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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 women) 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).


The first part of the term, ahe (katakana: アヘ) is an abbreviation for aheahe (アヘアヘ), an onomatopoeia for 'pant' or 'moan'. The second part, gao or kao () means 'face'.[1][2] Thus, ahegao can be interpreted as 'moaning or panting face.'

There are several other names for the facial expressions made at the moment of orgasm. One of these is ikigao (イキガオ) meaning 'coming [i.e. orgasmic] face'. Others are acmegao (アクメ顔) from the French loanword acmé (orgasm), and yogarigao (よがり顔) "satisfaction face".[3]


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.[4] Depictions of ahegao are often drawn intentionally exaggerated to create a surreal effect.[5] An ahegao face of various levels of distortion is used to depict different grades of sexual arousal.[6][5] Ahegao indicates that the pleasure experienced is so powerful that the character loses control of their facial expression.[2]

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.[1]

In The History of Hentai Manga, hentai manga researcher Kimi Rito states that ahegao follow three particular traits that set them apart from other ikigao (orgasm face) expressions:[7]

  1. The whites of the eyes are visible or are close to becoming visible. The focus of the eyes is not fixed, nor are they "rape eyes", where the eyes are rolled up into the head and the pupils are not visible.
  2. The mouth is open and the tongue is sticking out.
  3. Saliva, mucus, sweat, and other bodily fluids are often present.


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.[8][9]

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.[9] Ahegao-like exaggerated facial expressions are also sometimes featured in other anime and manga works, in a non-sexual context. In September 2016, an "ahegao challenge" meme spread on social media websites, mostly via Instagram, which spread the trend in the United States.[10]

Rito claims that reasons for including ahegao in a scene include reflecting a character's joyful emotions such as ecstasy or pleasure; to show negative emotions such as fear or reluctance; or to show domination, submission and loyalty.[11]

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).[1][12] Rito states that this version was usually used after a gang rape scene, either breaking the victim's spirit or as the final part of a humiliation scene. However, as this was limiting, the use of the ahegao double peace became more common as a joke. The term itself is credited as first appearing in a 2010 self-published video game called Futa Letter, in which the main character's girlfriend does a ahegao double peace in a video sent to her boyfriend after she is "broken" by his uncle.[13] In 2018, Belle Delphine drew coverage from various media outlets for her Instagram modeling which often featured her ahegao expressions.[8][14][15][16]

Ahegao clothing[edit]

A man wearing an ahegao T-shirt

In 2015, an image by the hentai artist Hirame depicting various anime characters with the ahegao face circled the internet. 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.

Ban of ahegao clothing[edit]

In January 2020 several anime conventions throughout the United States banned ahegao clothing on their grounds and forbade entry to those wearing such clothing.[17] Similar movement was also done in Malaysia in 2022.[18]

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 23 April 2019.[19] On 27 July 2020, Jacob Grady, the CEO of FAKKU, announced intent to contest the trademark registration and accused Shenzhen Guangcai Trading of using stolen artwork.[20]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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): 281–282. doi:10.1080/23268743.2020.1726204. ISSN 2326-8743. S2CID 219913807.
  3. ^ Rito, Kimi (2021). The History of Hentai Manga: An Expressionist Examination of Eromanga. FAKKU. p. 222. ISBN 978-1-63442-253-6.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b Artefact (2010-07-02). "The Evolution of the Ahegao". Sankaku Complex. Archived from the original on 2014-05-20. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ Rito, Kimi (2021). The History of Hentai Manga: An Expressionist Examination of Eromanga. FAKKU. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-63442-253-6.
  8. ^ a b Preston, Devon (April 3, 2019). "TAKE A LOOK AT THE JAPANESE ORGASM FACE SWEEPING SOCIAL MEDIA". Inked Magazine.
  9. ^ a b "Ahegao: Who Make Ahegao's face". FabzNews. July 18, 2019.
  10. ^ Rito, Kimi (2021). The History of Hentai Manga: An Expressionist Examination of Eromanga. FAKKU. p. 328. ISBN 978-1-63442-253-6.
  11. ^ Rito, Kimi (2021). The History of Hentai Manga: An Expressionist Examination of Eromanga. FAKKU. pp. 227, 228, 229, 230. ISBN 978-1-63442-253-6.
  12. ^ "AgentShawnee's Hentai Vocabulary 101". Nutaku. 2018-03-02. Archived from the original on 2018-07-30. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  13. ^ Rito, Kimi (2021). The History of Hentai Manga: An Expressionist Examination of Eromanga. FAKKU. pp. 230, 231. ISBN 978-1-63442-253-6.
  14. ^ "Ahegao Belle Delphine GIF". 19 April 2022. Retrieved 19 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Megan Peters (2020-01-16). "Anime Convention Stirs Debate After Banning NSFW Clothes from Event". Comicbook.com. Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  18. ^ Briggs, Alex Daud (March 2022). "Anicon in Sarawak Bans Ahegao Hoodies". Gamer Braves. Retrieved 12 June 2022.
  19. ^ "Ahegao". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  20. ^ 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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