Erog Sum

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Japanese cyberspace is a-buzz about “erogs” — erotic blogs where women post naked pictures of themselves along with spicy narrative text. The “experts” quoted in this story seem to believe that “there are a lot of eroggers who want people to look at them as ‘real women,'” but a quick glance at the top erogs (courtesy of erog.jp) instantly raises some serious doubts about the “authenticity” of the bloggers.

These sites’ homogeneity of structure, high-quality pictures, and highly voluptuous authors question the premise that these are just “everyday” women uploading pictures of themselves for sexual ego-boosting. To start, most of the camera angles would require a photographer, and most of the shots appear to have been done at one session. I asked around about the erogs, and a friend of a friend apparently belongs to a temp agency that finds girls willing to expose their bodies, but not their faces. I don’t quite understand the profit-making ability of this particular scam (hit-related advertising revenues?), but I would guess that the sex industry is behind the entire thing.

Like most media in Japan, everything sold on the premise of “reality” is planned and artificial, and as long as there’s money to be made, no one has the slightest interest in questions of veracity. We automatically lower our standards for nonfiction, and as long as no one’s fact-checking, cultural producers can easily make their fiction more interesting by creating an air of reality. These erogs’ sole appeal is the illusion of amateurism. Uncovering the assembly line production would clearly destroy the entire phenomenon.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

38 Responses

  1. Brad Says:

    And of course you looked at all of these sites for purely academic reasons, right?

    Yeah, I saw that Mainichi article and thought “I smell shenanigans.” That stuff is all too slick to be a bunch of girls-next-door who want to show off their mama gave them.

  2. Momus Says:

    Everybody applauded your inventiveness when you made up that funny rubbish about “proto-blogging”, so you should really have the good grace to do the same when some pink corporations make up entertaining “erogs”.

  3. marxy Says:

    No one will ever write a semi-sociological piece on how people in the 80s used NES games to blog about Star Wars references from the late 90s. And I’m not not making money from the lie that somehow those were real. Meanwhile in Japan…

  4. Jaff Says:

    This is the real deal I believe, despite the on-site ads…

    http://cyberjunk.jp/zenra/jpn/index.html

  5. Momus Says:

    And I’m not not making money from the lie that somehow those were real.

    Ah, don’t think I didn’t spot the cunningly inserted double negative! And it’s true: that proto-blogging entry is the only reason I bought “Kyoshu Nostalgia”.

  6. Momus Says:

    (Well, not not untrue, anyway.)

  7. marxy Says:

    Damn double-negative.

    Money I’ve seen from my record so far: 0.

  8. marxy Says:

    http://cyberjunk.jp/zenra/jpn/index.html

    This didn’t strike me as real at all. And I now realize that I’ve opened myself up for all sorts of adult promotional commenting with this post…

  9. Chris_B Says:

    zenra is a porn hosting company.

    I think the “erog” idea is a tack on to an existing scam of setting up “blogs” that are really just link traps to existing pay sites. The adult site industry here has always distributed their banners and content around on ~username pages to begin with so extending that idea to “blog” sites is a natural extention. I would not be surprised if 40~60% of the number of “blogs” in Japan are actually pages setup by the adult sites as banner traps.

  10. Jaff Says:

    Well that was me suckered then. I guess I wanted to believe it…

  11. Momus Says:

    I think, as usual with Marxy posts, it’s not the surface facts that are the problem but the underlying assumptions, unexamined and culture-bound stuff about “individuality” and “truth” and “self-expression”. Marxy takes American views of these basic notions and applies them to Japan, finding Japan wanting.

    This post, for instance, contains the unexamined assumption that a society based on authenticity would be better than one based on theatre and spectacle, no matter how pleasureable that spectacle might be. He also fails to consider that authenticity might, like the horizon, be always just out of reach. How “real” is even a “real blog” anyway? I mean, are the blogs about noodles derided so recently in these pages suddenly “real”? Is it all relative? At what point does being paid money for making a sexy blog invalidate all the contents thereof? And if Marxy had earned more than $0 for the record he advertises here, would this blog start to become less “real”? Would we enjoy its fantasies any less?

