Sanitized Sex is a book about sex. It investigates the regulation of sex, mostly in form of prostitution, during the Occupation of Japan after World War II. An intersectional analysis of the narratives and practices circulating around the conceptualization and actual implementation of regulating the sexual encounter between occupiers and occupied unravels the complex asymmetries and dynamics of power during the occupation period. Sanitized Sex thus depicts the multiple layers of agency between and among occupiers and occupied while paying particular attention to the mostly male, low- and middle-ranking American and Japanese administrators. Their struggle over the control of men, women and their sexualities was a struggle to seize authority by establishing and maintaining heteronormativity and male-dominance in the wake of victory and defeat.
Sanitized Sex contributes to the social and cultural history of the occupation of Japan. In addition, the book highlights the various trajectories of imperial histories and their impact on the occupation while also underscoring the significance of the occupation of Japan for the development of new forms of hegemony in the postwar era. On the one hand, Sanitized Sex argues for the close entwinement of sexuality, prostitution, venereal disease and its regulation with the emergence of postwar Japanese nationalism. On the other hand, the book demonstrates the particularities of postwar US imperialism in the Asia Pacific region. That said, the book is more than a study of the sexual encounters in postwar Japan. It also offers a reading of the intimacies of empires—defeated and victorious.