I remember the first time watching anime as a kid and seeing nudity, I was shocked. My first reaction was to avert my eyes, then it was to fast-forward through the scenes. Up until then, whenever movies like 'Dirty Dancing' had a love scene, I was told to close my eyes, sometimes the movie would be paused and I was sent out of the room. It was ingrained that sexuality was dirty, inappropriate, and something to be ashamed of. My reaction to seeing nudity in anime for the first time was culture shock. It took me years to get past my own prejudice when playing Japanese games or watching anime. It took over a decade to move past the idea that 'something could be good in spite of its sexual content' to the idea that 'somethings are good because of it'.
Imagine if western society was judged based on 'Game of Thrones' or 'American Pie', people may very well come to the conclusion that the west is filled with perverts. Throw in the highly successful porn industry and arguing that the west isn't a den of iniquity is impossible, if we judge by entertainment. And this leaves the question, if the west is steeped in lewd entertainment already, why is there so much moral judgement towards Japanese entertainment?
Until recent years, animation and video games have been largely viewed as entertainment for children. A lot of the controversy in the 90's over violence in videogames was centered around children playing games that were made for adults. A lot of it was sensationalized journalism that ignored age ratings and parental controls within the games. Society often jumped to conclusions based on the faulty premise that cartoons, comics, and videogames were only for children and targeted them specifically. Undercurrents of this preconception still exist today.
The idea of sexual objectification is not new. In the 90's it was often brought up, and dismissed. In recent years it has managed to go from largely debunked to highly accepted. So what is objectification? The literal definition is to treat or perceive someone as an object, but common usage defines it as treating a woman as a subhuman tool for sexual gratification. The idea is only expressed as men objectifying women, except when debunking it. The idea is that when men express desire for women sexually, intentionally or unintentionally, or express appreciation for female nudity, those are the only things they appreciate. It is often described as 'reducing women to a hunk of meat' and mistakenly spreads the idea that male lust and respect are contradictory. The flaw is that it is based purely on how women feel when confronted with these things, it never accounts for what the men actually feel and think. The evidence against the accused is based solely on the feelings of the accuser. The idea doesn't hold up under scrutiny when the complexity of male sexuality is given any real thought, and when roles are reversed, it falls apart. The real crime is making women feel uncomfortable and self-conscious, which at worst, is just being rude. These ideas are only popular in the west, so when making entertainment in Japan, measures aren't taken to be sensitive towards the topic. Many of the creators behind Japanese entertainment accused of sexism are women. The idea that anime and Japanese videogames are sexist is ethnocentric prejudice, based on the arrogant notion of moral superiority to an entire nation.
Tell conservatives that college students hate free speech and are rioting to end it, and they will eat it up. Tell liberals that Trump raped someone and they will believe it without question. Tell the audience a story that reaffirms their preconceptions and they won't question it. The only thing that raises viewership more than reassuring people of their prejudice is when you can add sex to the mix. Not every journalist is a sellout, but few successful ones bother with giving a balanced perspective, instead they build a target audience they can easily sell to. This is a large part of why most major news outlets align with one political party or the other. Throw in entire industries known for being undefended easy targets and the rest is history.
It's good in spite of its sexual content
Many people struggle to reconcile the morals of their upbringing and being entertained by something that contradicts those values. Often people will take a chance and watch a show or play a game with a strong reputation for lewd content only to be surprised by how good it is. The most common response is to make excuses and say 'it's good in spite of the sexual content'. There is the fear of being judged and ostracized, knowing that the world around you has the same prejudice you had, and fearing they won't understand. It's not an easy thing to deal with, but it is the natural result of culture shock. The reality is that you received a taste of a different culture, and things they considered normal were shocking to your sensibilities. The 'it's good in spite of the lewd content' is the modern equivalent of gays stepping out of the closet in the 90's. Don't worry, you're not a bad person or a pervert, once you come to terms it's quite liberating.
Style over substance: The less you wear the stronger you are
Lewd content is often criticized on the basis of realism. People argue that revealing attire and heals are impractical, that a voluptuous hourglass figure is unrealistic. The reality is that realism is a stylistic choice. No one complains that the guns in Doom are unrealistic, or that martial arts in movies aren't true to life. No one ever complains about Piccaso's paintings perpetuating unrealistic body standards. The reality is that entertainment and art go hand in hand and the greatest creators constantly push the boundaries. In art and entertainment we explore the profound and the profane, the beautiful and the grotesque, we are shown the impossible and the inconceivable. Sometimes realism can create an amazing experience that immerses the audience, and sometimes throwing logic and reason out the window can create amazing experiences that cannot be achieved otherwise. Star Trek strives to make their stories believable while Star Wars does the opposite, and they are both good.
Whenever a game has sexual content removed, there is always some snark about how the people complaining about it should just watch porn instead. On the one hand, revealing outfits in a game or anime is bad, on the other, full blown pornography is perfectly acceptable and normal. People complain about Ivy and Sophitia in Soul Calibur while completely ignoring the other female characters, or the topless muscle men and Voldo's bondage gear. People complain about women wearing chainmail bikinis and then ignore Kratos getting an entire series where he wears nothing but a loincloth. People see what they want and ignore what is inconvenient. The reality is that it is all hypocrisy and grandstanding. Politicians and celebrities denounce things to show what good people they are. News outlets blow things out of proportion and tell only the fraction of the story that suits their narrative. The audience nods approval because they were told what they wanted to hear. In the 90's the moral majority tried to scare kids away from Rock and D&D with stories about how satanic those things are, now they try to scare people away with words like racism and sexism. In the end, it's all smug condescending self-righteousness preached to a crowd that never questions it.
In closing, I urge people to set aside their prejudice, their inhibitions, and their preconceptions. When you like something, don't try to rationalize it, accept it. Don't be afraid to try something new, there is a wonderful world of new experiences and ideas waiting to be discovered. You cannot broaden your mind with the things you already know and believe, you must venture out of your comfort zone and see for yourself in order to think for yourself.