  12. Momus Says:

    Also: one can know something is fake, and still draw pleasure from its claims to be real. This is called “willing suspension of disbelief”, and people do it at the theatre as well as when they’re masturbating.

  13. marxy Says:

    This is not an American idea, but one pivotal to a democratic society: the media has a role in reporting about reality and not “creating” a reality more convienent for its financial backers. Selling fiction on the idea that it’s nonfiction is cheating, and as I said in my original post, a cheap way to make less thrilling material into something outrageous. Would this be a story if these erogs were well-known to be fake? Of course not. But the paper is happy to provide a sensational story and not question the obvious huckster running the Erogu Nikkan network. The media makes money from creating these myths, but this is a gross violation of their ethical responsbility as an organ of society.

    My problem with Japan is not that it’s “different” than America, but that the economic and political power system constantly exploits the goodwill of its consumers/citizens for its own gain. The camera companies make up myths about their high-priced Japanese market products being “higher quality” than the exact same models made for foreign markets selling at half-price. The Japanese economic system runs on high prices in the domestic market, and this only works through limiting information about the practices.

    Your defense of Japan always refuses to acknowledge that there could possibly be real power-imbalances and structural problems inherent in the system. I know you like Japan’s good sides (we all do), but I doubt you would ever defind Nigerian bribery as “beyond criticism” by the West. If you think democracy and a free market without coercion are bad things, you should just come out and say so, instead of hiding behind this veil of “Japan is misunderstood.”

    At the end of the day, I still don’t understand why you’re against the idea of giving power back to the people. Is my advocation of greater democracy in Japan as an American what makes it so evil and missionary? What if a Japanese blogger wrote the same thing?

  14. Dr. P Says:

    While I think a lot of people will (obviously) try and run with the Erog idea to make money, there are many genuine exhibitionists getting a kick out of “Erogging”. Case in point: join mixi.jp and start poking around. There are 100s of accounts posting plenty of erotic images to their Diaries in erog fashion. No ads. No pushes to offsite sites. Just girls getting a big kick out of putting up a post and having 100s of horny men, young and old, post little ascii smiley faces and IIIIIIIIIII NAAAAAAAs.

    Not everything is so black and white, Marxy. There is some “true” reality to this stuff.

  15. Momus Says:

    I know it’s annoyingly messy, but things can be authentic and fake at the same time, depending on what angle they’re seen from. Things can be both true and fiction, and they can be both exploitative and entertaining. I said recently that “Marxy is so right about Japan that he’s wrong about it”, and this is because you consistently emphasize only one side of these questions, the negative one. The same objects can appear one day in this blog as “the trouble with Japan” (for instance, trivial blogs about noodles) and the next as the opposite of “the trouble with Japan” (the noodle blogs are suddenly in the “good” column because you need them to stand for “the authentic” when you discover some other Japanese blogs which are less authentic, and become the new “trouble with Japan”).

    You lay out above your basic editorial position (and I like to think it’s a polemical one, a piece of devil’s advocacy, but I’m not so sure):

    the economic and political power system constantly exploits the goodwill of its consumers/citizens for its own gain.

    That’s terribly neat, with “goodwill” on one side and “exploiters” on the other, “the people” on one side and “power” on the other. But what if the system were massively internalised and massively consensual? What if the gain were on both sides? Wouldn’t an outsider stepping in to blow whistles and point fingers look a bit foolish?

  16. bigecho Says:

    Momus-

    The fact that things come in different degrees and can be seen from different angles, the noodle blog in your example, is not an example of a thing being both true and not true. The noodle blog is a real blog. But it could also be a trivial real blog — still better than a fake blog, but not as good, perhaps, as a real blog that is not trivial.

