Philosophical study of life, death, and nature
Confessions of a Frigid Man
The term “sexuality” refers to an individual’s deeply ingrained ways of thinking and feeling about sex. The sexuality of men is difficult to examine. Recently, Jun’ichi Watanabe has discussed this topic in The Nature of Men (Otoko to Iumono, Chūkō Bunko, 2001, originally published in 1998), but his approach involves only a broad generalization of “how men are.” In Watanabe’s mind, a man’s sexuality does not change at all from the time he is born.
My sexuality, however, changed significantly after I entered my thirties. This change shook my identity at its roots and profoundly altered how I live my life. This experience has given me first-hand knowledge of the falsity of general claims about “how men are.” The phrase “this is how men are” is nothing more than a compact between men to tell each other that “this is how men are and make things easier for ourselves.”
The study of male sexuality has just begun. In this chapter, I would like to address one of the topics I have been thinking about for a long time: why do I feel desire for (get turned on by) miniskirts? I will write about this in the first person, because not all men are attracted to miniskirts. It seems to have been empirically verified, however, that a large percentage of men do indeed find this article of clothing sexually arousing. In manga [Japanese comic books, often aimed at adults] and other forms of entertainment, scenes of a man’s attention being captured by a miniskirt are often depicted. Miniskirts are the standard attire of event models at trade fairs and expos and “race queens” [scantily clad women who appear at motorsport events].
The exploration of one’s own sexuality involves a great deal of pain and shame. This is no doubt true for both men and women. I have long interrogated myself on the subject of miniskirts. Some of my questions have been answered, but many remain. In some cases the mystery has been solved and I have been cured of what was bothering me.
To begin with, let me present two interesting examples.
Example one: As part of a program on NHK educational television, I was once filmed visiting a transvestite bar in the “Ni-chōme” area of Shinjuku [a well-known gay district in Tokyo]. Inside the bar, men dressed as women drank and chatted. Each of the men had their own distinct style, and I enjoyed talking with them. While I was conducting an interview, one of them stood up from the sofa where he had been sitting. He was wearing a tight-fitting miniskirt, and the line of his legs and hips was just like that of a woman. When I saw his legs, I felt attracted to them without thinking. This was a shocking experience. I was there to shoot footage of a transvestite bar, so I had presumably looked at him with the assumption that he was biologically male. But I nevertheless responded strongly to his miniskirt-clad form.
I had been well aware that I liked miniskirts. Until this event, however, I had thought that what I liked was “women wearing miniskirts.” This belief had now been completely upended. Even if the person wearing it was a man, as long as he had beautiful legs like a woman I was still turned on by the sight of a miniskirt. What exactly was going on here?
Example two: This is something I first noticed when I was quite young. Say I am on a train, for instance, and there is a woman in a miniskirt sitting down. As she is wearing a miniskirt, my eyes keep straying to her thighs. This excites me and I start to get turned on. When she stands up to get off the train, however, I notice that what I had thought was a miniskirt was actually a pair of shorts (culottes). In that instant, my desire is completely extinguished and replaced with a powerful feeling of disappointment.
What is going on when this sort of thing occurs? Whether she is wearing a miniskirt or shorts, the exposed surface of her legs is presumably the same. Short culottes present the same silhouette as a miniskirt when seen at a distance. In other words, there should be almost no change in the way the lower half of her body appears. What changes is only something in my head; in my mind there is a drastic shift from the fantasy of “she’s wearing a miniskirt” to the disappointment of “she’s wearing shorts.”
2 Discrepancies in understanding between men and women
What can be understood from these two examples?
It would seem that the central issue is the “process of meaning attribution” (the process by which we try to attach meaning to what we see in front of us). The key point here is my (mistaken) attribution of the meaning “she is wearing a miniskirt, not shorts” to what I am seeing. In other words, short hemlines are not the only significant characteristic of miniskirts. What is important is the fact that the fantasy of catching a glimpse of a woman’s underwear below the hem of her skirt runs through men’s minds.
After talking to women about miniskirts, I realized that many of them did not understand this sensitive pressure point of my sexuality. When I ask a woman why she thinks men are turned on by miniskirts, the most common answer is “because miniskirts make a woman’s legs look beautiful.” Of course, when I see slender, shapely legs I do indeed find them appealing. But this is different from the feeling I get when I am turned on by a miniskirt. There is a phrase in Japanese that translates to “discrepancy in understanding between men and women” and it seems apropos in this case. The general opinion among women is that men are attracted to the beautiful legs exposed by a miniskirt. Some women then want their own legs to look good and receive this kind of male attention.
