Ahegao is not just an exclusive term of hentai, or Japanese pornography.
In fact, not only is it widely used in NSFW manga, anime, and video games— but it’s also observed in real life e-girls, cosplayers and even internet memes.
Unlike hentai, the ahegao face is not exactly pornographic in nature but we don’t suggest Googling the term if you’re currently out in a public space.
If you’re a man (or woman) of culture, you know exactly what we’re talking about.
What is Ahegao?
Ahegao is a commonly used term in the Japanese NSFW and pornographic industry to describe exaggerated facial expression of female characters.
Chances are, you’ve seen 2D characters depicting the facial expression of powerful sexual arousal if you’ve spent far too many long hours on the internet.
“Ahe” is an abbreviation for “aheahe,” a Japanese onomatopoeia for ‘moan’ or ‘pant’. The second part of the term, “gao” or “kao”— translates to ‘face’. Ahegao can then be literally interpreted as moaning/panting face.
This involves crossed or rolled eyes, protruding tongue, a slightly reddened face— all of which indicates that the female character is clearly liking it.
The Ahegao style is commonly seen in erotic manga series, anime (hentai), and NSFW video games (eroge).
A brief history
The practice wasn’t called “ahegao” as we know it back then. Instead, it was known as the “O-Face” until the early 1990s where the Ahegao term rose to prominence.
NSFW and pornographic magazines used the term to describe the facial expressions of female live-action porn stars reaching climax or orgasm.
In the early 2000s, ahegao was already used in some posts on 2Channel and BBSPink (its sister community known for adult content).
It wasn’t until the mid-2000s that the term became more frequently used. The Ahegao drawing style also grew to be conventionalized and spread like wildfire throughout Otaku culture.
The rise of Ahegao
It’s not a surprise how widely Ahegao has taken over the internet. According to Know your Meme reports, fans have been sharing ahegao images and reaction screenshots for over a decade now.
This just goes to prove how Ahegao has grown into a legit kink, just like how some people get turned on by BDSM or have a foot fetish.
Ahegao by female streamers and cosplayers
At first glance, the Ahegao expression might appear to be contorted in despair.
E-girls and female cosplayers who do the expression might end up posting a rather unsettling selfie online, but the catch is the creepy/cute aspect to the bulging rolled eyes and distorted tongue.
And since it’s one of the latest trends to take over the internet, why not jump on the bandwagon?
In 2018, popular Instagram cosplayer Belle Delphine took Ahegao to the next level and went viral for her selfies with the ahegao face.
Thanks to her success, she was able to capitalize off her ahegao content by starting a troll PornHub channel and even selling her infamous Gamer Girl bath water for $30 a piece.
She’s also partly the reason why the ahegao face is now ushered into mainstream.
But even in Belle Delphine’s absence and mysterious inactivity, you can still see ahegao selfies by other cosplayers and female streamers all over your newsfeed.
The lasting power of ahegao, which can be either NSFW or SFW, remains to be seen.
How to Ahegao?
Since the ahegao is merely a facial expression, real-life people (and e-girls) can portray it as well. It’s not only limited to 2D characters and drawings!
Typical characteristics of an Ahegao face includes:
- Rolled back eyes – If it’s depicted on a 2D character, sometimes the character is drawn with star or heart-shaped pupils.
- Hanging tongue
- Open, panting mouth
- Flushed cheeks
- An expression showing euphoria
- Lots of body fluid – ex: saliva dripping or sticking from the ceiling of the mouth, tears, snot forming into a thick slime all over the character’s face
- Distorted overall face shape – This is a common practice when animating or drawing some ahegao scenes. Various distortion effects can be used to depict different levels of sexual arousal.
Typically, ahegao aims to be “intentionally” exaggerated to create a surreal effect. There are many variations of the expression but it all aims to show apparent euphoria.
Given it’s an obvious unnatural expression, real ahegao is often deliberately done. If you see someone doing it IRL, it’s most likely because it’s a funny meme.
