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Tentacle erotica describes a type of pornography most commonly found in Japan. It integrates elements of traditional pornography with horror or science-fiction themes. Tentacle erotica can be of a consensual nature, but frequently has elements of non-consensual sex. Tentacle rape or shokushu goukan (触手強姦) is found in some horror or hentai titles, with tentacled creatures (usually fictional monsters) having sexual intercourse with female characters. The genre is popular enough in Japan that it is occasionally even the subject of parody. In recent years, Japanese and Asian films of this genre have become more common in the United States and Europe. This, along with the presence of many websites featuring it, has expanded the genre's audience globally, although it still remains a small, fetish-oriented part of the adult film industry. While most tentacle erotica is animated, there are also a smaller number of live-action movies featuring this theme.
Tentacled creatures appeared in Japanese erotica long before animated pornography. Among the most famous of the early instances is an illustration from the novel Kinoe no komatsu of 1814 by Katsushika Hokusai called The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife. It is an example of shunga (Japanese erotic art) and has been reworked by a number of artists. Australian artist David Laity reworked the design into a painting of the same name, and Masami Teraoka brought the image up to date with his 2001 work "Sarah and Octopus/Seventh Heaven", part of his Waves and Plagues collection.
A scholarly paper by Danielle Talerico showed that although western audiences often interpret Hokusai’s famous design as rape, Japanese audiences of the Edo period would have viewed it as consensual sex. Edo audiences recognized the print as depicting the legend of the female abalone diver Tamatori. In the story, Tamatori steals a jewel from the Dragon King. During her egress, the Dragon King and his sea-life minions (including octopodes) pursue her. Within the dialogue in the illustration, the diver and two octopuses express mutual enjoyment.
Contemporary censorship in Japan dates to the Meiji period. The influence of Victorian culture was a catalyst for legislative interest in public sexual morals. Post-WWII the Allies imposed a number of reforms on the Japanese government including anti-censorship laws. The legal prescriptions against pornography, therefore, derive from the nation’s penal code. At present “obscenity” is still prohibited. How this term is interpreted has not remained constant. While exposed genitalia (and until recently pubic hair), in pornography, are illegal, the diversity of permissible sexual acts is now wide compared with other liberal democracies. In the 1980s, however, even “sensual scenes in bed” were unacceptable. Leaders within the tentacle porn industry have stated in interviews that much of their work was initially directed at circumventing this policy. The animator Toshio Maeda states the following: “At that time [pre-Urotsuki Doji], it was illegal to create a sensual scene in bed. I thought I should do something to avoid drawing such a normal sensual scene. So I just created a creature. [His tentacle] is not a [penis] as a pretext. I could say, as an excuse, this is not a [penis], this is just a part of the creature. You know, the creatures, they don't have a gender. A creature is a creature. So it is not obscene - not illegal. (“Manga Artist Interview Series (Part 1),” 2002)”
The earliest animated form of tentacle assault was in the 1986 anime OVA Guyver: Out of Control which is an adaptation of the Bio Booster Armor Guyver manga. At 25:10 in the animation, a female Chronos soldier named Valcuria (voiced by Keiko Toda) is enshrouded by the 2nd (damaged) Guyver unit which clearly surrounds her in tentacle form and penetrates all orifices.
Numerous animated tentacle erotica films followed the next couple decades, with more popular titles like 1986's Urotsukidoji, 1992's La Blue Girl and 1995's Demon Beast Resurrection becoming common sights in large video store chains in the United States and elsewhere. The volume of films in this genre has slowed from the peak years in the 1990s but continue to be produced to the present day.
In 1989, Toshio Maeda's manga Demon Beast Invasion created what might be called the modern Japanese paradigm of tentacle porn, in which the elements of sexual assault are emphasized. Maeda explained that he invented the practice to get around strict Japanese censorship regulations, which prohibit the depiction of the penis but apparently do not prohibit showing sexual penetration by a tentacle or similar (often robotic) appendage.
The use of sexualized tentacles in live-action films, while much rarer, actually started in American B-movie horror films and has since migrated back to Japan. B-movie legend Roger Corman first used the concept of tentacle rape in a brief scene in his 1970 film The Dunwich Horror, a movie adaptation of the H. P. Lovecraft short story of the same name.
