Lolicon: The Reality of ‘Virtual Child Pornography’ in Japan

Patrick W. Galbraith

Abstract


As its popular culture rapidly disseminates around the world, there is increasing pressure on Japan to meet global standards for regulating child pornography, and certain types of purely fictional images have been implicated. One of the keywords is lolicon (or rorikon), used to describe manga, anime and games that feature “underage” characters in sexual and sometimes violent situations. This paper examines the large and long-standing community of fans (among those referred to as otaku) in Japan who produce and consume lolicon works to question the assumptions of media effects. In recent debates in Japan, proponents of new legislation, which was eventually adopted, argued that sexual and violent representations in manga and anime should be specially regulated because such content is “the same for whoever reads or watches and there is only one way to understand it.” However, a review of lolicon culture suggests that messages and receptions are, and have always been, much more varied and complex. Even the relation between fiction and reality is not at all straightforward. Responding to the new legislation, Fujimoto Yukari comments that manga and anime are “not always about the representation of objects of desire that exist in reality, nor about compelling parties to realize their desires in reality.” From a legal standpoint, no identifiable minor is involved in the production of lolicon and no physical harm is done. There is no evidence to support the claim that the existence of lolicon, or engagement with such content, encourages “cognitive distortions” or criminal acts. As Mark McLelland argues, criminalizing such material represents a form of “thought censorship” and a trend towards the “juridification of imagination.” This potentially might shut down alternative spaces of imagination and communities negotiating or opposing dominant cultural meanings.

Keywords


child pornography;rorikon;otaku;shōjo

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Online Magazine of the Visual Narrative - ISSN 1780-678X