To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: Sex and Gender, Performance and Collaboration: The Works of Tomioka Taeko
1: Bodies Beyond Reproach: Sex in Tomioka Taeko's "Straw Dogs"
Friday, March 26, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of Rochester, United States
Tomioka Taeko cut her teeth on literature that privileges sex as a carnal act. Time and again she pens female protagonists, often middle-aged, who have no interest in the hang ups of romance (ai) or courtship, opting instead for sexual relationships that are purely and solely physical. In this way, Tomioka’s fiction contributes to a vibrant critique of the politics of sex and sexuality in modern Japan. Her short story “Straw Dogs,” for example, examines the pleasure the middle-aged protagonist/narrator derives from using younger men for sex. The text, not to speak of Tomioka’s broader literary corpus, affords us the opportunity to think about the positionality of sexually active older women as well as the nature of sex itself. To this end, my talk will engage the sexual and textual politics of “Straw Dogs.” In Japan, middle-aged women are often excluded from discussions of sex, occupying a socially constructed space of nurturance and caregiving. In “Straw Dogs,” Tomioka urges us to reimagine the discursive constraints of sex. At the same time, she writes against dominant narratives of romantic love (ai) that tend to govern ideas of sexual relationships. As I argue, Tomioka envisions sex as an animalistic necessity for her protagonist, thereby challenging what we know, and what we think we know, about who has sex and why.