On Being Attracted to Anime Girls
One of the most common otaku stereotypes is that of the dorky guy who can’t get laid, so he turns to anime girls for his sexual gratification. I think this stereotype – as well as the fact that it’s constantly used as an insult or a self-deprecating joke – is pretty harmful in a number of ways.
First of all, it equates a man’s worth with his sexual potency. He’s a loser because he’s not getting any sex har har har!
Secondly, it promotes this overly deterministic idea that if you like anime girls, it must be because you have no alternatives. As if any man, if given the opportunity, would be sleeping with women. If you don’t have the same sexual desires as a “real man”, then you’re abnormal.
The idea that otaku are “manchildren” because of their sexual preferences also bothers me a lot, because that implies that being attracted to anime girls is something you must eventually “grow out of” if you ever want to have functioning relationships. It’s particularly troubling when I hear the “manchild” insult from self-proclaimed feminists.
Now, it’s true that otaku culture is prone to misogyny. I’ll make this perfectly clear from the outset: I don’t believe that “love” for a fictional character is at all comparable to a relationship with a real person. The language used to rationalise this love for a fictional girl often takes the form of blatantly slut shaming real girls. Shunning real-world interactions, referring to real women as “pigs” – that really is indicative of a toxic and unhealthy mentality.
But is being attracted to an anime girl over a real one really so inherently bad? I’m not talking about love or imagined relationships here, just base attraction.
I’m going to take what may be a controversial stance here, but I’m going to argue that yes, it’s okay to be attracted to anime characters rather than real people. Antisocial behaviour is another can of worms, but there is no need to feel ashamed of not being romantically attracted to real people.
To illustrate that point, I’m going to talk about my own experiences for a bit.
In real life, I am an asexual. This is to say that I do not feel sexual attraction towards men or women. I have tried, but I cannot muster any romantic or sexual feeling. I am capable of being stimulated by pornography, but I have no desire to perform intercourse. Also, as it turns out, you can be asexual and still have crushes on fictional characters.
I do not fall into the stereotypical image of otaku. I am considered conventionally attractive and I don’t have trouble forming relationships. Most people who know me in real life would not guess that I have an interest in anime girls.
That being said, I cannot say that I have ever seriously imagined myself in a romantic relationship with an anime girl. So perhaps my consumption is way more moderate than this fellow here (by the way, his taste sucks; Ringo is the best Love Plus girl). But I do personally identify as a herbivore male, so I empathise to a degree.
As I wrote in my spiel on feminism a while back, I was drawn to anime girls because they’re a safe outlet to explore my sexuality without real life consequences. Afterwards, I temporarily toned down my talk about waifus and cute anime girls, fearing it would make me look “unfeminist”. I wondered if I harboured a subconscious hatred for women. But I think it’s silly to think that way when the most inspiring people in my life are female. Refusing to date women doesn’t mean you hate them. That comes dangerously close to the logic that lesbians must be man-haters.
So why, then, is having waifus so stigmatised? I think it’s pretty telling that husbandos are not stigmatised to such a degree. Perhaps it has something to do with the otaku not living up to masculine expectations, as I suggested before. Asexual men face ostracisation and accusations of being sissies and whatnot. I endeavour to form healthy and fulfilling relationships with others regardless of their sex, so it frustrates me when others dismiss my lack of interest in having a romantic relationship as a sign of my emotional immaturity. (Not that I deny being immature, but that’s not what asexuality is about.)
I write this post in full awareness that not everyone approaches 2D-sexuality the same way, much like not everyone approaches asexuality the same way. And that’s perfectly reasonable! People have different reasons for having waifus – and it’s for that very reason they should not be stereotyped as having the same motives of insecurity and/or misogyny.
Of course, I’m not denying that cases of unhealthy obsession exist or that otaku culture is problematic. I do believe I have been influenced by a sexist culture, as I’m sure everyone is to a degree. But there’s nothing unique about the moe otaku’s attraction to fictional girls. It’s not much different from being attracted to a video game character or a comic book character. What is inherently sexist about otaku culture – the purity complex, the slut shaming, and so on – is not brought about solely by the presence of fictional girls.
I say all of this, not to trivialise the serious harm such attitudes can cause, but because I believe that the culture can and should strive to become more inclusive. Stigmatising or exoticising the otaku’s attraction to anime girls will only make their culture seem more niche – in the mainstream anime fandom as well as in society at large. This does nothing to challenge the popular beliefs held within otaku circles, which are certainly not divorced from our political reality. Otaku culture needs to change for the better, but stereotyping otaku and shaming them for liking anime girls is not the way to do it.
So yes, it’s okay to love your waifu. I think. Probably. What do you guys think?
(By the way, I’ve written a lot about waifus, but husbandos are cool and I have some male anime crushes as well. So to those of you with husbandos – I understand how you feel.)