What is really important for me, however, is just the possibility of seeing a woman’s underwear.
3 The importance of the presence or absence of a “will to keep something hidden”
Let us shift our perspective slightly and consider tennis outfits. When the players move, what they are wearing under their skirts is completely exposed, but this does not turn me on at all. I can’t see these outfits as anything other than sportswear. So what is the difference between a tight miniskirt and a tennis outfit? Professional female tennis player Martina Hingis had a product logo printed on her under-skirt. This is a clue. Tennis outfits are designed with the intention of publicly “exposing” what is under the skirt. That is why they do not turn me on.
In other words, my sexuality has been constructed in such a way that I am not attracted to what is deliberately “left in plain sight” in this manner. In a sense, it may be similar to the sexuality of a rapist. Rapists are said to only feel strong desire for women who are unwilling. There may be a significant point of similarity between rapists whose arousal depends on whether a woman is “willing or unwilling” and men like me whose arousal depends on whether something is “hidden or in plain sight.”
But if it is better that what is under the skirt be hidden, shouldn’t a long skirt be just as good as a miniskirt? With long skirts the concealment is complete. I must therefore rephrase my explanation with greater precision. What is important is that what is under the skirt may be exposed even though there is an intention to keep it hidden. In the case of Hingis, seeing what is under her skirt is not arousing because no attempt is being made to conceal it.
The “body conscious” miniskirts that became very popular in the 1990s were a type of clothing that strongly stimulated my apparatus of sexual desire (the mechanism by which I become sexually aroused). This item of clothing is indeed not very tasteful so I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it turns me on, but since it is the truth, there is no avoiding this admission. The appeal of the body conscious miniskirt lies in the fact that when a woman moves or sits down, it tends to ride up her thighs. This occurs because they are made of materials with a great deal of elasticity. Here the idea of the miniskirt finds its supreme embodiment: even if a woman pulls it down with both hands, her hemline rises on its own in opposition to her will. Although she tries to prevent us from seeing what is under her skirt, it becomes almost visible again when she releases her hands. When my eyes are drawn without thinking to this state of affairs, a feeling of sexual desire directed towards the miniskirt arises within me.
4 Under the miniskirt: white panties
So what exactly is being hidden underneath a miniskirt? Female genitalia? But it is not that simple, because there is the question of what happens if the woman is not wearing anything under her skirt – if she is not wearing any underwear. Here we are faced with another difficult problem. A miniskirt with no underwear beneath it is another mechanism that arouses sexual desire in men. I can understand this form of arousal. Here we must consider what is occurring more carefully.
To begin with, let us assume that the woman’s genitals would be visible when I catch a glimpse under her skirt. Would I be turned on by this? The answer is “no.” I would not be sexually aroused. My apparatus of desire only functions if she is wearing white panties. My sexuality views female genitals as “something that must be wrapped up.” They must be solemnly covered by white cloth so that we cannot know what is underneath. And this whole package must be positioned in such a way that it may be seen at any moment beneath the miniskirt. In other words, the core of this mechanism can be interpreted as “the covered form itself (white panties) seems about to be revealed.”
Am I particular about the genitalia covered by underwear? As it turns out I am not. Remember the first episode I recounted: I felt the same kind of sexual attraction to a miniskirt being worn by a man dressed as a woman. At the time, I was well aware that the person wearing the miniskirt was biologically male. So I did not for a moment think that what was under the panties was female genitalia. Even so, I felt sexual desire.
At the same time, however, we must not overlook the fact that the man in question was dressed as a woman. If a kilt, a skirt worn by men as part of the traditional Scottish costume, were shortened, would it turn me on? I suspect it would not.
If so, the important point must indeed be the relationship between skirts meant for women and underwear meant for women; as long as I can confirm that what I am looking at is the image of a woman in a miniskirt, the rest doesn’t matter. Even if in fact it is a man wearing the skirt, as long as it looks as though it could be a woman, there is no problem, because what I am sexually attracted to is not the flesh and blood human being under the clothes.
The interpretation of this phenomenon from a feminist perspective may be that men are turned on by the sense of superiority or domination they feel when they see a woman made vulnerable by her miniskirt and high heeled shoes. This is indeed one possible interpretation. When it comes to miniskirts, however, does this kind of explanation based on superiority and domination make sense? While I think this kind of explanation may be the best approach to understanding things like rape or confinement, regarding miniskirts it fails to completely explain what occurs.
