Civil Liberties Continue to Crumble

Recently a Filipino ban on hentai manga/anime followed a vaguely worded, proposed UK law that would make all sexualized, simulated depictions of minors illegal (possibly making all fanservice legally problematic.) Now, there have been rumors that all games referring to sexual assault are to be banned in Japan, in the light of campaigns by international watchdog organization Equality Now and other womens’ rights organizations. Obviously, this rumored ban would spell disaster for an already troubled Japanese adult media industry. ANN reports that industry executives have already gone on record to reassure their fans that nothing has been decided yet.

Fanservice.

It is terribly ironic that this censorship occurs even as historic progress is being made in many societies against the repression of women, minorities, and those of various sexual orientations. While prior bans against child pornography cited the harm done to the children appearing in the work, bans against the sexualized appearance of young girls in anime or manga are simply done to uphold a public sense of decency. No actual person is being harmed; rather the harm is presumably done to community standards. This movement in jurisprudence has led to some bizarre outcomes, such as the 14-year-old who was arrested as both sole perpetrator and sole victim of a “sex crime” wherein she photographed herself in a state of undress.  Under US law, she may be forced to register as a sex offender for the remainder of her life.

If being charged with a crime against oneself seems absurd, it’s because the concept does not actually arise in tort law, the predecessor to modern criminal law.  Torts address harm done by one party to another and are settled with restitution; if the victim and accused are the same party, any tort proceeding is a waste of time.  Instead, the concept of committing a crime against oneself derives from religious law.  Structurally, then, this is again an effort to impose a standard on a community rather than address some harm done.

That aside, the concept of video games being responsible for prevailing social mores is every bit as silly as the “anime and/or video games cause violence” argument. Once again, a reflection and critique of society is being treated as somehow being the cause of crime rather than a commentary on it.

Liberty under construction

Are women marginalized and objectified by Japanese society? Absolutely. But does this marginalization take place as a result of video games? Or would it be safer to say that the video games appeal to those who already take a certain stance towards women? Far from being just a chicken-or-the-egg problem, this is a very real look at the attempts of feminist organizations to intervene in the social perpetuation of cultural constructs.

This intervention happens with the best of intentions, but is ultimately counterproductive. Increasingly, research shows that the incidence of rape is decreased in countries where the general population has access to pornography. Strictly from a problem solving standpoint, then, if you wish to reduce the number of rapes occurring, banning forms of pornography that you personally find offensive is harmful to your cause.

Net Nanny attempts to argue that pornography is harmful, citing the anecdotal evidence of a group of aroused drunks sexually harassing hotel maids, but even a cursory inspection of this argument reveals serious flaws. A sweeping ban of expression on the basis that it might lead to harm is logic on the level of Judge Death: “All crime is committed by the living.  Therefore life is a crime.”  Freemania argues that this parallel may not be coincidental – that agents of social control do view all attempts to live life freely as criminal.  Whatever the case, this combination of desire for deterrence and disregard for civil liberties would work equally well applied to an argument for involuntary chemical castration of the entire population: that, too, would remove the potential for rape, and far more effectively than anything else.  If society is unwilling to go that far, it is because individual rights still matter.  And if individual rights matter, what then is the purpose of violating them with a ban of dubious benefit?

The P-P-P-POWER!

Quite frankly, the rush to ban expression seems terribly naive. Telling a dyed-in-the-wool misogynist or someone with compulsive sexual issues to just stand in line and experience sex the way everyone else does is unlikely to be productive. If they could do that, wouldn’t they have saved themselves a lot of trouble and done so? Added to that is the fact that what is culturally considered “normal” varies with locale, has changed vastly over the past 100 years, and will probably continue to change in the future.  In pursuit of change, feminist organizations may be unwittingly employing a cultural centrism every bit as arrogant as that used to justify the millennia of patriarchy they so deplore.

14 thoughts on “Civil Liberties Continue to Crumble”

  1. “feminist organizations may be unwittingly employing a cultural centrism every bit as arrogant as that used to justify the millennia of patriarchy they so deplore.”

