Like A Virgin

So, I heard you liked that other post about lesbians. Well, the bad news is that you are probably a pervert. The good news is, that so am I, and I’m also an attention whore, so here are some more thoughts about sexuality in Anime, this time about the issue of virginity, and why it’s such a big deal, that most characters have to be explicitly stated to be virgins, while the rest are expected to be, by default? What might be the reason for that?

Your obvious first reaction might be, that it’s simply fetish-pandering for the creepy, misogynistic “Japanese Otaku”, the mythical creature that explains everything strange about anime.

And there is obviously an element of truth in that. Even though it must be noted, that we don’t really know how big of an element this is. We all heard about the Kannagi incident, and some others, so we know that there really exists a sentiment that all women who ever had sex before are “sluts” or “used goods”. But is that a mainstream stance? Most of us who don’t know enough about actual Japanese otaku communities, just believe biased Sankaku Complex articles that are cherry-picking  the most biased post from 2ch, that is an already biased site in itself, to make the point that yes, it is. And even the ones that do read Japanese, can easily be manipulated by stereotypes and a narrow references. (Just think about how when Katawa Shoujo started to get popular, everyone was surprised by the fact that it’s made by people from 4chan, as if they really believed that anyone who ever posted on that site is honestly a raging misanthropic maniac who can’t spell in coherent english).

And there certainly is such a thing as a virginity fetish. It’s probably one of the most prevalent fetishes invoked in every medium of pornography, produced by every culture.

But I believe, that these are not the only reasons for that special focus in anime, and probably not even the most significant ones. To assume that, appears to be a textbook example of the  “correlation equals causation” fallacy, just like “the most shark attacks happen in the same months as the most ice cream sales, therefore ice cream attracts sharks”. It makes much more sense to find a third factor, such summer being the beach season. And in case of anime, when looking at how most anime characters are virgins, and most/some/many/a few (?) anime fans are virginity fetishists, it makes the most sense to look for a third factor, that is, in this case, the overall idealization of youth, innocence, coming-of-age, and first love.

Note, that I said “idealization”, and not “fetishization”. After all, there are quite a few examples of these aren’t even particularly sexual. For example, it applies to characters of the target audience’s gender, such as male  shonen protagonists, or shoujo heroines, who are usually just as pure as their counterparts, even though the audience isn’t supposed to get turned on by them. It also applies to shows like Azumanga Daioh, with it’s chaste teenagers, even though most people wouldn’t classify it in the same moe-pandering category as the likes of K-on.

I admit, I have my own selfish reasons for trying to justify this storytelling element that badly: I really do find it one of the most curious themes to be told in fiction, especially the “first love” scenario in romance. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just as fundamental to storytelling as The Hero’s Journey. I would like to talk about that with the same appreciation, as someone else who admits liking love triangle stories, or liking Tsundere couple dynamics, or basically any other genre or theme, without being called either a sexist or a fetishist, or both.

I know, that some people don’t like this, they would expect to see more mature adults, and more complex sexuality, in their series. That’s ok with me, but it’s not a very objective argument about why any specific series featuring teenagers is “too generic and boring”, and we shouldn’t like it.

It’s true, that just as you can get sick of always eating the same food, you can get sick of always watching the same tropes in anime over and over again. But for me, this theme seems to be so universal, that  it’s more like always eating the same major food group, or taste group, such as always eating sweet food only. Would you drop dead from it? Probably. But as long as you have the right taste for them, you would probably find enough variety inside this group, that you wouldn’t ever say that you no longer like it.

Whether anime will drop dead from it’s sweets, whether too many stories focusing on teenagers and their coming of age is a major flaw, that cripples the artistic potential of anime, is an interesting problem that shall be discussed at another time.


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