Finally we get to the WTF Japan?!? edition involving lolicon. I must admit that I’ve been procrastinating from writing this one because for me (and I would hope most people) it’s a pretty disturbing subject and it’s bound to get my blood boiling. But I’ve committed myself to this topic and it’s actually one of the main reasons I started this blog in the first place, as a place to express my thoughts on this subject matter, so as angry as it may make me, it’s something that I need to do.
One thing I’ve noticed over the past year is that my WTF Japan?!? blog posts, the one on traps in particular, have consistently been among my most popular articles. While I’m flattered by this because these are perhaps the ones I spend the most time researching and that I hold the strongest opinions on, I also worry that the reasons people are visiting these posts aren’t because they necessarily agree with them or are interested in my viewpoint, but rather were lured there for the exact reasons I’ve been ranting about. In many ways, it actually proves my point tenfold. And given that trend, I wouldn’t be surprised if this particular post becomes my most frequently visited article for all the wrong reasons. I’m not sure how to feel about that. On second thought, I’m pretty sure I know exactly how to feel about that.
That having been said, while the trap and incest columns may have shown me to be somewhat tolerant of those tropes, be prepared to find absolutely no quarter this time around. And for the record, I will not be linking to very many resources or providing specific examples given the nature of the topic, 1) because I don’t want to see it myself (feel free to look for yourself – it won’t be very difficult), and 2) I’m certain the FBI is already monitoring me just based on my Google searches and the few sites I did visit in order to research this topic.
For those unfamiliar with the term, lolicon is a Japanese blending of the phrase “Lolita complex,” which most people probably recognize as having come into existence as a result of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita, which tells the tale of a middle-aged man who becomes sexually obsessed with a twelve-year-old girl. Knowing that, it should come as no surprise that lolicon describes an attraction to artistically-rendered underage girls or can even be used to describe an individual with such an attraction (e.g., “that man is a lolicon“). The reverse lolicon – an adult woman attracted to young boys – is known as shotacon.
It should be pointed out that in anime and manga, lolicon really only applies to girls that are clearly under 12 and/or physically look to be that age; such a girl is referred to as simply a loli. In truth, the majority of characters in anime are of high school age as it is, making them clearly under the legal age limit of 18, and yet we as a culture sexualize these fictional girls all the time (I’m guilty of it myself), thus why there is a clear distinction between a loli and your standard anime female. Lolis look – and often act – like elementary school aged kids; after all, that’s what they are.
For example, there is clearly a huge difference between the sexualization of the girls on the right as opposed to the girls on the left in this image:
In anime and manga, lolicon is most often depicted in works of the hentai genre, or animated porn essentially. This is where clearly underage girls are sexualized or violated/penetrated sexually by an adult. A lolicon, as one might gather, is a person who finds these young girls or the sexual acts involving said young girls attractive or arousing.
In the real world, this sort of person would be considered a pedophile; i.e., someone who is sexually attracted to children, usually 11 or under. Pedophilia is actually considered a psychiatric disorder, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the majority of humanity agrees that it is a disturbing disorder. Children are considered innocents, humans that are still learning and maturing, their bodies not even fully developed, and in most cases involving girls, not even able to physically reproduce and therefore are in no way sexually mature from a physical stand-point, let alone an emotional one. So for someone to want to taint such innocence is regarded as one of the worst offenses in nature. There’s a reason why even the most hardened criminals and psychopathic murderers consider it morally reprehensible, and why violating a child in a sexual manner is considered a serious criminal act. In the United States, even the act of sexualizing anyone under 18 is a crime, which is why no media of any kind is able to display children and young adults in any state of undress.
But this is where it gets tricky. In reality there is a clear victim: the child. In anime and manga, the “victim” in question is actually a 2-dimensional (2D) drawing, so technically no one is actually getting hurt in this scenario. So does that make it an act deserving of legal repercussions? That is the question that is being heatedly debated by many governments (and people on message boards everywhere).
In that sense, many have questioned whether being a lolicon is the same as being a pedophile. Personally I don’t believe that to be the case given that more often than not, a lolicon has little to no sexual interest in real children, only the animated kind. So long as the two forms of attraction remain mutually exclusive then a lolicon probably is not considered a threat to the innocence of a real child (often referred to as 3D in the otaku world).
