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

Sexuality & The Self

As previously discussed, sexuality works to shape and sanction relationships between gendered beings. Relations are further splintered as notions of sexuality alienate the individual embodied will from itself. In accordance with Foucault’s concept of surveillance, gendered actors make choices in order to code themselves as desirable (1975). Take, for example, the feminine practice of wearing makeup.Though individuals can certainly derive pleasure and feelings of empowerment from makeup, it’s impossible to disentangle the social messages conveyed by the convention. It is likely that women aren’t born with an intrinsic desire to put makeup on, but most have experience with the practice by the time they reach adulthood. This phenomenon points to the culturally situated nature of the ritual, and raises questions about what it’s intended to signal. In modern sociality, the practice has been a way of making women more sexually desirable to men by constructing themselves in accordance with dominant beauty ideals. In this way, makeup serves as a performative code that women learn to embody in accordance with social standards. Often, women feel insecure in the absence of this embodied signal. This example illuminates the disconnect that sexual codes impart on beings through the imposition of gendered sexual dynamics. When systems of sociality work to alienate individuals from themselves, the communal nature of being suffers. If insecurity permeates the embodied practice, healing in the collective body becomes increasingly harder to achieve.

However, the perversion of sanctioned performativity can be a route through which to actualize autonomy. Laydon Hutchins discusses the liberating power of rebellious aesthetic performance his piece, Ganguro Girls & Sexual Liberation, while Shannon Wu explores this topic in relation to national narratives in her piece, Ganguro: Rebellion to the Imposed Nationalistic Identity.

Foucault, Michel. 1975. Discipline & Punish. New York City, NY: Vintage Books.

To explore this issue as it manifests in the Japanese context, refer to Women's Soccer and Queer Sexuality in Japan, Fetishization of Gay Men in Manga, & Bad-Girl Photography

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