A friend sent me an editorial about a man in Iowa who is currently facing 20 years in jail for possessing "obsene" manga ordered from Japan. The article doesn't give much details, just goes on about how this is totally wrong. My friend, an otaku herself, told me that the manga is apparently a Loli comic. She's very much against the regulation of art, and so am I, to an extent.
It seems that many people don't understand how illustrations or drawings can cause such a problem, but I have to wonder how this guy thought ordering Loli would be considered legal when possession of child pornography or "obscene images of children, no matter how they are made." Yes, that is a US law as of June 2007. So there's the problem that the defendant just isn't clear on the legality of pedophilic content -- no matter how sugarcoated it may be. People are terribly delicate and afraid, and if you guys haven't noticed, this country (the United States) is terrified of pedophiles. Schools have been erecting fences and gates to keep out sexual deviants while the news and advertising agencies feed our paranoia. Children are taught not to speak to strangers, parents must be vigilant at all times. It's really a frenzy out there that has prevailed for decades, though not completely unwarranted because -- let's face it -- there are some sick freaks out there.
I am personally not a fan of Lolicon, but some of it is less explicit than others, and in such cases I would not support censorship. As a whole, however, *bleep* bothers me. No, I don't mean seeing a 22-year-old dating a 17-year-old. It's usually more drastic cases. I can understand how this would anger even non-anime or manga fans because it is quite relevant to censorship and silencing art, some would say.
So what if it's an image or illustration of murder? Should that be censored because murder is bad? Or what if it's an old stone carving of Zeus as a swan or bull seducing one of his mortal lovers?
To that, I say the line falls on eroticism. We've seen in the post, demonstrated on this very blog, how afraid we are, as a society, of sexuality. An image of menstrual blood was enough to warrant Supermod intervention and others to attack my validity as an artist. Again, this is sexuality, not eroticism (unless menstrual fluid turns you on). It is widely understood that murder is wrong, and most would not gaze upon an illustration of a beheading, war, or Zeus' lust and be sexually aroused by them. With Lolicon and other pedophilic media, the line between art and smut is blurred by those who would glean some sexual gratification from it, thus transforming the images into erotica. Just look at the origins of Lolicon and the story it was named after -- Lolita, in which a man becomes sexually obsessed with a 12-year-old girl.
To be clear, I do not approve of Lolicon because it just rubs me the wrong way. Saying that I find it repulsive would not be an exaggeration. While freedom of expression is important, there are certain boundaries that I'm just not comfortable with crossing. In this trial, I can see where the slope gets slippery. What if the man, Chris Handley, is prosecuted and goes to jail? What's to prevent the verdict from sparking witch hunts against other forms of media and art?
Michiko Magaoko, director of Juvenile Guide, found that approximately half of the 2,000 pornographic animation (hentai) titles in 2003 featured school girl characters. Mitsui Kondo of the Osaka-based Child Protection Agency once said:
"Such a situation makes our society more dangerous to girls... We've got to think about it before talking about freedom of expression."