I had not expected to try to write something serious so soon after starting this blog, but when I saw this article http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30698640, I knew I was going to need a release.
I remember a time when the BBC website was my home site, and when I enjoyed reading the news from the British perspective. Unfortunately, as time has gone on, I feel the general quality of the news has gone down. I have also noticed a surge in British nationalism. I love quite a few things from Britain. My in-laws, pub food, soccer, Top Gear, Dr. Who, Sherlock, and a number of other things. Lately however, the British seem to love themselves much more than I ever could. I’ve been wondering for a while now if this trend will continue. This might sound strange coming from an American, since the “‘Murica is the best at everything” attitude is so prevalent here. Among more educated circles however, that ‘Murican attitude has a very negative connotation. Spend some time on any international website with that “Leader of the Free World” mentality and you will be attacked mercilessly. Thing is, the US got this way by constantly telling itself that it was true, that we were superior. It makes me uncomfortable seeing the British doing the same thing. This brings me back to the article. When I saw it, I had read enough recent BBC articles to know where this was going.
Let me get this out of the way. I abhor child pornography, and I dislike the sexualized depictions of children in manga and anime. I would like Japan to do more to curb the sexual depictions of children in manga because I find it disgusting. However, I don’t have the first clue how they should go about this. Two things that become troublesome is how do you define the age of a fictional entity and what makes a depiction sexual. I could show you a drawing of a pre-pubescent girl, and tell you that she is 18 in my story. Is this an issue? Characters like this are not uncommon in anime/manga. Usually it is played for laughs, but the question remains. Sexual depictions of a character of that kind are difficult to address. Do you go by the story or the image? On the flip side, busty and adult looking pre-pubescent girls also occasionally show up in anime/manga. Add into to all of this that anime/manga characters are caricatures. Feminine traits like larger eyes in proportion to their face, smaller noses, and yes, the curves, are exaggerated as part of the style. This all makes writing an effective law difficult. The other issue is what makes a scene sexual. Although clothing, or the lack of it, is part of the equation, it is entirely possible to have sexual depictions without “showing skin” and it is possible for nudity to not be sexual. Still, I would like Japan to pass something, some baseline rules that would cover the darker shades of gray. In that respect, the question posed by the article’s title is a legitimate one.
Unfortunately, things go downhill from the title. The picture below it, with a group of busty girls in school uniforms, serves to taint the anime/manga industry as a whole (as well as gathering lots of internet traffic). Certainly what the article is talking about isn’t “mainstream” anime/manga. Of course, the “meat’ of the article does include a caveat about the size of child porn manga.
“Material like this is a tiny part of Japan’s huge manga industry, which generates around US $3.6bn in sales annually.”
That’s not the impression you get from a quick scan of the article. From there we go skipping down the magical stereotype road on our way to Oz. You see, the article lets us know that the Japanese are just perverts in general. A few lines from the above disclaimer is the mention of millions of manga fans being made into criminals if child porn manga was outlawed and then a couple of paragraphs on the general perviness of Japanese culture. What really drew got me going was this bullet point block in the middle of the article.
Japan and images of child sexual abuse
Japan outlawed the production and distribution of images of sexual abuse of children in 1999 – 21 years after the UK
In 2013, the US State Department described Japan as an “international hub for the production and trafficking of child pornography”
Japan’s police agency reported 1,644 offences in 2013 – more than in any year since the 1999 law came into force
In June 2014, Japan banned possession of real images of child sexual abuse – people were given one year to comply
The first bullet point in particular drew my ire, as it seems to be trying to assert some kind of British superiority.
A further caveat also shows up in the article.
This is what worries critics – the concern that even if no-one is harmed in the creation of sexually explicit manga, it might normalise, facilitate, or lead to an increased risk of sexual abuse.
No-one knows whether this is the case – research has been inconclusive.
This is true, but certain statistics are available. BBC knows this, because they have reported on them before. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-10879109 Just how prevalent is child sexual abuse in Japan?
“In 2012, 66,701 cases of suspected child abuse were reported to child consultation centers nationwide. Physical violence comprised 35 percent of all cases, while neglect accounted for 29 percent, psychological abuse 33.6 percent and sexual abuse 2.2 percent. According to National Police Agency statistics, 482 arrests were made in 2013 that were related to child abuse allegations. Physical violence accounted for 70 percent of these cases, while sexual assault made up almost 22 percent. Of those arrested, 77 percent were either fathers or father figures.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2014/09/13/lifestyle/waking-child-abuse/
2.2% of 66,701 is 1,467. It’s worth noting that is suspected cases. 1,467 suspected cases in a country of 127 million. How does that compare to Britain.
“In 2012/13, there were 18,915 sexual crimes against children under 16 recorded in England and Wales, according to the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Included in that figure were 4,171 offences of sexual assault on a female child under 13 and 1,267 offences of sexual assault on under-13 male children.” http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/child-sexual-abuse-top-5-countries-highest-rates-143616
That’s over 5,000 cases with less than half the population of Japan (around 56 million) There are a number of factors that could be effecting these numbers, but the disparity is so astoundingly high, that it’s hard believe Japan could be worse. If every suspected case in Japan was an actual crime and if only 1 in 8 of the incidences of sexual abuse actually got reported, Japan would still be below England and Wales. It’s hard to imagine where the morally superior tone comes from, considering the recent scandals in England. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-28939089 It must be because the British don’t have the “fascination with youth” that Japan has, and after all, they outlawed child porn drawings way back in 2009. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2009/25/part/2/chapter/2
The article is implicitly critical of Japan’s openness regarding it’s sexual deviancy. I have to wonder though, if perhaps the taboo nature of sex in the US and UK is much more of a problem. Child Sexual Abuse and Child Pornography are real issues, and deserve better coverage than simply pointing at another race and commenting on how pervy they are. There was a time when you could expect real reporting from the BBC. It’s sad to watch such a storied institution morph into Fox News UK.