But Is It Porn? Japanese Company’s VR Bicycle-Riding “Fetish” Video Sparks Debate

What is pornography? Depending on who you ask, the answer to this question could change fairly significantly. Nonetheless, the world has been debating the true definition of “porn” for quite some time, and now here comes Japan’s FetiVR video to complicate the matter even further.

Released in late June on Vimeo, the one-minute video is a 360-degree virtual reality experience, meant to be viewed with VR goggles, that shows a girl riding her bike. The gimmick here is that you can manipulate the camera angle any way you please, but this feature probably doesn’t get used all that much, seeing as the video starts off aimed squarely at the girl’s crotch. Now, let’s be clear: the model is wearing denim shorts and you can’t see up them, making this video completely nudity and sex-free. And yet the question remains: is it porn? Not according to the people who made the video.

Screenshot from the VR video

“I don’t think this is pornography,” says Yoshinaga Yanaginuma, CEO of AI2 Inc., the company behind the FetiVR video. “It’s a fetish video, but it’s not porn. Yes, people might get excited over it, but that’s not why we shot it. It’s not the way we shot it. From my point of view, it’s more like a gag/comedy video. It’s entertainment.”

According to the company, it took a lot of trial and error to position the camera at a level that would tease the possibility of showing something without ever actually delivering on it. So it’s definitely meant to be titillating and risqué, but if it features no nudity or sexual intercourse, then could this be described simply as a uniquely non-pornographic fetish video (a rarity on the Japanese market)? That said, the video is certainly intimate, and this alone can still create an erotic experience for the viewer.

“There are a lot of fetishes in the world,” explains Yanaginuma. “In the past, videos like this one would end up on a DVD, but this time, I thought that VR was the way to go. By putting on a pair of goggles and experiencing it in VR, it would provide a more immersive experience. VR allows you to look at the world in a kind of unreal, surreal way. By placing the camera on the bike, we let the people experience the world in ways they never could before.”

As we have learned from visiting Japan’s biannual Fetish Festival, intimacy and closeness are the bases of many fetishes. No matter what the object of your desire is, in the end, fetishism is all about feeling a closer connection to another human through unorthodox means, from being tied up to having your ears cleaned out. Or, in this case: by observing a person from a unique, very close vantage point, almost like a fly on the wall. In fact, before deciding on the name “FetiVR” for this series of videos, Yanaginuma wanted to call it “HaeVR,” from the Japanese word hae meaning “fly.” And yes, the production company did envision this to be a series.

“This was a sample video. We plan on making more. We’ll be releasing a new one soon. It will be another bicycle video. We’ll probably change the model’s clothes for it, though.”

The original was shot at a residential street near Shibuya Station with just one non-nude model and a bicycle. If you want to decide for yourself if this is porn or not, you can watch it at the FetiVR site.

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