Monday, June 21, 2010

Kiddie porn is somehow still up for debate in Japan

To begin, some of the content described or mentioned in this post may be disgusting to some, and if you have sensitive sensibilities, then please just look at the pretty picture and move on.

I was reading the Japan Times the other day, and came by a story that caught my attention: "Manga child sex clampdown fails" was a minor headline on the bottom corner of the second page about a week back. Reading this led me on a exploratory journey through Japanese law.

Turns out the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly (somewhat analogous to a provincial or state government, as Tokyo is administered as a prefecture of its own) had proposed a bill which toughened restrictions on selling pornographic depictions of children in comic books and animation, as well as content depicting rape and other heinous acts of sexual violence. The bill as proposed was highly vague and liberal. Using the concept of "nonexistent minors" for characters in manga and anime that appear to be under the age of 18, the proposal would have urged bookstores and other vendors not to sell content depicting minors engaged in sexual intercourse to children. It would have URGED them. No bans, no enforcement, just URGING. Of course in Japan these things might be tantamount, but the point remains; this bill was not strict at all. The only note that would be enforced was the selling of such material to minors; this was to be made illegal. Note that right now these types of materials are sold to anyone who wants them at bookstores, convenience stores, and stalls on the side of the street.

To western eyes this seems like a pretty decent (if not completely obvious) proposal. Who wants to see prepubescent school girls getting raped on magazine covers when you're picking up some coffee and a doughnut in the morning? Even if it is animated? And obviously we don't want kids being exposed to such disgusting stuff, right? And much more importantly, what kind of person buys this stuff? The answer: a hell of a lot of Japanese men. So the diet (parliament) shot down the bill, saying it violated freedom of expression. Also noting that minors should be exposed to sex, not sheltered from it. Wow, Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Diet. Just wow. (N.B. To contrast, all "real life" pornography in any form in Japan is censored, or at least the babymaking parts are.)

And it gets worse.

Japan is the only country in the G8 in which possession of child porn is legal. And not just animated stuff, real life stuff, with real life children. Of course production, distribution and possession with the intent to distribute is illegal, but owning it is fine. Really, Japan? Seriously?

The bans on production and distribution theoretically make getting one's hands on such materials somewhat difficult (though in the days of the internet... likely not that difficult in practice), but of course the Japanese entertainment industry want to give their customers what they want. So here comes the "Idol" magazine. These are "adult" magazines which are full of semi-nude (lingerie, tight, scant or revealing clothing, schoolgirl outfits, maids, etc) underage models in provocative poses, clearly being sold for a pornographic purpose. These magazines come in age ranges, and to quote Wikipedia:

"The primary divisions are divided by years U-18, U-15, and U-12 but there are also more recent partitions designated as U-10, U-6, and U-3 to reflect changes in the marketplace and idol fan communities"

So U-18 is the cut off for real porn, and the models in this range are around 18 years old. I'm so glad that recently the producers have moved on to "models" aged 10, 6 and 3 fucking years old due to changes in the marketplace and fan communities. Disgusted yet? These magazines are also sold to anyone who wants them at bookstores, convenience stores and stalls on the side of the street.


A photo I stole from another Japan Times article on this topic, showing an "adult" magazine with a bold pronouncement on the cover: "Our youngest cover model ever! She just turned 14!"

This really is all kinda disturbing to my western sensibilities, where such things would likely be at the very least frowned upon. But 3 or 4 million of these books were sold in 2006, so its not like they're a fringe group.

Just going into any of the seedier shops on the main road of Akihabara will give more insight into some of the more disgusting sides of Japanese culture. The walls are plastered with obcene (animated) sex acts. Now you might say "whatever, if its your thing, power to you, porn to the people! who are you to criticize such things, and when did you turn into such a prude, Blake?"

Well, anonymous and theoretical critic, if anime and manga depicting rape, torture, mutilation and humiliation of young children is your thing, then in my not-so-humble opinion, something is seriously amiss. Again, in my opinion, the consumption of such images and videos in a country's populace should not be cultivated or commercialized in such a way. Granted, its better than real kiddie porn, but hey, having that is legal too. WHY, JAPAN? Why are you so backward?

Its amazing how pervasive in the culture and people acceptance of this stuff is. A bunch of us gaijins were discussing this bill (before it was overturned) in front of a lone nihonjin. We were saying how ridiculous it was (implying that it was obvious and should have come into law ages ago), when the nihonjin was like "Oh ya, it is SOOOOO ridiculous? I mean, what are they thinking?"

"Wait a second... -name redacted-, in what way is it ridiculous? Ridiculous good or ridiculous bad?"

Lets just say he thought it was a bad idea, and this tends to be the overwhelming opinion here.

Regarding the selling of the materials to children, the people in power say that exposing sexual acts to children does much to generate a healthy and open view of sex, while sheltering leads to an unhealthy fear or embarrassment linked to sex. They say selling animes and mangas depicting the rape of children to be obviously advantageous to their society, and promptly cite this United Nations statistic:

NationTotal recorded rape per 100,000 inhabitants (2004)[17]Total number of reported child pornography websites (2008)[18]
Canada75.1677
United States32.05 (2000)[19]560
England and Wales26.632 (UK)
France17.589
Germany10.702139
Russian Federation4.78 (2000)[19]259
Italy6.451
Japan1.78 (2000)[19]6

So Japan has the lowest rape rate in the G8. And wow, Canada has like 50x more rapes per capita than Japan. Crazy. (Also wow @ Germany kiddie porn presence on the internet!)

If this is the case, why the fuck are there special train-cars on every busy train for women only, with signs explaining that its for women's safety and avoiding sexual abuse? The problem must have gotten pretty extreme for train companies to add such a feature. Why do girls fear going on crowded trains without said train-cars? Maybe I'm completely off base, maybe the sexually crazed view of Japanese people (think tentacles, robots and lolicon) is a result of something lost in translation, or instead of the media being a result of a sexually crazy people, the sexually crazed media serves as an outlet and ends up with a more peaceable and non-raping people.

Who knows, but this is all kinda weird to me.

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