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On Being Attracted to Anime Girls

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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.

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Kind of like Kousaka from Genshiken, I guess?

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.

Hot anime girls don't have to be Japanese either!

Hot cartoon girls don’t just belong in anime

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.)

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Posted on October 23, 2014, in Editorials and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. Relationships are like natto. Sticky and full of mustard.

  2. Otaku are much more likely to be strong idealists than your average person, which can be both good and bad depending on the context.

    Myself, I don’t really consider the idea of sexual intercourse with anyone except for somebody whom I would also consider a potential lifetime partner. The approach certainly reduces my chances of getting laid, but getting laid for the sake of it sounds ugh to me, so I don’t really mind.

    Now, guys tend to get some flak for thinking that way, which is funny especially since I live in a mainly Catholic country which should technically stigmatize pre-marriage sex and whatnot.

  3. Psshhh if we weren’t supposed to be attracted to anime girls they wouldn’t be drawn so pretty! :P

    But yeah the idea that being attracted to 2-D girls somehow lessens you as a person is bunk. I’ve never had any negative experience with it myself, mostly because all of my friends are casually attracted to everything. Back before I was a hardcore anime fan, a pal of mine had a Shuffle! poster in his bedroom (this one, actually). Friend wasn’t an anime fan at all so I commented on it. The group of them spent the next half an hour or so discussing which girl was the hottest. Hell, I know people who would NEVER watch anime but find 2-D girls attractive. It’s definitely not something to be ashamed of or looked down upon.

    On everything else, I’ll say: Love your Waifu, but don’t forget there’s a real world out there too? It’s one thing to not feel sexual or romantic attraction, but it’s another thing entirely to shut out real-life relations (be they platonic or more) in favour of anime.

  4. Okay, lesse what I can get out here. I think, generally, I’m of the same mindset as Whemleh’s final statement. If love for a 2-D girl causes you to turn your face away from reality, that’s bad.

    Perhaps more honestly (yeah, I’m just saying the same thing), the thing that troubles me with your main thesis here—”yes, it’s okay to be attracted to anime characters rather than real people”—is less about otaku being wimps and more about detachment from reality and/or fear of it. And here I feel like I’m starting to project a bit: I certainly don’t want to assume I understand the motivations of people who think this way.

    So, to clarify a bit—finding 2-D characters attractive isn’t the thing I struggle with understanding. It makes sense! These characters are specifically designed to be attractive, after all. It’s truly not that much different from being attracted to Natalie Portman when you see her in a movie (and your chances of achieving an actual romantic relationship with her are probably equal to your chances of achieving one with a fictional character). It’s the see 2-D as a viable alternative to real life relationships that I find…err…problematic? concerning?…which I think is what you touched on in your personal experience. We out to be seeking fulfilling real life relationships. Fictional characters are never ever going to be able to substitute effectively for reality.

    So, I guess my main problem with your thesis is the word “rather.” I might just be nitpicking your language, but choosing that word makes it sound like 2-D is a valid alternative to real life. I don’t think it is. This, I differentiate from the personal experience you shared; that is, being asexual in real life, but still being able to find 2-D characters attractive. If you were saying, “yes, it’s okay to be attracted to 2-D characters even if you aren’t attracted to people in real life,” I think I would be a little bit more onboard. But I just don’t think 2-D is a legitimate replacement for real life.

    I may very well have overlapped with a lot of things you said, but you kind of covered a huge number of topics (feminism, otaku stereotypes, etc.). ^_^”

    • Thanks for the comment! Since your criticisms overlapped with what arbitrary_greay said below, I addressed the bulk of your concerns there.

      tldr; I’m definitely not condoning the unhealthy parts of otaku culture, but since that overlaps so much with the whole “waifu” thing, I think it’s useful to differentiate between what is unhealthy about being attracted to anime girls and what is not.

  5. arbitrary_greay

    I feel like a large part of the argument of the post is banking on a debate trick I really liked to use myself: abusing the fact that language is quite terrible as a means of communication, and that most people do not wield language with any measure of precision. So it’s really easy to define the language of an argument so precisely that all of the opposition’s accusations no longer apply. Logically, arguments made using this tactic hold up, and are generally considered superior to the opponent’s because it utilizes a stronger command of language, and thus appears more civilized/rational/whathaveyou. That’s all very well and good in a competitive debate setting. However, it does no favors in a discussion trying to find meaningful applications and/or solutions.

    It is true that, in the past, the love of geeks for fictional characters was mocked. However, this was mocking of geeks by non-geeks, and the characterization of geeks then still maintained that they desired real females, and only turned to fictional females as they were unable to get real girls. This is the situation described by the post, and the argument made within that context is valid.