    Here’s an analogy: I think reading manga is not as intellectually beneficial as reading “regular” books. But I also think that reading manga is better than watching TV or playing video games. So if it is “manga vs. Haruki Murakami” then I’m taking Haruki Murakami and arguing that it is “better.” But, if it’s “manga vs. Street Fighter II” then I’m voting for manga and arguing that it is “better.”

    This has nothing to do with whether or not manga is authentic or fake.

  17. kai Says:

    small remark to bigecho:

    pardonmypidgin, but let me correct an error in your “believe system”: i would, facing whatever penalty, forever stand for the fact that a medium is not by itself a description of its possible value, so if you prefer “haruki murakami” over “manga” is like stating that the sound poems by henri chopin are better than buildings. but, here in the fortunately endlessly varied world of individual phenomenons, it can occur, if only to some, that a manga by, say, yoshiharu tsuge, may be of more value to a less than brainless being, than the collected works of peter sloterdijk (“real books” as in “pure gold”? – anyway, no offense to this philosophers fans, you sure are good people, the salt of the spheres). or, what do you say when you turn on the tv and a tv opera by robert ashley or “the simpsons” are shown? turn it off and read another grisham?

  18. bigecho Says:

    I stand corrected.

  19. Gado Says:

    the great thing about living in Japan, and getting to observe the culture in action, is listening to more and more apologists scream louder and louder than in fact, we gaikoku folk do not understand the Japanese system. The beauty of it is, neither do they.

    How do I know I’m correct? Wait a few years.

    Japan’s systems work for Japan. But when you add globalization to the picture, they break down. If it makes you feel better, Japan is not alone.

  20. marxy Says:

    Japan’s systems work for Japan. But when you add globalization to the picture, they break down. If it makes you feel better, Japan is not alone.

    They certainly worked pretty well for Japan at least for income growth and equality in the 60s and 70s (besides all the police state-ness), but yes, globalization is introducing wicked ideas like “free information” and “women’s rights” and rotting out an economic system based on passing off high labor costs to consumers.

    I have a detailed answer to Momus’ point above, but I seem to have damaged my right arm through over-typing and I need to take the day off to let it heal or figure out what;’s wrong with it…

  21. Jrim Says:

    But what if the system were massively internalised and massively consensual? What if the gain were on both sides? Wouldn’t an outsider stepping in to blow whistles and point fingers look a bit foolish?

    Depends how many fingers you’ve got. Are we allowed to point at everyone?

  22. Momus Says:

    Well, that’s the very nub of the question. So far, Marxy hasn’t wanted to point at the Japanese people themselves. He’s preferred to try (somewhat absurdly, at times) to separate them from all their institutions and blame only the institutions: education, politics, the media, big business. This is because he’s polite, not because his analysis spares individual Japanese.

    Since Marxy’s position (and it’s a popular one amongst gaijin analysts) is that if Japan doesn’t change it will soon disintegrate economically, perhaps he’d like to look at the latest figures which show Japanese unemployment at a six-year low, with production increasing. Japanese unemployment is 4.4%; here in Germany it’s 12%. And yet only Donald Rumsfeld is blogging about how Germany will soon sink into the sea.

  23. nate Says:

    on an entry concerning erogs, marxys right arm is tired from overtyping? maybe he enjoys the spectacle and theater of it all more than he’s letting on.

    I think the consequences of the erog phenomenon are pretty paltry, so here’s a place where it doesn’t really matter that we’re being lied to. I don’t think anyone is really that upset or surprised that the sex industry is pretending that every to dou fu and ken is filled to bursting with wanton women ages 17 to 24. Not even marxy.

    There actually is a breed of the porn that revels in women economically forced to have sex or pose nude because they need money to pay for addictions or young children, but um… that’s not really all that hott.

    In the sex (as product) corner of the media, this kind of lie seems fine, but it’s the ease with which industry misrepresents itself, and the lack of offense (and often awareness) of the people in being lied to in places where it counts (the purportedly real news and consumer media) that worries everyone but momus.

