Accepted Paper:

Negotiating controversy: Understanding sexuality and desire in Japanese shotacon subculture  
Karl Andersson

Paper short abstract:

Comics with underage characters in sexual situations are controversial, and their readers might be seen as creepy. Wanting to understand how shotacon is experienced, I explored both my research participants’ and my own desire. Filmmaking facilitated a new understanding of how sexual comics are used.

Paper long abstract:

The Japanese comic genre shotacon features young boys in sexual situations. This opens up for assumptions about fans of this genre. Does their desire for underage fictional characters translate to a desire for actual boys? A lingering suspicion that they are paedophiles seems to inform Western media reports on this kind of subculture, as well as European child pornography legislation, which often includes drawings.

Research on the adjoining genre lolicon, which features young girls in sexual situations, has established that the reader’s desire is directed towards fiction as such (Galbraith 2019). However, scattered findings suggested that this clearcut divide between fiction and actuality was blurred in the case of shotacon.

Using my own body and past as a research tool, I attempted an embodied understanding of my research participants’ experience. This demanded I challenged my (Western) preconceptions and dared to explore my own desire by drawing it. Filmmaking for fieldwork as a method accentuated ethical and legal considerations regarding both my research participants and myself.

The theme that emerged from this phenomenological approach was how shotacon fans who self-identified as gay used shotacon as a way to go back to their pasts and relive alternative versions of them by reading or drawing.

Shotacon as a self-help tool for LGBT youth contrasts to negative assumptions of the genre’s fans, including suspicions of paedophilia. The findings may thus have relevance for public policy.

Galbraith, Patrick W. 2019. Otaku and the Struggle for Imagination in Japan. Durham: Duke University Press.

Panel P26b
Empirical art: Filmmaking for fieldwork in practice
  Session 1