Wareware to wa Bessekai: The evolution, inhibition, and cultural prohibition of public male-male sexual identities in contemporary Japan

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Roberts, Adam
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University of the South Senior Honors Thesis , Sewanee student honors thesis , Asian studies , Japan , Sexuality , Homosexuality , Identity , Media
Pre-19th century Japanese society expected its members to engage in both hetero- and homosexual acts. However, while Westerners may view Japan as sexually progressive, or even bizarre, today’s Japan is notably conservative in regards to issues of sexuality. Few people publicly display an identity based on sexuality despite the adoption of sexual identity as the primary mode of discourse. In the late 1800s, Western cultural ideals began holding greater influence over the region. As the islands of Japan nationalized, the new Emperor-centric government adopted legal and social policies encouraging exclusive heterosexuality and eventually villainizing homosexuality through medical research, pseudo-religious racial purity propaganda, and adoption of Victorian-style laws. Contemporary Japan has adopted the idea of sexual identity, but many of its male citizens choose not to publicly identify. This is not simply an artifact of the oppressive environment in the early 20th century, but rather a result of 1) a strong emphasis on homogeneity and group uniformity; 2) the overall level of candor afforded to expressions of sexual and & romantic relationships; 3) media treatment; 4) the historical and cultural importance of the family unit; and 5) an economic system that has made participation in a nuclear family a necessity for survival.