Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Incestuous Sexuality and Corralling Distraction

Mother and son incestuous fantasies have filled Japanese convenience stores and Japanese book stores’ adult section since the late seventies. In “Transgressions of the Everyday: Stories of the Mother-Son Incest in Japanese Popular Culture,” Dr. Anne Allison writes about the reasons motivating the popularity of this extreme fetish and what it means in the larger tapestry of Japanese society that continuously uses the threads of women’s labor to hold men above. She argues that the fantasy makes normal fantastical and the normal makes the fantasy normative. 

Allison argues that it this fantasy actually fights against the man’s ability to sling his sexual exploits into whatever he chooses while his dutiful wife waits complacently at home (Japanese Woman Stereotypes’ for 100, Alex.) Allison is postulating that the narrative of this fantasy actually takes the man as a strong figure of sexual power and transmutes him into a sad figure who only is able to obtain said prowess as a pubescent adolescent. Also, Allison says, the family home is changed from the “site of suppression from sex” to the “stage of enactment.” Basically, it is perhaps the seizing back of the sexual element that the man is so quick to remove from the family’s house. The mother brings it back into her domain.

It is after the numerous examples of incestuous stories that Allison draws attention to the contrast between Western societies transition from childhood into a patriarchal system and this narrative of the mother-son incest. In the West, she explains, the boys process of letting go of their mother’s love is the gateway into the realm where he elevates the importance of men and thinks of women as the subservient sex. In this way, Allison thinks that the Japanese tale of incest stands in direct opposition. That is, retains the importance of the mother (and therefore women) in the son’s eyes. The labor of the mother is still celebrated, not ignored or despised. Also, Allison draws attention to Foucault who argued that sex became the “site of the ‘truth’ of the individual in Western bourgeois societies” (Allison 486). This lead to an extremely distinct individual self. But the Japanese incestuous stories from the seventies is much different: It is in the context of social performativity that intercourse occurs, both the performance of the woman as a good mother and the performance of the boy as an industrious student, but only the boy is in the process of transition, and for him the incestuous sex will condition his adult identity” (Allison 487). Allison is saying that the fantasy actually turns normal societal behavior itself a fantasy as well. Because the dependence on his mother of the male child in their transition to adulthood is both necessary but threatening to the patriarchal system.

Allison, A. "Transgressions of the Everyday: Stories of Mother-Son Incest in Japanese Popular Culture." Positions 2 (1995): 67-499.

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