Disclaimer a large part of this is more food for thought to get everyone to think about this not emotionally but critically. So i do go a bit heavy handed and make pretty clear hard lines. I want you to think about this and not just disagree because its the easy option. Also because this topic is honestly and i don't mean to offend far above the paygrade of likely most people here that will chime in myself included hell i know it's well above my pay grade im in the IT field not medical and psychology. The exact topic trying to be covered here is one that honestly you could write a thesis for a PHD on. In Fact many people have. So let's try to actually give the respect this kind of topic deserves.
A large part of the question of is shota/loli "pedo bait" or not in fiction is asking "Are we suggesting people physically can't stop themselves if exposed to this material and will act out in the real world?" as well as "Am i a pedo because i enjoy this and i don't know if i can stop my self?"
Objectively a picture is a picture is a picture nothing more nothing less. It is when we give it value and meaning do we have an issue. For the first question sure there are recorded and documented cases of mental problems that prevent a person from stopping themselves from doing something they objectively know is wrong. So exposure to their particular weakness is a huge problem. Be this the on topic loli/shota or be it gambling, drinking, drugs what have you. It all comes down to addiction, inability to stop them self and pure desire. But is this a fault of the artist or the viewer to know what the viewers weakness is and what to avoid? Artists in general already provide disclaimers for just this problem so people who know they have a problem will avoid it. For the rest, we can't police peoples lives or art would have to die out. We can't control what people see in others art. That nice picture of a 19 year old woman? As far as that 40 year old man is concerned she might as well be a child and suddenly we have a problem. Perspective means more in this conversation both arguing for or against it then many people may realize.
To the second question. this is a bit of a bigger problem. This is where conformists and social expectations play a huge part in the view of any given topic. People who are raised to believe something or are confronted with something they are taught or believe is bad regardless of what that is. Will lash out at it, this is a undeniable fact. So we must ask ourselves when confronted with this outlash, why are they doing so? Is the logic and ideology behind the outlash justifiable? Is it a scapegoat? Is it a fallacy?
With the baseline out of the way, the on topic question of Shota/Lolicon. We have a obvious scapegoat in pedophilia. We have to ask, is this a justifiable scapegoat? And in all honesty sure it very much is. It's hard to argue that point. We have a case where it does provide people both mentally unstable and mentally stable an avenue to enjoy their fetish for as fucked up as that is. Art styles full stop even in lolicon/shotacon vary WILDLY tho so even that argument is at a minimum a case by case basis. Mostly because of the following.
That there is a difference between hebephilia and ephebophilia and pedophilia. Almost all lolicon/shota tends to be hebephilia or ephebophilia not pedophilia. While this may seem pedantic if you want to have an honest argument about this you need to actually have the argument proper. A pedo targets prepubescent aka a typical age of 8 to 11. Hebephilia the most common art style tho it many not strictly be the stated age, is around the ages of 11 to 14 where the age of consent is in general for a weirdly large parts of the word thinking about it as a westerner and where generally you see a SHARP drop off in pedophilia because it's not pedophilia at that point its hebephilia which is a ENTIRELY different can of worms. This becomes an argument of clinical definition and really one that must be had. Else all we are doing is flapping our gums because we want to feel better about ourselves cause we said no to the easy evil. Ephebophilia barely needs to be talked about as that falls more into 16-17 age range and is more generally high schoolers by both west and eastern standards and at that point it's just an entirely new argument. Not many people think of a even a 17 year old and a 22 year old as much more then kinda weird till a few years later and suddenly the age difference is a non factor. If you consider someone 17+ to be loli it's an art style argument not a pedo one. Which while a valid argument it's not one i'm really talking about here.
So we have to ask what is lolicon? Is it art of children as in proper children. Young children ages 8 to 10. So kids not even in middle school yet. Or at they 11 to 14? Typically middle school to freshman year? Or is it 16-17? That is another huge thing people seem to gloss over. Many MANY lolicons are high schoolers which by at least japan's standards is 16+. High school by western standards starts at 14 in some cases.
If we go by eastern standards they don't even start high school till 16. Which puts this even more into perspective. That loli "high schooler" is a legal adult by most countries standards. Which makes all this less weird by the country of origin.
