Organized Panel Session
In 2013, Osaka mayor Hashimoto Toru made (inter)national headlines by claiming that military-run brothels were a necessary sexual outlet during the Pacific War. While the majority of the backlash concerned Hashimoto’s implicit approval of wartime sexual slavery, there was a small number of young Japanese men who took issue with his definition of manhood. In the Japanese blogosphere they decried what they viewed as the equation of maleness with being heterosexually active. While their critiques ignored the possibility of homosexuality, they nevertheless spoke to a growing “movement” among Japanese men in which masculinity is dependent on having sexual relations with women. This paper, revolving around the lifeworlds and political agendas of “male virgins” (dōtei), examines how men are challenging dominant paradigms of masculinity and offering alternative forms of masculinity. Based on ethnographic interviews, media analysis, and readings of popular dōtei textbooks, this paper is a corrective to female-virginity-centered research. Furthermore, while much of the scholarly work on Japanese masculinity focuses on work as the primary means to adult manhood, therefore reifying the sexual/intimate as tertiary. I argue that sexual activity, personally defined, is a major factor in how men construct themselves as men, and how society constructs them in turn.