    Fast-forward to today. Geek is chic, and feminists tossing “manchildren” as an insult towards otaku is not an external force judging a group they don’t understand, but geek vs. geek intra-factional conflict. The situation here is that love of fictional characters is no longer just love of fictional characters. If that were the case, why are fangirls still dumped on for loving and shipping their bishies on tumblr? As you pointed out, husbandos talk is not as stigmatized, but that’s because husbandos talk does not carry the same level of sexist subtext as waifus talk. Asserting that the core of the backlash against waifu culture is “brought about solely by the presence of fictional girls” is just taking advantage of the fact that most people, even geeks, can’t articulate their beef against waifu culture clearly. The people lobbing “manchildren” as an insult in one post are declaring their love for Edward Elric and Uta no Prince Sama in the next, but rather than dismissing it, and them, as hypocrisy, it’s clear that they’re targetting other aspects of waifu culture that bother them, but don’t have the language precision to not spear “loving fictional characters” as well in their attacks, because it’s such a tangible detail.

    So why do I feel uneasy with this technique now?
    Well, it’s so easy to validate waifu culture in its entirety this way. It’s especially easy for supporters of waifu culture who don’t have as much of a grasp on language precision as you do to wave this post around as a “ha ha take that silly feminists” defense, when it actually does nothing of the sort.

    Language sucks. Yes, it’s technically okay to love your waifu within the context of only feeling attraction to fictional characters. But for the majority of the discourse surrounding the topic? It’s assumed that “loving your waifu” encompasses all of those other associations within otaku culture. We can try to make everyone use more precise language, but then it’s so easy to veer off into useless semantics and definitions debates, and stealth-advocating for complacency.
    Sometimes I feel like a lot of this blog’s and Joshspeagle’s more “famous” posts defending fandom culture do this, where they argue that the good parts of fandom are not invalidated by the bad parts, and the good parts are pretty damn fantastic, in response to the common broader attacks on otaku culture that are clipping the good parts while trying to get at the bad parts. But previously, those same defense posts tended to dismiss said attacks entirely just because they unfairly bruised the good parts on the side, focussing on those bruises, instead of the aspects actually being attacked. It’s almost a side-tracking technique, within the context of the greater conversation.

    This doesn’t excuse poorly-written arguments. Tangible details critiques are still textually wrong. I hate the lack of precise language in governmental politics in favor of emotional appeals. And I really enjoyed the educational value of aforementioned defense posts.
    But….eeeerrghh I don’t want to start throwing around “privilege” and “intersectionality” and stuff because no good would come of that resulting shitstorm, but I guess I’m saying that male otaku can take a little more unintended flak compared to the damage their reinforcement of sexist stuctures in the name of defending the good parts of fandom is doing? That there’s a little more leeway on imprecise language because it’s punching up not down? (In the context of geek-to-geek combat. As I said before, this post is entirely valid with regards to non-geeks looking down on geeks and bias against genre.)

    So, then, is it okay to love your waifu, including all of the problematic cultural baggage that entails?
    Well, as discussed in the blogsphere previously, it is absolutely okay to consume and enjoy sexist media! So, yes. Waifu lovin’ is fine.
    The problems come in when:
    1) Sexist attitudes spill over into the treatment of real people
    2) Sexist media dominates the medium/culture, with no balance of alternatives. Attitudes that get preferential treatment due to popularity tend to get propagated and internalized, you know?

    So, under those conditions, when is critique of loving your waifu fully valid?
    1) When the waifu-lover uses their waifu-lovin’ to dump on real people (And this also needs to be further explored, as when is a haven a safe space and when is it a toxic echo chamber? There’s nothing inherently wrong with forums devoted to ogling hot girls, until someone violated a real person’s privacy or agency in order to enable their ogling.)
    2) “Man, all these fangirls are RUINING ANIME FOREVAR with their silly 3D female ways, 3D girls suck gtfo of anime it’s not for you anyways. Shoujo is shit because it’s for silly girls ew cooties. Get that shit out of here. Tumblr should be shut down it’s just a cesspit of SJWs. REAL anime fans hang out here.”
    (Note: “Why can’t 3D girls be like 2D girls” is not necessarily sexist. After all, “why can’t 3D boys be like 2D boys” can be a valuable question in pointing out how much males dismiss female perspectives in their perceptions of what females want. The exact reasons that 2D is considered superior determine if a “2D>3D” statement is indicative of sexist attitudes, not the statement itself.)

    • Thanks for the honest critique of my argument! A lot of the stuff you mentioned was stuff I was thinking about before I sat down to write this particular post. I look back on my earlier posts about otaku with a bit of unease now precisely because I feel like I was whitewashing the very serious problems with otaku culture. I did try to present a more nuanced stance here, so yeah, I would be pretty horrified if someone used my argument as an affirmation that everything about waifu culture is okay.

