***This was going to be a collab but everyone else dropped out so now it’s just me. Unfortunately, the post was written with the idea that there would be a counterpoint so I was more insistent than I would normally be and it comes off a bit lopsided. Feel free to counter in the comments if you like***
***Disclaimer the second – this is a somewhat ranty post about lolis – if you don’t want to read that , I understand, see you tomorrow I hope!***
Recently, I inserted myself into a Twitter thread debating the meaning of the word “loli” by the greater anime community. This was a dumb move on my part. What do I know about the greater anime community? Like most things not all that much.
My input was that the word is generally used to describe a sexualized (although not eroticized) young looking female character. Jon corrected me by saying that now the great majority of anime fans understand the word to mean simply girl not yet of the age of consent and associating anything sexual to it was wrong. Astral agreed so I’m in the minority here.
Just for context I did explain that sexual and sexualized aren’t the same thing. What I meant is that generally speaking what we understand as loli characters are designed in appearance and/or personality to be appealing to a core demographic. They are purposefully created to elicit feelings if attraction or affection even if they are in no way overtly sexual characters. Most often they play on gap moe or themes of innocence and vulnerability to attain this.
I’m not saying that is *all* these characters are, or that every anime fan only enjoys the archetype because of inherent attraction but to pretend there is *no* element of seduction of any form in these characters seems a bit at odds with reality. Here’s some completely circumstantial evidence that proves nothing to support my point: a goggle image search of anime loli gives me this:
There is a reason characters like Rin from Bunny Drop (despite having a physical romantic relationship with her much older legal guardian) or Kyoko from March comes in like a Lion, (Riko from Made in the Abyss) are not routinely referred to as lolis despite being young female characters while Shiro from NGNL is.
To me though the semantics are moot. You can use words to mean whatever you like. Don’t be surprised if people understand the most popular interpretation though. The problem with the base thesis that no one uses the word loli in a sexualized way is two fold in my opinion.
1) It doesn’t take into account either history or context. The word itself, Loli from the novel Lolita has a lot of baggage to it. Even those that haven’t read the book have a general idea of the implications. And that is the specific reason the word was chosen. For a very long time the connotation was explicitly sexualized.
To pretend that isn’t the case and the term has no such implications at all is a bit like saying you’re subscribed to playboy for the articles. It may be true, but it sounds unlikely. And the downside is that it risks making the community sound laughably naive at best and willfully ignorant or even duplicitous at worst. Like there’s something to hide here.
Which brings me to my much more important:
2) Sexualized character archetypes are not inherently a bad thing. If we go back to that Twitter thread, the argument that loli was simply an indicator of age and absolutely nothing else was presented almost like a defense of the term. As if there was something shameful about the more traditional usage. There was even the general notion that people that don’t watch anime would (or already do) consider fans pedophiles if we acknowledge the archetype might exist.
I walk around with Persona 5 school bag covered in anime pins and have never been accused of being a pedophile.
More to the point though, the idea that people have any desires to enact the fiction they consume is dreadfully outdated if it was ever believed by anyone of legal driving age in the first place. Media does have an influence on us but it’s hardly a direct line. You can read the dozens of studies on the correlation between violence in video games and movies and real world violence, or lack thereof, to very easily see that just because you watch something doesn’t mean you are going to do something. Or else I would be in amazing shape considering all the Sports anime I go through.
I know that the implication can be more subtle, taken the other way. Basically, you would only watch a show that has appealing young looking characters or particular taboo situations if that’s what you already want to do. But that’s also completely ridiculous, so much so that I’m not sure anyone has ever wasted grant money to research it.
We all know how fantasies and escapism work, we don’t actually want to fight dragons, but if you need a more anime example, how about this. The overwhelming majority of the audience for BL and Yaoi fiction is women. Both heterosexual and homosexual. In fact, the ratio was pretty much identical as that of the general public (a slightly higher lesbian percentage but that’s most likely due to the younger median age), so you could say the core audience is women of any orientation. There is no doubt that the salacious components of these works are one of the major selling points. But it’s not because those women want to have gay sex.
Just like I’m pretty sure that the universal popularity of Pokemon is not that children the world over secretly dream of being cruel to animals. I went from gay sex, to Pokemon, to animal cruelty in three lines. This post is getting weird. Bet a nice little loli anime seems like a tame option now!
I mean honestly, a lot of Holy books have actual description of pedophilia and we’re supposed to read those. No one ever argues that they will turn you into a peodophile.
Really, I don’t know why I’m going on about this. It’s self-evident. People that actually believe anyone interested in shotacon or lolicon must be a pedophile is either being dense on purpose or has issues with understanding basic facts. To change our vocabulary for fear of this kind of judgement, lends credence to this insanity.
And then there’s the core idea that sensuality or sexuality is somehow dirty (from the Twitter thread) or shameful. It was suggested that the meaning of the word had changed in time. The problem with that is that language evolves in specific ways. Words change meaning somewhat organically when the general people who use them are uneducated to their real meaning and use them incorrectly so often that the mistake becomes official. This takes a long time and would mean that anal retentive otaku somehow forgot or never really learned the original meaning of loli. The other way that words change meaning is through appropriation or in this case reappropriation.
Why would you reappropriate a word that means sexy young looking girl to mean young girl? We already appropriated shoujo for that. There’s also the word “girl”. We don’t actually need a word for that so it must be to change the original meaning. And that pretty much goes with the idea that there was something wrong with the original meaning.
I’ve spent a lot of time un countries where both sensuality and sexuality in media and art was not considered bad in any way or inappropriate. I find it mind boggling that people are still so very accepting or brutal, cruel and sometimes gratuitous violence and yet aghast at the idea of a little skinship. We don’t even notice when Isekai characters mow down innocent bystanders for the high crime of being aligned with the wrong political party or something and happily discuss the details of potentially lethal boxing matches in MegaloBox (great show), but we’re embarrassed that we find schoolgirls in short skirts fun to watch at the end of a long day?
Honestly, that just seems a little unhealthy. The human brain created fiction as a way to explore all sort of situations and fantasies. It’s very important to our development and stifling it does have real world repercussions.
Man I vomited up a lot of words. You guys are going to hate me for this… I’m going to say everything I just did, again! Anime can be a little pervy and there are a lot of sensual elements to it, and that’s great. I like some of the pervy elements and it’s part of why I enjoy the medium. I’m a proud anime fan and I love anime for what it is. I don’t think we need to pretend it’s anything else. If we change our own lexicon that we use among each other because someone has the wrong idea, it’s like admitting they’re right and we shouldn’t do that.
There was more, but I’ll spare you. See how much I like you guys! Random fact, I personally don’t care much for the Loli archetype but I have seen some really good versions of the trope.