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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

The Sexualized Male - Representations of Men in Contemporary Japanese Women's Magazines

September 29, 1999 / 6.30 P.M.

Barbara Holthus, University of Hawaii

Kimutaku!!!! The heartthrob of Japanese girls turns girls heads way beyond the borders of Japan to even Hong Kong. What are the charms of this 29 year old tarento? And what distinguishes him from other idols? What are the women desiring? Much was written recently about the increasing feminization and at the same time quote;de-masculizationquote; of Japanese men. The typical quote;salarymanquote; is out. Increasing sales of men’s cosmetics, a rising number of cosmetic surgery done on men, and the increasing number of men starting to wear skirts or other feminine clothing items, started a mediastorm.

A new trend in Japanese women’s magazines in the late 1990s is to increasingly focus on men and to sexualize them. A qualitative visual and textual analysis of Japanese women’s magazines helps to gain an understanding what types of men are desired by women, who are disliked, what kind of relations to men are idealized and what expectations women have of men and an ideal partnership. The quote;newquote; feminized, quote;yasashiiquote; man, idealized by women’s magazines, is to be analyzed as a symbol of changing gender relations.

Barbara HOLTHUS is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is currently a research fellow at the German Institute of Japanese Studies in Tōkyō.