    That’s actually a pretty common subtext since 2nd wave feminism in the 60’s.  Marginalizing domestic work and denigrating sex workers are two off of the top of my head.

    And to continue this train of thought, I feel like this is one of the reasons why men haven’t tried to reconsider gender roles in the same way women have. Rather than a choice between the patriarchy and “something else”, they have a choice between the patriarchy and, for the lack of a better word, “the matriarchy”.

  2. all this bullshit is getting out of hand.. america seems obsessed with this stupid shit. …  american is obsessed with protecting the kids… seems kids in japan are doing just fine.  america is becoming a police state.. and i for one dont like it

    reminds me of that church lady from the simpsons ” will somebody please think of the children”!!!

    under the new retard BUSH made law, anime like love hina can be counted as child porn.. usa believes comics can only be buff super heros and 30 year old giant women.  

    freedom of speech and expression is over!

  3. “ans against the sexualized appearance of  young girls in anime or manga are simply done to uphold a public sense of decency.”

    What’s really irritating is that in the UK (and probably in America) the people who purchase these products are part of the tiniest minority, and most likely aren’t that blatant about their hobby. It’s like some sort of purgery.

  4. @ali actually the PROTECT act’s broad description of child related content was deemed to vague. In the U.S. you can only be charged with obscenity and thats only if it is extreme porn, regular anime is completly safe (acc to wikipedia).

    However… thats based on the current interpretation of the law, since all of these laws are rather vague. In the future they could rule differently. I feel like certain legal and socially accepted media like certain hollywood movies and live acted pornography is much worse for society than these types of anime.

  5. I’m 6 months late to this article, but I had to leave a comment. I disagree with what you’re saying here.

    It seems we are interpreting the same ideas in two different ways. You state that violent video games are not the cause of violent behavior, but rather “a reflection and critique of society”. However, this is exactly what worries me. Games that feature sexual assault and rape only normalize these crimes. You insinuate that these games appeal to people who already harbor misogynistic tendencies. Do you think we should encourage that behavior? If the abuse of women and children is treated so casually — as a pastime, as a game — the horror of those crimes are lessened.

    Your suggestion that these laws are a step away from forced chemical castration of the public is a ridiculous argument to extremes.

    These laws and the people who support them do not pretend that banning games with child pornography or sexual violence will truly fix people with “compulsive sexual issues”. They are trying to make it clear that those acts are not okay.

    I’m really not sure what you mean when you mention that societal norms change with time. I can only hope that you’re not suggesting that child abuse or rape are on their way to becoming a new norm. Remember, even if something is cultural accepted, that doesn’t always make it right.

    Your last sentence is just insulting. Women who want to stop child abuse and sexual violence from becoming acceptable are somehow arrogant? Preventing crimes against women from becoming normalized is supposedly on par with centuries of systematic oppression and abuse? That’s ridiculous.

  6. Because you or someone else is bound to ask how these games differ from other games with violent content, I’ll explain.

    First of all, most games in which the main objective is to kill come with context. You’re killing zombies, or Nazis, or mobsters to protect yourself. You stand a chance of being killed yourself, because these enemies can protect themselves. In most of these games, the point is to kill to survive. Not to kill just for fun, and certainly not to kill for sexual pleasure. Sexual abuse of women and children is never justifiable. There is absolutely no point to it other than to degrade the victim and gratify the perpetrator.

    Secondly, sexual assault is a much more widely spread problem than murder. The odds of a woman being raped are much higher than the odds that someone will be murdered. Sexual assault is a real fear and a present danger. In no way should we condone the act as something to take lightly. If, like you suggest, the people who purchase these manga, anime, or games are predisposed to misogyny, we absolutely should not make it okay for them to indulge in those fantasies.

    I hope that you read and respond to my comments. I would love to continue a dialogue on this issue and maybe help you to understand my perspective.