      I think this post is best read alongside my feminist otaku post, where I did argue that otaku culture in practice is incompatible with feminism. On paper, the desire to resist against stereotypical masculine norms and the attraction to fictional characters are not so problematic – and that’s the line of thinking I’ve articulated in this post. I suppose my basic stance is that there is so much of otaku culture that is toxic, but it is not morally bankrupt on a fundamental level. If I could, I would push popular understanding of gender and sexuality within anime fandom in a healthier and more constructive direction. I’m for reform of otaku culture, not for total avoidance.

      Now, you say that most critique of geek culture these days is “geek vs. geek intra-factional conflict”. It’s true that there’s been a greater shift towards this angle of critique as geek fandoms have become more inclusive, but I’m not sure if the situation with anime geeks is comparable with, say, gamers. Otaku culture just hasn’t had the same cultural penetration, and even in the academic context, I’ve encountered some pretty stereotyped ideas about otaku. A couple of weeks ago in my Japanese pop culture class, for instance, I heard a number of fellow students declare that “I like anime and manga, but I don’t understand otaku.” So I think you’re right that even those within the culture – including students who are training to think critically about culture – can’t articulate clearly what they reject about otaku. Because of that, I don’t think the “geek vs. geek” criticism in anime fandom has been as pointed or as useful in engaging with the topic as I would like.

      So the takeaway point, I imagine, is this: as a geek criticising geek culture, I should probably step up my game. Rather than refuting strawman arguments, I should work on establishing clearer arguments that differentiate between what I accept within otaku culture and what I reject.

      That said, I do still stand by the argument I presented in this post. I reject the lazy stereotypes and I don’t think attraction to anime girls is inherently bad. Now that I’ve defined what it is not the problem with otaku culture, I feel that I can focus on what is the problem. The underlying sexist attitudes you pointed out would be a great start, though I’d like to distinguish between the symptoms of a toxic subculture and the underlying causes. That’s definitely something I will need to think about more clearly before I tackle this subject again. As it stands, my thesis is very much incomplete!

      • arbitrary_greay

        Yeah, one point I cut for word count was that reading the majority of posts on this blog does prove that there’s a lot more to your take on the culture, but recently, I’ve seen a few bloggers talk about how one post accounts for a huge chunk of their traffic, and that other statistics show that it doesn’t tend to translate into hits to their other posts. As a reader, I’ve been guilty myself of only reading select posts on a blog that hit on a big issue, and then not checking out the rest of the archive.

        Definitely agree with not avoiding otaku culture. There have been mini-movements time and again within fandom about how the term otaku should be rejected completely because of its origins as a perjorative, and I’ve seen similar discourse concerning the term brony. (The last flare-up I witnessed was when Hayao Miyazaki did his “get off my lawn” rant about how otaku are RUINING TEH INDUSTRY, which the rejectors of the otaku label loved) It sounds like your fellow students might be taking that stance by declaring how they don’t understand otaku. I’m kind of hypocritical in that I’ve done some similar fan-name elitism in various fandoms, but overall, I’ve argued against such rhetoric. If we had followed the same logic concerning nerds, geeks, dorks, etc., in the past, we never would have come as far as we have, and we definitely wouldn’t have the leverage we have now to further influence and improve the culture.
        Although, I do still consider that situation geek vs. geek criticism, even if one or the other side is trying to avoid one or more of the related labels. They’re all just trying to establish and navigate identity borders within fandom. A lot of the kerfuffle in gaming now stems from some geeks being so used to only being criticised by non-geeks that they assume that criticisms now cannot be coming from True Geeks. They must be Fake!

        At the point at which you connect your argument to such personal details, (and thanks for that, it was great writing) I can’t call this post a strawman at all. It is a valid argument within a certain context. However, the environment it is addressing, the primary audience it assumes are anime fans already, is not that context.
        To be honest, I’m not sure what the ideal would look like, or if you need to change your writing. (After all, I’m in total agreement with “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.”) Probably, the optimum is close to how the blogosphere looks like right now, where for the most part, it’s okay for individual posts to have imprecise language and arguments and messy ideals and endorsements of problematic things, because there’s such a wide variety of blogs and ideals and posts. Your “Is The Anime Blogsphere Too Cynical?” post is still so true.
        I guess that I still reserve the right to critique individual posts using my oh-so-humble opinion, though? LIKE CRITIQUE OF MEDIA, HEYOOO

        Really looking forward to future posts. What would a better otaku culture look like? Obviously ecchi, harem, and hentai, for all genders, should still have an important role, as a medium that so strongly provides exploratory spaces for adolescents, but how to find the balance with other aspects of its artistic potential? It’s really exciting to think about!

        • I do still consider that situation geek vs. geek criticism, even if one or the other side is trying to avoid one or more of the related labels. They’re all just trying to establish and navigate identity borders within fandom.

