Social Asymmetries in Online Personal Ads in Japanese: Discursive Construction of Desirable Personae, Bodies, and Practices
Keywordsonline personal ads
language and gender
language and desire
critical discourse analysis
Committee ChairJones, Kimberly
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe Internet is increasingly becoming a key medium through which people establish social contacts and form interpersonal relationships. In particular, online dating websites are gaining popularity and rapidly expanding around the world. This study explores the discourse that constitutes the practices of the deai-kee-saito 'encounter-oriented sites' in Japanese, as observed in three major personal ad websites, namely 1) Ekisaito furenzu 'Excite Friends', 2) Match.com, and 3) Yahoo!Japan paasonaruzu 'Yahoo!Japan Personals'. It focuses on the ways that self-advertisers express their socio-sexual desires and describe their ideal partners and relationships, and analyzes them with respect to the reproduction of social asymmetries.More specifically, it examines the discursive construction of the kinds of personae (personality characteristics) and bodies (physical features) that advertisers aged 20-29 wish in their future partners, as well as the kinds of practices (activities and actions) they wish to engage in with their partners, what they wish to do for their partners, and/or wish the partners to do for them in their envisioned interactions. Out of the 1200 ads collected from these websites, a total of 463 ads are identified as target-gender-explicit and analyzed at lexical, morphosyntactic, phrasal, clausal, sentential and discourse levels. It pays close attention to the linguistic resources utilized in the articulation of socio-sexual desires and desirability, and the textual formation of the addresser(advertiser)-addressee(ad reader) relationships, including adjectives, nouns, verbal phrases, person references, desideratives, conditionals, and the formula yoroshiku/o-negai shimasu 'Thank you in advance'. It also analyzes para-linguistic resources, such as emoticons, symbols, and unique use of hiragana/katakana syllabaries. These discursive processes involve prioritization, or hierarchization, of personal attributes and consequently of the owners of those attributes. It argues that socio-sexual desirability is reflective of the hegemonic ideologies of gender and sexuality in today's Japanese-speaking communities.In addition, it examines explicit and implicit language related to race, class, and similar constructs. It also investigates the functions of style-shift that advertisers use in expressing desire. This study shows that individuals' 'innocuous' expression of socio-sexual desires through personal ads is a locus for the reproduction and contestation of the hegemonic order of gender, sexuality, race and class.
Degree ProgramEast Asian Studies