‘Tendril perversion’ is the titillating bon mot that serves as the technical term for when one loop in a coil goes the other way, or if you’re a scientist, when a helical structure becomes divided into two sections of opposite chirality, with a transition between the two in the middle. Remember those square-shaped kinks in coiled telephone cords? Tendril perversion. As fascinating as tendril perversion may be, it has nothing to do with, and should not be confused with, ‘tentacle erotica’ – a phenomenon of a very different variety.

I first witnessed what I now know to be tentacle erotica as a 14-year- old boy watching the animated Japanese erotic horror manga movie, Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend. Part of a rich genre of Japanese art known as ‘hentai’ or “perverted” (*see tendril.) the film is widely lauded as the most prominent example of the multi-armed mollusk fetish. The story follows the exploits of the protagonists – man-beast Jyaku Amano, his nymphomaniac sister Megumi, and their companion Kuroko, a small flying purple alien baby – picking up after a 300-year search for ‘the Overfiend’. This adventure leads them to a school filled with shapely young women; cue demons of the netherworld wielding prehensile pseudo-penises that not only probe said shapely young women, but also burst through walls and roofs, destroying nearby tower blocks, a hospital, and sundry other buildings. It must be (and, might I say, should be) seen to be be believed.

But the tradition of tentacle erotica in Japan can be traced back way beyond more recent animated examples, at least to the ancient art of shunga – Japanese erotic woodblock carving that reached is height in the Edo period (1603-1867) but traces its influences to the 700s. In an 1814 Hokusai Katsushika novel Kinoe no Komatsu, (popularly known as The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife), the legend of female abalone diver, Tamatori, is illustrated in explicit detail. In the story, Tamatori steals one of two ‘tide jewels’ from the Dragon King – her reasons are unclear – and as she makes her swimming escape, the Dragon King and his sea-life minions give chase. The myth is ancient, and if there was any hanky-panky in the original, it was not documented. But in randy old Katsushika’s version, the octopodes catch up with the fleeing diver and they all do a bit of ‘bumping the uglies’.

Uratsukidoji illustrator Hideki Takayama insists his use of the tentacles was not to satiate some cephalopodic preference, but more a way to circumnavigate the censors. “At that time, it was illegal,” he said. “So I just created a creature. I could say, as an excuse, this is not a [penis], this is just a part of the creature. You know, the creatures, they don’t have a gender. A creature is a creature. So it is not obscene; not illegal.”

Given the historical instances of such erotica, though, it appears censorship isn’t the only catalyst for this tautological tendency. From woodblocks to manga to the handful of live action movies, one could fairly conclude that the fetish does indeed exist. Japanese pornographic actress Hitomi Tanaka’s 2011 film Drowning in the Tentacles has clocked up currently just under 340,000 views on Porn Hub. The tentacle effects are even less convincing than the tendrils of extraterrestrial Venus flytrap, Audrey II in that seminal horror comedy musical, Little Shop of Horrors, which preceded Drowning in the Tentacles by the best part of 30 years. Granted, if the fetish for tentacles was popular, there would no doubt be bigger production budgets than this Hammer Horror-style sex fest. But produced it was.

If, like presumably many of you dear readers, you’ve never encountered tentacle erotica before, but are maybe finding yourself octo-pi-curious, there is what seems to be a thriving tentacle dildo industry. Before you confront the ethics of fetishizing bestiality, might I suggest you start there?


Octavius Beaverhausen is a fetish expert and author of books such as “The Ball Gag and the Gymp – Gobsmacked!” and “Frotteurismon the F Train”.