This post is big and, I fear, I will not achieve a symmetry and a ,complete, coherent message; I hope although, that my central claim is taken.
It is troublesome to write posts that discusses sexuality and representations at the same time, because it is such a vast topic! Sexuality, particularly human sexuality, with all its beauty and ugliness, is a most complex phenomena. No wonder it is a subject of so much dispute and discrimination/prejudice.
People are too ignorant of the richness of human sexuality, and thus, we are too eager to condemn and patronize with our impressions, than to to be charitable and give a deliberate reflection and analysis to a subject, which some seem to enjoy, that we cannot admire.
Homosexuality, transexuality, bisexuality, "perversions", fantasies, fetishes, etc. Are all misunderstood and wronged by our ignorance, which is sometimes mistakenly disguised as, either, an appeal to science (psychology mostly) or nature. We must educate ourselves more about this subject, sexuality, and even challenge conventional assumptions. We cause to much harm by not doing so. First of all, we should do away with that ridiculous embarrassment and pudor when talking the subject; probably an heredity from victorian irrationalism. Second, we should read the most we can about it and do not fear or disgust too quickly with the unfamiliar. Third, we should check if there are inconsistencies with what we profess to be good or normal and what we condemn to be bad or not-normal; he who is very interested in female feet, might too easily feel ashamed of having a friend that likes hentai. Both sexual tastes, and objects of sexual stimulation, are not that unrelated.
Nevertheless, since this post is more concerned with hentai and anime, and how these art forms arouse emotions and sexual excitement, we cannot concentrate on the more broad topic of human sexuality! I apologize for the divagation.
One cannot help wondering, is it really that curious that one may feel attracted or aroused by anime (hentai particularly)? Anyone that surfers the internet will notice forums dedicated to this for crying out loud! Millions of users dropping saliva for pictures and videos with anime girls in sexy poses. So factual evidence shows that it is not an isolated phenomena of a few people. But let us not focus on mere factual research; I want to examine this in a more sophisticated manner.
Historical Aside: Pin-ups were a famous and very successful artistic enterprise in the 1940's, and soldier’s lockers were full of them. So it is not that weird to be aroused by drawings anyway . Here some examples:
There are many representations (signs that stand in for and take the place of something else - it is plain obvious that this in itself a subject of intense debates, theories and ideas for philosophers since millenniums) in art. The most adored ones are:
•Lines, shapes, form, perspective, color put in a certain order or no order in a canvas (painting).
•1's and 0's, vectors, pixels, lines, dimensions in a computer screen (computer graphics).
•Symbols/ words in a piece of paper - as Borges so beautifully put it, "It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordination’s, one of them — at least in an infinitesimal way — does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others" (literature).
•Photos (which are a recording radiation on a sensitive medium, "drawing with light") in sequence (films).
•Figures created by shaping or combining hard materials like marble, metal, glass, or wood, or plastic materials such as clay, textiles and softer metals (sculpture).
•Organized pleasant vibrations in the environment (music, a disputed definition )
All these art forms are capable of provoking in us thought, emotional catharsis, joy; literature for example, I wrote someplace else, incites us
To reflect/think about others, to understand better and not judge to quick and harshly, to be more considerate. We are able to develop this qualities by reading and getting acquainted with a variety of fictional personas, from a woman in need of a more candid love, to a man that finds himself turned into a insect when he awakes in the morning.
Another reason (related to the one above) for reading, is to be familiar with other eras, societies, individuals.
"Literature transports us into another era and into another person. It gives us a slight touch in the shoulder and whisper to us, that perhaps, our dilemmas, be it moral or intellectual, are not so much our troubles but the troubles of human nature."
I also seek, when reading, a sort of witty or emotional revelation, be it intellectual, moral, spiritual or any other. A couple of examples can illustrate:
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.."
And literature is just symbols in paper put in some specific or systematic order!
Now anime is very similar to film, the difference is in the materials used, but, briefly, both are sequential arts. One can ask, if anime causes wonder (regarding intellectual, emotional and sexual arousal) why do not the other arts? In short, the answer is lack of thought and consistency in our ideas concerning the particular art, in this case, anime.
Perhaps one could respond, "but wait, anime is always - this is false of course - distortions and unreal characters, with big eyes and small breasts sometimes, with no hair, etc."
This remark can be given a very interesting and fascinating response. Here I will have to dwell in philosophy of art, history of art, science and my own musings and musings of other fellow cybernauts. I want to be systematic, so I'll do a little list of things to reflect and consider when analysing and studying representations in art:
•Character and Culture
•Evolution and psychology
Of course, not all arts fall in all these categories. Literature, I believe, for example, to be much more dependent on imagination and character and, probably, is unrelated to any of the ideas that Ramachandran gives in his paper Science of Art (a work in the field of neuroscience) which are more suitable for painting and sculpture.
