Every time it crosses my mind, I am confused by two fully grown, adult people’s chosen way of life. I mean, those in this world can live however they wish but cultural differences aside, it completely makes no sense to needlessly suffer.
Especially with the revelation that this may have been a biopic, my opinion on these events is further cemented – dramatized or not.
My Husband’s Penis Won’t Fit [夫のちんぽが入らない ], or My Husband Won’t Fit (in the West) is a 2019 Netflix series. It tells the story of Kumiko and Kenichi, college sweethearts who marry and start a life together.
Although this sounds fine and the relationship progresses in a “normal” fashion, it begins oddly.
So let me just say that I am not shaming anyone for engaging in societal-driven “unconventional” relationships. Often, a country’s popular media is vastly different from the internalized underbelly of reality. You can, of course, search for and find common themes in various works to weave together your own prognosis – despite often having to search far and wide.
The nation of Japan is one such situation. Cultural enigma to some, a last frontier of untapped “orientalism” for others. It is a country that has never been heavily influenced by a domineering outer force, such as its neighbor Korea. One half of that country is split in darkness; the other with its darkness hidden behind the dazzle of technologically innovative lights, sleek designer clothing, Internet faster than the speed of light, traditionally healthy but interestingly unhealthy western-influenced foods.
A society that seems to have growing pains, with a youth population that mirrors select big cities in America or other Westernized Asian countries like Hong Kong or Singapore. At least on the surface level.
Concerning Japan, if you look a little too deeply you can find the isolation underneath the sense of idolizing childhood friends. The taboo and deviant practices of falling for a cousin or admiring the body of a much younger female as allegories of sexual repression. I mean don’t get me wrong, Miyazaki Hayao said it best in The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness – “Anime was a mistake”.
This meme receives a lot of attention online and its funny given the father of anime (in his Western portrayal) hating his own creation. He is always likened or akin to a Victor Frankenstein who has lost control of his creation.
But no, Miyazaki was trying to point out the pedophiles who hide behind this guise and mingle seamlessly with those expressing forms of deviance in Japan. One example that comes to mind is Aku no Hana by Oshimi Shuuzo. My favorite manga aside, it deals with themes of isolation, repression, and ridged Japanese society in a decaying, rural mountain village. It is a work that focused more on the psychosomatic ramifications of the inciting incident, a middle schooler stealing his peer (and crush’s) sweaty gym clothes.
The story lingers on the main character’s constant blackmail by lonely young girl manipulating the situation for her benefit, along with the subtle influence of a western instrument of media. Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal is a catalyst that ignites Kasuga Takao’s downfall, rebirth, and then liberation from creepy middle schooler to young adult cognizant of his actions, and their possible impact on society.
The act of deviance is rightfully labeled a sickness, and integration into society is the solution.
I can’t think of any shows right now that deal with themes of pedophilia, but I’m sure a visit to my archaic dropped shows on myanimelist should provide suggestions.
I have not forgotten about my initial point, and I will explain it in a moment. I would also like to bring up the conversation between Kumiko and her cousin during their great aunt’s funeral.
The two spoke of Nippon’s old customs regarding sexuality, and how Christianity from the West altered the nature of sexual contact to that of shame in the minds of many Japanese. With this in observance, I am reminded of learning the origins of Japanese tentacle porn one night at Anime Expo’s Hentai Con. Toshio Maeda drew tentacles as a mean to evade strict government censorship, which still persists today.
From the outside looking in it would just seem like “whacky Japanese porn and their squids” but knowing a fraction of the history gives it a whole new dimension.
Kumiko’s aunt was the “starter girl” so to speak for the neighborhood boys, who gave her candy in exchange for coital relations. She was not a prostitute, and despite similar activities still going on in Japan under a different guise, she was shunned with stigma even by her own family.
(Note: I found the linked video through an article on Tofugu about Nishinari. It’s worth a read, if anything else!)
Her cousin made claims of village orgies that fell on death ears. Kumiko later prays to her aunt at her grave site, believing she has been cursed. A ray of light shines over her, implying her prayer had been received. But after not being able to have sex with her new husband, Kumiko believes she is being mocked by her dead aunt, her parents, society, her students, and the convenience store clerks from which she purchased pornography.
So jumping back into the main storyline analysis, Kumiko and Keichi meet and attempt a one night stand. Keichi doesn’t fit and with an inflated ego, believes Kumiko is a virgin and continues to date her. Fast forward a few episodes and Kumiko unknowingly signs up for a dating website. She sleeps with a bunch of mentally deranged men, and recounts losing her virginity with a random boy in her youth.
I am not judging her for these interactions. Sex is viewed as something meaningless to Kumiko, as her first time was on a whim to “get it over with”. After her small Hokkaido town had already essentially slept with one another, Kumiko wished to sleep with someone different. In an insular society where old customs or knowledge of those reside, no one was “slut-shaming” one another.
One of the first men Kumiko hooks up with provides her with some lube, later telling her he figured she was too innocent to realize she signed up for a dating website. He also lets her know that she now had gained a reputation of being somewhat of a whore. She takes the lube and continually tries with her husband, resulting in him visiting brothels all the while denying he needs sexual intercourse without intimacy to survive.
