Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lessons from Watching Japanese Porn for Money

Life is about experience, and that experience can come in many different ways, in work, in recreation, and in entertainment.  Sometimes, the boundaries of those three things blur, giving new realizations of how one perceives work, of entertainment, and of what is the difference between "work" and "life."  A paid translation project that the author completed in the last few days is a perfect illustration of this blurring.  Required to submit English subtitles for Japanese adult videos, he was quite surprised, in a brand-new way, of just how porn, work psychology, and a bit more subtly, how human desire and work ethic works.

Below are some of the main lessons learned from this little paid exercise:

(1) Expressions of Heated Passion are Untranslatable

A good translator does not simply convert words and sentences from one language to another.  S/he, more importantly, extract the cultural nuances expressed by those original words and sentences, and convert them into a cultural context that is understandable and relatable for native speakers of the destination language.  The goal is to ensure that by reading the translated text, the reader can get the exact same feelings, emotions, and unspoken, underlying meanings that a reader would get if s/he read the original text.  Translation is about communicating dictionary meanings, but cultural and emotional ones.

Of course, given how lofty and idealistic that sounds, it never really works out in the real world.  Different cultures express the same thing in such different ways that often, reconciling the languages emotively is simply impossible.  And that is particularly true for something sexually explicit.  In bouts of joy and excitement, people in different cultures scream different things.  Interestingly, those different things, when translated, makes complete sense in meaning, but no longer connotes "being elated."  The result is a glaring gap between the obvious action and "ummm...wait, why is she saying that when she is doing that?"

(2) Porn Conversations are Really Boring, Especially in Japanese

No one watches porn for great acting, and frankly, most people just quickly glance through the opening (non-sexual) sequences of the videos to get a rough idea of the context for the action, before skipping through straight to the action.  So there obviously is no great demand for talking scripts to be creative.  But even by the low standards of pornography in general, the level of repetitiveness of terms and phrases used, especially after the main action starts, is just ridiculous.  Phrase A...silence...phrase B...silence...phrase A...silence...phrase B.  The same pattern goes on and on for the majority of the video.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the Japanese language does not have much variety in adjective to begin with.  すごい ("sugoi," meaning "wow, great") is exclusively used to express admiration or amazement, while 気持ちいい ("kimochiii," meaning "feels good") is exclusively used to denote enjoyment or happiness.  The use is so exclusive that in one instance, the author recorded (and translated) the same phrases more than twenty times in some ten minutes of actual sexual intercourse.  Makes translation easy, perhaps, but it sure does not add any "spice" to the conversations.

(3) Watching Porn for Extended Period of Time, Not for Recreation, is Psychologically Damaging

Few months ago, there was a new article in China about how the government is hiring censors to watch out for sexually explicit content on the Internet.  Young male netizens could not hide their excitement, noting how there finally is a job out there for people who want to get paid watching porn.  The author's personal experience of doing just that has shown him that getting paid to watch porn is not just not fun, but can be highly damaging for the person.  Much of it has to do with just how the average person actually processes porn versus how he thinks he processes porn.

Think about it this way: unless one has a serious case of porn addiction, one would not consider watching porn for 3-4 hours.  After all, the length of time needed to do what one needs to do while watching porn does not even come close to 3-4 hours.  People just assume that if they double the time used to achieve self-pleasure, they will get twice the pleasure.  It simply does not work that way.  When one is not aroused, physical expressions of carnal desires is just visually gross.  To compel oneself to ingest this stuff for more than the amount of time needed to orgasm can only makes one feel sick enough to bring out the gag reflex.


It would not be an exaggeration to say that once a person had the opportunity to see porn from a professional light, the person can never see porn in the same way again.  For this particular author, the struggle moving forward to not think about how to translate every line, however absurdly sexualized, in the videos and questions whether the average native English speaker would express him/herself in the same way under the same circumstances about the same feelings.  Yet, it is interesting that even something as ubiquitous as porn can reflect little pieces of sociolinguistics and social psychology.  

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