18 Feb 2013

Tentacle Erotica

I was thinking again the other day of that rather queer exchange in Women in Love when Birkin tells Gerald about his experience of wrestling naked with a Japanese housemate in Heidelberg, presumably during his student days:

"He was very quick and slippery and full of electric fire. It is a remarkable thing, what a curious sort of fluid force they seem to have in them, those people - not like a human grip - like a polyp ... They are very repulsive when they are cold, and they look grey. But when they are hot and roused, there is a definite attraction - a curious kind of full electric fluid - like eels." [WL, CUP, 1987, 268-69]

This - as far as I'm aware - is as close as Lawrence comes to exploring the interesting world of what is now commonly termed tentacle erotica and which refers to a type of pornography, popular in Japan, in which people engage in sexual activity with monsters who have come from either the ocean depths or outer space and either are or resemble octopuses, squids, and similar though unrelated creatures, such as eels and sea-serpents.

Although sometimes the sexual activity is of a consensual nature, frequently the horror is intensified due to the non-consensual elements and shokushu goukan or 'tentacle rape' is frequently a key component of the genre, particularly when there is a woman involved. 

Whilst most tentacle erotica tends to be animated, there are a number of live action films for those who like this kind of thing. It's a theme, however, that can be traced back in Japanese porn long before cinema, anime, or manga. Doubtless, the best known illustration of such is that by Katsushika Hokusai entitled The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife (1814). 

This image, taken from the book kinoe no komatsu, which has since been reworked by many Western artists, is really rather beautiful I think, even for those of us who don't share the sexual fascination for lecherous cephalopods. And, crucially, it would seem that the woman, a pearl diver, has not fallen victim to a pair of sexually predatory octopuses, but is rather fully enjoying their attention - just as Birkin enjoyed his naked wrestling with a hot and roused Japanese gentleman.     

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