The culmination of this unspoken tension between the two results in Kumiko crouched on her knees in a back alley across from Keichi’s brothel in broad daylight. Thanking the “big boobed girl” mascot of the brothel for taking care of her husband. Kumiko then proceeds to initiate the show’s opening sequence: where she almost drives off a cliff by accident because she is too busy thinking about how her husband’s penis won’t fit in her vagina.
Despite the brothel wenches and one of Keichi’s students telling him that he doesn’t seem happy, he and his wife come to an agreement where they both lie to themselves and decide not to have kids. This enrages Keichi’s parents, as he is their only son and their family name will die with him. Kumiko’s parents protest the blame of their daughter, and both families agree a divorce would be best. Kumiko decides to tell the relatives that her husband’s huge penis won’t fit inside of her, stunning them all.
I am reminded while writing, of the scene where Kumiko’s mother uses lubricant to free her daughter of the stuck engagement ring. This cognitive remembrance shortly followed by Keichi’s awe at his sister’s pregnancy.
Any who, the couple laughs their parent’s agony off and Kumiko decides to go to a…fertility clinic of all places. Where she is promptly threatened into having kids by one of the overbearing workers. She exits the “White Lady” clinic and informs Keichi of her decision. He supports it, and the two walk off into the sunset together.
Kumiko will no doubt lament being unable to please her husband, and Keichi will lament subconsciously enjoying the company of prostitutes and continually bankrupt their household with indulgences on a miniscule teacher’s salary.
Except…what did it all mean?
Was Kumiko’s rejection of bearing children an allegory for rejection of encroaching Western society in Japan? Why did Kumiko venture to a fertility clinic when her fertility was most likely not an issue? Why did she never go to a gynecologist and find out the issue between her and her husband, but not between her and the others she has slept with? Judging by the extreme bodily reaction of blood during attempted intercourse with Keichi, maybe she was allergic to her husband’s penis.
Why didn’t Kumiko ever ask her mom about the issue, instead choosing to pray to her aunt and her fabled sexual vitality? Upon first viewing of the show’s opening sequence, I thought Kumiko’s mother was actually her step-mother. We later learn that her mother simply dislikes her, and left her oldest to care for her alcoholic husband. It explains Kumiko’s closeness to her father.
Why didn’t Keichi speak to his father about the issue? The couple essentially isolated themselves from society out of fear of judgement, evidence by Kumiko’s many nightmares of being mocked by the neighborhood women and her peers. Unless, Keichi really was just hung like mandingo and in which case – why didn’t the lube work? He couldn’t even get the head in, unknown girth aside.
I can’t even confidently say that without implying the brothel women are “loose”. Sex workers tend to take good care of themselves, so I highly doubt Keichi was gifted like Podrick Payne. Then again, Pod had the voice of an angel so…maybe Keichi has a voice that hypnotizes women other than his wife into satisfaction?
All jokes aside, I wonder if this has any similarity to the NEET situation in Japan.
Maybe the issue was indeed psychosomatic, and as time went on it increasingly became a part of their minds that suffering is the binding unity of their relationship.
My Husband Won’t Fit showed a myriad of dysfunctional relationships and sexual situations. It showed us the reality of what could be going on behind closed doors. But it left one very important question unanswered: Did Kumiko and Keichi actually want help concerning their situation, or were they content where they were?
Given the evidence in this series, I’d say the pair didn’t want to become a part of the society they secretly hated. After all, they both chose to live on the outskirts in a dilapidated building during their college years as to not trouble their parents. These feelings expedited by dealing with the helicopter parents of their students.
Which is fine, life goes on. Live how you’d like.
But I don’t understand the need to continually lie to yourselves, all the while never making any attempt at fixing the issue driving a wedge between your relationship. Don’t protest you don’t need sex or intimacy, then both go out and have casual sex with countless strangers.
It makes the characters sound like hypocrites, which I’m sure was not the intention.
If you watched this series, how did you feel about Keichi and Kumiko’s relationship? What do you think was wrong with Kumiko, or rather what was wrong with Keichi? And do you think they could have fixed things in the end?
Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to email subscribe on the side bar for more takes on sexuality in the summer months!
Update: I finally found the manga! It’s on Amazon and is written only in Japanese. I was flipping through the free preview, and it seems that it covers the first episode verbatim, with one or two added scenes. There is no furigana, but there are one or two random kanji words (I think a last name?) that are assisted.
The Japanese store comic is currently 693円. If you’re buying from the American English speaking store front, go for one of the used copies under $20.00. I’ve been interested in finding the manga (as it’s easier to read for me than the autobiography) so I’ll be picking up a used copy to add to my library soon!
Note on the Shunga [ 春画 ]
- The Wakashu [ 若衆 ] : Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671—1750). Thousand-Year Mountain (Ehon Chitose-yama), Volume 2, 1767. Printed book with monochrome illustrations. ROM 31761085021 | H.H. Mu Far Eastern Library. Taken from A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints.
- Three Lovers: Sugimaru Jihei (active c. 1681-1703) Three Lovers Japan, Edo Period (1615-1868), mid 1680, Woodblock print; ink on paper with hand-coloring, Gift of James A. Michener, 1972 (16270). Taken from The Arts of the Bedchamber: Japanese Shunga.
- Two Lovers: Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770) Flowers (Hana) from the series Snow, Moon, Flowers (setsugetsuka) Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1770. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, Gift of James A. Michener, 1991 (24673). Taken from The Arts of the Bedchamber: Japanese Shunga.