          This is a great point and deserves some fleshing out. Online anime fandom right now is rather compartmentalised, and there’s not a lot of interaction between fans from different groups (except perhaps with the big hit shows that appeal very generally). Outwardly-enforced stereotypes are still really prevalent, like the image of yaoi fans as screaming fangirls. If anime fandom wants to become more inclusive, these different types of consumers need to find more common ground instead of seeing each other as separate groups that happen to like the same broad hobby.

          That also directly ties into my answer of what I think a better otaku culture would be like, by the way.

          Also yeah, the issue about blog audience is something I think about a lot. Not only is the audience of my blog assumed to be anime fans, the heavy focus on social commentary and my obvious left-wing stance makes the number of people willing to engage with my ideas a very small, self-selecting crowd. When I talk about how problematic otaku culture is, I’m preaching to the already converted here.

          Theorising about an ideal anime culture is a nice sentiment, but it’s not like I can do much with this platform. I can’t even engage my own friends in discussions about cultural criticism, let alone the mainstream anime fandom. Still, I do think there has been a general shift towards more cultural criticism about anime among bloggers and critics. My individual voice may not mean much, but just having these discussions at all is a good thing.

          • arbitrary_greay

            Hmmm, I wonder if the broadness of “anime fandom” might be the problem, since it’s technically a medium, not a genre. (There’s no “tv fandom” or “radio fandom,” but there is theater fandom, and within it, musical vs. stageplay fandom. There are movie buffs and music critics, although the latter tend to have genre specialties by necessity. Hmmm.) A lot of the label-avoidance comes from the motivations for which a person consumes anime, and how they prefer to express their opinions on it. Some watch anime as just another form of narrative media. Some watch it for that “pseudo-Japan” culture. Some watch because it’s a thing geeks do, and they self-identify as a geek. Some watch it as an art form, and others might watch it as an aspect of greater Japanese culture. While some might say they’re all anime fans or all otaku, others would say they have superceding identities (casual, otaku, geek, film buff, cultural studies, respectively) that prevent them from being labelled as “anime fans” together.
            Even as people are expanding realms of fandom to previously non-fandom realms, (particularly for western live-action television, with many shows that don’t classify as genre now repping at conventions) the greater acceptance is what allows fans of each type of medium and genre to declare themselves separate from other factions, that “they’re not that type of geek.” The pool of aforementioned people who watch anime because it’s a thing geeks do is shrinking. Fractally, the pool of anime fans who watch That One Show because it’s a thing anime fans do is shrinking.

            When I talk about how problematic otaku culture is, I’m preaching to the already converted here.
            Actually, I was thinking more that you’re preaching to the waifu-lovers already. XD Although, your more recent posts have probably brought in more left-wing traffic.

            but it’s not like I can do much with this platform.
            That’s an interesting opinion. I’ve found that blog comment sections have been my platform of choice for nitty-gritty tl;dr discussions. The need to preserve conversation flow, as well as the rush of real-time, hampers depth in chat settings, as I don’t have the time to research and revise and proofread my statements. (And, as you say, unless friends are already amenable to those discussions, it’s hard to bring up. *insert Yahari Yui-comparison here*) Twitter is akin to chat, for me. Forum threads tend not to have as good of an opening post to guide the debate, and thus devolve into many branches of sub-topics, more breadth than depth, as well as usually containing too many members to keep the discussion optimal. Let’s not even get into the anti-discussion clusterfuck that is the Tumblr reblog system.
            The closest I’ve found to match has been through blog round-tables, in which either the panel does an email-chain conversation with each other, and then posts everyone’s paragraphs in a single post, or blog-carnival format, with a pre-determined posting order so that posts are openly responses to each other.

  6. I have waifus and husbandos. Less waifus, but still.

    I’ve given my relationship with the anime world and its inhabitants and my relationships with the world around me and my friends quite a lot of thought. I’ve yet to come to a conclusion, but some things are always clear: there’s no real risk in investing in 2D characters other than ‘wasting your time on emotional entertainment’ in the sense that real relationships might end up incredibly harmful (not just in the case of crying for a few days after your partner leaves you etc) so it’s great for cowards like me, who I think are unable to make these relationships with other people anyway. I struggle to make emotional connection with even the friends around me, never mind potential romantic partners. I know my expectations for other people are unachievable and a paradox in the sense I want a little but also a lot. With anime characters I can be in multiple emotional relationships without consequence, and its clean. Its not messy. If I get disinterested I can just look at another character. Anime characters, as you know, can also be that kind of unachievable ideal that completely alienates me and makes me sad. That’s something else though. Moreover, I’m currently incredibly uncomfortable, even disgusted, with the idea of having sex. I’m attracted to males, but more on a superficial level and to an extent I’m not interested in going further than that. I do know that as much as I’d like to be attracted to females, no disrespect to lesbians of course, since I’m much more comfortable being around girls, I’m not. And that’s that. I’ve not experienced enough to know anything for sure yet, of course. Not everyone is as fortune as you bro of mine.