With respect to character and culture, I can refer with this, roughly, to the individual education, environment, beliefs and his/her dispositions to novel and different ideas (an open mind). I regard myself lucky here, and to not fall in a vulgar indulgence of my vanity, I will claim quickly, that I am fond and open to all fields of art, or to anything that tries at least, or is trying, to be art or of aesthetic significance. Ceramics, sculpture, music, painting, comics, anime, cinema, architecture, gardens, novels, poetry, videogames, etc. I love them all!
I think that having an amenable disposition, is a very important factor when coming in acquaintance with something new and different. A so-called receptive mind to proliferation of ideas. By practicing this, we can always earn something aesthetically pleasant and meaningful, of course not all experiences will have the same value, but it is much better than dismissing in a irresponsible manner something because of laziness and prejudice.
Of imagination, I spoke already above. I'll say something about habit now. Pretty straightforward, I wonder if merely getting accustomed to an art form is enough to develop an attraction and respect to it. I know I should elaborate more here, but I cannot think something important to add to this "habit" idea. I will give an anecdote though. I have never been an anime (hentai particularly), fanatic, I am not one now either, although I am much more fond of, and interested in, it than previously (before I did not even dare to look at it! I had an immense dislike for it). I came afterwards acquainted with Cowboy Bebop and many other works of meaning, and then I developed a taste for anime. Now I am not sure if this is really just habit and not, perhaps, the dispelling of prejudice, or mix.
Nonetheless, habit is a weak idea. Now for the more interesting and controversial ones, because they may fall into reductionism, neuroscience and evolution.
Evolutionary ideas are simple. A particular shape and form in a body is arousing.
The 3 Main Physical Factors of the Biological Attraction in Humans
Even at the stage of fecundated egg, the human body starts developing from dividing cells. If each division went perfectly, we all would be perfectly symmetrical, the left and right sides being mirror images. But this never happens, due to environmental disturbances, as the organism does not live in a constant environment (food, temperature, humidity, predators and so on) and this slightly alters the division.
That's why any human and animal presents a certain degree of asymmetry between the right and the left side. Smaller symmetry means an individual has powerful genes enabling him to stand bad conditions and survive better, being more healthy and fertile.
"It makes sense to use symmetry variation in mate choice. If you choose a perfectly symmetrical partner and reproduce with them, your offspring will have a better chance of being symmetric and able to deal with perturbations." said evolutionary biologist Randy Thornhill of the University of New Mexico.
His symmetry researches on people revealed that both men and women rated more symmetrical members of the opposite sex as more attractive and healthier than their less symmetrical individuals.
2. Body shape.
Psychologist Devendra Singh of the University of Texas investigated people's waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) relationship with sexual attractiveness and found that women with a WHR of 0.7 (a waist much narrower than the hips) are most desirable to men. An analysis of Playboy models and Miss America contestants found that the majority were situated around a WHR of 0.7 or lower.
"In general, a range of 0.67 to 1.18 in females is attractive to men, while a 0.8 to 1.0 WHR in men is attractive to women, although having broad shoulders is more of a turn-on." said Singh.
WHR encodes a crucial fat clue: if the individual possesses enough energy to care for offspring.
The way fat is stored on the body is controlled by sex hormones. The proper levels of estrogen in women will produce the right WHR ratio and testosterone does the same in men.
People with the right WHO, no matter their weight, are less vulnerable to conditions like cardiovascular disorders, cancer and diabetes, and are more fertile, as revealed by many researches.
"The idea is that beauty is conveying information about health
3. The face is the first factor that tells the gender. And the person's fertility degree.
"Estrogen caps bone growth in a woman's lower face and chin, making them relatively small and short, as well as the brow, allowing for her eyes to appear prominent," Thornhill explained.
Testosterone carves masculine faces, with a bigger lower face and jaw and a prominent brow.
"Men and women possessing these traits are seen as attractive, because they advertise reproductive health." said Thornhill. and fertility, and we admire that," said Singh.
So, it does not matter whether it is
Venus de Milo
A nude painting (Bouguereau)
All these representations are stimulating. Although one would expect to get aroused by "real" persons, not representations! Well our brain is a complex machine and full of surprises, it can also be tricked presumably.
To avoid one kind of misty conjecture for another one (more vague speculation), I'll focus, in the second part (because I cannot post too many pictures in one blog entry ), on psychology and evolution, with regards to facial features and skin, a very important factor which determines, overall, our attraction to someone.