Natalie Rambles About the Sexualization of Minors in Media

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Because even though I know this is a terrible idea, I still want to talk about it!

A topic that I have been seeing come up quite often this year is the sexualization of minors in media, particularly with regards to video games, because that’s kind of the thing I squarely focus on above all others. It’s a topic that I previously discussed in light detail, mostly because I know it is a very controversial topic, did not want to give a wrong impression, and I did not want to dedicate the majority of that post to that kind of subject matter. But Rambles are my way of undergoing a deep dive within a given topic, and I’ve already made an entire Ramble about TG, so my standards for acceptable topics are acceptable are pretty low.

When observing the discourse centered around this subject, that being the depiction of underaged characters in sexual situations, I often see debates spiral back and forward due to differences in terminology and a clear understanding of what exactly people are trying to say about the subject matter at hand. I don’t want to say that half of all arguments come down to a communication error or difference in terminology, but it often feels that way.

So let’s get things started with a total of four definitions! Now, I tried to find the best singular terms to represent these concepts, but language is a fickle thing and there is not always a widely understood or recognized way to punctually convey these concepts, so I will be stretching the meaning of these words here.

Abstraction: A term relating to a work that is not based in reality or realism, and is not meant to represent a real person. Such as illustrations, comics, animated films, computer rendered images, and so forth.

Live Action: A term meant to distinguish works that are made by recording or capturing the real world, primarily films, but I am using it to describe anything using photography, videography, etc. Or in other words, not an abstraction of reality, but rather a direct representation or reality.

Sexually Explicit: I actually found a definition I really liked for this one: “Sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex as well as bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, and the lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.” Or in other terms, unambiguous pornography!

Sexually Suggestive: Material or actions with sexual undertones that themselves are not explicitly sexual. Basically, anything that alludes to or references sex without being sex.

I bring these definitions up because they can easily be arranged to form a two dimensions, media type and sexualization level, that can easily be represented using a chart that creates four distinctive categories. All of which I will go through in order to properly explain my thoughts on the matter and limit the ambiguity found within this discussion.

Sexually Explicit Content Involving Minors in Live Action Media

I really should not need to say that this is nigh universally considered to be unquestionably bad, and it is. Minors are very susceptible due to developmental reasons, they cannot offer consent, the act of unwilling sexual activity can be immensely detrimental on the mental and emotional being of any individual, and the any form of this that exists outside of this act itself, such as a video recording, is evidence of a minor being victimized, abused, and sexually exploited. I, and most of the world, consider those who indulge in this behavior or enjoy the products of these actions to be reprehensible scum that victimize and harm the most susceptible demographic of society.  Oh, and there is the fact that consumption of this media only goes to drive the demand for it, creating a vicious cycle of abuse that should be severed.

Now… I do believe that there exists some areas where this is handled weirdly by the law in not only the United States, but the entire world. It creates situations where sexually explicit acts between minors who are the same age and the act of an 18-year-old having sex with a 17-year-old can both be considered crimes. But when talking about the distribution of any sexually explicit material featuring a minor, it’s unabashedly bad.  I mean, this shit is the very definition of child porn, clean and simple.

Sexually Suggestive Content Involving Minors in Live Action Media

I consider this to be a far less straightforward topic, due primarily to the nature of sexually suggestive content and the fact that… it’s just about everywhere. Every time an underaged woman wears a low cut or high cut top, bikini, or any form of skimpy clothing, that can be considered sexually suggestive. Every time an underaged male is depicted in nothing but their underwear, swimming trunks, or just about any instance where their shirt is off, that can be considered suggestive. A high school aged girl groping herself, a middle school aged boy having a visible erection, an elementary school aged girl accidentally flashing her underwear, and a minor simply talking about how aroused they are, or how they want to have sex, are all suggestive.

This is something that permeates throughout society and while there are many contexts where suggestive behavior is either not allowed or frowned upon (schools, formal workplaces, certain conservative households), locations have the right to curate what conduct or content is presented within their property. The issue with this type of content is that it inevitably gets onto the internet, and people who like to jack off to kids will inevitably find it and add it to their curated folder of things to masturbate to. While that type of behavior is gross, there really is nothing to prevent this from happening, and even if there was a law against this type of behavior, it would be completely unenforceable. Plus… this type of behavior has more or less been deemed acceptable as far as I can tell.

