men as senpai/先輩 (older) and the passive third party as kōhai/後輩 (younger) in the college athletic team. The video is about power play, rather than love making, among the three college athletes differentiated in terms of age and grade. It is not clear whether or not the uploader did (or can) read the Japanese text. Yet, the uploader translates the two men, who “work over” the other, as “gay” as opposed to the bound passive “straight” man. The uploader sounds as if to uphold an identity-based, rather than an act-based, view of sexuality (Foucault 1978), an idea that there exist such people as “gay” or “straight.” An identity-based view of sexuality isn’t necessarily foreign to the Japanese (McLelland 2005). However, it is remarkable, if not inappropriate outright, to index (one of the three) on-screen models as gay based on sex acts, when these casts are represented to be just (presumably straight) men.[6]

In the end, the uploader remains just an anonymous translator however far my analysis unfolds. Still, examining translational activity has made me think as if I can feel something about the translator. It’s perhaps time to interview in person those who consume Japanese gay video pornography.

 

 

References

 

Attwood, Fiona. “‘Other’ or ‘One of Us’?: The Porn User in Public and Academic Discourse.” Particip@tions: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies 4, no.1, 2007, http://www.participations.org/Volume%204/Issue%201/4_01_attwood.htm. Accessed November 11 2016.

Baudinette, Thomas. “Fetishising the straight man: Hegemonic masculinity in Japanese gay pornographic videos.” Asian Studies Association in Asia Conference at Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, 2016.

Cameron, Deborah and Kulick, Don. Language and Sexuality. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Eng, David L. Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America. London and Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality Volume I. Translated by Hurley, Robert. New York: Random House, 1978.

Levon, Erez and Mendes, Ronald B., eds. Language, Sexuality, and Power in Intersectional Sociolinguistics. UK: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Livia, Anna and Hall, Kira, eds. Queerly Phrased: Language, Gender, and Sexuality. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

McLelland, Mark J. Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age. U.S.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

Oguma, Eiji. A Genealogy of “Japanese” Self-Images. Melbourne, Australia: Trans Pacific Press, 2002.

Pérez-González, Luis. Audiovisual Translation: Theories, Methods and Issues. London and New York: Routledge, 2014.

Williams, Linda, ed. Porn Studies. London and Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.

 

 

Notes

 

[1] For the thread and the image, visit respectively http://www.pornhub.com/view_video.php?viewkey=810647542 and https://store.japan-pic.com/product_info.php?products_id=435.

 

[2] Https://store.japan-pic.com/main.php.

 

[3] Http://glossmen.com.

 

[4] One example is a video clip entitled “Asurīto hatsutaiken [the athlete’s first-time experience]!,” in which an allegedly straight male college athlete has sex with another man. The original sales copy for the video clip reads “Genekishakaijin asurīto gokuhi! Hatsutaiken!/現役社会人アスリート極秘!初体験!,” while the English translation reads “Absolute secrecy! Active member of society athlete! The first experience!” Below is promotional descriptions for the video clip (I made no changes to the English translation presented in parenthesis following the Romanized Japanese text and the original text; I bracketed my notes in the English translation): L1 Kyōgimei nadomo oshirasedekinaihodo yūmei asurīto no gokuhi eizō! 競技名などもお知らせできないほど、有名アスリートの極秘映像!(His face and competition are a secret. Because he is a famous athlete. This is an absolute secrecy scene!); L2 Kitaeagerareta kahanshin wo otoko ni semerarete modae aegi tekokide iku! 鍛え上げられた下半身を、男に責められて悶え喘ぎ、手コキでイク!(The man [the production company’s staff] attacked his [the athlete’s] trained lower part of the body [this English translation uses active voice placing the man in the subject of a sentence, while the athlete is the subject of the Japanese passive sentence]. Agony, Pants. And he is cum handjob of the man!); L3 Sonoato nanto kōfun no amari otoko to kisu ferachio mo keiken shiteshimau…その後、なんと興奮のあまり男とのキス、フェラチオも経験してしまう・・・(Afterwards. He experiences kiss and blowjob of the man.)。English speakers probably find awkward the first sentence of the English translation of the L2 (“The man attacked his trained lower part of the body”). It is a literal translation of the first half of the L2, “Kitaeagerareta kahanshin wo otoko ni semerarete….” A looser translation would read, “The man goes down on the buff athlete.” The translator also shows some familiarity with English colloquial words; ferachio in the L3 is translated into “blowjob” rather than “fellatio” in the English translation.

 

[5] In the Japanese gay argot, nonke/ノンケrefers to “straight” or heterosexual (and masculine) men. The term is a reworked shorthand for “気がない/ke ga nai”; ke means predilection (in this case for men); ga nai, meaning not having or lacking, is replaced with the English-loan word non (none) and then prefixed to ke. Nonke is now widely recognized by the general public, as the mainstream media frequently use the term.

 

[6] In fact, “gay” sex appears largely absent from Japanese gay video porn (Baudinette 2016) , as it predominantly eroticizes not so much gayness as nonkepposa/ノンケっぽさ (straightness) by discursively and audiovisually representing male-female sex as well as same-sex sex among male actors, differentiated in terms of multiple factors (age, occupation, etc.).

 

You can contact Kyohei at kitakura@ucdavis.edu

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