Stars and seduction in tantai films: exploring the sexual logics of contemporary Japan via adult videos

Tom Baudinette, Alexandra Hambleton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this chapter, we compare the presentation of sex scenes in Japanese pornographic films to understand how sex is understood in contemporary Japanese society. We particularly analyse three tantai films, a distinctively Japanese form of pornography which dialogues with Japanese celebrity culture in its focus on a porn star persona’s supposed seduction and sexual awakening as it unfolds on film for the viewers’ pleasure. Commencing with an interview, the tantai film proceeds through a variety of ritualised sexual practices designed to produce desires tied to specific gendered and sexual logics which we demonstrate emerge from the heteropatriarchal culture of Japan. In this sense, Japanese tantai films differ significantly from the socalled “hard-core” narrative tropes and aesthetics which typify video pornography produced in North America and Western Europe.

Through cinematographical analysis of three representative films—one for heterosexual men, one for gay men, and one example of female-friendly pornography—we explore how tantai films follow standard conventions, regardless of their intended audience. That said, their narrative tropes and discourses of desire differ significantly. We reveal that the primary function of tantai films for heterosexual male audiences, for instance, is to reinforce narratives of male sexual dominance. This dominance is contrasted with the lack of sexual agency of the female performers who are the purported “stars.” In these films, female “stars” must be “seduced” into performing on film, finally giving in to the pleasure to which they are being reluctantly subjected. Similarly, tantai films produced for a gay male audience transform naive yet desirable “straight men” (known as nonke) into commodities for gay male consumption. Further, gay tantai films focus on educating straight men about various male-male sex acts, shifting from narratives of shame to narratives of unexpected pleasure as the sex unfolds over a number of scenes. On the other hand, female-friendly pornography tends to significantly depart from the traditions of tantai to focus on consent and mutual pleasure. The films focus on male “stars” (known as eromen), their bodies, and how they illicit a sexual response from both their female partners and heterosexual female viewers. In this way, female-friendly tantai films engage their audiences in ways which films for heterosexual and gay men do not. We conclude our analysis of these three tantai films by elucidating how pornography bolsters conservative understandings of gender and sexuality embedded in patriarchy and heteronormativity in Japan.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScreening Sex
Subtitle of host publicationThe Sex Scene I – Space, Place, Industry
EditorsDarren Kerr, Donna Peberdy
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


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