To justify my stance with a very bizarre reason, about 10 years ago, my high school showed me a PSA about how you better be careful what you post on the internet, as it may be difficult to ever fully erase it, and creepy custodians are probably going to fap to it. And my only problem with that is how they are stereotyping custodians, when the custodians at my schools tended to be very nice and approachable people who led long careers. Sure, this type of behavior is gross, but any solution to this problem is going to be like taking a hammer to a fly in a china shop. You’re just going to break more things if you try to fix the problem, and you probably won’t even fix the problem because of how elusive it is.  Though sexual abuse, even if not explicit, is a problem, much like all forms of abuse, but that is not a problem exclusive to minors in any way shape or form, so I won’t delve into that.

Sexually Explicit Content Involving Minors in Abstract Media

Now we’re getting into the dirty and nitty gritty of this whole debacle, as this is a subject that has had a questionable legal history and is where things get really confusing. In some countries, provences, and general places, it is deemed perfectly legal to create, enjoy, and distribute porn of underaged characters, whether it be drawn, rendered, written, sculpted, or created through any other means, so long as it does not involve an actual real life human being with organs and bones and skin and such… or something made to look exactly like them.

Broadly speaking when it comes to just about anything, I think that people should have the right to create whatever they want, that artists of any sort should not be required to adhere to a specific series of guidelines, and that even if something is very problematic, it deserves to exist… so long as it is not explicitly designed to hurt people. I mean, I can support a lot of things, but when your “creation” is instructions on how to make a homemade gun, crockpot bomb, tips for abducting people, or propaganda for a hate group that desires genocide or general erasure, then kindly fuck right the fuck off with that rancid shit.

Anyways, it is common to see this type of material to be lumped in with live action child porn as these are depictions of children in sexual and erotic situations, likely meant to titillate their intended audience. Going back to the reasons why this material is considered vile when it involves real people, the common reason is that it victimizes the minors involved in the act and can be devastating to their emotional and mental well-being. However, characters in an abstract work are inherently fictitious, meaning they are incapable of undergoing the same traumatic experience because… they’re not real.

Some courts have ruled that the distinction between the two is unimportant, and that, non-fictitious or fictitious, child porn is child porn. But this is something I have never fully grasped the justification for. Yes, it is theoretically possible for somebody to enjoy themselves some loli or shota hentai and then wonder what the ‘real deal’ is like, but there is a stark wall between the two, and… determining what is and is not child porn in the context of abstract media is complicated.

In reality, age is an objective and well defined thing, but a person’s age does not always reflect their features or how they look. There are 16-year-olds who look like college students, 13-year-olds that are 6 feet tall and have full beards, 21-year-olds who are mistaken for being middle schoolers, and so forth and so on. Age is just a convenient proxy for one’s mental and physical maturity, and the decision to use 18 as the mostly universal indicator of whether or not a person is a minor or not is at least somewhat arbitrary, but there really is no better alternative.

Within fiction however, it is fairly common to see characters have their age bumped or changed to match the standards of consent or be kept ambiguous in order to avoid allegations of child pornography. In response, a contingent have began boasting about how it is the perceived age of the characters that indicates whether or not they are minors. Which is a very imperfect system that requires one to generalize reality and establish baseline features that indicate whether or not one is a minor or a major, and creates an environment where a character is a 14-year-old yet looks like an adult and behaves like one can engage within sexual activities without any problem.

So then is the compromise that they must look to be a major and in the context of the media be in a generalized life situations that make sense for them to be in as a major? That is an awful lot of requirements that involve a number of subjective judgements and are far less straightforward than the rules dictating this in real life which is remarkably straightforward in its objectivity. I mean, unless a person is from a country that has, or had, terrible record keeping when it comes to things like the date of birth (like the Philippines in the 1940s), it should be pretty easy to confirm their age.

So we have a situation where no real and tangible person is directly hurt or harmed in really any tangible way, and where the requirements themselves leave room for a degree of ambiguity. All of which begs the question of why this subject matter should be lumped in with something that is so very much considered illegal. For while there are certainly similarities between the two, the core catalyst for this act’s illegality in the real world is not present within the world of fiction.

There’s also the simple fact that there is so much, so goldarn much of this type of media throughout the world and the internet. It is immensely easy for one to find this type of content, stumble into it when looking for abstract sexually explicit content not involving minors, and has become so pervasive that it would be unrealistic to ever think that all of it could be eliminated. Though not as much as the next category.

Sexually Suggestive Content Involving Minors in Abstract Media

In all honesty, the fact that this sort of thing is currently being debated as much as it is surprises me quite a bit. I already talked about how sexualization just kind of happens with minors, and I see no reason why more abstract media should not be allowed to explore these ideas, unimposed by the restraints of realism, and distanced away from the heinous taboo that is sexually explicit content involving actual real human minors.