So really in the end, we have to ask ourselves. Not is loli/shota a problem cause its just an art style. But what is the art being drawn as and what for. Is it a overly sexulaized 8 year old? Yeah that's a problem. is it a overly sexulized 16 year old? Kinda weird by western culture but frankly it's not like 16/17 year olds aren't fucking anyways.
I'm not really trying to say one way or another weather loli/shota is wrong. Cause honestly there are just far too many variations of it to make such a blanket statement. I am just trying to put into perspective how small of a time frame the argument of what is or isn't fucked up is. And help people maybe put into perspective just what they are arguing for or against.
Are we saying that 13+ is too young, 16+ then? Is everything below 18 just a no go? Are you against lolicon because of your culture? Or because of a misunderstanding of what pedophilia is? Are you ok with a high schooler being treated as an adult? Or you totally not ok with high schoolers being treated as adults?
Where is your personal line. Where is the personal line of the culture you come from? How about others? Are you ready to tell another person they are wrong and their culture is wrong? Are you ready to police them? Do we have the right to police them?
My personal view in all this is, if your going to treat a character like an adult, put it into adult situations and have it behave like an adult. Then really it could be a pile of green goo for all i care. Its an adult. Just the same if you treat the character as a child, put it into adult situations and have it behave like a child. Then its a child. We all age and mature at different rates. A 17 year can just as easily act like an adult as a child and really that's the real problem as far as i'm concerned. The art is just that its art. It's a representation of a character and i can view it in a 1000 ways the artist never intended. But i can't misjudge the actions that they take. If there are no actions and no story then its just art and there will always be art. I can't stop nor should i stop art for the sake of some people who get upset. Warnings and clear disclaimers to help those who cannot help themselves are in order of course. But we shouldn't stop artists.
This is an interesting thread so far, so I will give my take on it.
Nudity is natural. Anyone who would turn something natural into something deplorable - ie: suggesting someone nude is sexual by nature , is apparently not thinking with a normal mind, but a perverse mind. Most normal people do not think children who run around in their diapers are considered sexual or even sexually appealing; nor do normal people think that seeing nudity in general is appalling. Which is why nudist beaches and communities are not considered nasty, but natural and ethically sound for the whole family.
In discussing 'lolicon' or 'shotacon' - one immediately goes into a whole different realm - because the vast majority of it has been sexualized in some form or fashion. And here-in lies the crux of the issue; when a model - or in this case pixel art; displays some form of sexuality motivated content - ie: lolis in nude and lewd poses, or the blatent lolis engaging in sex - that is what changes the tone entirely.
The term 'loli' itself, is a Japanese slang term for a young girl who has not reached the age to sexual consent. The term does not describe nor characterize these dolls / models / characters as being engaged in sex, nude, or otherwise. So any picture which illustrates a character 14 or below is considered a 'loli', regardless of clothing or not .
So, lets get back to the defining quality of a 'loli' - "a young girl who has not reached the age to sexual consent." . Regardless of appearance , if a character has a back story that they are over the age of consent : regardless of appearance, that character is not considered a 'loli', but something else. My wife looked 14-15 even when she was 29 - appearance had nothing to do with fact. There are many youthful looking adults out there, even those that have all the physical characteristics of being younger than they are. Which goes right back to the original definition of what loli means.
I am including a link to this very type of topic, because I am just too lazy to re-write the content and repost the pictures I did.
The moral of it all - if it's not sexualized, there is nothing perverse about it, nude or not. And anyone taking high fashion, or nudity of any form and turning it into something else, is the one that has the perverted mind; not the artist (whether they be in graphic design, or a photographer). If someone who immediately sees a nude child, and thinks of sex - there is something terribly wrong with that person. And no, I am not writing this to make people squirm in their seats - just stating facts. If whistle blowers are looking at a picture and thinking about sex when there is obviously no sex involved, this applies to them just the same. Normal people are just not wired that way mentally.
When nude depictions or sculptures of cherubs were highly popular, society did not think sex - they thought art. And yes, every one of them were anatomically correct in their depictions. This is but one example, of hundreds of thousands out there for the world to see. And only the few to call it 'nasty'
The definition of a Loli as a prepubescent female is mostly incorrect. I'm going to briefly explain the history of Lolita Complex in Japan, and hopefully by the end of the post, you'll have a better understanding of this subject and do your own research.
