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Sexism: Et tu, Japan?

by dagiarrat   //   4:21 PM on 02.24.2013

Recently, there has been quite the falderal over the adorably juvenile and relentlessly Japanese game Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus. Many people have been making a fuss about the game being indicative of endemic sexism in Japan undermining the humanity of Japanese women or something. I was one of these people, at first, until I thought about it and realized that my argument--something about how sharking wasn't a western idea and so on--wasn't something I could defend.

I believe the appropriate song should be obvious.

The argument seems to be that this sort of thing is not only indicative of entrenched sexism, of a creepy lolita sort at that, in Japanese culture, and that this sexism is profoundly damaging to women in Japan. What dissuaded me from this argument is that, first of all, while there are definitely serious issues with women's rights in Japan, those issues have a lot more to do with history than silly fantasies for teenage boys, second of all, fantasies of a sexual nature are no more or less problematic than violent fantasies so common in videogames, and finally that the USA and the rest of occidentia is nowhere near innocent of this, and the whole argument is a little hypocritical.


Let's all face it: this sort of thing isn't going anywhere. Further, this sort of thing being out in the open like this is just as new as the women's rights movement gaining ground. In other words, this sort of open display of somewhat creepy objectification coincides in timing with women having more equality around the world than ever before. Clearly, this isn't a barrier to women's success in gaining equal rights, or at least if it is a barrier, it's a trivial one.

What is difficult to argue against is that Japan has a serious problem with the lolita fetish; that is, pedophilia specific to little girls. This is not something to take lightly, but what effect does it really have? Well, I'm no expert, but in 1999 the Pacific Center for Sex and Society published an in-depth look at this very problem and came to this conclusion:

"The most dramatic decrease in sex crimes was seen when attention was focused on the number and age of rapists and victims among younger groups (Table 2). We hypothesized that the increase in pornography, without age restriction and in comics, if it had any detrimental effect, would most negatively influence younger individuals. Just the opposite occurred. The number of juvenile offenders dramatically dropped every period reviewed from 1,803 perpetrators in 1972 to a low of 264 in 1995; a drop of some 85% [...]"

While this study is dated, it is worth a read: Japanese people do not, as a whole, feel okay with sexual crimes, and they do consider pedophilia a crime despite what the internet may say, and the argument that Senran Kagura is a major contributor to either sexism or sex crimes is an argument with much less evidence on its side, born I expect more from xenophobia than reason.

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