But to jump to the main meat of this topic, most of the criticism towards this subject tends to be directed at Japanese media that depicts young or minor-looking characters in suggestive situations that exceed what one is likely to find in any sort of live action media. Due to a lot of reasons that I am not even going to try and sophomorically explain or delve into, Japan has a far looser stance towards sexuallizing minors than most other modern countries, and media that focuses on incredibly well-endowed young women attending high school and getting into situations where something lewd happens, underwear gets shown, their melon-sized breasts go bouncy-bouncy, or sexual acts are referenced. All of these, and many more, have all been normalized in the form of decade-long tropes that still persist to this day.

A lot of this is pretty tame, and I do not believe that anybody really expects this sort of thing to ever go away regardless of how much they dislike it, but rather the more vocal objections come from when these pieces of media start kicking things up to the next level. I’m talking about girls beating the clothes off each other, girls getting coated in goopy white stuff, and being put in passive compromising positions that may or may not offer the person engaging with this media an opportunity to do something that makes them moan.

This stuff is indeed pushing against sexually explicit, but for the same reasons I will defend that, I will defend this. It is certainly bizarre, very hamfistedly references sexual acts, and is undeniably fetishized, but it has a right to exist, and part of freedom of expression is allowing weirdos to to wack nonsense like this for other weirdos to enjoy, and even if it is illegal, these weirdos will probably find a way to still peddle their wackadoo ecchi wares.

It can be criticized, and I’m not saying it does not deserve it, but aside from possibly normalizing troublesome behaviors from some individuals who go in too deep into creepy anime bullshit hole, and lose sight of how the real world works, I cannot really find anything truly harmful about this. That might be enough to convince some people that it is filth, but the problem with censoring or banning media that could ‘potentially’ cause harm is the fact that human beings are not wholly rational creatures, and can be inspired to do outlandish things from innocent sources.

Creepiness, Censorship, and Certification

So I have made my stance clear that I am not in favor of any laws relating to the banning or restricting of any work that involve anything other than sexually explicit content involving minors in a live action scenario… and also general hate speech, but that was more of an aside than anything else. I am not saying that the other categories discussed in the spectrum I have been referencing this entire article are not creepy, should be censored, or should be caught and tagged by a certification program to be released via select platforms or services.

The era of the internet has been a golden age for people who love weird, creepy, and unsightly shit, allowing them to unify and communicate in ways that were impractical back during the days of BBS and fanzines. It allowed them to create niche communities, create friends, and locate people who they can commission things from. Rather than needing to manipulate existing works to fit their preferences or rely on whatever scribbles or erotica they could produce themselves, alone, in isolation, unable to share their passion with the rest of the world for fear of rejection. Mind you, some of the things these groups are into are, by societal standards, real nasty and messed up, and some of the communities are rife with vile people who love to whine and moan about how their needs are not being catered to, but that is debatably the majority of online communities.

People are more than welcome to find any material to be unsavory, detestable, or otherwise objectionable, but a big part of life is realizing that you are not the center of the universe, the world should not cater to your preferences, and a lot of the time you just need to tolerate what life throws at you. Yes, some things should not be tolerated and should be fought against, but people doing perverted things on the internet is something that probably shouldn’t be high on one’s list of priorities. Unless you are one of their targets…

Moving onto censorship… this is a subject that has been overblown by select members of the greater “gaming community” and I honestly do struggle to sympathize with their claims or woes whenever the censorship in question is subtle. Such as when a panty shot of a young character is removed, a character is given slightly more clothes, or a scene is changed to be a bit less overt in its perversion. I am not a fan of when things are blocked by beams of holy light, random curtains, or some other arbitrary object, as the edit is obvious, and it can feel as if something is being actively scrubbed out or taken away. It can be a bit needless or ham-fisted, but in the majority of cases I really don’t care if nudity, sex, violence, swears, slurs, or whatever are censored in a work. Hell, in some contexts, such as most instances of nudity, I actually prefer it.

Besides, this supposed censorship is really just the end result of a work being modified to fit within the guidelines and certification present in the vast majority of platforms and services that content is hosted on. Whether it be the platform holders themselves, ratings board, publisher, distributor, or something else, most platforms do not want people hosting just anything, and have their own standards and guidelines that should be followed in order for this content to be released to its intended audience. Seeing as how it is their platform, I do believe that they should have every right to select what is and what is not allowed on it.

