For me, the sexy and provocative situations have always just been put down to fanservice, until they cross the line.
However, have manga and anime been quietly pushing that line further and further ahead, so what would have been obscene, say a year ago, is now just normal everyday fanservice.
If i’m honest, i’m immune to this these days. In my reply to her comment i pointed out that by most of todays manga Maximum Ride is actually quite tame. Though i have to admit i wasn’t aware that Max was 14, i thought she was 17/18 lol.Sexual content in manga and anime has been around for years, but i think it started getting more common place with the two Kodomo no Jikan incidents.
[To a commenter] considering the audience is necessary in determining perception. And it does seem reasonable that women talking among themselves, so to speak, would find different things acceptable.
No matter what your stance is on the burqa or the headscarf (hijaab), it is clear that this scene puts Dust on the defensive. In a place where mutants are supposed to feel accepted, Dust is misjudged because of her dress choices. In later issues, particularly New X-Men: Hellions # 2, we learn, from a conversation with her mother, that Dust is not forced to wear the burqa and she enjoys the protection it gives her from men. For Dust, the burqa is a choice, and that must be respected and defended. [...] The beautiful teachings of modesty for both genders in Islam tend to be mistaken for the stereotypical notion of “protecting women from men.”
Last first: One of the most interesting things (to me) about the examination of Dust's character, and her Muslim faith and dress code, is that the "beautiful teachings of modesty" are never actually defined in the essay, leaving those not familiar with the Islam faith pretty much where they were before reading it. We're told the writers of the character have mischaracterized the purpose of the burqa; we're just not fully told how.
In a similar fashion, Broken Mystic criticizes those writers for not giving Dust a stronger response when Surge is shown arguing with her about the burqa and other points related to her faith, but gives the reader no sense what such a stronger response would be. (Nor would it likely illuminate any present or future writers of the character, unless Marvel happened to hire one versed in Islam, and even then Broken Mystic acknowledges the subject is one of constant debate even among Muslims themselves.)
The essay takes issue with the perceived failings of Dust's character, while at the same time criticizing other Muslims who do approve of how the character has been portrayed, belying a larger issue than whether one character is a favorable depiction of a Muslim woman.
Set that aside for a moment.
I've already gone over Johanna Draper Carlson's "Does Yaoi Normalize Rape" post, and the comments thereof, but I think this one line I've quoted above deserves special attention. The implication is that yaoi, being made largely by women, for women, with a mainly female fanbase to discuss it amongst itself, has a different standard of tolerance than (one assumes) the general population.
The quoted statement offers no judgement as to whether this is a good or bad thing, just that it's "reasonable".
The logical extension to that, however, is that mainstream comics, made mostly by men, aimed primarily towards men, and with a mostly male fanbase (the WFA crowd and other fangirls notwithstanding) can also be reasonably expected to have a different set of standards for what is and isn't "acceptable".
Again, hold that thought for a bit.
I often find myself amused by people who start out debating how good/bad comics used to be in "the olden days" compared to the present... and then as an example pull out stuff that's maybe 10-15 years old, max. It's as if history doesn't start until whoever's writing began buying comics or manga. A lot of people treat manga like it began with TokyoPop and other publishers getting widespread distribution in bookstores; few seem to retain in memory the fact that there was a small steady stream of translated manga long before that, or that manga as we know it started in Japan just after World War II, or that comic books as we know them began in America in the 1930's.
So reading the back-and-forth about whether there's more or less overt sexuality in today's manga gives me chuckles if for no other reason than to hear Lady Death and Witchblade referenced as being "back in the day". Yeah, positively antediluvian, that.
For all concerned: Sex has been a heavy component in both American and Japanese comics since nearly their respective births. It comes and goes, slips in and out of the mainstream, but it's always been there. American comics can look back to Wonder Woman's fetishism, EC Comics' lurid tales of crime and sleaze, Wertham fretting over Phantom Lady's "headlights", and while sex may have been suppressed and sublimated in mainstream comics during much of the post-Comics Code days, the underground "comix" of the 60s and 70s were often downright pornographic. It took the 80s, the rise of Direct Market "indie comics", and the Comics Code being steadily eroded, to work up to a time when Lady Death and the rest of the "bad girl" craze could happen, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any sex, or controversy, beforehand. (Teen Titans, anyone?)
Manga, on the other hand, has rarely had a point in its history when there wasn't sex in comics. Even revered "manga god" Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy and Princess Knight, had comics with nudity and eroticism, sometimes disturbing sexuality (look up MW sometime). From bikini-wearing space princesses (Lum, Outlanders) to raping samurai (just about anything with Kazuo Koike's name on it, frankly), sexuality is hardly an uncommon ingredient in any era of manga.
What seems to be different today, frankly, is some audience members' sensitivity to anything that slightly smacks of sexuality, particularly in younger characters. Everything that might be considered sexy by anyone, it seems, is judged by some folks as automatically being sexy to everyone (either supposedly being appealing to those who like that sort of thing, or being disgusting to anyone with the "proper" moral standing).