  7. Thanks for your comments. I need you to understand a few things. First, your concepts of wrong and right, while probably very intuitive to you, are far from universal. In the rural Middle East, what is right is for the neighborhood to stone a woman who openly sleeps with different men. It’s what they do, in their culture, and nobody questions this. Similarly, in the US, while that particular example of behavior wouldn’t result in more than raised eyebrows, we look at, say, Woody Allen marrying a girl half his age, and express disgust. Elsewhere, that would be a non-issue, probably not even worth mentioning. We don’t let the rural Middle East dictate our reaction to a woman’s dating habits because we successfully recognize that that is a quirk of their culture. We are not so good, however, at recognizing the quirks of our own culture, because we take them for granted.

    The arrogance I mentioned is in foisting a one-size-fits-all view of the world on other countries. In short, eradicating their culture and replacing it with our own – even if their way of doing things strikes us as “wrong” – is fundamentally arrogant. And this is precisely what Equality Now has said: an entire Japanese industry is wrong, and we, the foreigners, are right, because we are doing this on behalf of women, and how can you argue against that? If you cannot understand how sinister that line of reasoning is, I fear we are not going to be able to have a meaningful conversation on this topic.

    Now on to specific points.

    “Your suggestion that these laws are a step away from forced chemical castration of the public is a ridiculous argument to extremes.”

    Your phrasing, not mine. I merely point out that if you accept that the loss of freedom for security is okay, and do not draw a line somewhere to preserve individual rights, that is one logical result. I have not said anything about “one step.”

    “They are trying to make it clear that those acts are not okay.”

    Do you seriously think that rapists base their actions on whether or not they are socially acceptable? If they could fit within society, why would they rape at all?

    “Remember, even if something is cultural accepted, that doesn’t always make it right.”

    I would like you to remember that when it comes time to enact sweeping legislation to take away more personal freedoms.

    “Do you think we should encourage that behavior? If the abuse of women and children is treated so casually — as a pastime, as a game — the horror of those crimes are lessened.”

    It’s not a matter of encouragement or not. Look at what happens when societies repress and censor pornography – sexual assaults increase. Numerous studies are in agreement on this, and I have yet to see an independent study that concludes otherwise (though there are many studies funded by political groups that purport to show the opposite conclusion, because that is what they were designed to do.)

    In this situation, whether or not you find pornography abhorrent, the responsible thing to do is to make it available so as to minimize the number of actual rapes on actual women.

    That is the priority, right?

  8. First of all, I have to disagree with your first example, of how honor killings go unquestioned because they are traditional: we must run in very different circles, because I don’t know anyone who thinks that murder is okay because it’s just what they do.

    Secondly, this article is not just talking about the Japanese, but laws in the Philippines and the United Kingdom. The proposed UK law would apply to all sexualized images of minors, not just the Japanese-made ones. In any event, I bet most Japanese people would tell you that their culture is about a lot more than sexually violent pornography. You talk like we’re wantonly trying to destroy their society here.

    Just to reinforce the gist of what I’ve just said: rape and needless violence against women is not okay anywhere or for any reason. How are we supposed to improve the lives of citizens if we’re too afraid to challenge outdated ideas? Would you say that slavery is acceptable because the United States practiced it for centuries?

    “Do you seriously think that rapists base their actions on whether or not they are socially acceptable? If they could fit within society, why would they rape at all?”

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. In your example of Middle Eastern honor killings, murder is culturally acceptable and it continues for that reason. You’re straying very close to the idea that “good boys don’t need to rape”. Most rapes are committed by men who are acquaintances of the victim, who are seen as normal until (or even after) they are accused of rape. These men get away with their crimes *because* they fit in, because they don’t “look” like bad men who live on the fringes of society.