Twitter does not want any content depicting minors in sexually explicit situations on their site, and they have ever right to do so. Sony is nudging away from sexual content, albeit in a way where they are not explaining their guidelines, which is just dumb, but it’s their platform, and their call. Places like Pixiv, as far as I can tell, do not care what you put on their platform, whether it be women turning into turtles with penis faces that immediately have sex with one another or scat porn. And Deviantart doesn’t allow boners, but fart vore is a-okay, because… reasons.

Looking Internally and Concluding

When saying all of this, I am incredibly aware of how possible if is for someone to examine my established character, preferences, and general fondness for certain subject matter, take this all at me, and throw it at my face, claiming that I am a mere degenerate and am simply trying to justify my own behaviors by claiming ‘no, it’s okay that people like to masturbate to children so long as it is drawn.’ I mean, it’s not even hard to formulate a makeshift list.

I have documented my fondness for titles like Student Transfer, Press-Switch, and Saya no Uta. I covered other titles like Main Character Simulator, Sweetest Monster, and Highschool Possession, all of which are games available via Steam and contain sex scenes involving characters who are, or are implied to be, minors. In my post Natalie Rambles About TG, half of the things I recommended could be considered abstract media that involves minors in sexually suggestive situations, if not fully sexually explicit. Oh, and then there is Maple Loves Senpai, a silly little novella I wrote a couple years back that has a masturbation scene and a sex scene, and I honestly forgot even involved characters under the age of 18 until I skimmed through the first chapter again. Which I think highlights another point that is well worth discussing.

This type of stuff, for better or for worse, was very much normalized throughout my adolescence, and I honestly do not think ‘I should delete this, these characters are minors,’ especially when the fact that these characters are minors is, in my experience, rarely the ‘point’ of the aforementioned list of abstract media that depicts sexually explicit content involving minors.  I mean, does anybody honestly think that every hentai ever made involving high schoolers is created under the assumption that they are appealing to a niche audience of people who get off to the idea that they are watching some younglings do it?  No, they just use it because it is a self-explanatory setting that has mass appeal, and can contain many characters with the sex organs and proportions of adults.

Also, I don’t go through media with erotic elements for anything other than the story, characters, writing, and presentation (artwork and style). Again, just about everything I like that has nudity could easily have black bars censoring all the nudity and that would only improve it in my mind. Hell, I used to do that myself, but nowadays I just ignore the erotic and sexual content and focus on the juicy meats the works have to offer.  And there is no part of any work juicier than a plump plot stuffed with emotional trauma, identity death, stifled ecstasy, and whatever other nonsense the writer shoved up there.

But even when the fact that these characters are minors is emphasized… it really is just one of many fetishes that are abundant amongst abstract erotic media, a lot of which is designed to cater to wackadoo nonsense fetishes that could only exist in abstract media. However, most of that nonsense lacks a real world equivalent, and a rightfully criminalized one at that, and the justified disdain for live action child porn has led to a large subset believing that anything that sexualizes children is inherently troublesome or problematic. Yet aside from repeating that mantra and correlating skimpily clad anime girls to one of the cardinal horrors of international child trafficking, I have yet to be convinced that abstract media that sexualizes minors is inherently bad.

I completely 100% understand why people might find sexualized minors to be cause for concern or limit one’s ability to enjoy a piece of media, or just want it to be relegated to a creepy corner, and I am not saying that is wrong. What I am saying is that abstract media depicting sexualized children has the right to exist without any caveats or restrictions imposed on it either by law of moral obligation. But if a platform holder wants to deny the media’s release or censor it, then that’s okay too. 

…Yeah, I think that about covers it. Hopefully this article does not come to bite me in the butt later on in my professional career!

Image Sources:
Nyotai na Ore to Osananajimi by Poriuretan
Transformed Into A Busty Blonde by Ikuya Daikokudou
Seitenkango. Shinyuu to by Eroe
Muv-Luv Alternative by âge
Nozomu Nozomi by Nagatsuki Misoka
I Couldn’t Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job by Asread
Super Neptunia RPG – image compiler unknown
Trans Venus by Tamaki Hisao
Press-Switch v0.4a by Skiegh
Boku no Milk o Meshiagare by Yoshida Gorou

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Sylvie

    Its very simple to me.
    Fictional characters aren’t real people. If some are unconfortable with that, fine. But fiction is fiction, if webfeel unconfortable with anything not involving real people, when should just move on and search for something we like. Some people are pretty much hypocrites when they complain and believe that lolis should be removed by law, while turning a blind eye to violent media, like GTA or Mortal Kombat.
    Both things are crimes in the real world, but no real person is killed when you play GTA right? The link between violent fiction and real-world violence already was proven false multiple times, if people where really that impressionable all the forms of immortality in fiction would need to be banned. So, while the right to dislike such things should be respected, so should be the right to play, and read fictionnal works of this kind, as long they don’t involve real people.

