The construction of ‘pornographic reality’
We argue below that the historical agency demonstrated by local consumers of Japanese AVs can be better understood through the concept of ‘pornographic reality’ proposed by Hardy (2009). Hardy argues that pornographic realism is the defining characteristic of pornography production. Put bluntly, the more ‘realistic’ pornography appears to be to the audience, the more it can attract and be appreciated (Hardy 2009: 5—8). However, we must point out immediately that so-called pornographic ‘reality’ can only be symbolically constituted according to a cultural scheme that governs both the consumption and production of pornography. We have explored this in great detail elsewhere (Yau and Wong 2010) so simply summarise our major arguments here. When Japanese AVs spread to Taiwan, they underwent various changes, especially the adding of Chinese subtitles. Interestingly these subtitles are not direct translations of the Japanese but are adapted to reflect the local sex roles considered appropriate for men and women in Taiwan. In other words, products are adapted according to a cultural scheme which gives significance to certain properties of the product and makes them intelligible to a certain category of person. The Taiwanese (re)production of Japanese AVs, we conclude, is therefore not about need-satisfaction but rather concerns the production of culturally constructed sexual use-values.
This conclusion points to the fact that ‘pornographic reality’ is in fact a culturally constituted imaginary, a fantasy or a fiction, because consumers from different societies will be turned on by different ‘pornographic realities’ arising from their own specific cultural schemes. For if ‘pornographic reality’ were natural and thus universal, there would be no need for Taiwanese distributors to introduce any changes to Japanese AVs. The necessity for introducing changes must mean that Taiwanese men’s ‘pornographic reality’ is different from that of their Japanese counterparts. But the power of‘pornographic reality’ lies precisely in its capacity to appear to be ‘natural and thus real’ to the audience. In our recent book (Wong and Yau, 2014), we argue that the production ofa pornography genre amounts to naturalising a specific male sexual ideology as ‘real’ among men in Japan. In other words, while any given pornographic genre is merely an ideology promoted by the pornographers for the sake of maximising profit, it will be rendered natural, common, and taken-for-granted at least to some audiences who find it attractive. In this chapter, we show that in Taiwan and Hong Kong respectively, it is the culturally constituted pornographic reality that determines what kinds of Japanese AVs are preferred and why, who are the majority of viewers and why, and the ways in which AVs are used.
Inspired by Sahlins’ insight that ‘the cultural scheme is variously inflected by a dominant site of symbolic process… whence emanates a classificatory grid imposed upon the total culture’ (Sahlins 1976: 211), we argue that the cultural scheme that mediates the consumption ofJapanese AVs in Taiwan has a different ‘dominant site of symbolic process’ from that of the cultural scheme in Hong Kong. Different cultures, according to Sahlins (1976: 210—11), will have different cultural schemes whose formation takes shape in a specific site of the local, which then provides meanings and idioms of all relations and activities. In the Taiwanese case, the ‘dominant site of symbolic process’ (Sahlins 1976: 211) is the local sex roles of women and men, while in Hong Kong the locus is the cultural logic of the identity of the new middle class. We shall show that the so-called Taiwanese ‘real core’ appears to be something that conforms to sex roles of men and women, whereas in Hong Kong it conforms to local Hong Kong men’s middle-class identity. In other words, the mediation of the consumption of Japanese AVs in Taiwan occurs in the sexual culture whereas in Hong Kong it takes place at the site of identity politics. This chapter will thus examine how Japanese AVs are differently indigenised in Hong Kong and Taiwan during the process of consumption.