    Now on to the “More Porn, Less Rape” study. Which studies are you referencing, exactly? For the following paragraph, I’m going to refer to Todd Kendall’s study “Pornography, Rape, and the Internet”. It was the most frequently cited work in the search I performed. The only other study I could find would not let me access the entirety of the paper, only the abstract. Here is a link to Kendall’s study: http://www.law.stanford.edu/display/images/dynamic/events_media/Kendall%20cover%20+%20paper.pdf

    When examining research about the relationship between porn and rape, we should keep in mind that a large number of rapes go unreported. The most dramatic finding of Kendall’s study was the correlation between increased access to porn and arrest rates of 15-19 young men. However, we goes on to note that “the estimated effects on arrest rates for other age groups are statistically insignificant and smaller in magnitude”. Kendall also notes that acquaintance rape is less reported than stranger rape and that this difference affects his study. He admits: “To the extent that the effect of pornography on rape might differ across these categories of rape, one should be extremely careful in extrapolating the results reported here to understanding rape generally.”*

    There are more variables that need to be accounted for in these studies. Do they take into consideration the changes in sex crimes legislation, education, and cultural values we have seen in recent decades? American society has seen a boom in the availability of information and entertainment. Increased access to pornography is only one aspect of these changes.

    An accurate study of this kind can never be done. The research team would have to give porn to a randomly selected group (and they would have to decide what kind of porn it would be), then observe them for years. Kendall

    In fact, the number of all reported violent crimes has been on the decline since the early 1990s.** It is highly unlikely that the rise in the availability of porn is responsible for this decline. It remains to be seen whether these new restrictions on sexually violent material will lead to an increase in rape.

    *Page 5 of “Pornography, Rape, and the Internet” by Todd Kendall, http://www.law.stanford.edu/display/images/dynamic/events_media/Kendall%20cover%20+%20paper.pdf

    ** http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm
    ** http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/table_01a.html This table shows the percentage changes in different categories of crime. I chose to use the data from 2006, since that was year in which the “More Porn, Less Rape” study was published. As you can see, the rate of violent crime is down 22.5% from 1997 to 2006.

  9. “I don’t know anyone who thinks that murder is okay because it’s just what they do.”

    “In your example of Middle Eastern honor killings, murder is culturally acceptable and it continues for that reason.”

    The honor killers themselves evidently think it’s okay. And you are missing my main point, which is: you similarly don’t doubt that what you are arguing so passionately for is good. The honor killers enforce their vision of good on others unquestioningly, because it is dictated by their culture. Logically, how can you say that what you are proposing to force on others unquestioningly is not merely culturally mandated, in a similar fashion?

    “Secondly, this article is not just talking about the Japanese, but laws in the Philippines and the United Kingdom. The proposed UK law would apply to all sexualized images of minors, not just the Japanese-made ones.”

    Exactly, which only makes it worse. You have to understand, an anime with a single panty shot of a high school girl put in as a gag can technically be said to contain “a sexualized image of a minor.” This could make a completely innocuous comedy show criminal to watch. It’s a far cry from being specifically targeted at porn.

    “You talk like we’re wantonly trying to destroy their society here.”

    It doesn’t matter if it’s wanton or surgical. You are acting like you have the right to dictate what they shall or shall not do, and that is the cultural centrism I decried. This act of dictating terms from a supposed moral superior to lessers, coming from a movement that began for equal rights for women, is intellectually bankrupt.

    Finally, that study you cited pretty clearly spells out that allowing men access to porn results in less rape. Let me quote it:

    “These results, which suggest that pornography and rape are substitutes, are in contrast with most previous literature. However, earlier population-level studies do not control adequately for many omitted variables, including the age distribution of the population, and most laboratory studies simply do not allow for potential substitutability between pornography and rape.”

  10. And all I hope for is less service and more story already.It’s more of a case of taste, and less a question of rights for me I suppose. The sheep can only be herded so well.

  11. just saying from an average person educated in health (inc. psych & sexual health), let me say this in plain terms: not all porn is rape. and if people would just chillax a bit, porn can be considered healthy as it doesn’t drive you to go rape someone & it helps release sexual tension… and as for the sexualization of women, it simply is fan service… it’s their culture so let’s leave it at that.

    don’t go and try enforcing your beliefs onto others. it will never end well.

    “In pursuit of change, feminist organizations may be unwittingly employing a cultural centrism every bit as arrogant as that used to justify the millennia of patriarchy they so deplore.”

    so true… >,<

    good write mori… and nice comments… sorry mine's a bit plain… =__=;;

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