5 In the case of dolls, anime and manga, what is it that I find arousing?
Let us proceed on the basis of what has been set out above. If it is true that I am really not attracted to the female body inside the skirt, then could I be turned on by a mannequin in a miniskirt? I probably could. The strength of my arousal would be reduced, however, because the mannequin does not move. As there is no motion, the defining characteristic of the miniskirt, the dynamism between concealment and revelation, becomes difficult to perceive. In the case of a mannequin, I must therefore supply this dynamism through the use of my imagination. Without the use of my intellectual faculties it is impossible for me to be turned on by a mannequin.
Nonetheless, there are silicon mannequins called “RealDolls” created using techniques developed by Hollywood special effects artists, and it might be quite easy for me to feel desire for one of these dolls dressed in a miniskirt. In fact, it seems that there are some people who develop a fixation on these dolls. So what would happen if there were a mechanically animated mannequin in a miniskirt? Say, it could walk around and sit down like a human being. In this case, I suspect I would feel the same sort of desire triggered by a real woman. Since realistic female robots constructed using leading edge technology are already in the research and development stage, it seems plausible that eventually they will be produced and sold for general consumption. When this happens, I think many men will dress them in miniskirts. There is a sex scene involving a mechanical female doll in Fellini’s Casanova. It is interesting to note that Casanova chooses a doll-like automaton as the final stop on his journey of erotic encounters.
Anime [a style of animation originating in Japan and often aimed at adults] and manga can of course arouse desire in similar ways. Anime can portray movement, and nearly all of the women who appear in Neon Genesis Evangelion, for example, wear micro-miniskirts. Among these short skirts, the micro-mini worn by the character named Misato Katsuragi is particularly striking. We must not overlook the fact that the women who appear in this animated masterpiece, a work that skillfully depicts the struggles deep in the hearts and minds of young people, all wear miniskirts. New generations of men form their sexuality through such animated series; as long as they have female characters like Misato Katsuragi, they can feel powerful desire even without a flesh and blood woman.
When it comes to manga, motion must be introduced in order for the mechanism of the miniskirt to function. An example of how this has been successfully accomplished can be seen in Hiroki Yagami’s G-Taste series (Kōdansha). Yagami is also particular about dressing all of his female characters in very short miniskirts. The extremely colorful women he depicts wear uniforms and “body conscious” outfits. He also draws women nude, but the nude body is not what he prefers to portray; his women are always covering their bodies with something. Yagami’s aim is to perfectly depict the materials they use to cover themselves. In order to introduce a sense of motion in his manga artwork, he developed a technique of drawing countless tiny wrinkles in a miniskirt. He imparts motion to a miniskirt by giving it many more wrinkles than would actually exist, and by doing so succeeds in expressing the dynamism between concealment and revelation.
6 As long as there’s a miniskirt I don’t need a flesh and blood woman
Underwear is something that covers and hides female genitalia. Why am I turned on when a glimpse of this fabric that covers female genitals seems about to be revealed? This is a difficult question to answer, but one thing I can say is that it is not because I think I may be able to see the woman’s genitals under her skirt. On the contrary, I am aroused knowing that even if the skirt flew all the way up, the woman’s genitals would presumably be covered and hidden by her underwear. I feel a shudder of excitement to think that I cannot see them no matter how hard I try.
I have also noticed that being on the edge of catching sight of a woman’s underwear, without this revelation actually occurring, can give rise to religious feelings. This is because people have traditionally seen the form of “god” in sublime things they are able to glimpse briefly but cannot reach. Here we find the reason that the underwear beneath the miniskirt must be the sacred color “white.” The sight of something wrapped in white cloth appearing and disappearing from view beneath the edge of the miniskirt is full of religious connotations.
Men find miniskirts alluring because they have the sense that something breathtakingly wonderful which transcends this world can be glimpsed beneath them in the shape of underwear. When this happens, the flesh and blood woman who wears the skirt, a woman with her own will and emotions, is nothing more than an obstacle to the men experiencing this sensation. The gaze of a man staring at a miniskirt is uncomfortable for a woman not because he views her as a miniskirt-wearing slut or whore but because she is struck by the way his exclusive fixation on her skirt implies that as long as there is a miniskirt the woman wearing it is unnecessary.
Those who possess this discomfiting gaze are “frigid men,” and this contemporary pathology is also behind the emergence of other phenomena such as “lolicon”and the fetishizing of school uniforms.
(End of Chapter 1)