Issues of Taboo in the AniBlogosphere

most-disturbing-picture-on-my-hard-drive

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.

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10 Responses to Issues of Taboo in the AniBlogosphere

  1. Kiri says:

    Hm. That is pretty interesting. I’ve always been of the disposition that I don’t really care what you’re into as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. To each his own and all that. I think part of that stems from a formerly active history in the fanfiction community and a dislike of the drama that tends to go on there (damn preteen girls and their bitchin’). Don’t like, don’t read. Don’t like, don’t look. In cases of real pedophilia, etc, that’s hurting someone and that’s not cool. But lolicon? Whatever, man. A drawing is not real and this is not a pipe. Foot fetish? Even more “whatever” on my front.

  2. Baka-Raptor says:

    Wow, that’s the most disturbing pic on your hard drive? I was expecting a lot worse from you.

  3. nazarielle says:

    Well, I do have to wonder about actually taking anything jaalin says seriously, but that’s another story.

    You do bring up a very good point about the strange acceptance of certain things that most people would find completely horrific.

    I’m still trying to figure out why anime has such a hard on for incest/not-quite-incest (she calls me onii-chan but we’re not really relatedlol!). If it’s not-quite-incest, there’s no real issue. If it is incest, then it’s just kinda weird.

    I think True Tears did a really good job with the siscon deal. Instead of saying “lol it’s ok!” they made him move away from his sister in order to try to deal with it.
    The only real siscon I think I’ve actually seen was in Akane Iro ni Somaru Saka, and that was just plain bad. The most hilarious part was that none of the characters, save for one, were thinking, “oh my god what’s wrong with these kids, they’re siblings!” Everyone else was either ambivalent or even trying to get the two together.

    Man, this comment is getting really long D: Well, I’ll just echo Baka-Raptor’s thoughts, if that’s really the most disturbing pic you have, I’m more surprised at that than the actual picture :p

  4. lelangir says:

    This is complex for a number of reasons…

    Taboos are derivatives of dominant groups – that fact is more pertinent than the fact that they indicate morals.

    But, “dominant group”, we have to define that.

    “Community”, we have to define that. It’s too complex on the internet, too seemingly postmodern.

    “Culture”, we have to define that. Online culture? The real life behaviors you bring to the internet? How to mix the two? How other people from different countries affect your online behavior? Too complex…

    “Power”, we have to define that.

    Gender, yeah, that’s important.

    etc. etc.

  5. jpmeyer says:

    Yeah, what lelangir said.

    Like, for example I don’t even get what the big deal even is about foot fetishes until we’re at the point where it’s an all-consuming obsession, and even there it’s the fact that it’s an all-consuming obsession that I think about, not the fact that it’s a foot fetish.

  6. Wouldn’t a disapproving attitude to some of these things be more taboo — within the otakusphere, at least — than the things themselves?

  7. adaywithoutme says:

    @ Kiri – Agreed.

    @ Baka-Raptor – I suppose it depends upon what one defines as most potentially disturbing? I think that, somehow, people catching sight of that on my computer would be more detrimental than were they to, say, see a picture of some bad Trigun BL doujin – they may not be fond of homosexuality, but things that appear to be pedophilic in nature leave a nastier taste in one’s mouth generally.

    @ nazarielle – Yeah, I don’t think I did a good job of indicating that, whether Jaalin’s post was intended satirically or not, the ramifications are somewhat similar, in that the issue at hand – a foot fetish – is being presented either way you slice it as something up for derision. That is to say, that he positions himself in a somewhat abrasive manner in the case of it being serious to guard against criticism, yet at the same time, if done in humorous pursuits, nevertheless leaves us with the notion that a foot fetish is something which we should react negatively to.

    @ lelangir – Tsk, you went and made me feel bad for not approaching this in a more scholarly fashion – I realize I didn’t do as nuanced an approach as I could’ve, but I differentiate between blog and work in that when I blog, it is for fun and only goes so far as I desire to, whereas work requires that I actually step up and submit myself fully to the expectations of academia.

    Also, the issue of culture is an interesting one in and of itself, as I would argue that is nearly impossible to separate culture from religion and vice versa. But that’s the religion major in me speaking.

    @ jpmeyer – Yeah, foot fetishes don’t seem particularly disturbing to me whereas any obsessions do (I’ll admit to still feeling fairly leery of the diehard Inu-Yasha crowd, however small its become in the past couple of years or so).

    @ The Animanachronism – That’s a very interesting point. I think it varies by the ‘taboos’ which I mentioned above – I would say that having a dislike for yuri is seen more negatively, and therefore more potentially a taboo, than is disliking BL (this scenario does certainly carry gender relations heavily along with it, I’ll admit, so maybe isn’t the best? except I think I’d argue that a lot of the anime blogosphere’s ‘taboos’ carry quite a bit of the power structure of gender along with it in general – e.g. lolis vs. shoutas, etc.).

  8. Hmm. Maybe they’re inextricable issues, since a lot of the things we’ve been using as examples of taboos come down to sex (the activity, not the attribute).

    Perhaps the ‘default’ male teenage persona of the internet-at-large doesn’t find shoutacon material, for example, directly abhorrent, but rather finds the appetite for it mystifying (and perhaps it shouldn’t be, but there you go).

    I was trying to think of some non-sexual taboos for the otakusphere. Can you think of anything you would never consider posting about or referring to? There are probably people who would never consider mentioning politics, especially something contentious like Israel/Palestine, but that might just be disinterest. (Chizumatic, of course, thrives on the odd political post.)

  9. adaywithoutme says:

    I have to say that I wouldn’t ever post about the political, but that that fact is more a product of the very fact that this blog is an anime blog, not a political blog (actually, that line could get blurred slightly – for instance, if I post about censorship, is that a political post, or a social one?).

    I feel that the reason those examples were largely having to do with sex and sexuality is that within the otakusphere, or however we prefer to refer to it as, things that tend to fly but are prohibited in society are largely related to sex and sexuality. In fact, I struggle to think of any that aren’t related to that – but I think that this is something we also find in societies at large, as taboos tend to deal with bodily functions since they are a matter of purity versus pollution. So we get a set of prohibited acts that are mainly concerned with sex, human waste, and reproduction (granted, reproduction itself is more complex as regards taboos than the other two, but I digress).

    The question of what I would never refer to is necessarily tailored by the medium within which I am operating – namely, that of an anime blog. There are many, many things I would never bring up here simply because it doesn’t relate. But if we’re just speaking of airing information within the public square, the things I would keep to myself pop up in spades.

  10. omisyth says:

    Meh, for me the attitude to most things is “whatever flotas your boat.” I don’t think I have a right to outright criticise the inclinations of others. Randomc’s quite a well-known site and as such many people who haven’t “taken the plunge” as much as we have probably frequent there. It’s not as well-known for its controversy as you are, at least.

    But in general, it’s still animated and we can somehow distance ourselves from the fetish in question if it’s 2-dimensional, no matter what it may be.

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