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Sex and Censorship During the Occupation of Japan by Mark McLelland

In Asia, books, culture, gender, history, North America, politics, sexuality, sociology, war on November 3, 2012 at 20:44

From: Sex and Censorship During the Occupation of Japan by Mark McLelland, Japan Focus, http://www.japanfocus.org

Historian of sexuality Shimokawa Kōshi has described the first three years of the Occupation, from 1945 to 1948, as a time of “sexual anarchy,” 1 and it is true that many accounts describe the early postwar years as a period of “sexual liberation.” Igarashi Yoshikuni, in particular, has stressed the very visceral sense of release that many Japanese people experienced at the war’s end.2 As we saw in the previous chapter, the militarist authorities had established pervasive surveillance and censorship mechanisms that seriously constrained the expression of sexuality by men and particularly by women. Prostitution was tightly controlled and limited to specific licensed areas, unmarried male and female couples had almost no opportunity to mingle socially, and sexual expression in the press was stymied by the threat of prosecution by the “thought police.” All these restrictions were removed within the first few months of the Occupation.

However, anarchy is probably not quite the right term since it suggests a complete freedom from formal control. But, as we will see, sexuality continued to be highly regulated and supervised, albeit in different ways and with different goals in mind. The Japanese authorities fully expected that the incoming Americans would behave in the same rapacious manner as had their own forces when they advanced across China and were determined to put in place measures to protect the purity of Japanese women. The US administration, on the other hand, rather than viewing their troops as sexual predators, tended to see these young men as “clean, innocent and vulnerable” and in danger of “having their morals corrupted and their health destroyed” by “shameless Japanese women.”3 The policies that the Allies enacted were intended to protect their own troops’ physical wellbeing, with scant regard paid to their effects on Japanese women and society.

Both authorities, Japanese and Occupier, were overwhelmingly concerned to regulate “fraternization” between local women and foreign troops, and many academic studies have examined in detail the lengths to which both sides went to monitor and restrict potential inter-racial sexual contacts.4 However, far less attention has been paid to the effects that the collapse of the military regime and the arrival of the American forces had upon Japanese male and female interaction and the representation of sexual discourse in the Japanese media. This chapter outlines some of the major policy decisions taken by the Occupation administration, particularly regarding the regulation of obscenity in the press that helped shape local Japanese sexual cultures during the Occupation period.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Japan Focus

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