In Japan, doing the ahegao with the peace sign became a famous internet meme known as the “ahegao double peace”.
The male gaze
It’s no wonder why the peculiar and borderline-lewd facial expression is taking over the online world filled with thirsty guys and gamers.
The ahegao impact is seen everywhere these days, in hentai, Instagram model selfies, and cosplay events.
In an interview with MelMagazine, Manga expert and Asian studies researcher at the University of Wollongong in Australia, Khursten Santos, says that the purpose of Ahegao is to:
“exaggerate the orgasmic face to show that the character is receiving an orgasm beyond normative notions of pleasure.”
The expression is designed by men to symbolize a female’s total loss of control.
It has found its way into mainstream culture and even non-erotic cosplay and selfie industry by becoming a symbol of extreme pleasure.
Thanks to its rather versatile application, the ahegao face is rapidly becoming a meme legend – according to Santos. The meaningful and universally-understood euphoric expression doesn’t need words for explanation, much like an emoji.
So why are people obsessed with the Ahegao?
What’s with the bizarre face that makes people go crazy over it? Santos believes it’s because of the expression’s utter absurdity.
There’s no way someone actually looks like the ahegao face when they’re in climax, but then there’s something alluring about being hot and ridiculous-looking at the same time.
“It’s clearly unrealistic, but enthusiasts of ahegao find the face humorous, as though it’s a satire of women’s sexual expression.”
In traditional Japanese erotica culture, female characters are always exaggerating their reactions (both verbal and non-verbal).
There’s also a strong sense of sex appeal present in ahegao faces. Many people find the ahegao expression as a sexy idea, with some guys making it a real-life fantasy of theirs.
Men can easily project their own sexual fantasies on a female cosplayer doing an ahegao face. Thanks to its expressive nature, it’s a physical way for men to know pleasure is felt.
A simple ahegao selfie can even help some guys visualize themselves as the person behind the feel-good face of euphoria.
What do girls think of Ahegao?
A former Ahegao icon on Reddit, coffeecreamer06, began to share NSFW ahegao content on the platform after a fan of her nudes suggested she try it.
She couldn’t deny how much she was into the amount of affection and validation it got her:
“I like the idea of feeling so much pleasure you have to make a face.”
Another female Redditor MidiSymphony, who is also an avid fan of female ahegao faces, shares similar sentiments:
“It’s a really nice expression of female sexuality… Female pleasure is still taboo, so I’m always down to support other ladies who put themselves out there and do it because it makes them feel sexy. It’s hot to watch a woman whose feelin’ herself.”
Female cosplayers, influencers, and streamers enjoy ahegao and benefitting from men’s wild fantasies. For them, doing it can be kind of fun— especially when they’re rarely asked to do more than just making a face.
Ahegao allows people, specifically females, to express and explore their sexuality without crossing the line of nudity or being explicit. NSFW content can earn them a lifetime ban from a platform, after all.
It can even be likened to underboob or bikini butt selfies, which is another proven way to invite praise and attention in a gentler manner.
These kinds of selfies also yield kinder comments, where ahegao fans and enthusiasts commonly say things like “I love your make-up today,” rather than bold, awkward comments like “I’d tear you up, dollface.”
It’s easy to get a positive response for just a photo of your face. If you manage to make your ahegao face well enough, that’s basically all you need.
The ahegao face has grown from a viral trend to a full-blown kink. Its popularity might not dwindle anytime soon, even if you see less of tongue-out drooling selfies nowadays.
On the other side of the coin, there’s also controversies and discussions over how the female ahegao is inherently sexist. But after taking some comments of female ahegao posters into consideration, it seems that the ahegao face can also be more empowering than derogatory.
Each time a woman can claim pleasure for herself is already a win in itself. An exaggerated face portraying pleasure, which is often used as a meme or a trend, is no exception.
Long live the ahegao!