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Dan Kanemitsu has a great post up about why the proposed Tokyo ban of depictions of "nonexistent youth" in sexual situations is dangerous nonsense. Discussion about this proposed legislation has only been postponed at this point, and the city of Osaka has apparently decided they want to appear vigilant as well (and will engage in added vigilance by regulating women's comics and boys' love/yaoi. Thank heavens someone realizes that women's expressions of sexuality need extra policing! </sarcasm>).

Getting up in arms about nonexistent children seems to be a real trend these days. A similar law has gone live in the UK only a few days ago. With the February sentencing of US citizen Christopher Handley for possessing “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children" and Australia recently mulling criminalization of viewing or linking to online depictions of what might be nonexistent children in sexual situations, it almost looks as if countries are egging each other on to see who can look toughest on child pornography.

Dan's post "Thought Police Can't Protect Real Children" is a fine breakdown of exactly why this kind of legislation is a bad, bad idea, compiling all the usual arguments into one clear and well-thought article (in both English and Japanese, too). It should definitely be read in its entirety, but here are my favourite bits and quotes:

  • The banning of fictional depictions of child abuse would likely be as meaningless as the banning of fictional depictions of car chasing with the aim toward reducing motor vehicle accidents in real life.Content in itself is not the issue--Child pornography has been outlawed because the methods involved in production involve real children in possibly abusive circumstances. How the material was produced is what makes it criminal, not what impression it conveys on the audience.
  • If content alone was the issue, war footage and horror films should be banned as well.
  • Child pornography involving real children being sexually abused is horrid beyond words. For that very reason, I find it reprehensible to mix together such acts of human misery and suffering with illusionary fantasy that exists only in the author's imagination. Widening the definition of child pornography to include fictional material belittles the gravity of real sex abuse.
  • Many convicted criminals also cite the Bible as their inspiration of conducting astonishingly savage acts, and yet few would attribute the Bible as the root cause of such criminal behavior. Why?--Because free societies accept the principle that people are responsible for their own actions.
  • It is very dangerous to restrict the actions and rights of citizens based on the principle that some limited number of individuals may act irresponsibly. This is the equivalent of removing knives from the household kitchen because someone used a meat cleaver to commit a crime. Again, this logic is unbelievably reckless as well.
  • Furthermore, crime statistics published by the Japanese police themselves show no causality between the proliferation of erotic material and sex crimes. The crime rate has dramatically decreased since WW2 while the availability of erotica and violent fictional entertainment has risen by leaps and bounds during the same period.
  • It is easily imaginable that an endless cycle of accusations and denials will unfold regarding establishing the "true age" of fictional characters. Authors and publishers will more than likely attempt to proclaim that the characters look young, but they are actually above the age of 18. Physical attributes vary between widely depending on race and ethnicity, not to mention fictional non-human characters.
  • Publishers and authors are extremely proficient in adapting toward new regulations. If graphical depictions are banned, then abstract or comedic depictions will increase.
  • Either an ever increasing set of symbols will be deemed to be inappropriate to be linked to a core human attribute--human sexuality--or the futility of the ban will lead the law to become impotent over all.
  • Such a ban will stifle creativity and impoverish the cultural landscape.
  • Banning the fictional depictions of minors involved in sexual situations will make a fundamental core human attribute taboo.
  • Even today, numerous adult manga publications have self censorship standards that are mind-boggling. Authors have complained about how some editors have insisted on having all female characters appearing in their works be endowed with large breasts because drawing women as they appear more like in real life was deemed "too childish looking."
  • The value attributed to works of literature and art change over time. The works of modern art and literature from the last two centuries are filled with examples where they were deemed to be vile, corruptive trash by contemporary authorities, but now these same works enjoy high status as priceless cultural treasures.
  • A culture grows richer through addition, not by subtraction.
  • A ban on fictional depictions of minor engaged in sexual situations has the very real potential to brand individuals as sex offenders even though they have had no sexual contact with real people. I believe there could be no legal justification for destroying people's lives simple because they drew doodles on paper, but the proposed ban would create such a legal precedence.
  • I am absolutely certain that history will not look back kindly upon such a ban, and it will join a long list of colossal failures of regulatory policy, such as the prohibition of alcohol in the US between 1920 to 1933, various sodomy laws, the comic book code, and bans on socialist literature in Japan during the prewar era. It is important to note that all these failed moral crusades were led by virtuous and diligent individuals intent on making the world a better place.

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