Syp at Bio Break today has a small rant about the Seven Of Nine costume in Star Trek Online. Larrissa of Pink Pigtail Inn mentions how she will be playing a male Worgen instead of a female one in WoW because of the oversexualized dance. Massively’s most recent post with the highest amount of comments involves how MMOs treat women.
While I have come down on the other side of this particular argument, that’s not the point of this post. It’s also not the real danger. Syp’s little rant inspired a rant that has been building in me for a long time, and it’s similar in tone. It’s as follows:
The coming danger is not how women are sexualized in MMOs and Gamer culture. The danger is the massive explosion of lolicon among the gamer and anime net culture.
Lolicon is defined in this TV Tropes article here. The term is a portmaneau of Lolita complex, from Vladimir Nakobov’s infamous book Lolita. Lolicon is the otaku’s (the fan’s) fetishization and sexualization of underage girls. It’s related to the concept of Moe but not always a part of it. Moe is a focus on the cute, innocent, and heartwarming, designed to inspire protective feelings, but for many Moe characters fetishization follows, especially in the amateur comic (doujinshi) grey market surrounding anime shows. You can have Moe without a hint of sexualization from the creators at all: the anime series Kamichu comes to mind. However sometimes the lolicon aspects are very intended if not explicit if not pornographic by creator intent.
With the rise in popularity in Japanese anime has come a rise in the popularity of its sexual dark side, and while I have little to no idea of the real numbers behind it, I think it’s influence can’t be ignored. The anonymous and semi-anon image boards like danbooru, sankaku complex, and the /chan boards are part of what drives it. Also driving it is the release stateside of many borderline if not outright lolicon works, like Gunslinger Girl or Strike Witches by localizating mainstream corporations like Funimation. At root though is the production of it in Japanese culture and the acceptance of it, and by osmosis it has seeped into Otaku and gamer culture.
I’m not sure why it exists. Cultural differences about age of consent, the closeness of the school years and the remoteness of female contact in the working world, and the Moe idealization of women while at the same time infantilizing them may be factors. But it’s one of the parts of Japanese subculture that I can’t fully understand. However that subculture and anime in general has been a profound influence on gamer culture, and it worries me. It worries me because it’s becoming an “open secret.”-a thing people don’t really acknowledge but it’s there.
While Syp and Larissa both have very valid concerns, I have yet to see the blogging community mention Aika’s Pran, especially having found this. When a Pran matures to a certain level, the default “cute” voice can be replaced by one of six “teen” voices. Here’s the cringe-inducing “Sexy/Sassy/Mature” one: (suggestive, not safe for work)
It made me wince. That’s not the kicker though, this is the “teen” pran:
What the FUCK Gpotato? How the hell did you even make that pass localization? This is the shit that worries me, because it’s obviously lolicon pandering in the native market by adding that option. Why the hell did you feel the need to bring that vocal option over? It’s bad enough that the original game has these Prans as a sort of a familiar in a servant-master role, that you also had to bring over an outright lolicon vocal type along with the rest of the traditional “types” like Genki Girl or Tsundere.
Yeah, it’s fantasy. Yeah, people aren’t going to do it in real life, I hope to God. But what worries me is that no one is realizing or talking about it. It’s a shadow culture that is net-driven and while you can argue the difference between reality and fantasy, what we fantasize on does affect our mindsets. In a way, I’m arguing against my own position: this also can be applied to women as well. And yeah, fantasizing even normally can overexaggerate and influence how we view women. A responsible guy realizes that and makes sure not to let them bleed over or affect real life.
But when you start fantasizing about things seriously morally wrong, even that argument fails. I don’t want to come across as holier than thou or anything but no one is talking about this: no newspaper ever mentions it, no pundit ever discusses it, and it’s just like a big invisible elephant in the gamer culture room. It’s getting to the point where people take it as a mater-of-fact and talk about the token loli in the cast of the latest hit manga, or joke about it.
If you think it’s not something to worry about, look at Furry culture. Anthropomorphic animal comics used to be a valid way of telling a story and often expanded the genre in good ways, like Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, or Carl Banks’s Uncle Scrooge stories. However, that fandom got sexualized to hell and back, and now Furry is a term of derision.
I don’t think I can say much more. But this has to be said: Gamer and Anime culture need to start taking a hard look at the lolicon influence and should start distancing itself from that. I wrote this to spark discussion and hopefully get people thinking about it. I don’t have solutions. But this has just been invisible too long.