Hey, Answerman!by Zac Bertschy, Aug 4th 2006
I think I managed to kick up more dust last week than I have in quite a long time. If you're wondering why I respond to controversial questions like that, it's because I think an open exchange and discussion and debate - even of things many of us just would rather ignore - is the healthiest possible way to solve problems or at least make our opinions known.
To that end, in this column I'm going to be printing many of the responses to last week's debate on lolicon. Some are straight from our forums, others are from my email box, with my thoughts or comments sprinkled lightly throughout, not unlike some kind of flame-baiting sundae.
Also, it's Otakon week and I don't even have time to think straight so we're just sticking to one issue this time and I'm letting some of you have a voice.
Why? To give people an understanding of why there's even a debate on this issue in the first place. Also, I want to get this all argued out before it becomes another yaoi/fansub topic that never goes away.
Also, it's Otakon week.
Let's get on with it.
I just read your 7/28 column and saw that you were concerned (and rightfully so) about the growing number of people who sing their praises of lolicon material to high heaven and threaten to ruin the efforts of many anime fans to remove the stigma that many non-fans feel towards the medium. I am writing to you because I am one of those people who enjoys lolicon material, and I want to try and put a different slant on the impression that people like me are making on the anime community.
First of all, I don't think it's fair for people to consider it a "small jump" from enjoying animated depictions of underage boys and girls in sexual situations to enjoying pictures of real children in those same situations. For example: there are many people who enjoy looking at pornographic depictions of rape, both real and animated. Though we may have this fetish, I cannot imagine that any one of us could ever experience the same emotions if we were to be shown a picture of a woman actually being raped. When the situation is imagined or contrived, we can enjoy it without guilt, but if the situation is real, we, like everyone else, would feel horrified and angry that such an image could exist in the first place. As an aside, and this is just my own opinion, but I believe that "age of consent" laws are a well-intentioned, but misguided attempt to protect our youth. The age at which a person is capable of making his or her own decisions regarding sex varies between people, and these laws are an attempt at "better safe than sorry" legislation. These laws take away the rights of those who are underage and mature beyond their age to choose their sexual behavior. Before you say that children can't decide these things for themselves because they don't understand the consequences, consider the number of adults who do the same thing.
Second, consider that the people who post these inflammatory statements in online forums, such as the one you quoted, can usually be sorted into two categories: newbies and rebels. I don't mean the term "newbies" to refer to people who have no clue what they're talking about, but rather to refer to people who are just coming to grips with the fact that they enjoy lolicon material. Just like with any subculture that is either oppressed or perceives itself as such, we can be fiercely proud of our obsession, and can become extremely defensive in the face of the overwhelming hostility towards it. The other group is the rebels, by which I mean "people who will say anything if it gives them an excuse to be angry or earns them attention." These people are everywhere; I'm sure there have been some people who've told their parents that they like anime just to get them angry (just to clarify: I in no way mean to imply that I believe that anime fans are only fans because it may upset their parents).
Lastly, I'd like to briefly address your quite legitimate fear that sooner or later the media could catch wind of this issue and rebury the entire medium in rumors of child exploitation and sexual vagrancy. This could be a truly serious blow to the entire anime community. It is unfortunate that the media could popularize the idea that all anime is illegal pornography, especially when, for every piece of animated pornography or lolicon-pandering material, there are at least two live-action counterparts. In fact, the quantity of lolicon material available simply pales in comparison to the truly massive selection of its real-life counterpart.
Whatever you think, remember that the US government acknowledges the difference between live and animated underage sex, and only outlaws one of them. Keep the discussion alive, but allow people their right to indulge their fantasies so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.
So what you're saying is that we shouldn't be down on lolicon because it isn't real and it's not the same as photographs of the same things happening to real kids, and then in the same breath you argue against age of consent laws because "we should let the kids decide" how young they think they should be when they first want to be taken advantage of.
You see how easy it is to read between the lines there? At once you defend lolicon porn and then you invoke real children, stating that it should be up to them when they think it's cool for middle-aged predators to get their sticky hands on them. I thought these were two unrelated issues, in your mind?
A big part of the problem with a lot of these pro-lolicon arguments is that almost invariably they will, at some point, after vehemently saying that they don't look at real child pornography, attempt to defend it or - and this is especially common - attack age of consent laws.
You're not helping your case that "lolicon isn't the same as real child porn and doesn't invoke the same feelings" with that.
That's sorta my question. Why bother defending it? Why even bother being so public about it? We get it, they think 8-year olds are totally hot, gotcha. Is it so hard to just keep it to themselves? Why does the whole world have to know about it?
I guess the concept of "shame" or "a remote understanding of the way people will view them once they find out they're sexually attracted to children" is a foreign one in these waters.
Indeed you were correct in saying you would likely get a lot of email in reponse to the lolicon question. I can defintely see and understand your though process on the subject matter, but you may be missing a few things on the whole. For starters, I think many, we shall call them 'outsiders', already see anime as child pornography. Quite frankly I was used to the whole violent porn thing when I mentioned I was an anime fan. But years ago, when I got stationed in England and I started to talk about how I was an anime fan, I was met with the child porn accusation. I really hadn't ever heard that insult being flung around until then. From that day on until I left, anytime I got in an anime DVD, put up a wallpaper or any other myriad of anime related activity, I was met with "I'm guessing she's what 8? Does she get naked." I tend to believe that we already have that stigma attached from a lot of people, as for making it the mainstream thought about anime fans, that is just a matter of time more than likely. Besides, what easier group is there to say bad things about than an anime fan?