    Of course maintaining that balance between reality and fantasy is crucial. Ideals can sometimes be as harsh, if not even worse, than reality. Of course I’m just skimming the surface on the whole issue, and this is about escapism itself.

  7. When you mentioned that you were asexual, my first thought was of someone ripping off a limb and having a clone grow from it. But that weird tidbit aside, I agree with you. I think most people repeat the 3DPD thing sarcastically, although there are certainly people who legitimately hate real men and women as opposed to idealized anime characters, but they probably have more deep-seated problems than merely opting for 2D.

    One day, we’ll be able to put artificial personalities in androids, and that will be the day when nobody ever leaves their homes.

    • When you mentioned that you were asexual, my first thought was of someone ripping off a limb and having a clone grow from it.

      That’s… pretty violent. Ahahahaha. Where the heck did you get that image from?!

      Also, just a thought. When people say things like “3DPD” ironically, are they being sexist ironically? What difference does that make, honestly? Ironic sexism doesn’t actually challenge the status quo.

      (I say that, but I love making dumb waifu jokes anyway. Sexism is hard and makes my brain hurt.)

      • I was just thinking of asexual reproduction, where cells split in half and clone themselves.

        I’ve never really thought of 3DPD referring specifically to women, so I would never associate it with sexism. Men definitely use the term more, but I think it’s valid for all 2D lovers to use, regardless of their gender. I may be completely wrong though.

  8. Before photography and video porn meant drawings/paintings. And people have been getting crushes on sculpture and paintings and of course literature characters for as long as they have existed.

    I don’t think there is any automatic harm in preferring 2D. But I think in practice 2D culture (and otaku culture in general) enables unhealthy attitudes towards real people, sexuality, gender and society in large. Waifu culture is moe culture and I’m in the camp that believes that moe is inherently messed up because it’s all about infantilization and the fantasy of a partner that has no agency or power, and is completely selfless and dependent of you. Moe is always shallow characterization and truly complex/realistic characters can only be made moe by simplifying them (as doujinshi constantly do). Yes, otaku are idealists but usually the “Nice Guy” type who believe that they should be accepted despite their flaws but women should be flawless, virginal and eternally self-sacrificing. Is that really idealism or just selfishness?

    I understand why people turn to 2D. I don’t want real relationships either. But I admit it’s because I’m a broken person. I can’t handle real relationships because I’m too scared of being rejected or used or betrayed. I was bullied as a kid and I’ve always been unpopular, now I have low self-esteem. 2D is safe way to fantasize about not just romance or sex but friendship too. 2D will never hurt you, never reject you, never demand anything from you. I exclusively like characters that are very moe, pure hearted, nonthreatening and even virginal. And yes, sometimes I hate the opposite gender for seemingly completely lacking those qualities. But then I remind myself that I’m a selfish, flawed, perverted person myself so how can I judge? You can only connect with a real person if you can truly accept that they have an ugly side too. I think for men especially this is hard, because it means becoming vulnerable and sharing power. And let’s face it, men are constantly fed fantasies about these women who are nothing more than objects and have no life beyond wanting to make them happy – why should any man compromise and get a real woman who *gasp* might disagree with him or demand things from him? Women have their own fantasies of perfect men but they are a bit different because women are never taught that they are good enough as they are – there are no stories of ugly, loser women getting perfect male model boyfriends, even shoujo/otome heroines have to be conventionally pretty, selfless, virginal etc. Instead women seem to be taught to tolerate shitty treatment from those idealized men.

    So okay, I’m not saying everyone into 2D is like me. But based on what I’ve seen I would guess majority are, at least little bit. I think it’s healthy to question our fantasies and why they are the way they are.

    • Thanks for the comment! After reading your comment and some of the others above, I decided to add another paragraph to my original post, which I think addresses some of the concerns that have been voiced:

      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, I agree with you. I strongly advocate that people question their tastes and their beliefs. Liking anime girls is not so harmful on paper and in its milder forms, but in practice it has led to some horrible, horrible things.

      Also, thanks for taking the time to share your own experiences and reservations about your attraction to anime girls. My own positive experiences with women certainly doesn’t invalidate the general trend of misogyny within hardcore otaku circles. And a lot of it is just so hard to escape, since the sexism is embedded so deeply in anime itself.

  9. I’ve felt something similar for years in regard to this. You don’t really lose out when you get invested in media. There’s no emotional backlash involved for the most part (unless something about it hits particularly close to home). I generally find myself more interested in continuing my hobbies and ensuring I get through my various workloads (school and work) before I try and pursue anything regarding relationships.

    I’m not exactly the type to go out and try to meet new people, and will generally bail if there’s more people at an event that I am unfamiliar with than actual friends.

