Images that depict underage girls and boys are about to be banned in the UK.
First, some context (quotes from experiencefestival.com:)
“The United States Supreme Court decided in 2002, and affirmed in 2004, that previous American prohibition of simulated child pornography under the Child Pornography Prevention Act was unconstitutional.” The main issue was that there was no harm to any actual children, and the court found that viewing of this material had no causative link to harming children. True, someone sexually attracted to children would enjoy this kind of pornography, but the converse was not true: someone who enjoyed it would not necessarily harm, or have any feelings for, real children.
“UK law has dealt with simulated images quite differently since 1994, when the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act introduced the legal definition of an ‘indecent pseudo-photograph of a child,’ which is prohibited as if it were a true photograph.” This act was originally interpreted to apply only to photorealistic images; drawings that were clearly not based on any real children were permitted.
Now, however, things may be changing.
Japanese “loli” manga appears to be the focus of the recent ban. In the Japanese cultural context, youth is merely a way of depicting or denoting innocence and the capacity for wonder. Japanese pop idols are deliberately made to appear childlike and cute, deliberately choosing voices, attire, mannerisms, and so on with this in mind. This does not necessarily mean that the average Japanese are actually attracted to children; rather, they value such characteristics in adults as a symbol of being “a child at heart.” It is, after all, one thing to have a deep faith in humanity when you are eight, and quite another to have it when you are twenty-five.
Japan is not a nation of pedophiles, but rather a nation that values innocence and has chosen to depict that innocence with physical characteristics, the result of which is disturbing to some Westerners. (This is a simplification for the purpose of clarifying cultural context. Individual Japanese may, of course, actually be pedophiles, but then again so may individual Westerners. I have no idea if there is a statistical difference in pedophilia between Japan and “Western” countries.)
None of this changes the fact that it is still porn, but it does not have the same connotations as child porn, which is a loaded term. Since porn is not banned in the UK, this is not a discussion of whether or not loli porn is objectionable, but rather, whether it is any more objectionable than other forms of porn and whether the law should recognize this.
A few observations:
– Obviously this is most relevant to the UK, but as it is a very visible implementation of law, it will no doubt be watched by legal scholars throughout the rest of the European Union and in the States (to a limited extent.)
– English Law has always been less about first principles and logical progression from such, and more about the expression of what the English find unacceptable. Naturally, UK law follows this tendency strongly. Ideas about trial by jury and such derive from that principle, as traditionally if a jury found someone’s behavior technically illegal but reasonable under the circumstances, they could find him innocent.
– This is related to the concept of age of consent as a whole as simply an antiquated cultural construct. The debate about the many problems inherent in legally-enforced arbitrary ages of consent has been going on for years, however, and not much headway has been made.
– There is no proof whatsoever that loli images in any way alter the incidence of real pedophilia, for good or for ill. After all, the US court found that some who enjoy “loli” works either have no feelings for actual living minors or have the restraint to not act them out. And if pedophilia is a mental illness or inherent compulsion, then discouraging related artwork has little bearing on incidence, anyway.
– If society asserts that the conflation of youth and sexuality is unilaterally bad, does that carry through to the sexualization of qualities associated with minors (youthful energy, rosy outlook on life, etc.)? Are those bad too? Is there something inherently wrong about a girl saying, “I want an energetic boyfriend?” Is there something automatically bad about a boy saying, “I want to date an innocent and pure girl?”
– Are things legal only because society expects them, approves of them, and considers them normal?
All in all it would seem that this is the United Kingdom taking a step back away from modern democratic ideals. It is entirely possible to paint this as one of many curtailments of individual liberties in the UK, though whether that is really the case is beyond the scope of this article. Things could get a bit uncomfortable for British otaku.