A lot of the things I will explain in English will have their sources listed from the following website.
The site owner, who wrote the above page, also wrote the following slideshow in English (though his grasp of English leads to some of his points being difficult to fully understand). Slide 39/78 has images of what Japanese users consider Lolicon manga art.
This study show you that today Japanese Lolicon culture is right for Japanese people in the point of evolutionary psychology and statistics,of course historica…
With the above out of the way, I'll begin by listing the actual age-related complexes in Japan.
Red: This is the Lolicon everybody's talking about!
Baby Complex (ヘビーコンプレックス): This shouldn't need an explanation (Toddlercon).
Heidi Complex (ヘイジコンプレックス): These are prepubescent female characters that paedophiles are attracted towards as defined by the DSM. If you've never heard of this before, it's for the reason that there are very, very few actual paedophiles in the world. They're so few that marketing products and making a living on paedo-bucks is extremely niche. For example, Yaoi and BL are common because these are written by and for heterosexual women, whereas Bara is much rarer since it's written by and for gay men.
Alice Complex (アリスコンプレックス ): This is a barely pubescent female, and is the reason the above image was created; it's common for modern day Japanese internet users to assume this kind of character is the quintessential Lolita due to how normalised Lolita Complex has become.
Lolita Complex (ロリータコンプレックス): Jail bait that normal, heterosexual men find optimally attractive. It wasn't until a few generations ago that it was legal to distribute pornographic content of this group before laws and social norms changed, but vestiges still exist if one probes deep enough into places like Hollywood (e.g. Conan the Destroyer). True to its nature of traditionalism, Japan was one of the countries to drag its feet behind Europe and the United States when it came to making the sale and possession of this stuff illegal.
It's important to understand that due to how slow Japan was in catching up with the rest of the civilised West, the sale and possession of Junior Idol content wasn't uncommon. The word Lolita was everywhere and used to even describe adult idols (Hitomi Tanaka had one site describe her as a 'Busty Loli-faced Onee-san). Adult comics drawn back in the 1970s and earlier were mostly drawn in a traditional style where the anatomy and faces of the characters are proportional and everyone looks Japanese.
However, this all changed when Azuma Hideo (吾妻 ひでお), a mangaka known as the Father of Lolicon, combined the supernormally cute faces and large-eyes found in Shoujo manga, and marketed characters with this aesthetic towards men. The art-style proved to be insanely popular, and sparked a new age known as the 'Lolicon Boom' (ロリコンブーム) in the 1980s.
1970s: Horror Manga Period 1980s: Lolicon Boom (2D-Complex) 1990s: Media Mix Period 2000s: Moe Boom (Lolicon 2.0)
An academic known as Patrick Galbraith wrote books in an attempt to share some of this manga history with an English-speaking audience.
Lolicon: The Reality of ‘Virtual Child Pornography’ in Japan':
The PDF includes scans of Lolicon material to show examples of the old, realistic art-style and the new Lolita/Bishoujo artstyle that has pervaded anime and manga. It's also important to note that the characters are pubescent and voluptuous by Japanese standards (the average cup size of an adult Japanese woman back then was a mere A-cup, so a Lolita/Bishoujo with B-cups is large in comparison). The sexy bodies of the average Lolita character could be attributed to Japanese males finding the bodies of western women attractive (long legs, wide hips, big breasts, etc.). Nagai Go said he designed his female characters based off the bodies of western Playboy models; he did this with the elementary schoolgirls in his debut manga called 'Harenchi Gakuen' (ハレンチ学園) in Shonen Jump, which was a huge hit with its young, male readers, but earned Nagai the ire of the mothers and the Japanese PTA (Parent Teacher Association) who would harass Nagai for being a bad influence on children.
Nanako SOS by Azuma Hideo:
Essentially, all of the anime you see where the characters are cute and have huge eyes is Lolicon. This is why the first ero-anime is called 'Lolita Anime' (ロリータアニメ). Lolita is synonymous with Bishoujo (美少女) and these words are used interchangeably in describing this art-style.