Tiamat's Disciple quotes someone reviewing a manga story called Maximum Ride; let me quote you a fragment of that fragment:
14-year-old Max is introduced standing in a t-shirt and panties, there are several shots of 11-year-old Nudge’s cleavage, and the moe-esque first shot of 6-year-old Angel is straight-up gross.
Well, I've read that sequence as well (featured in the first issue of the Yen Plus magazine), and like Tiamat's Disciple, I wouldn't have thought those were the ages of the characters Max and Nudge. Max's "t-shirt and panties" aren't depicted in a particularly salacious manner, and it's one panel, seen from a medium distance. Nudge's cleavage isn't highlighted in any way. It's there, but never the point of the panel, never referenced in the story.
As for Angel... here's the thing. Angel is cute. She's an adorable young girl. Some feminists might rankle at her being such a stereotypical girly girl, with ruffled bedsheets and stuffed animals and dolls and girly girl accoutrements, leaving little indication the kid's going to grow up to be a racecar driver or construction worker. You might think from the reviewer's reaction that the kid is sprawling around half-naked or flashing panties or something; no, she's sitting in bed having just pulled on, but not buttoned, a ruffled dress. The most flesh you see is a bit of clavicle and some exposed leg.
"Moé" is one of those terms that, like many unique to the Japanese, seems to shift meaning when translated to English, depending on who's doing the interpreting. It's often used (for example, by our reviewer above) as an implication of lolicon fetishism. But it's worth noting that moé does not have to have a sexual connotation, and it should be pointed out that not every instance of a young child in a drawing must, by default, mean something sexual.
There's quite a bit of (media-driven, I think) child abuse hysteria awash in Western society these days, or perhaps it's mainly American society. Certainly some reactions to previous posts I've made indicate that for some people, even talking about the subject brings forth visceral, irrational frothing in response.
The reviewer appears to be a product of that environment: any hint of sexuality, intended or not, is a cause for disdain, disgust. It is assumed the depictions she describes are either intended to titillate, or will titillate someone, somehow. Bring out the Greek chorus to intone it in the background as I repeat: it's being concerned about how someone else may think about the depiction.
But I mention this not to harp on that one point again, but to show how one can be conditioned to adopt certain attitudes, how different environments can engender different points of view. To interpret the picture of Angel as "moe-esque", you must first be aware of the moé concept, know that there is a certain amount of lolicon fetishism out there, and be ready to interpret everything you see under that overhanging dread. Now contrast the reviwer's distaste with Tiamat Disciple's own noncommittal shrug over the scene; two people supposedly steeped in similar manga culture but interpreting the same panels differently. These are our differences.
The burqa: icon of modesty or symbol of male/religious oppression of women?
Yaoi rape fantasies: gay-degrading smut or women talking amongst themselves?
Cute kid in bed: Cute kid in bed or lolicon porn?
You can argue either side of each question; certainly there will be adherents of either side who think they are the "right" ones.
Broken Mystic says, near the end of her essay on Dust, "Perhaps we all can learn from Dust and learn how to accept one another for our differences."
That would be nice, except I don't see it happening any time soon. Unfortunately, the downside to an idealistic statement like that is that if you really mean it, really truly want everyone to accept each other, that means putting up with a lot of crap you might otherwise protest.
After all: Broken Mystic herself takes issue with those who praise the burqa for reasons she feels marginalize and diminish those who don't wear it, but that's one of those very differences she hopes we can learn to tolerate in one another, a difference in culture and perspective.
How many who let male rape in yaoi slide by will absolutely not tolerate depictions of female rape, particularly that, like in yaoi, imply the victim actually wants it or will fall in love with the rapist?
How many express outrage over lolicon manga, produced in Japan, where fictional depictions are legal and have been accepted for years? Who was it behind the push to raise that country's long-standing age of consent to make it more in line with American standards? How many stood up and condemned Dave Cheung for his sexy teenage characters when his own country of residence has a lower age of consent than the USA? Aren't these differences of culture?
And: how many accept the differences of idiot grab-asses at conventions who apparently haven't been taught any better than to reach out and grab other people without permission?
No, tolerance is a myth.
When people talk about tolerance and understanding, what they usually mean is they can be tolerant and understanding until someone pushes their own personal hot-button and then out come the long knives.
Respecting other people's differences, truly respecting them, all of them, is damn hard work.
And damn nigh impossible, since everyone not only has their own differences, but limits to what they can tolerate.
This is not a plea for more tolerance. I don't approve of the acts described at SDCC any more than most of the WFA-linked posts I've read. There's plenty of cultural differences that I won't ever see eye-to-eye on, practices that I'll always speak against. I consider myself more tolerant than most, but even that isn't total and complete acceptance of everything.
I do, however, think it's worth pointing out that there's more to "accepting our differences" than a feel-good platitude. Tolerance and understanding starts with the self. What do you tolerate? Who do you understand? How far beyond your current limits are you willing to reach, for increased tolerance and understanding? How many steps will you take into the enemy's camp in pursuit of that ideal?
Don't cry out "understand me!" and expect it to happen, particularly if you aren't yourself willing to extend that understanding to even the things you despise.