May 14, 2008

Luv Luv

This press release is a bit old, but I had been wondering when this market was going to open up.

Aurora Publishing, Inc. brings "passionate manga for women" to America with their new Luv Luv imprint. Extremely popular in Japan, but never before available in the U.S., "ladies comics," or redikomi, are romantic, hot and sexy manga about modern women and the men they love.

As I previously noted here, in the romance genre, the transition from a Harlequin line such as Blaze to its manga equivalent seems a natural one.

Erica Friedman explains the differences between josei and ladies comics here: "To sum up, most of what we think of shoujo, is actually josei. And josei manga is in no way the same thing as ladies comics."

This actually illuminates the profound differences between what is considered "acceptable" in Japan versus the U.S. Essentially, when manga are imported to the U.S., the target demographics are bumped up about five years, so josei becomes 18+ rather than 13+.

And in the U.S., "ladies comics" would be pushed into the NC-17 category. Of course, both the feminist left and the religious right point to this kind of material as instrumental in the downfall of western civilization.

While I think Naomi Wolf makes a good point about the use of artificial scarcity to increase the value of female sexuality, I'm more persuaded by C.L. Hanson's argument that desire openly expressed through art better mitigates objectification.

This may be a complete non sequitur, but we speak often of Greece as the "cradle of western civilization," of democracy and human rights. Those ancient Greeks sure knew how to admire the human form.

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# posted by Blogger C. L. Hanson
5/14/2008 10:57 AM   
The one positive thing I can say about that Naomi Wolf essay is that she's finally willing to admit that the theory that porn cause rape has been proven false. Twenty years of "porn is the theory and rape is the practice" and now the results are in: porn doesn’t increase rape, it decreases it. The frustrating thing is that instead of being pleased by this news (as one would expect if the goal is to decrease rape) we get "Well porn is still evil!!! Because... (decreases it, you say? Hmmm, that’s the ticket...) it’s evil because it makes men not want to have sex!!!" Oh, brother.

The point about using artificial scarcity to increase value is surely accurate. However, limiting women's choices (by trying to suppress certain types of sexual expression) is an example of hindering one woman's sexual strategy in order to benefit the sexual strategy of another woman. Such self-interested behavior isn't unusual, but it certainly doesn't deserve to be called "feminism."

Sorry if this is a bit of a tangent -- I don't know much about Japanese ladies' comics...
# posted by Blogger Eugene
5/14/2008 3:25 PM   
What would be deemed "soft-core" porn of this type (though it's exactly what you'd get if you faithfully illustrated the typical romance novel, or for that matter, The Path of Dreams) is ubiquitous in Japan, and over the past quarter century has branched out into all available visual media.

But just as in the U.S., crime rates have declined across the board during the same period. The negative correlation is so strong that even factoring in all of the possible ancillary variables, you would end up at best with zero effect in the face of a huge growth in the supposed "cause."

On the other hand, Japan often ends up dead last in international rankings of sexual satisfaction, which would seem to confirm Wolf's hypothesis. Except that Japan is joined in the rankings by its Asian neighbors, and sociologists instead point to a lack of sexual equality in civil society.

And as movies like Densha Otoko make crystal clear, deeply ingrained patterns of cultural and social behavior are factors as well.

I see the rapid growth of porn in Japan as largely compensatory. The otaku who consume it may end up lonelier (and as comically depicted in Genshiken, their girlfriends more frustrated), but contrary to the popular pulpit moralizing, they also end up markedly less dangerous.
# posted by Blogger C. L. Hanson
5/15/2008 8:06 AM   
It's very true that you can't read causation into correlation. I've discussed this at length on my blog in a bunch of different posts, talking about how there are many complex factors interacting with one another.

My point in the above comment, however, is that in the very top of Wolf's article she grants that porn doesn't cause rape. The thing that makes me angry about her essay is that instead of saying "Wow, that's not what we expected -- let's try to analyze what's going on here and maybe have a better understanding of the factors that lead to rape," her reaction is "Damn, guess I have to find a new justification for hating porn."
# posted by Blogger Eugene
5/15/2008 9:52 AM   
Ironically, the same thought processes seem to play out at the other end of the spectrum in church. It's hard letting go of that Really Good Reason For Everything, especially when those reasons are spelled out in General Conference after General Conference. So all the sinners know exactly who and what to blame when confession time rolls around. It makes for a very tidy world.