Xard on the Arbitrariness of the Age of Consent & Coming to Terms with 2-D Complexity

Original Post: Springtime for Jet Black: Cowboy Bebop 21 “Boogie Woogie Feng Shui”

Xard says:

June 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I should’ve responded to this ages ago but first of all I’d like to make a comment about translation of Faye’s comment in the subs. “Righteous” works well enough and it certainly fits Jet but the actual word used fits IMO both what Faye said Jet’s person even better.

The word used is 真面目/majime, adjective that is/can be translated as the following:

diligent; serious; honest; sober; grave; earnest; steady

A word that describes Jet and his attitude perhaps more perfectly than any other. Japanese society generally views 真面目 as very positive quality (a guy who is “majime”/serious about studying and his job as a part of workforce later in life is a proper no-nonsense member of society!) and thus it is not completely *unfitting* to translate it as righteous. But righteous and 真面目 are not the same thing. After all you can be righteous even if you’re whimsical and carefree person.

Thus in my opinion the subs unfortunately don’t render *exactly* correct understanding of what Faye says. I would’ve put it as “The more serious a man is in his youth, the more likely he’s gonna fall for a young girl later in life…”

This makes much more sense and rings more true to me. After all it isn’t a rare phenomenom for a person who has been very, uhh, straightfaced and serious end up doing impulsive, reckless things due to midlife crisis and the like. Buy a motor bike… or find a young woman

Righteous, on the other hand, is a moral term by definition and such connection isn’t as obvious at least in my eyes:

1. Morally upright; without guilt or sin
2. In accordance with virtue or morality
3. Morally justifiable

With that out of way, “actual” reply to contents of the post…

I’m not going to discuss these things. Instead I’m going to take on Faye’s statements without her in the picture, as it is, in my opinion, at the heart of many anime fans. Being sexually attracted to the anime characters they watch, and what it says about their flesh-and-blood sexual inclination and preferences.

For every person who dismisses “they’re just ‘toons,” I come across some fan who behaves as if the anime character he likes is better than any human being, living or dead. For the purposes of this discussion I will stand on that at least some of the time, for many of the viewers, they admire or are attracted sexually, to anime characters as if they were people they can perform sexual acts with.

Well, Cratex’s response already was to a point. There’s nothing particularly strange about it, not anymore so that we’re able to look at animated car chase and treat it as if it were real car chase. Fiction altogether wouldn’t work if we couldn’t approach these fictional constructs (whether characters or not) as if they were real on some level. Feeling antipathy or empathy to a character as if it were a person wouldn’t be possible if in human nature there wasn’t a capability to conceptualize and imagine text or image as something more than they are. If one can feel the whole range of all other emotions for a fictional character there shouldn’t be anything surprising about sexual attraction also being possible. With anime we’re even talking about images in human form which isn’t even a “radical” case. When a reader is aroused by character in erotic fiction is he getting a hard on for a ink blots on paper which is all the character “really” is? Of course not because normally people don’t feel sexual attraction to to such inanimate objects!

As far as I know people getting crushes on novel characters is as old phenomenom as literature itself. I’m also reminded of recently translated Yoko Kanno interview (http://gabrielarobin.com/5045/interview-with-yuki-kodama-and-shinichiro-watanabe) where she related that her “first love” was actually Jesus Christ as a small girl because she found image of him attractive.

Moving a few steps forward from plain words or paintings with no hint of sexuality in them we get to anime and manga where characters generally speaking are usually designed to be attractive with features either mimicking what get people going with real life humans (“perfect” body types and alike). Even features that first strike one as more alien like huge eyes usually exist as kind of idealization of things we do find nice in real humans too: like big eyes being nice (of course anime proportions on real humans look creepy because they try bring abstract idealizations into far too physical form).

In short there’s nothing per se strange about it (and it isn’t only related to anime or modern era: it also goes without saying that history of drawn pornography goes eons back in time) and whenever I see someone wondering aloud about it I see someone who has only thought about it very superficially or is a hypocrite.