Additionally, I don’t believe that a sexualized drawing of a child should be considered a crime. As stated before, there is no real victim in such a case, so should our governments and law enforcement agencies really be wasting time and resources to protect the rights of a fictional child on a piece of paper when there are plenty of real crimes and victims that the law should instead be focusing on? Some might disagree with that stance, including the United States as there have been several cases of people being arrested for importing or having said lewd published materials in their possession.
Shintaro Ishihara, Tokyo’s former governor, stirred up quite a lot of controversy a few years back when he tried to institute a ban on, or at the very least serious impositions to the selling of, all X-rated material, mostly targeted at lolicon and the like. This had many up in arms and resulted in several high-profile publishers boycotting government-sponsored events claiming that such a ban stifles creativity and would be a fatal blow to the industry. In my opinion, if your creativity is derived from drawing naked children, then it may be time for a little self-evaluation (I only say that half in jest). Also, if your industry is capable of imploding due to the sudden lack of sexualized children, that certainly says a lot about your audience – and not in a good way. It of course didn’t help that Ishihara himself is guilty of being a well-known writer of “rape novels” in his youth, but that’s neither here nor there, it just makes him a hypocrite.
But the real question we should be asking is whether lolicon is morally or ethically justified and what it says about the people who like it? By ‘moral’ I’m really referring to how acceptable something is in one’s culture.
We think of sadists and torture-porn enthusiasts as sickos, even when such things are being done in animated form; why should we think any differently of people who fantasize about sexualizing little kids, whether 3D or 2D? So if that’s the case, why is it increasingly becoming more widespread and casually defended as not being in any way morally objectionable? There is a moral boundary being crossed, and though there are no actual victims, the notion itself is morally bankrupt. Someone is expressing on paper (or digitally) the notion of a young child having sex, sometimes explicitly, which is not considered acceptable by society as a whole.
Want proof? Japan is the only place you are likely to find a lolicon in a work of fiction, notably anime, visual novels or manga. And even then, Japan itself is no more approving of pedophilia than the U.S. is.
An argument I hear quite often is that our media is filled with violence and murder yet the depiction of that is not considered morally wrong, so why is lolicon? It’s true, we do live in a culture of violence, and fictionalized violence is considered relatively acceptable (even more so than sex and swearing according to the MPAA), but this argument misses a key component in order to make it a one-to-one comparison: the act being done to a child. Children do get murdered, raped, abducted, etc. in books and movies, but how do we as an audience feel about that? We think it’s abhorrent and anyone who commits such an act on the child is a reprehensible human being or a “monster.” That is why the harming of a child is used sparingly and for extreme dramatic purposes for a narrative. But as these are all works of fiction, none of the children are actually being harmed.
Now transpose that example to animated drawings. Do you see the difference now? We don’t like seeing children hurt or taken advantage of in fiction, so it is likewise the case for drawings of children being hurt or taken advantage of (and yes, no matter how you swing it, a child involved in sex is being taken advantage of because they don’t have the mental capacity to know any better). I’m not saying it should never be used, nor am I stating that it is completely 100% morally wrong to do so. I’m simply pointing out that, like the example above, it should be used sparingly and for a specific purpose; it should not be a hobby or form of entertainment for people.
And therein lies the problem. To the lolicon, this is a hobby; little kid characters are a turn-on.
To be fair to all parties, though, let’s try to parse the lolicon one might encounter into two forms. The first is the more harmless variety, often used as a comedic tool in anime, wherein they are simply perceived as being attracted to young children and therefore thought of as kind of creepy. Kind of your garden variety lolicon, and in fairness most real life lolicons fall into this category. They are attracted to the highly cute renderings of little girls drawn in the anime style, often with sexual undertones. I don’t claim to understand the sexual appeal, especially given that most lolis not only look like a child but act like one as well since they kind of are one, but I have a better understanding and am slightly more forgiving of this mindset (note I said slightly).
