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

Sexuality & The State

In order to properly conceptualize the intricate connection between sexuality and the state, it is critical to first situate the dynamic within Foucauldian notions of biopower and surveillance. The project of sexual usurpation is inextricably linked to the insidious proliferation of internalized power dynamics. As the state actively works to construct appropriate channels for sexual energy, individuals are pulled into compliance with sanctioned ways of being. In accordance with the concept of surveillance, deviation from normative sexual behavior results in social repercussions. Consequently, individuals internalize notions of acceptable presentation that position heteronormative monogamous relationships as the ultimate ideal. This peer-mandated punishment works as an attempt to draw sexual identity under scrutiny, so violators undergo correction and comply with performative constraints. As such, power operates as a creative force. Since people believe that they consciously choose to act in accordance with normative standards, compliance with these narratives appears to be an outlet through which to exert autonomy. However, because sexual identity is constrained to socially acceptable performance, this system of power actually serves to further alienate individuals from their uninhibited desire. 

As this system of power relations works to constrain sexuality, the state reaps numerous benefits. In “Blood Talks,” anthropologist Jennifer Robertson explains, “Nation-states have always maintained a vested interest in the sexual and social reproduction of the population” (2002). The reproductive capacity of the populace is of primary interest to the state because the family-unit serves as an incubator of both physicality and ideology. Sanctioning appropriate sexual expression allows the state to control the means of biological and cultural replication. When people enter into acceptable forms of sexual relationships, they reproduce the physical capacity of the nation, while their compliance deepens the legitimacy of state-sanctioned sexual practices. 

Robertson, Jennifer. 2002. "Blood Talks: Eugenic Modernity and the Creation of New Japanese." History and Anthropology 13 (3)(September 24): 191-216.

To explore a deeper manifestation of this phenomenon in the Japanese context, refer to the pages Women's Soccer and Queer Sexuality, Housewives' Magazines and Gender Confinement in Post-War Japan, Sex Work and Venereal Disease in Occupied Japan, & Madame Butterfly​ and the Westernization of Sexuality Discourse

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