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Shotacon Paper Retracted by Journal

posted on by Andrew Osmond
Research paper by University of Manchester PhD student had caused widespread outrage

A paper by a PhD student at the University of Manchester, in which the writer described masturbating to shotacon manga as a form of ethnographic research, has been retracted by the journal in which it was published.

Shotacon manga are pornographic manga featuring young boy characters, and the paper provoked outrage in Britain earlier this month.

The paper by Karl Andersson (pictured right), was called, I am not alone – we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan." According to the paper's abstract, Andersson "wanted to understand how my research participants experience sexual pleasure when reading shota... I therefore started reading the comics in the same way as my research participants had told me that they did it: while masturbating."

The paper had been published in the journal Qualitative Research. In the journal's retraction statement, the editors concluded there was "a lack of clarity and hence ethical scrutiny at the time of the initial submission."

According to this statement, Andersson carried out the work as "independent research" in Germany without institutional ethical oversight, and Andersson said he followed the injunction to ‘do no harm’. However, the journal's editorial team says that "such principles also refer to the need for the thoughtful consideration of potential unintended consequences of research, and the need to weigh competing ethical obligations"

The statement acknowledges that moral offence is a problematic ground for censoring scholarship, but that the paper "legitimises sexual activity involving sexually graphic illustrated images of children and young people, both as an activity in itself and as a research method." For this reason, the statement says, the paper's publication was highly problematic due to the potential to cause significant harm, compounded by ethical issues surrounding its concept and design.

The editors and publisher of Qualitative Research apologise to readers who were negatively impacted by the paper.

The paper provoked widespread outrage after it was circulated on Twitter in August. For example, the Conservative MP Neil O'Brien asked, "Why should hard-working taxpayers in my constituency have to pay for an academic to write about his experiences masturbating to Japanese porn?”

The website Research Professional News reports that Andersson has been suspended by the University of Manchester, and is also being investigated by Greater Manchester Police.

According to Research Professional News, the University of Manchester released a statement on the situation. "According to the university's initial findings, some of the research described in the paper was conducted as part of Andersson's Master's degree course at Free University of Berlin." However, the University of Manchester adds, “there is contradictory information regarding when the period of self-immersive research activity took place."

The University of Manchester further adds that Andersson's paper was not part of his supervised PhD programme, and that the University had not been aware of Andersson's past publications. In reports on the controversy, it emerged that Andersson had previously edited a Swedish self-published magazine called Destroyer and ran a website called breakingboynews which both foregrounded photos of young boys.

Research Professional News quotes the University as saying the case "highlighted that we must ensure our PhD student recruitment processes are sufficiently robust to appropriately scrutinise the legal, ethical and safeguarding issues of the proposed research and applicants' prior related activities where relevant”.

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