    I’m not sure if it’s self-sufficiency or some defense mechanism keeping people at a distance, but at least I know now that I’m not alone (on the internet) when it comes to waifus.

  10. I think pretty much everyone already has chewed this up thoroughly (arbitrary_greay especially), in pointing out that you’re making an argument that it’s okay to like and obsess over “Fictional Characters” in general. Furthermore, it’s alright to have prefer fictional characters over real people.

    By “Fictional Characters”, this also encompasses 1D (writing), television, film, your own characters you invent through fan fiction, etc.

    By no means this exclusive to “waifus” or otaku culture.

    I think your post kicked up so much controversy because you approached this argument by defending the generic (“Men liking fictional characters and being called manchildren for it”) and veering away from the specific issue of waifu and otaku culture in particular.

    So here’s a question: what’s the difference between having a waifu and masturbating/fantasizing to a fantasy character you really liked?

    Let’s deconstruct the term “waifu.” We both speak English, so yes–(duh)–it means “wife.”

    The very etymology of the term that differentiates “waifu” from “fictional characters” is the fact that it necessarily implies that the otaku projects the 2D character as their wife. In other words, it implies the otaku would like a fiction to be their reality. The definition of “waifu” most literally means we treat 2D as if they were real.

    Why is this toxic compared to the mere act of masturbating/fantasizing over fantasy characters?

    The latter comes with no expectation that reality (3D) will be mixed with the fictional (2D). There’s a famous quote that 2D should be kept separate from 3D. Liking/masturbating to fictional characters respects this because we generally carry no expectations that real people will be anything like the fantasies that turn us on.

    Waifu culture, in contrast, is by definition stigmatizing. It comes with the sexist baggage that implies: “I want my wife to be like this. My wife should make bentos and omu-rice for me. Then she’ll prepare the bath and do the naked apron. My wife should say okaiadi, be doting, and moe. This is the ideal woman.”

    I know that as casual anime fans, we toss around the term “waifu” in a more casual context and almost jokingly (just as we toss the term “otaku” around casually). But I still think it’s important to consider the context and background waifu/husbando arose out of, and realize that the etymology of the term is actually quite problematic.

    ————————————

    Also, an interesting postscript about 2D vs 3D sexuality.

    Here’s another fun personal contribution to the mix.

    In reality, I’m fully heterosexual. I have a girlfriend and everything.

    However, I *have* been turned on by yaoi and do get the doki-doki reaction to the guys in shoujo manga (I actually don’t react much to the girls in shoujo, lol). Homosexual hentai is fine for me; honestly I consume both heterosexual and homosexual 2D porn freely.

    Actually, I was so okay with it, I even questioned my sexuality for a little bit (wondering whether I was bisexual or what, lol).

    Then I tried watching 3D man-on-man porn once……

    I maybe got through like 3 seconds?

    Yeah, it definitely didn’t click with me. Pretty much re-confirmed my sexuality in an instant. XD

    Makes you wonder if your sexuality can be different 2D vs 3D.

    • I would warn against the “waifu” = “wife” assumption. Japan has its own words for the concept of a wife, obviously, and a new term is coined here exactly because the target characters are “not exactly wifes”.

    • I think your post kicked up so much controversy because you approached this argument by defending the generic (“Men liking fictional characters and being called manchildren for it”) and veering away from the specific issue of waifu and otaku culture in particular.

      In my defence, I chose that line of argument specifically because I wanted to avoid exoticising otaku sexuality.

      But yeah, I understand the concerns you and others have brought up about me potentially justifying the entirety of waifu culture through arguing 2D-sexuality at its core is okay. That was certainly not my intention, and although I’ve gone back and clarified that in my original post, I wonder if my argument is still misleading.

      My take on the sexism and misogyny in otaku culture is that it’s very similar to what you’d find in other male-dominated geek subcultures. It has less to do with the 2D-sexuality aspect and more to do with the structure of niche subcultures and of the more general patriarchal society we live in. It just happens to be that the specific expression that the otaku’s sexism takes is extremely noticeable and easy to pick on. They’re “tangible details”, as arbitrary_greay said.

      That’s also why I think my defence is valid, by the way, because it’s tempting to be distracted by all the waifu business and to blame the otaku’s sexism on that when it’s an expression of sexism. You could take all the waifus out of anime and otaku culture would still be sexist. Let’s not forget how male-centric and exclusivist robot otaku were (and continue to be).

      Also, as Cytrus has pointed out, I’m wary about arguing about the semantics of “waifu”, since waifu and the Japanese word “yome” don’t have a 1:1 equivalence. And arguments about the definitions and etymology of words just exhaust me in general.

      (P.S. Your postscript is interesting! I don’t watch a lot of pornography, but I also can’t stand 3D gay porn. It also brings to mind the people who like loli/shota porn but wouldn’t touch child pornography. I think what modes of sexuality people are willing to explore through the 2D world can be very different.)