  24. marxy Says:

    if Japan doesn’t change it will soon disintegrate economically

    Short-term things are better than when compared to the last eleven or twelve years of recession or stagnation. If you look at the long-term, Japan will not be a powerhouse economy with equally distributed income, as in the past. Japan will not “sink into the sea” but it may become about as interesting as Korea or Bulgaria, and I don’t think my blog would be so popular if it was about Bulgaria. (No offense to Bulgaria.)

    But the point was not that globalization is going to wreck the Japanese economy (although it will), but that it will wreck Japanese societal order. If women would just accept their role as wives and mothers and not doctors and employees, there would be a higher birthrate than 1.28.

    In the sex (as product) corner of the media, this kind of lie seems fine, but it’s the ease with which industry misrepresents itself, and the lack of offense (and often awareness) of the people in being lied to in places where it counts (the purportedly real news and consumer media) that worries everyone but momus.

    The erogs are just one more example of a whole system built on the media intentionally deceiving consumers in order to strengthen their connections to the economic/political powers.

  25. Gado Says:

    I will go one farther and say that the collapse of japan economically hinges on it’s ability to fix it’s mounting societal crisis (is that even a word?). If the very deep societal issues facing Japan aren’t addressed now…

    but then again, I’m not looking at the short term. I’m talking the next 10-20 years.

  26. Sarmoung Says:

    I’m reminded of all the chattering about London call-girl blog Belle de Jour and who had actually written it. It may or may not have been gorgeous, pouting Stewart Home. Not that it matters, since once a work has been ascribed to him, all other explanations seem rather lacklustre. I’m tempted to suggest that these erogs are similarly the work of similar Japanese Neoists and pranksters, but it’s less than likely.

    Discussing the question of authenticity in these erogs, or the value of manga against video games, isn’t that fascinating. I’d agree with what Marxy is indicating is disturbing in the original post. Specifically, the English language section of a Japanese newspaper doesn’t see fit to indicate that a huge swathe of these are not the work of randy amateurs but are just banner-ad and link-laden fronts for the sex industry. This is most probably apparent to those Japanese, and indeed others, who visit them. It’s not upon reading the article. I’m not sure what Ryann Connell does in the Mainichi offices apart from work on his alliteration. Has anyone ever met him? In my mind’s eye, he’s looking like Christopher Hitchens but with prominent trouser stains.

    Nate, I think it does matter that we’re being lied to for it’s the Connells of the world that mean I still have conversations with people who think the street corners of Japan are littered with used knicker vending machines or that no-pants shabu-shabu is as ubiquitous as Yoshinoya gyudon. In my last job I was phoned by a woman who was setting up a naked sushi (女体盛り?) restaurant and wanted an “expert” to corroborate this was a venerable and ancient practice for the press release. I didn’t, but it hasn’t noticeably decreased the amount of misinformation or dreaming about Japan. You can project just about anything onto the country and many people will believe it. I’d like to see the Western language press, particularly when originating from Japan, display just a little more nous than it does. As for the Japanese press itself…

    With regard to the decline or otherwise of Japan, let’s not start throwing unemployment statistics or similar about since those figures are variously massaged in their countries of origin and aren’t exactly equivalent. Japan may well collapse, or not, faster than the rest of the world. There’s too many darn variables to make reliable predictions.

    Marxy, personally I think Korea is more interesting than Japan, but I promise not to mention your slur to any burly Bulgarian friends who visit Tokyo.

  27. porandojin Says:

    yeah, actually Bulgaria is an interesting place- a kind of midtterean and oriental mix … and it used to be the socialist block riviera ! And they keep bears as pets! hehe

    I think the point may be your blog is popular because it’s entertaining, inspiring etc and beacuse foreigners’ diaries from exotic places were always a popular lecture- if you tried to write about America from some Yankeeville people would soon abandon this page …

  28. marxy Says:

    He’s preferred to try (somewhat absurdly, at times) to separate them from all their institutions and blame only the institutions: education, politics, the media, big business.

