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Tentacle erotica (shokushu goukan, 触手強姦, "tentacle violation") or tentacle rape is a type of pornography most commonly found in Japan which integrates traditional pornography with elements of bestiality and a fantasy, horror, or science-fiction theme. It is found in some horror or hentai titles, with tentacled creatures (usually fictional monsters) having sexual intercourse, predominantly with females. Tentacle erotica can be consensual but frequently contains elements of rape.
The genre is popular enough in Japan that it is the subject of parody. In the 21st century, Japanese films of this genre have become more common in the United States and Europe, although it still remains a small, fetish-oriented part of the adult film industry. While most tentacle erotica is animated, there are also a few live action movies.
Creatures with tentacles appeared in Japanese erotica long before animated pornography. Among the most famous of the early instances is an illustration from the 1814 Hokusai Katsushika novel Kinoe no komatsu popularly known as The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife. It is an example of shunga (Japanese erotic woodblock art) and has been reworked by a number of artists. Masami Teraoka brought the image up to date with his 2001 work "Sarah and Octopus/Seventh Heaven", part of his Waves and Plagues collection.
A scholarly paper by Danielle Talerico showed that although western audiences often interpret Hokusai's famous design as rape, Japanese audiences of the Edo period would have viewed it as consensual. They would have recognized the print as depicting the legend of the female abalone diver Tamatori. In the story, Tamatori steals a jewel from the Dragon King. During her escape, the Dragon King and his sea-life minions (including octopodes) pursue her. The dialogue in the illustration shows the diver and two octopodes expressing mutual enjoyment.
Contemporary censorship in Japan dates to the Meiji period. The influence of European Victorian culture was a catalyst for legislative interest in public sexual mores. Post-WWII, the Allies imposed a number of reforms on the Japanese government including anti-censorship laws. The legal proscriptions against pornography, therefore, derive from the nation's penal code.
At present, “obscenity” is still prohibited. How this term is interpreted has not remained constant. While exposed genitalia (and, until recently, pubic hair) are illegal, the diversity of permissible sexual acts is now wide compared with other liberal democracies.
Leaders within the tentacle porn industry have stated that much of their work was initially directed at circumventing this policy. The animator Toshio Maeda stated: “At that time pre-Urotsukidōji, it was illegal to create a sensual scene in bed. I thought I should do something to avoid drawing such a normal sensual scene. So I just created a creature. His tentacle is not a penis as a pretext. I could say, as an excuse, this is not a penis; this is just a part of the creature. You know, the creatures, they don't have a gender. A creature is a creature. So it is not obscene – not illegal."
The earliest animated form of tentacle assault was in the 1985 anime hentai OVA Dream Hunter Rem, though the scene in question was excised when the OVA was re-released in a non-hentai form. The first entirely non-hentai anime production portraying a tentacle assault would be 1986 anime OVA Guyver: Out of Control, where a female Chronos soldier named Valcuria (voiced by Keiko Toda) is enshrouded by the 2nd (damaged) Guyver unit that surrounds her in tentacle form and penetrates all orifices.
Numerous animated tentacle erotica films followed the next couple decades, with more popular titles such as 1986's Urotsukidoji, 1992's La Blue Girl and 1995's Demon Beast Resurrection becoming common sights in large video store chains in the United States and elsewhere. The volume of films in this genre has slowed from the peak years in the 1990s but continue to be produced to the present day.
In 1989, Toshio Maeda's manga Demon Beast Invasion created what might be called the modern Japanese paradigm of tentacle porn, in which the elements of sexual assault are emphasized. Maeda explained that he invented the practice to get around strict Japanese censorship regulations, which prohibit the depiction of the penis but apparently do not prohibit showing sexual penetration by a tentacle or similar (often robotic) appendage.
The use of sexualized tentacles in live action films, while much rarer, started in American B-movie horror films and has since migrated back to Japan. B-movie producer Roger Corman used the concept of tentacle rape in a brief scene in his 1970 film The Dunwich Horror, a film adaptation of the H. P. Lovecraft short story of the same name. Vice magazine identifies this as "perhaps cinema history's first tentacle-rape scene".
A decade later, Corman would again use tentacle rape while producing Galaxy of Terror, released in 1980. Arguably the most notorious example of tentacle rape to date, Corman directed a scene in which actress Taaffe O'Connell, playing an astronaut on a future space mission is captured, raped, and killed by a giant, tentacled worm. The film borrows the concept of the "id monster" from the 1950s film Forbidden Planet, with the worm being a manifestation of the O'Connell character's fears. The scene was graphic enough that the film's director, B. D. Clark, refused to helm it, and O'Connell refused to do the full nudity required by Corman, so Corman directed the scene himself and used a body double for some of the more graphic shots. Initially given an X-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, tiny cuts were made to the scene which changed the movie's rating to 'R'.
An even more popular film from 1981, Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead, has actress Ellen Sandweiss' character being attacked by the possessed woods she is walking in. The evil spirit inhabiting the woods uses tree limbs and branches to ensnare, strip, and rape her, "entering" (i.e., possessing) her through the sexual act in a way very similar to that in which tentacles are normally depicted. The scene was repeated in a much shorter version in the sequel, Evil Dead II, released in 1987. Another film, this time dealing with the life of artist Katsushika Hokusai, was the Japanese made 1981 film Edo Porn, which featured the far-famed Dream of the Fisherman's Wife painting in a live action depiction. In the film Possession (also from 1981) a woman copulates with a tentacled creature, although the tentacles themselves are never explicitly expressed as penetrating her.
The popularity of these films has led to the subsequent production of numerous live action tentacle films in Japan from the 1990s to the present day. The theme has appeared more rarely in adult American cinema and art; one example is American artist Zak Smith, who has painted works featuring octopuses and porn stars in various stages of intercourse. In 2016, Amat Escalante directed an art house movie called The Untamed which depicts a live action scene between the female protagonist and a tentacled space alien.
- Courage, Katherine Harmon (2013). "Tentacle Erotica". Octopus!: The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea. Penguin Books. ISBN 9780698137677.
- Talerico, Danielle. “Interpreting Sexual Imagery in Japanese Prints: A Fresh Approach to Hokusai’s Diver and Two Octopi”, in Impressions, The Journal of the Ukiyo-e Society of America, Vol. 23 (2001).
- Manga Artist Interview Series (Part 1), 2002
- Eil, Philip (August 20, 2015). "The Posthumous Pornification of H. P. Lovecraft". Vice. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
- Scherer, Agnes (2016). Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film. Springer Publishing. p. 41. ISBN 9781137570635.