Genshiken put it very well:

The older, more mature the viewer is, the more problematic/guilt-inviting the experience is, precisely because anime characters are almost always juvenile, and younger than the age of consent in Japan itself (18 years old – although the age of sexual consent in Japan is 13 years of age, prefecture law usually overrides federal law, raising the age up to 18), and often younger than the worldwide average age of consent (16 years old).

this on the other hand is much more understandable issue to me. Well, since I’m 14 years your junior the high school era wasn’t that long ago for me but even then I’ve had times I was troubled by this in the past.

It was a part of more general (and profoundly silly in retrospect) moral struggle I was going through when I became legal adult: turns out turning 18 didn’t turn away male gaze from sexually attractive females even if they were my junior. Particularly troubling were cases under finnish age of consent (16) – let me tell you you’d never guess ages of some of these girls correctly. Even if I had no intentions to ever do anything about it the existence of the attraction in itself caused me a lot of guilt. Another angle into problem came through my fairly constant exposure to japanese media. As you may know asians generally look much younger than their actual ages are to western eye and seeing japanese girls who in some respects looked very… childish yet were still gorgeous and not even rarely of legal age was another thing that hounded me.

What finally gave me a release from this was admitting some and realizing some basic facts of life: the fundamentally trivial nature of all “age” laws, the difference between arbitrary law and moral code and most importantly inevitable disregard of arbitrary numerical values as far as human biology goes.

With meaninglessness of age of consent (or when one can acquire driving license) laws I’m not saying they don’t have a purpose and that they should be abolished: I’m saying they don’t have a binding moral character and that they exist for pragmatical reasons. After all, age of consent laws tend to vary from 12 to 18 year old across the globe. How could it be *morally* – not legally – wrong to have sex with 17 year old in one country but not so in its neighbour? Why exactly is it so that when I turn 18 I have the maturity and abilities to learn to drive to car when a mere day ago when I was still 17 I didn’t? How can a change from 11.59 to 00.00 in clock fundamentally change my capabilities so much? Heck, in USA I could get the license at 16. Are the yankees so much mentally ahead of us or what? And of course since age of consents are relatively new phenomenom, differ from country to country and are conceptual in nature they have no connection to biological, eternal basis of sexual attraction which doesn’t give a damn about such conceits of human thought. There’s a reason why physical attraction to adolescents is considered normal in psychology while actual pedophilia is classified as mental illness (it doesn’t help that many people can’t separate the two with magazines screaming about some guy “molesting child” when a girl in question was 15 year old and mere 100 years ago it would’ve been completely normal and acceptable relationship)

Realizing all of this together with moral accountability being related to *free actions* and volitions that lifted the unnecessary burden from my shoulders. Age of consent laws play a vital role in protecting vulnerable youth from use by scummy adults and even if there were some 15 year olds more than mature enough to learn drive a car it’s safer for all to wait a bit longer because not everyone shares their level. Such sacrifices can’t be helped. Biological attraction in itself isn’t a conscious action in my part which are what I’m responsible for. Thus as I have no interest in relationship with a teenager I don’t need to feel like I’ve commited a grave sin even if I happen to pass by a junior I consider attractive during a walk.

As for anime characters there’s no issue to begin with as they’re all fantasy characters and often the links between the character ages and their personality and behaviour are more than a bit strenuous. There are 14 year olds in anime who are far more mature and lovable persons than some of the “real” adults of my age who I count as friends and associates. Numerical age in a world where college aged guys are world knowing sages and middle schoolers brave heroes more than capable of carrying the world on their shoulder is quite irrelevant feature to judging them. For example character like Utena is what, 13? If there truly was a girl of that calibre in real world and I had a shot at her I don’t think I’d give a damn about age (not that I’m actually particularly attracted to Utena in that way but she’s perfect example for making the point). Thankfully real teenagers aren’t like that so I have no fears about finding myself in illicit relationship with minor, ever :D

and, well, even if I’m no longer attracted to Asuka and see her as too much of a broken, poor teenager as I’ve matured from that comparable adolescent phase of mine she still *looks* as hot as back then. Being 21 or 14 doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to that so I’d feel very hypocritical if I started to rant and rave against my peers who may consider her waifu material or anything like that :D

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