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Ahegao facial expression

Ahegao (アヘ顔) is a term in Japanese pornography for an exaggerated facial expression of characters (usually females) during sex, typically with rolling or crossed eyes, protruding tongue, and slightly reddened face, to show enjoyment or ecstasy. The style is often used in erotic manga, anime (hentai), and video games (erogē).


Also known as the O-Face, the term ahegao dates at least as far back as the early 1990s. Pornographic magazines used the word to describe the facial expressions of female live-action porn actresses during orgasm. In the same context, ahegao was used in some postings at 2Channel and its sister community for adult content, BBSPink, as well as in pornographic videos at adult e-commerce platforms in the early 2000s.[1][2]

In the midst of the 2000s, use of the term increased, and the drawing style became rather conventionalized and started spreading throughout the otaku culture. In 2008, the first ahegao-themed doujin comics anthology, A-H-E, was released. In the 2010s, major publishers produced more ahegao-themed comic anthologies. By that time, the facial expression was featured in regular pornographic videos during the popularization of hentai fetishes in the real-life sex industry. [2]

Additionally, ahegao-like exaggerated facial expressions sometimes are featured in normal anime and manga works, in a non-sexual context.


Typical characteristics are rolled or crossed eyes, a hanging tongue, and flushed cheeks. A character's overall face shape may also be distorted in ahegao scenes.[3] Depictions of ahegao are often drawn intentionally exaggerated to create a surreal effect.[4] An ahegao face of various levels of distortion is used to depict different grades of sexual arousal[5][4] Ahegao indicates that the pleasure experienced is so powerful that the character loses control of their facial expression.[6]

While ahegao is often used in pornographic manga, anime, and videogames, it is not exclusively a term of hentai. A number of non-adult works feature ahegao faces, often in a porn-parodying manner.[7]


An example of an e-girl's ahegao expression

The first part of the term, ahe (katakana: アヘ; not representable in kanji) is an abbreviation for aheahe (アヘアヘ), an onomatopoeia for 'pant' or 'moan'. The second part, gao or kao () is kanji and is Japanese for 'face'.[7][6] Thus, ahegao can be interpreted as 'moaning or panting face', or more loosely as 'weird face'.[5]

Another term which is similar to ahegao is ikigao (イキガオ) meaning 'coming [i.e. orgasmic] face'. The difference between ahegao and ikigao art style is the more realistic drawing used for ikigao, found in relatively more mainstream works.[4]

Internet meme and social network[edit]

According to an article from adult gaming site Nutaku, ahegao in combination with the peace sign became an Internet meme in Japan, known as "ahegao double peace" (アヘ顔ダブルピース).[7][8] In 2018, Belle Delphine drew coverage from various media outlets for her Instagram modeling which often featured her ahegao expressions.[9][10][1]

Ahegao clothing[edit]

A man in ahegao clothing at San Diego Comic-Con 2018

In 2015, an image by the hentai artist Hirame depicting various anime characters with the ahegao face circled the internet. On 16 March, 2016, the image was recorded as being used in South Korea phone cases, pillows and bags. Later that year, the pictures appeared on clothing. In May 2017, such images started appearing in western fashion, the clothes depicting among other works an image from the hentai Danke Dankei Revolution by Asanagi. This version is now sold by English-language hentai publisher Fakku. The clothes have sparked debate about whether the depictions on the clothing is sexist.[11]

Ban of Ahegao clothing[edit]

In January 2020 several anime conventions throughout the United States banned ahegao clothing on their grounds. Visitors wearing those clothes are forbidden to enter the event. This led to a controversial discussion in the worldwide anime community.[12][13][14]

Trademark registration and lawsuit[edit]

The Chinese company Shenzhen Guangcai Trading filed a trademark registration for the term ′Ahegao′ in September 2018 and got approved by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on April 23, 2019.[15] On July 27, 2020 Jacob Grady CEO of hentai publisher Fakku! announced to contest the trademark registration and accused the company of using stolen artwork.[16]


  1. ^ a b Preston, Devon (April 3, 2019). "TAKE A LOOK AT THE JAPANESE ORGASM FACE SWEEPING SOCIAL MEDIA". Inked Magazine.
  2. ^ a b "Ahegao: Who Make Ahegao's face". FabzNews. July 18, 2019.
  3. ^ Benoit, Olivier (2016-09-26). "Chroniques Hentai: Au-delà des interdits". Journal du Japon (in French). Archived from the original on 2018-07-30. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  4. ^ a b c Artefact (2010-07-02). "The Evolution of the Ahegao". Sankaku Complex. Archived from the original on 2014-05-20. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  5. ^ a b "The ABC's of Hentai, Part I". Black Girl Nerds. 2016-10-14. Archived from the original on 2018-07-30. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  6. ^ a b Santos, Kristine Michelle L. (2020-07-02). "The bitches of Boys Love comics: the pornographic response of Japan's rotten women". Porn Studies. 7 (3): 279–290. doi:10.1080/23268743.2020.1726204. ISSN 2326-8743.
  7. ^ a b c "Ahegao アヘ顔". Japanese with Anime. 2017-08-05. Archived from the original on 2018-07-30. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  8. ^ "AgentShawnee's Hentai Vocabulary 101". Nutaku. 2018-03-02. Archived from the original on 2018-07-30. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  9. ^ Aggeler, Madeleine (19 July 2019). "Who Is Belle Delphine, the Gamer Girl Selling Her Bathwater?". The Cut. New York. Archived from the original on 13 July 2019. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  10. ^ Galbraith, Alex (16 July 2019). "Instagram Model Sells Her Bathwater to Thirsty Fans". Complex. Archived from the original on 21 July 2019. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  11. ^ Champion Hoodie (May 23, 2019). "The Trend Of The Ahegao Hoodie". Medium. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  12. ^ Ahegao.fr. "Animated conventions forbid participants to wear "ahegao" or similar clothing". en.ahegao.fr. Retrieved 2020-08-04.
  13. ^ Megan Peters (2020-01-16). "Anime Convention Stirs Debate After Banning NSFW Clothes from Event". Comicbook.com. Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  14. ^ Spencer Batuli (2020-01-23). "Several Anime Conventions Announce New Ban on Attendees Wearing 'Ahegao' Clothing". Boundingintocomics.com.com. Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  15. ^ "Ahegao". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  16. ^ Kim Morrissy (2020-07-27). "FAKKU to Contest Shenzhen Guangcai Trading's 'Ahegao' Trademark". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2020-07-29.

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