That doesn’t, however, excuse the blatant fanservice employed by many anime shows to cater to this audience. Seeing panty shots of under-developed girls or trying to sexualize a body that should in no way be sexualized is discomforting. I’ve mentioned before how I had a lot of problems with the series Papa no Iu Koto o Kikinasai! (a.k.a., Listen To Me Girls, I Am Your Father!) due to the constant focus on 10-year-old Mio’s panties or that almost every episode had the 3-year-old taking a bath with someone, and that show is certainly not the only offender.
Lotte no Omocha! (a.k.a., Astarotte’s Toy) is a show revolving around a 10-year-old succubus who is encouraged by her succubus mother to start building her harem of men. It also features her 10-year-old half-sister who refuses to ever wear panties and said half-sister’s 23-year-old biological father (do the math – but if you can’t, the OVA episode leaves little to the imagination and is a shotacon‘s wet dream) becoming the first man in her harem.
The second type is the more brazen lolicon, the one who gets aroused by cute young anime girls and will go out of their way to let others know, either through message boards, artwork, doujinshi, fanfiction, etc. that they are a lolicon. Being this kind of lolicon is certainly not a badge of honor, though judging by the internet you may mistake it for one. This is the lolicon I have a problem with, the type that unashamedly expresses their desires for all the world to see and almost assuredly masturbates to it.
If you want to have a better idea of what I’m referring to, if you’re so inclined (I am certainly not going to do it), you can type “loli” in the search field on this website (Extremely NSFW!) and discover for yourself the large amount of fucked up little-kid fucking that people will draw pictures of. I’ve stumbled across some really disturbing images and comments on message boards, and we’re not just talking 10- or 11-year-olds here; I’m talking babies and 3-year-olds. Things like that. It’s quite sickening. There are some seriously messed up people out there.
And the worst part is that very few people actually call them out on it; instead I tend to see more encouragement or bandwagoning in these scenarios.
While standard anime itself may shy away from this sort of thing, the hentai genre certainly does not. I don’t think it’s unfair to question or judge the morality of those who get off on this sort of thing; there is clearly something a little bit deranged about these sorts of people.
Though the research does not show any direct correlation between lolicon and an increase in pedophiles or child molestation (some say it promotes it while others say it provides a healthy outlet), you cannot tell me that there isn’t a problem, whether real or perceived, when Japan’s police force starts a manhunt every time a grown man is accused of talking to or even smiling at a child. I’m not suggesting that any man who talks to or smiles at a child is automatically guilty of pedophilia or related thoughts, but simply that if the action itself is enough justification to suspect such a crime, there’s a very good chance that lolicon and similar material is not as harmless as one may claim.
Again, this is my biggest gripe with the anime industry: Just because you have the means to do something doesn’t mean you should.
There is no need to inundate the market with something that in real life is highly illegal, in the same way rape and incest should not be presented so nonchalantly and in overabundance. The more you feed your audience these notions or themes, the more they become desensitized to it, even growing to like it in some cases.
See, here’s the thing about human nature. Have you ever done something that maybe you might consider morally questionable or just “wrong,” whether it be in society’s eyes or just your own personal ethical code? So you do it once and you’re kind of surprised that you liked it a little. So you try it again, and again, and then again to the point where your moral judgment on that thing starts to become skewed. Something you would never have imagined yourself doing in the past you now find yourself doing fairly often, free of guilt, and over time you become desensitized to it enough that you become sloppy about trying to keep it a secret or don’t mind talking about it in public. Next thing you know you can’t even remember why you found it morally questionable in the first place.
Welcome to the slippery slope.
This is the problem I have with both the anime industry and the internet in general. Anime creates material that helps satisfy that lolicon itch, and as the demographic begins to like it more and more over time, the industry produces more of it. After a while we become so desensitized to it that it no longer even seems like a relevant issue anymore. And the internet makes it worse because the internet can easily feed one’s addictions. No matter how heinous or disgusting a person’s fetish or outlook, there exists a group somewhere online that will provide support of that outlook and reinforce one’s belief in the “rightness” of that idea.
Thus the notion of lolicon no longer carries with it the same stigma because forums and chat groups everywhere have openly embraced it and in many cases encourage or promote it. The repeated inclusion of it in hentai and even anime in general certainly doesn’t help the issue go away; in fact it only exacerbates it.
So how many times do I have to say it? Sex with children is not okay no matter how you dress (or undress) it.