    The type of social transgressions I usually write about are only possibly created in the bases of power. I just came back home from Shibuya and a drunk old guy in the subway was intentionally battering me in some sort of weird territorial power play. There are certainly problems on an individual level, but they do not deserve an especially large amount of attention until they become indicative of a bigger trend.

    For the most part, Japanese individuals do not choose their business leaders, media elite, and bureaucrats, and the system is pretty stacked against actually changing the ruling party. These institutions, however, in their elitist outlook on the world find little reason to do anything proactively positive for their consumers/constituents; like in early 20th century America, what’s good for GM is good for America.

    There is not a freedom of fantasy in Japan. The only acceptable social theatre is the one that creates images promoting the interests of the ruling classes. There are news stories about blogs that prove women are secretly yearning for sex, but no grand stories of imaginary phenomena involving women using blogs to overthrow the shackles of male-dominated society. There is no neutrality to the media’s deviations from reality.

  29. marxy Says:

    Specifically, the English language section of a Japanese newspaper doesn’t see fit to indicate that a huge swathe of these are not the work of randy amateurs but are just banner-ad and link-laden fronts for the sex industry.

    Does anyone honestly believe that English versions of Japanese newspapers are real media institutions? No one moves to Japan to be a journalist; they work at those newspaper translation (read: English cleanup) jobs as an excuse to come to Japan. They are to journalism what Nova and Gaba are to learning.

  30. Momus Says:

    You skim the surface of huge topics, looking for the “lie” or “conspiracy”, meanwhile leaving out most of the important stuff. You seem to suggest in this entry that it’s a fiction that Japanese women enjoy sex, or titillating men. You’d rather hear that they were “overthrowing the shackles [sic] of male-dominated society”.

    What you don’t tell us (although it’s clear to everyone who visits the country) is that Japan is one of the most sexually-oriented nations in the world. It spends more on its sex industry than any other nation, as a percentage of GNP. Women dress in a more obviously sexual way than just about anywhere else. If shackles turn men on, Japanese women will be wearing designer shackles tomorrow. Spa magazine that “the latent number of buyers and sellers of sex in Japan’s major cities may eventually reach as much as half their entire populations.” (Of course, it’s worth remembering that sexual intercourse generated 100% of those populations in the first place.) Does the exchange of money make all that activity more fake or more real? Or perhaps Sarmoung is right: the question of authenticity is the least relevant and least interesting dimension to pick here.

  31. Momus Says:

    For instance, on Neomarxisme this kind of thing passes unremarked:

    These erogs’ sole appeal is the illusion of amateurism.

    That’s just plain wrong: the appeal is obviously sex. But you don’t say that because you want to go on to say that the amateurism is (drumroll) a lie. Things which aren’t lies don’t interest you, at least not on Neomarxisme. You can argue that amateurism is a lie, but you can’t very well say that sex is a lie. So amateurism becomes the blogs’ “sole appeal”.

  32. Sarmoung Says:

    Marxy: I certainly don’t think that foreign residents in Japan believe that the English-language versions of Japanese newspapers are worth much, perhaps much less now with internet news and radio, but I’m not sure that those outside Japan are so readily discerning about their sources.

    There’s a language chain called Gaba? I really have been away too long. At least using the Ramones in the posters would make a change from Celine, Ewan et al. I look forward to seeing those when I visit Japan (and exciting Korea!) in the autumn.

  33. marxy Says:

    You’d rather hear that they were “overthrowing the shackles [sic] of male-dominated society”.

    When did I say I’d rather hear that? But women as sexual objects is clearly the more commercially-attractive position than women as political beings. (Or maybe, people as objects is more attractive than people as political agents.)

    Women dress in a more obviously sexual way than just about anywhere else.

    I’ve never been to Brazil, but I question whether the Japanese dress more provocatively than EVERY OTHER culture on Earth.

    If shackles turn men on, Japanese women will be wearing designer shackles tomorrow.