    1. Natalie Neumann

      If something is fiction, everything should be fair game, so long as it is not designed to illicit harmful behavior in the real world. That has been my core view on matters like this for a long time, and the same applies to both sex and violence. I just didn’t bring up violence here, as it is generally not the best look to equate or compare sex and violence, due to how the acceptability of both fluctuates between cultures and eras, among other factors.

      Also, wow, I really was not expecting this post to get attention a year after publishing, so thanks for that. ^^

  2. Tasnica

    I’ve been finding a lot of these older “Rambles” to be rather insightful, and I definitely agree with a lot of the conclusions reached here. When it comes to the fictional, or the “abstract” as it’s aptly called here, there should be a very high burden of proof when it comes to asserting that they cause direct, tangible harm to real people. While the extremes of hate speech, for example, might cross that line, in general I believe that few things do.

    People are entitled to their opinions, of course. They can criticize a work of fiction, dislike it, avoid it, call it creepy, etc. But that’s a far cry from banning it altogether, to trying to send people to jail over it, firing them from their jobs, etc. And ironically, such draconian measures can cause more harm to real people than the things they’re trying to stamp out (which, being fictional/abstract, do little if any such harm).

    There are plenty of things that I find gross, repulsive, uncomfortable, and the like. And I avoid those things. But I could never imagine wanting to bring down someone’s life or career simply for fictionally engaging with such things. Especially if I’m in no way forced to engage with it as well.

    The “Sexually Suggestive + Live Action” category is a bit thornier, but I think the key elements here are avoiding exploitation and abuse of authority. Real minors should be allowed to learn about and experience things in healthy ways. Things like sex education and learning how to navigate relationships are really important. But, again with the exception of upfront but professional education, adults should really just be staying out of this for the most part. Minors will explore these things with each other one way or another, and as long as no one is getting hurt it’s really no one else’s business.

    1. Natalie Neumann

      I have a lot of mixed feelings about this Ramble, as I was never fully comfortable or confident in what I was saying, as I considered it to be a taboo subject and, if I were to talk about it in detail again, I would likely… at the very least, word things a bit differently. I think the main reason why I decided to tackle this subject is because I talk about games like Press-Switch and have referenced plenty of comics and the like that feature sex scenes with underaged characters, I figured that I had to discuss this matter in some capacity. That, and guilt for enjoying the media featured in this piece… except for I Couldn’t Become a Hero, So I Reluctantly Decided to Get a Job.

      Speaking more generally, as a writer of some pretty perverse and bizarre nonsense, I tend to go with the idea that you can do whatever you desire in a story so long as your intention is not to spread or perpetuate hate toward a group. Restrictions lead to discontent, and by presenting few barriers, people are less likely to resent them or push against them. At least in theory.

      With regards to the ‘live action’ stuff, I believe that sexual education is incredibly important for minors, but I think you are approaching a different subject with the “adults should really just be staying out of this for the most part” comment. It is bringing up the question of how informed a parent should be when it comes to their child’s relationships, which I am of two minds about. Because you want to ensure that the minor is safe, and that they have both privacy and freedom. However, that discussion is well beyond my wheelhouse, as I do not have anywhere close to enough experience with minors to comment on matters like this in an informed way.

      1. Tasnica

        Yes, you do make a good point about parents/guardians being informed of what their children are up to. Exactly what the “right” parenting approach is there, I can’t say, and I agree that it’s a tricky issue. Personally, I lean toward thinking that parents should try to find a balance between giving their kids trust and independence, while also making sure that they’re safe and educated. But exactly where that balance falls probably depends on the household, and external entities (i.e. the government) should in my opinion have very stringent standards for when they step in (if ever).

        Also agreed on your thoughts on story writing. The whole point of such creative freedom is to explore things without causing any real-world harm (and sometimes even to confront or process things that could otherwise be harmful). If you’re deliberately promoting hate toward real people, that’s quite likely going to result in real-world harm.

        1. Natalie Neumann

          “If you’re deliberately promoting hate toward real people, that’s quite likely going to result in real-world harm.”
          I think that’s going to be my exact response whenever somebody brings up the ‘freedom of speech’ argument to defend hateful rhetoric.