A common insult, or at least, I've always understood it to be an insult, is to describe a woman as a マグロ in bed. Being referred to as マグロ, which is "tuna" in English, implies that a woman just lies there, unmoving and unenthusiastic about the sex which she is a part of.

I came across this blog, and in a post about sex and flirting, the author states:

For me, with my western sensibilities and preconceptions, calling someone a ‘tuna’ in bed sounds like an insult, conjuring up images of cold dead fish, but in Japan that word has a very positive connotation. Tuna’s an expensive delicacy.

The author's case, in summary, is that in sex in Japan, one partner is always passive, the receiver of what the other person does. One who lies there and takes it is therefor a good thing.

I think this is a case of over-thinking the cultural implications, something that seems to plague so much of foreign analysis of Japan. As far as I've ever understood マグロ, when used by Japanese people, it is an insult, and not praise. These pages all seem to agree with me.

But it's always good to question one's assumptions. The author claims verification from her Japanese friends.

Am I right that it's always an insult, or is there anything to support what this blogger is saying about the use of the word?

(Note I am only asking about the definition of the word, not trying to open any discussion about passivity or other issues of sexual relations in Japan.)

  • 1
    The guy smoked too much Tuna.
    – oldergod
    Jun 13, 2013 at 9:13
  • 1
    – user1016
    Jun 13, 2013 at 11:33
  • I'm afraid it'd be hard to give a definite answer without delving into very off-topic cultural discussions (fwiw, I think the guy's claim that this is a cultural expectation is complete BS). At the anecdotal level, I have never heard it used positively (out of possibly dozens of uses/people).
    – Dave
    Jun 13, 2013 at 14:17
  • 1
    @Dave: For some reason people are always hesitant to give an answer that supports a negative. There's no reason anyone couldn't answer with "the blogger is wrong, the word is an insult," which would only be a comment on the vocabulary.
    – Questioner
    Jun 13, 2013 at 15:07
  • 1
    @DaveMG You are very right (and I'm usually pretty good at gender-neutrality in my assumptions)... Guess it goes to show what I have come to expect from Japanese blogs [discussing that sort of things]. I read the full entry in detail afterward and did indeed realise my mistake. She also claims to have consulted a number of native speakers. Doesn't change me my opinion of the theory.
    – Dave
    Jun 14, 2013 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


This person is talking out their ass. It is always an insult.

  • What do mean by "talking out"? I don't think the author is a guy. (Besides the style & content, "Cat" didn't strike me as a guy's name...)
    – Earthliŋ
    Jun 13, 2013 at 20:43
  • @Earthling: I fixed the answer because I don't know the gender of the person. Basically, I am saying the quoted passage is nonsense.
    – Jesse Good
    Jun 13, 2013 at 20:49
  • @Earthling: The author repeatedly identifies herself as a woman in the post I linked to, and it's an essential part of her thesis. Also, I identify her as a woman in my question - "claims verification from her Japanese friends". Of course, it makes no difference to my question if the blog was written by a man or woman, I only bring it up because people responding here on JLU seem to keep assuming the blog was written by a man, in spite of evidence. And that's only relevant in that it indicates people might not be reading very carefully.
    – Questioner
    Jun 14, 2013 at 3:12

For your information, 「マグロ」 can also refer to a dead body of a person killed by a running tram.

  • その意味も知りませんでした・・・まぁ、「業界用語」とも書いてあるんで・・・。想像したらちょっとグロい・・・
    – user1016
    Jun 17, 2013 at 11:56
  • 実は僕も最初は知らなかったんですけど、アンサイクロペディアで「グモッチュイーーン」の項目があったんで、記事を読んでみたら「マグロ」の意味が載っていました。電車の事故は本当に想像するだけでも怖いですね。
    – hello all
    Jun 18, 2013 at 8:15
  • 「グモッチュイーーン」・・・!??
    – user1016
    Nov 26, 2013 at 15:23

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