At the forefront of the Lolicon Boom were the magazines 'Manga Burikko' (漫画ブリッコ) and 'Lemon People' (レモンピープル). Both of these were Adult Lolicon magazines, though the contents run the gamut from all-age to erotic in later issues. Back in the 1980s, there was no age restrictions on where you could buy video games or magazines, but this changed after the societal backlash against Lolicon in the late 80s that forced magazines to sell erotic comics in separate issues out of the reach of children.
One of the most popular manga artists during the Lolicon Boom was a guy called Uchiyama Aki (内山 亜紀), known as the King of Lolicon, and one of his popular serials in a children's magazine called 'Andoro Trio (あんどろトリオ) is incorrectly tagged as Hentai by a western manga site. The gag style of the 'Andoro Trio' manga is similar to 'Doctor Slump' or 'Dragon Ball' (early parts) by Toriyama Akira. Uchiyama Aki was so popular, he was going to do the character designs for the 'The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross' anime (this anime appeared in the west as part of Robotech), though he was replaced late in development with someone else, but promotional material for the anime featured Uchiyama Aki's designs and manga.
The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross Guide Book: Click Here (Do a search for '内山' to find his contributions.)
When budding artists list the artists that inspired them in later issues of 'Lemon People' in the 1990s, Azuma Hideo, Sennou Knife, and Uchiyama Aki's names are often brought up.
Manga Burikko is also the magazine where the word 'Otaku' originated. A young guy called Nakamori Akio didn't like the fans of this new 'Lolita/Bishoujo' art-style after he took a trip to Comiket, and decided to write columns in Manga Burikko called 'Otaku Research' (『おたく』の研究) from 1983 to 1984, where he would share his negative opinion of the magazine's 2D-Complex Lolicon readers by calling them Otaku, and comparing them to all sorts of other people he disliked and thought were uncool. Nakamori was banned from using the word 'Otaku' in his last column, but he still found a way to dig underneath the reader's skin, so the magazine editor decided to not let Nakamori write any more columns. But eventually Nakamori would have his revenge when he released his book in 1989 called 'Mの世代 ぼくらとミヤザキ君 ' (M's Generation: 'Us and Miyazaki-kun') about a guy called Miyazaki Tsutomu who murdered 4 little girls. This book introduced the mass media to the word Otaku and it spread like wildfire, imprinting on the Japanese conscience that the young men that read manga or watch anime past a certain age are all ticking time bombs that are going to turn into another Miyazaki.
The above female characters are Loli because they're drawn in the Lolita/Bishoujo artstyle. The doujin was released in the mid 1990s and is a good example of what serves as a Loli to the average Japanese Otaku.
Nowadays, due to the Moe Boom, the definition of a Lolita in Japan has shifted towards an Alice for younger internet users, but even then, the vast majority of characters called Loli are not prepubescent. The prepubescent thing seems to be something concocted by western paedophiles, and I personally am interested in the history of how words like Otaku and Lolicon were introduced, misunderstood, and mutilated by western internet users.
Contours of Lolicon by 'Pause and Select':
This is the third part of a video series Pause and Select did in collaboration with Patrick Galbraith about Moe and Lolicon in Japan. One thing I'm disappointed by is that Patrick doesn't mention anything related to neural science and tends to apply his modern, vague definition of moe to the past. Considering that Nekopara has over 3 million sales on Steam, and is considered Lolicon by its creators, I would've liked it if Patrick mentioned Neoteny and Supernormal Stimulus. Humans are a neotenic species; we look like the juveniles of our ancient ancestors after generations upon generations of sexual selection. This is why bodily shaving, makeup, and so on are a common practice among our species; we want to present ourselves as being young and at peak sexual attractiveness. With drawings, we can modify the bodies of the characters to garner an even stronger response from our brains, which is why the Lolicon art-style with the huge eyes and heads has made things like Nekopara such a huge hit. It's because of this that Japanese internet users sometimes joke that all Japanese men are Lolicon with mother complexes; they're attracted to females that are unnaturally young and cute, but also have the voluptuous bodies of fertility goddesses.
Damn, I didn't expect this to turn into a scholarly discussion. In terms of legal lolis, the gap between the personality that you'd expect from outward appearance and their actual personality is a major turn-on for me. More so, if they have an old-timey way of speaking (Sothis, Senko, Odin, etc.).