On Hentai Censorship

A year ago, my friend over at Otaku no Video wrote an article outlining the possible necessity of banning loli hentai, which I somehow overlooked.  The lynchpin of his argument is this:

Here’s my concern:

Loli hentai normalizes sex with children.

And while the issue as a whole is touchy and nuanced, that really just comes down to an answerable, scientific question:

Are people attracted to children because that is normalized?

Or are they attracted because of some horrible miswiring in their brains?

To me, it seems unfair to take as an analogy alcoholism (which indisputably does have a significant aspect of cultural normalization.) Rather, wouldn’t it be best to use other examples of historically “deviant” sexuality? In those cases, many researchers now believe that the brain is wired to be attracted thus: people aren’t socialized into being homosexual, or bisexual, or objectum sexual. They simply are.

Of course, the crucial difference is that minors will get hurt by lolicons who turn their attentions to real life, whereas we don’t recognize that, say, objectum sexual Eija-Riitta Eklöf Berliner-Mauer has done any real harm to the Berlin Wall by marrying it. (Would we say that works featuring characters masturbating with objects should be censored, because they might normalize objectum sexuality?)  The same difference – nonhuman and human – also exists between 2D characters depicted in pornographic works, and real life people.

As a subset, this has a lot of parallels to the ongoing discussion of rape in graphic literature, incidentally: does the mere mention that rape happens in prisons equate to normalizing rape?  If so, who is to blame for the normalization – the people who discuss it, or the rapists themselves?  What is needed to truly be normalizing?  Just a mention?  A mention in positive terms?  Would a neutral mention of the act qualify as normalizing or non-normalizing?  How many mentions serve to normalize an experience in someone’s mind, and what contexts or parts are crucial to the mechanism of normalization?  Should rape, or other crimes, not be mentioned in the news, because that might constitute normalization?

None of these issues tend to be addressed by the critics who rely on the theory of normalization as grounds for banning art. The theory remains incomplete.  But the real issue isn’t normalization: it’s what to do about rape.  It’s horrible, yes, but will pretending that it doesn’t happen make the problem go away?  Or will we have legitimized censorship and started a very troubling legal precedent without actually addressing the real problem?

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Published in: on December 2, 2010 at 3:55 PM  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey, thanks very much for the mention! As always, your response is cogent, thoughtful, and interesting.

    I still disagree, but that’s a great response. 🙂

  2. Why should a paedophile restrict themselves to harmless activities if you are going to harm them no matter what they do?

    Censorship isn’t just evil, (violating the most fundamental ethical principle; “don’t do harm to those who harm none”), it’s almost always counterproductive too. In this case eroding the moral standing of society. If you try to pretend lolicon is harmful, something the paedophile knows to be false, they they’re less likely to believe you when you say having sex with children harms them. You’re lying about one thing, why not the other?

    If you want people to act in a civilised way, then abusing them even when they try to do it is not just evil but stupid as well. It’s not surprising that Japan, where all the lolicon is, has incredibly low rates of child rape, which reached their lowest during the lolicon boom.

  3. […] judgments from moral reasoning, and not just a simple gut feeling of distaste.  (My own reasoning, previously discussed here, is that child porn is bad because it harms the children involved.  Therefore any facsimile that […]


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