Well, shit, I just used a really obnoxious complex portmanteau, didn’t I?
And, by the way, that picture is probably one of the most potentially disturbing ones on my hard drive. Whenever I save a picture of my hard drive, it brings this folder up automatically, and I sort of jump and look around to make sure no one can see my screen and realize how thoroughly deranged I am.
Anyway, there was a post over on Random Curiosity earlier today which made me suddenly consider what is and isn’t considered to be taboo within the fandom, and, perhaps more specifically, within the anime blogosphere.
Jaalin admitted to having a foot fetish. This has been thus far met by a wide variety of responses, some of which were definitely negative. But what here is more worth noting is the manner in which he admitted to having a foot fetish – it was presented as a revelation for us, something which, while he doesn’t consider that big of a deal after having felt that way for a while and angsted about it a bit, he nevertheless brings to our attention in a way that is somewhat confrontational. “I have a foot fetish! What the hell is it to you?”
This isn’t to question Jaalin’s approach in confessing his adoration of feet, but more to examine the things that we view as taboo within our community. Let us consider the various things that society as a whole finds distasteful, but which we generally don’t see as terribly explosive or shocking (I speak in general here, as there is certainly some disagreement in the community over certain things, perhaps most notably lolis).
Lolis. Shoutas. Incest. Yaoi. Yuri. Underclad minors. Panty shots. Everything you can find on 4chan.
What I’m trying to get at is that our framing of what is and is not acceptable by and large deviates quite largely from the moral frames which our societies tend to utilize – I say societies here because, although we do not all hail from the same place, it is fairly safe to state that none of us live in societies where sicbon is acceptable, for instance. The moral ideals of our societies do vary, and do vary in their exact levels of disapproval of these various things, but the core fact remains that these aren’t exactly kosher within our cultures.
Thus, it becomes a bit of a question why something like a foot fetish, which, while still considered a bit strange by society at large, is much less threatening than pedophilia, is still seen as something worthy of shock and derision?
The obvious answer is that it isn’t something widespread within the community, as its fairly drowned out by the panty-shot lovers and such, and as such we aren’t conditioned to view it as something run-of-the-mill. Think of when you first encountered something like yaoi in anime or manga – probably came as a bit of a surprise and you weren’t entirely sure if you approved of it or not. Now, whether you like it or not, it doesn’t carry that same shock factor it did upon first exposure. The circles in which we operate have reinforced the idea that this sort of thing shouldn’t seem bizarre and out of the ordinary to us; its just another piece of the landscape.
I would argue that even amongst those who are bitterly opposed to lolis there is a degree of acceptance of the phenomena that you can’t find in the general population. This isn’t to say that they love lolis and are just fine with the portrayal of young girls in anime, but that they are still more tolerant of lolis in anime and manga than would be, for instance, your physics professsor or the grocery store clerk.
Actually, the issue of lolis themselves brings up the question of shoutas, as shoutas tend to be less welcome amongst members of our sub-society than are lolis. I don’t want to go into this full-on, though, because it would require a general dissection of the ways in which female and male bodies are considered by society, and it would necessitate my grounding my points in a Western viewpoint. But I’ll just say simply that I believe that our reaction to shoutas has a lot to do with the way in which female bodies are portrayed in general – naked women simply aren’t as threatening to us as naked men are, so I would argue that the sexualization or what-have-you of young males to us comes across as more provocative than it does when the characters in question are female.
Of course, the fact that male fans are more out in force in the blogosphere is also a HUGE factor in our reactions to lolis and shoutas, but I feel like that doesn’t examine the heart of the issue as much as I’d like to.
Anyway, this isn’t really going anywhere in particular – it just struck me as intriguing that someone was admitting to having a foot fetish in a fashion which positioned the foot fetish as something exotic and potentially disturbing – and the context of this admission, i.e. the anime blogosphere, was certainly what made me go, “Hmm…” since so much fails to ruffle our collective feathers.