      • Thanks for responding!

        I definitely agree with you that waifu culture is merely an expression of sexism that stems from otaku culture at it’s core. xD It’s not as much the “waifu”-ness in itself. But yeah, I’m still scratching my head over why all of us responded so strongly

        In response to “waifu” != “yome” that you and Citrus brought up:

        I do understand that the terms waifu/husbando are primarily western creations. With that regard, they’re not actually serious in that aspect.

        However, reflecting back on what arbitrary_gray said about geek vs. geek inter-factional conflict, I’m beginning to wonder how much “waifu” is a western parody of the real otakus in Japan where (I assume) the 2D-dating scene is more serious and extreme.

        For instance, when we casually say, “Asuna is my waifu!” are we Westerners actually just mocking the Japanese Otakus who engage in 嫁との晩餐 (Yome To No Bansan)? Is it underhandedly an acrid joke that targets people who actually take 2D very very seriously? Is there some kind of interfactional conflict between weeaboos and the real hikikomori’s of Japan that we’ve been overlooking all this time?

        Anyways, the main crux of my argument was that there’s a common feeling that 2D must be kept separate from 3D. Waifu or not, it’s okay to like a fictional character only if it stays within the fictional bounds of your imagination. Problems start arising when the lines between 2D and 3D get blurred; ie: people will say you’re sick for wanting your real little sister to call you onii-chan. It’s also controversial to actually marry to your waifu.

        Here’s a case study. Suppose your waifu is Mary Bennet from Pride a Prejudice and you’re very serious about it (I picked a non-anime character to prove a point). You’re very open about this. Meanwhile, let’s say a 3D girl who really likes you confesses to you. If you respond: “Sorry, I’m not interested in any relationships with real girls,” and she later finds out your waifu is Mary Bennet, how is she supposed to feel?

        You may not have walked around saying all girls should be like Mary Bennet, but all the same you’ve rubbed off an impression. You didn’t intend it, but you’re causing someone to compare themselves with a fictional ideal. It’s the same end result as getting girls to compare themselves to magazine models with 23 inch waists. In Mary Bennet’s case, you’re making a message that your ideal woman is a quiet, reticent girl who read books. It propels a culture of gender stereotyping.

        If you remove the waifu from otaku culture, you’re right: the sexism isn’t gone. But I think the inverse is also true. If you remove anime from a waifu-esque culture, the gender stereotyping isn’t gone either.

        • I think it might be fascinating to consider non-anime versions of Magical-Girlfriend media: Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, (and My Fair Lady, as an extension) John Hughes’ Weird Science, and then the recent Spike Jonze’s Her. That last one, made in a post-Chobits era, seems especially pertinent.
          On the other hand, most of these examples play up some of the harmful masculinity that Froggy points out in his post: the importance/false necessity of Getting Laid, the linking of Getting Laid to maturity, etc.

          I also wonder where the distinctions between waifu culture and celebrity culture begin to intersect. As you said in your last post, fantasizing/masturbating to a fictional character by itself is okay due to the fantasy aspect being understood, but part of a great defense of attraction to 2D characters is that fantasizing/masturbating to a fictional character is actually the minority situation! The primary image of horny boys and girls getting off is to posters of real people. In that sense, the 2D fantasy is actually less damaging, because everything for the fictional character is indeed fictional, (except for maybe line-blurring regarding voice actors, which is a whole other can of worms) whereas the latter is defining the industry to actively force certain aesthetic standards upon celebrities.

          I’m feeling uneasy about this case study hypothetical. It seems dangerously close to censoring the benefits of fandom as a safe space for sexual exploration. People are allowed to be attracted to problematic body types or personalities within the safe space. I think that there does need to be a requirement of “walking around saying all girls should be like Mary Bennet because these sexist reasons” because I don’t see how the hypothetical waifu lover here has done anything beyond following his/her own feelings otherwise. As I said in my original comment, “Why can’t 3D girls be like 2D girls” is not necessarily a sexist statement, no matter who the specific 2D girl is, because any good character can be interpreted in a gender positive and gender negative way.

  11. Fusshhh! the approach of “Sexual proportions to Masculinity” is so outdated! In Asia, we’re closed about it. In the West, they’re open about it. Different surface, same outlook – Treating women like they’re something to conquer.

    (Can’t really blame all of this to men, though. It’s their nature, after all: Just see how a boy and a girl treat their toy respectively.)

    Anyway, back to topic. It’s important to remember the different between “Attracted” and “Love/Sex/….”. The latter is a matter of harmony – Imagine a spring being let loose and another pressed to its limit. You can freely twist the first one in anyway you like (The origin of shipping: Project your ideal image onto the characters), but not the latter.

    • A couple of things:

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by “sexual proportions to masculinity”. It could be a concept I’m familiar with under another name. From the context of your paragraph I take it you’re talking about sexual conquests?