Second, lolicon fans in general are starting to 'shout it from the rooftops' that they are such because no longer is it some deep dark secret. I imagine that the thought of being attracted to a young child whether real or not would create some anxiety and likely some guilt in an individual. This is the sort of thing you keep to yourself because for one you are ashamed of it personally and two, others would think ill of you. But since the internet is now part of almost everybody's daily life and even moreso in the usually technologically savvy anime fan, people have been able to find others who share this same deep secret. There is now a lolicon niche that shares this common interest through things like message boards where they can openly discuss their love of lolicon and share pictures and movies. What likely came about due to this is that a certain few of these fans have come to the conclusion that since so many (in their eyes at least) other fans are loli lovers that most others are too. So they become much more open about their loli love affair. Just my thought at least.
Will all of this eventually mark all anime fans as potential pedophiles? I'd say that coorelation is going to be made sooner than later by the news. At the same time the news has those stories all the time once they are able to find something to jump onto. Remember Columbine? Didn't they all say that Marilyn Manson was the cause of these kids anger and agression for killing? All our community needs is someone who is geniuniely a pedophile to get caught and have a computer full of lolicon and we are all wearing the scarlet letter 'L'.
Besides you have to admit, it's kinda funny when you mention a show like Card Captor Sakura and you hear two different camps saying "Sakura is so cute" and "Man Sakura is hot." Pure comedy gold.
Actually, I don't really find that funny. The guys saying she's hot are creepy.
I don't think the whole "anime fans are pedophiles" thing has gotten as out of hand as you say; I've never once been accused of it; it's a shame that the notion is getting around, though. That's really the scary part in my eyes.
Many pedophiles have been caught with loads of both real child porn and lolicon porn; it just didn't really break into the mainstream news. Generally the story is about a child being raped and murdered, and the culprit is mentioned as having a stash of "real and animated child porn", but they don't focus on it so much.
From the forums:
Personally, I agree 100% with Zac and others who have come down on lolicon. There is too much of a risk inherently presented by lolicon material - to a hobby that while mainstream is still looked upon by some apprehension - to say that it should be an acceptible subset of anime fandom. Almost no other subset - including normal hentai, yaoi/yuri or the "ManFaye" craze - has this kind of odium attached to it. Lolicon has almost a tangible misama of visceral, primal wrongness about it, and one that could easily bexploited by those ill disposed to anime to begin with if they hear of it.
I beg everyone here to recall the kidnapping, rape and murder of Danielle van Dam in 2002. We very nearly dodged a bullet as anime fans, inflicted by this lolicon garbage. David Westerfield was found to have had lolicon on his computer. I hope I need not tell you his connection to the case. I also hope I need not tell you what could have happened if the media had pressed further with the connection or discriptions of the lolicon content. It would have been a disaster for anime fandom and the anime industry in the United States. It almost was. [sarcasm]What a poster boy for anime fandom he would have made![/sarcasm]
I do not advocate seriously the ban of lolicon material (although I would shed no tears if it were banned), mostly because we have had a poor track record, sadly, of stopping live action child porn. And certianly the argument of "we can't stop the Japanese producers from producing it" is irrefutable. That is really a matter for the Japanese government, and one they are going to have to look into and get under control. (One would have thought that the Tsutomu Miyazaki murders would have lit a fire under their collective oshiri on that score.) But I do think that anime fandom has to ostracize those who think that lolicon is acceptible, mostly because there is too much of a risk to all fandom to embrace this even by proxy.
This brings me to the most distressing and absurd of the pro-loli arguments: The idea that since critics "haven't walked a mile in one's moccasins" that they have no right to even be critics. That is nonsense at best and misdirection and deflection at worst. All that means is that this subgroup wants to put on the well-worn cloak of victimhood and present themselves as being unfairly put upon even in the face of legitimate criticism. Such an answer gives no legitimate, let alone satisfying, response to the criticism. Simply put, it serves only as a "leave us alone" and a means to kill debate of a point of view unwelcome to the recipient. If any criminal in any court in the US used the argument of "well, you never robbed a bank, who are you to judge?" he'd be laughed all the way to his penitentary cell.
I ask people like [forums user] Steroid, since they seem to be libertarian on this issue - where WOULD they draw the line, and when? If not here, then where? Is it that everyone's niche interest is to be protected, even when there is the chance that it could harm a larger structure? Or do we actually have standards and say that some few things must be put beyond the pale for the greater good of society?
[Forums user] Steroid, you say that the mind is "all rights and no responsibilities." This I cannot accept. A person must exercise at least as much responsibility of their conscious mind (and remember, one's conscience is part of the mind) as they do their body. An ill of the mind is tenfold that of the body, as it represents not merely act but potential. As the Orator said: "Reason directs - appetites obey." Now, none of us is perfect, and certainly, there have been times where for all of us have had an unsavory appetite wriggle from out of the control of reason. But to throw up your hands and say "no, the mind exists on another plane above and beyond thoughts of and duties to others" is the ultimate narcissism. Even the inner realm of the mind must keep in mind the mutual obligations and dutes we owe each other as a society, even while pursuing personal interests. Ethics do not stop applying at the threshhold of the cranium.
President Dwight Eisenhower once said that "A people that values its priviliges above its principles soon loses both." We are at risk of losing the principle - love of the anime artform - because some want their little privilige - watching prepubescent children used as sexual objects.
Okay, well, have we had enough of this topic yet? Obviously people are very divided on the issue, and it will continue to be divisive, but rather than drag this out for months, I figured we'd get it all out of the way this week.
Next week we'll be back to our regular format... provided I've caught my breath from con season.
See you next week!
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