A decade later, Corman would again use tentacle rape while producing Galaxy of Terror, released in 1980. Arguably the most notorious example of tentacle rape to date, Corman inserted and directed a scene in which actress Taaffe O'Connell, playing an astronaut on a future space mission, is captured, raped, and killed by a giant, tentacled worm. The film borrows the concept of the "id monster" from the 1950s film Forbidden Planet, with the worm being a manifestation of the O'Connell character's fears. The scene was graphic enough that the film's director, B. D. Clark, refused to helm it, and O'Connell refused to do the full nudity required by Corman, so Corman directed the scene himself and used a body double for some of the more graphic shots. Initially given an X-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, tiny cuts were made to the scene which changed the movie's rating to 'R', but the graphic detail in which O'Connell's character is stripped, raped, and killed while being simultaneously driven to orgasm by the creature's tentacles has made the film an enduring cult favorite.
An even more popular film from 1981, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, has actress Ellen Sandweiss' character being attacked by the possessed woods she is walking in. The evil spirit inhabiting the woods using tree limbs and branches to ensnare, strip, and rape her, "entering" (i.e., possessing) her through the sexual act in a way very similar to that in which tentacles are normally depicted. The scene was repeated in a much shorter version in the sequel released in 1987. Another film, this time dealing with the life of artist Katsushika Hokusai, was the Japanese made 1981 film Edo Porn, which featured the far famed Dream of the Fisherman's Wife painting in a live action depiction.
The popularity of these films has led to the subsequent production of numerous live-action tentacle films in Japan from the 1990s to the present day. The theme has appeared more rarely in adult American cinema and art; one example is American artist Zak Smith, who has painted works featuring octopuses and porn stars, in various stages of intercourse.
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Surprisingly[to whom?], tentacle porn is not treated extensively in feminist studies in Japan itself. The industry, in accordance with demand, produces a wide range of erotica. Many of the scenarios depicted feature violent rape and sexual assault, most often of women, but not always. Although elements of contemporary tentacle porn are seen as early as the 19th century, the modern equivalent places less emphasis on mutual satisfaction. The consumption of these materials is not exclusively associated with any one gender. The pseudo-phallic symbolism has found an audience among those who eroticize the penetrative and receptive roles. Some actors who are involved in the production of pornographic material report that their participation is motivated both by money and erotic pleasure.
The attempt to make sense of pornographic material has attracted much controversy. In particular the feminist community is divided as to the extent to which modern pornography should be viewed as sexual liberation versus a pathological form of domination (See Feminist Sex Wars). The evolution of tentacle erotica can be read in such a way as to infer the changing nature of Japanese sexuality. The increasingly violent depictions found in tentacle porn might be correlated with underlying misogynistic trends in pop culture. This hypothesis is rendered more plausible when it is considered that the initial stages of tentacle erotica were more oriented around the pleasure of all participants than its contemporary counterparts.
Other research suggests that this approach is misguided. In particular, Milton Diamond, director of the Pacific Center for Sex and Society at the University of Hawaii at Manoa has stated the following: “There’s absolutely no evidence that pornography does anything negative. It’s a moral issue, not a factual issue.” The controversial computational neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam were asked in a recent interview about the connection between trends in pornography and gender relations. “It’s not teaching men to be misogynistic; it doesn’t spill over into social life. It’s really no different from looking at large breasts. But women react to these psychological elements and understandably and accurately see them as a kind of misogyny. However, we’re talking sex and arousal, not social politics. A rape fantasy doesn’t mean a woman really wants to be raped — it’s just something that turns [her] on [in the bedroom].”  Some feminists concede the tenuous connection between psychological harm and porn while still maintaining that it has a net negative effect of society. It is possible to see tentacle porn as perpetuating stereotypes and patriarchal gender roles.
- Ortega-Brena, Mariana (2009). "Peek-a-boo, I See You: Watching Japanese Hard-core Animation". Sexuality & Culture (New York: Springer New York) 13 (1): 17–31. doi:10.1007/s12119-008-9039-5. ISSN 1095-5143.
- Talerico, Danielle. “Interpreting Sexual Imagery in Japanese Prints: A Fresh Approach to Hokusai’s Diver and Two Octopi”, in Impressions, The Journal of the Ukiyo-e Society of America, Vol. 23 (2001).
- Meistermann, J. H, Riding the Squid, Blackwold, GA: University of Blackwold Press, 1979
- Peter Lehman, Pornography: Film and Culture, Rutgers University Pres, 2006