Violence in Representation
The United Nation defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”7 In the case of virtual women or girls in manga and anime, however, the consumer does not actually inflict harm either bodily or psychologically to a woman. In the real world, our actions and behavior are governed by taboos that are very pervasive and even deemed to be natural. In cyber games, the player is not constrained by such rules; he is not even bound by physicality.
A sub-category of manga and anime specifically catering to adults is Visual Novels also known as EROGES or erotic games. Before the advent of internet, adult manga and anime could be very hard to find; one might have to go to some seedy side streets of Japan to be able to get hold of them. Now, “friendly” internet servers and torrent portals make them readily available to everyone. While popular anime or manga have already been studied and analyzed, this particular subcategory remains largely unchartered. Maybe the reason is that it is for adults and it does not raise a lot of alarms from conservatives. It could also be that it is more of a novel than a game. Our concern, however, is the representation of Japanese women in this genre, and how this representation is a form of violence against women. Girls and/or women get beaten into submission and are raped; women and girls are gang-raped violently. In eroges, these occurrences seem to be a matter, of course. An eroge fan—college-age kid—shrugged while giving me this information. But he hastened to point out that they were not what drove him to patronize visual novels but the fact that they were beautifully-written stories with top-notch graphics.
One such popular game is Hitomi, My Stepsister.8 The protagonist mistakenly thinks his sister, Hitomi, is seducing him when in fact she is just acting in a normal and ordinary way. Because she has a beautiful body, he thinks she is being seductive. When he cannot stand the temptation anymore, he forcibly rapes her. As an interactive simulation (SIM) game, the protagonist is the player and the menu offers several ways Hitomi can be raped with choices that range from vaginal penetrative sex, anal sex, oral sex, masturbation and Bukake, a Japanese term for ejaculation, specifically ejaculating on her face. Graphics- wise, it is very realistic in its depictions of rape, domination, and the submission of women.
Hitomi is an adult game and there are warnings of high and explicit sexual and violent content. However, it is very accessible because it is distributed freely and circulated widely which means that minors all over the world can get hold of it without much fuss. According to several patrons of these eroge games, the self-censorship as practiced by the hosting sites of this game is merely lip-service. A Filipino male gamer who has spent 168 hours playing eroge attests to their wide patronage and distribution base. Hitomi reinforces, as one gamer reveals, his general cluelessness when it comes to reading females’ actuation and often misunderstands it as seduction or flirtation or an “attempt to lead him on.” Hitomfs protagonist and narrator misreads his stepsister's actions and when he is rebuffed, he blames her and justifies his action as a “righting of a wrong.” And, according to this particular gamer, it is just because men can do whatever they can do to women. The game sends the message across to all men in the world that while the woman suffers, the man gets away from the violence scot-free and with no accountability.