Tuesday, December 14, 2010


"It's the same as most countries, old people have a disproportionate influence on voting."

Abortion is still largely illegal in the Republic of Ireland, although after a 1992 court case, abortions are allowed in cases where the mother's life is endangered. Comedians such as Brian Regan find it astounding that a country could get so late in the 20th century before legalizing the murder of infants. How unsophisticated of them.

Sometimes laws reach different places later than others, based on that culture's morals and the way ideas develop. For instance, in Japan, prostitution is legal as long as there's no actual penetration. Magazines and comics depicting underage girls (even in explicit sex acts in the case of animation and drawings) is legal, but certain parts of the human body must be censored.

Recently there's been a strong push to make depiction of underage girls illegal, which has been met with strong opposition by the not inconsiderable amount of manga and anime (Japanese cartoon and comic book) fans in the country.

A law banning explicit sexual content of this sort in Japanese media recently passed but it has much broader application than simply child porn. The law bans “virtual crimes” and depictions which are “likely to interfere with the healthy development of youth.” A clause in the bill calls for any examination of the potentially illegal material consider “any artistic, social, scientific or satirical merits the work might express.”

The bill's original text specifically mentioned underage or "loli" content, but the legislation now covers “rape and other sexual acts which violate societal norms” which is broader but includes underage girls.

Most countries have had bans on depictions of underage girls for decades if not centuries, but Japan considered cartoons to be harmless and acceptable because no actual girls were involved in the process. Which again seems to touch on the legal concept of volenti non fit injuria I wrote about yesterday: no actual people are clearly and immediately harmed in a manner which is easy to determine. Without a clear moral foundation for making decisions the principle of "well nobody was obviously hurt by this" ends up being the final word.

Japan found that what seemed ultimately harmless was creating a culture where schoolgirls were treated as prey and sexualized at an earlier and earlier age. There wasn't any immediate harm to any actual girls by drawing sick pictures of little girls in sexual situations and no actual humans were being shown, but the corrosion to culture and the shift in cultural perception of girls was an eventual result. They're now trying to fight to stop that, and facing heavy opposition.

Usually, that's how it works. People demand immediate and easy to understand reasons why not to do something, and faced with complex and subtle reasons not to, they ignore the warnings and want to push on in an ever more permissive society. In the end, it is revealed what the damage finally is, but by that time, it is often so much a part of the culture that it is very difficult to remove and the damage very slow and difficult to reverse.

Sometimes wisdom is best to heed rather than demanding tangible, scientific evidence.

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