    If women were really so bent on pleasing men, they’d be quitting their jobs, getting married and having kids, but instead the numbers show a serious new commitment to self-realization totally unrelated to men. The whole point of the ko-gyaru and Ura-Harajuku female looks was to turn off men. I think this is a really silly blanket statement about the current Japanese woman.

    It spends more on its sex industry than any other nation, as a percentage of GNP.

    I think this is a difficult issue to really turn black and white. If you look at worldwide polls on the aggregate amount of sex being had, Japan is always ranked very low. And with the paltry birth rate (the lowest in the world), clearly the population isn’t being created through widespread sex.

    What is happening is that there is a huge sex business where men pay to have sex with (lower-class) women (from the countryside and in debt.) There are serious economic motivations towards women’s employment in these sectors; is there any proof that women would choose working in soapland OVER a secretary job if they paid the same? Is there any proof that girls from upper middle-class families are becoming prostitutes at the same rate as those from working class families?

    A while back, I asked King of Pervs and Egg founder Yonehara Yasumasa, what kind of girls are in the sex business in Japan?

    Oh totally normal girls, he assured me.

    He points to a girl in a panty-fetish magazines: see this girl? She’s a friend of mine.

    Oh, what’s her story? I ask

    She was raped by her brother.

    And scene…

    I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that most post-industrial societies don’t need sex businesses because most sex happens within consensual relationships. The Italians seem to have a lot of sex with their girlfriends and wives and don’t need to outsource. Japanese men do not seem to think that going to Soapland is somehow counter towards being in a monogamous relationship, but I would suspect that an increase of sex industry sex stems from a decrease in “non-market” sex.

    So amateurism becomes the blogs’ “sole appeal”.

    Oh stop: you know what I mean… the appeal is “amateurs” + sex. If you want sex, you can see a lot smuttier things on other sites. What makes these able to compete with normal adult videos etc, is the idea that these are “real” women doing it for the sexual thrill, not the money.

  34. Jrim Says:

    Specifically, the English language section of a Japanese newspaper doesn’t see fit to indicate that a huge swathe of these are not the work of randy amateurs but are just banner-ad and link-laden fronts for the sex industry. This is most probably apparent to those Japanese, and indeed others, who visit them. It’s not upon reading the article. I’m not sure what Ryann Connell does in the Mainichi offices apart from work on his alliteration.

    Easy now. Haven’t you noticed the disclaimer?

    “WaiWai stories are transcriptions of articles that originally appeared in Japanese language publications. The Mainichi Daily News cannot be held responsible for the contents of the original articles, nor does it guarantee their accuracy. Views expressed in the WaiWai column are not necessarily those held by the Mainichi Daily News or Mainichi Newspapers Co.”

  35. Chris_B Says:

    Sarmoung: “WaiWai” should not be taken seriously. It is a collection of loose translations from the shukanshi which are not all that reliable in and of themselves. Its really “for entertainment purposes only”.

    momus: so the mix of fantasy and fact presented as news is OK with you then? Haven’t I seen you bitching about the US media doing that? Or is this only not OK when its not in Japan? This whole “erog” thing is just as believable as the phone sex ads anywhere which promise “real live lonely co-eds” or any other such thing.

  36. marxy Says:

    Satire below:

    Wai Wai on Phone Sex Ads
    By Ryann Caroll

    “According to the Shukan Post, phone boxes across Japan are flush with homemade flyers advertising sexual services with young women, including high school girls.”

    “Phone sex industry spokesman Tanaka Eisuke says, ‘Most young women these days – especially totally normal high school girls – want to have illicit sexual encounters with men for money and have been putting up those pictures in phone boxes to meet clients. Girls want to feel like sexual objects. These girls can’t say how they feel in real society, so they’re writing their real thoughts on these flyers and want men to call up and listen to their absolutely authentic sexual feelings.'”

  37. chimx Says:

    sounds like livejournal meets suicide girls. scary.

  38. joel Says:

    yes, it is true!