      (Can’t really blame all of this to men, though. It’s their nature, after all: Just see how a boy and a girl treat their toy respectively.)

      I’d be wary of saying something like this! Gender is primarily a social construction, not something determined by biology.

      As for the distinction between being “attracted to” and feeling “love” for a fictional character, I’m pretty much of the opinion that what people call “love” in this context is just a projection of ideals. Those ideals, I feel, are rooted in sexist values, which is why I discuss obsession with an anime character almost purely in terms of sexism. Because that’s what it comes down to.

      • Exactly!

        However, there is one thing you don’t mention: The second side. In real-life, you imagine about your future wife. See if the only thing that you think of is general cosmetic and behaviors features. Why couldn’t you build a perfect image? So many variable that could occur. Including you, the most important element that could change drastically in the span of few years.

        With anime, it’s different. Everything is only restricted by your imagination and based information. But it’s the latter that restricts. You have to think of way to cope with your partner. It’s a static relationship.

        People who proclaimed to have waifus, I don’t think that they would even dare to flirt to one that is the perfect representation of their imagination. One example would be the Accel World fandom: They have to change the main character, or introduce an OC. An ideal for an ideal.

  12. Yes, please, yes. This generic name-calling does no one any good and actually I’m with you that it perpetuates harmful ideas about sex in multiple directions. I’m really fed up with getting retorts of the “you need a fuck” type that imply that I think with my sexual organs or something! I’m generally tired of having ‘normal’ sex be the center and cause of everything! I liked your parallelism to idiotic ‘lesbians are manhaters’ train of thought coz I was encountered with a similar one from a ‘friend’. She told me that my bisexuality was an influence of my partner’s acertainty towards ‘his’ gender (I didn’t tell her about the trans issue-imagine) and that there are very few ‘genetic’ homosexuals and that most of them just couldn’t find a partner of the opposite sex =.= Seeking B doesn’t mean you’ve failed at A, it’s so simple for goodness sake!
    By the way just the other day I saw a great motto on fb saying that lesbians wanting to date butch women don’t want to ‘really’ date men in the same way that you wouldn’t want to eat real worms but you love worm-shaped gum.

    P.S.: I’m not of the opinion that it’s the OP’s responsibility how other untrained, uneducated people may use a post/argument. This is always bound to happen with any piece of text because the message is always decoded by the receiver. I think you’ve done a good job here in any case.

    • Thanks for the comment and for sharing some of your experiences! I feel your pain when it comes to dealing with people who don’t understand different sexualities. I sincerely hope your “friend” doesn’t cause too much trouble about you and your partner :(

      The whole thing about stereotyping nerds and geeks brings to mind Leigh Alexander’s article about gamers being dead (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/224400/Gamers_dont_have_to_be_your_audience_Gamers_are_over.php). Despite agreeing with her overall argument, I thought she came across as unnecessarily belligerent, especially with the consistent gender and racial stereotyping she made use of. (I don’t identify as a gamer, so it’s not like I took personal offence to the claims she was making.) I suppose the point here is that you can have a liberal stance, but the positive message can get bogged down with antagonising language.

  13. I’m completely fine with you being attracted to anime girls, but…

    Herbivore?!?!?

    You’re less than a man.

    • I hope you don’t mean to imply that being “less” of a man means you’re less of a human being or anything.

    • sigh

      http://i.imgur.com/niGNrc9.gifv

      A “herbivore” is not some lesser form of a man or a person in general. You don’t get man points or anything for wanting to have sex and/or romantic relationships, and you don’t lose man points for not wanting to have sex and/or romantic relationships.

      Everyone is different. It is perfectly fine for a man (or anyone else) to be a bit herbivorous, so to speak. People are free to define themselves rather than solely be defined by their relationships.

  14. It’s not Otaku culture that’s the problem. It’s the dark side of the fandom. As in the vast minority that people tell me is the minority.

    The weeaboo culture. They go to Japan and the first thing they ask is “wh-Where are all the subtitles?”

  15. It seems no matter where I turn, a male anime fan is either asexual, celibate, in love with their pillow, or suicidal and they seem to blame it on feminism, society, etc. Granted anime babes are hotter then real women, why can’t anyone just come out and say that and blame themselves for their shortcomings instead of scapegoating others? It’s your fault you’re fat and ugly and anti-social, no one else’s. I’m not saying this to troll, I’m dead serious. Before anyone points the finger at me, I’m fat, but gratefully tall and average looking and I have a girlfriend so I fortunately don’t speak from experience anymore

  16. The correct way of saying it is HOsbando… sins HU doesn’t exist in japanese language… so it’ll be written like this: ホスバンド (Hosubando)

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Fighting Girl and Otaku Sexuality | Fantastic Memes

  2. Pingback: Waifu Culture: A Troubled Marriage | The Afictionado

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