Some background information
Japanese culture is highly complex and vastly different from western culture. Indeed, it has a plethora of uniquely fascinating aspects, both modern and traditional. But these are not only architecture, cuisine, fashion, performing arts, Anime, clever Zen idioms and parables, Chinese fortune cookies, soundbites and Geisha. One of the more sinister cultural aspects hiding in plain sight is Manga, and more specifically, Hentai.
So What is Hentai Exactly?
Today, the word “Hentai” (変態), literally meaning “metamorphosis, or: a state of being different,” is associated with a perverted fetish, and is an excellent example of something that got lost in translation between Eastern and Western Cultures.
Back to the Future
Until the mid-19th century in pre-modern Japan, images depicting sexual relations in a variety of unorthodox ways or with unorthodox partners were considered harmless fantasties of the self. These “harmless fantasies” might have depicted same-sex sex, sex with children, sex with relatives, erotically fondling by octopus tentacles, or being raped by a demon under water. They were however, labeled as somewhat “different” or “odd” in a society based less on the fear of God’s wrath than on rigid behavioral standards. Indeed, the Japanese have no fear of God’s wrath, since not one of their mythological gods has opposed such behaviour.
Approved by the Gods
In fact, the Japanese gods practiced various forms of sex themselves, and they even expressed the joy they felt from partaking in them. They did however, censor and punish forbidden feelings. Thoughts were considered far more dangerous than any kind of sexual act, as they could seriously undermine social order. To that end, handing over drawings of sexual acts which were just a fantasy between mature people, having the consent of all parties, and keeping the said drawings within the confines of limited circulation, was a person’s only refuge. To that end, it was considered his or her existential right.
Disguised in Manga Format
Manga is a billion-dollar powerhouse within the Japanese economy. It is considered an art form, and is readily found in Japanese comics, novels, computer games and animation. Characters are often portrayed with wonderful, inviting large eyes. But there is a sinister element to all of this. – At the present time, Hentai is sold in Manga format, and is usually aimed at adults as well as children. It is easily found in specific shop sections and is supposed to be for adult use only. The image below shows just how large a Manga section in a shop can be, moreover, it gives an indication of its popularity.
Source: Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
The Ever-Expanding Digital Gateway to Comic Style Pedophilia
Hentai went digital a while back, and at the time of writing it is widely available over the Internet with no limitations. This means that not only adults, but also innocent children who naturally love beautiful, colorful comic characters, are exposed to Hentai everywhere they go, being on some random website or even on their digital gaming platforms (e.g. Steam & Discord).
A Simple Search
A simple search on the Steam store for the word “Hentai” brings up over 500 results. Discord has Hentai related servers open for everyone to join – and the things shared on these servers are extremely disturbing. One can also find Hentai images on popular social channels such as Instagram, all of which are freely open to the public.
Here are some “Shock statistics” to make our point on how widespread the problem is. A simple Google search for the term “Hentai” will bring back nearly 600 million results. In addition, Hentai was the second most searched term on PornHub in 2019. Need we say more?
Boku No Pico
As if the aforementioned is not alarming enough, a mini series entitled “Boku No Pico” (ぼくのぴこ, or BNP for short, literally meaning My Pico – see glossary), is offered freely online and promoted in ads that can be seen on major social networks. To those of us not familiar with BNP, it is a Japanese series of the shotacon (ショタコン), (a genre of anime and manga original video animation, whereby pubescent or prepubescent male characters are depicted in an erotic or suggestive or manner). The producer describes it as “the world’s first shotacon anime.” It was primarily made to appeal (and be marketed) to a male audience of Japanese shotacons (enthusiastic young boys).
The series consists of three episodes, and also spawns a one-shot manga, a computer game, and a music video album. Watch the video at your own peril here. For those of you who are brave enough, move the slider to the 2:02 timestamp, and see what’s there.
Misuse & Abuse
Two characteristics of “Boku no Pico”, defined as a Hentai Manga, indicate a misuse, if not abuse, of several genres of Manga. The fact that this Manga tries to appeal to a young audience, is of a real concern for us. However, one of its characteristics is the repetitiveness. Teenagers’ Manga which depicts homosexual or lesbian love, is usually very emotional, and focuses on formative events in the development of a relationship. The same is true for teenagers’ Manga, which tells the story of coming of age, or undergoing training in sports or martial arts. The plot clearly shows a movement forward – a change. Even porno or violent manga for adults tries to tell a story which involves feelings.
Penetrating & Being Penetrated
The plot of “Boku no Pico” – if we can call it a plot – is merely an endless “game” of penetrating and being penetrated – a massive repetition of a mechanical act in a world devoid of any feeling. This is not a story about growing up. It is clearly an indoctrination, a training for serving efficiently as a boy sex toy in a pedophile world.
This brings us on to the second suspicious characteristic of this Manga. – This is a deviation from a “regular” Manga, and from most Hentai Manga. – In the world of “Boku no Piko” conformity, obedience and subordination to the other person’s will, are important values, and virtues. A good Manga needs a conflict, dictates a choice between two options, and world views. Conversely, “Boku no Pico” is a world of absolute uniformity, and all the characters and genders are presented as authoritative figures: they all speak in one voice and share the same opinion about a boy’s future and destiny: Penetrate and be penetrated.
So What Does the Law Say?
It could be argued that “Boku no Piko” does not belong to the pantheon of Manga masterpieces, and that everyone has the right to create and watch such manga because a little bit of porn fantasy doesn’t kill anyone, and maybe even saves some. Unfortunately, however, the situation is far more complicated than the ongoing philosophical discussion on “Art, Porno, and Freedom of Speech.” This is because we are dealing with a lacuna in the law: a situation where there is no applicable law.
Here’s another interesting fact. Comic book characters have out-maneuvered the law twice. First in Japan, where these imaginary characters are deemed legit because they do not have pubic hair (the sign of pornography in Japan), and secondly all over the world, simply because people assume that is is nothing but “naive, innocent and harmless childrens’ comics”.
A Fantasy with Jaws
It is very obvious that “Boku no piko” was not created to serve as a mere fantasy. – Fantasies do not have precise operating instructions. Moreover, we cannot say that it is merely “harmless children’s comics,” regardless of the fact it targets a young audience. The “boku” that appears in this particular Manga’s title (“Boku no piko”), is the pronoun “I,” which is used by children and teenagers in Japan. This is the real audience the Manga tries to influence and “re-educate.” – The readers who say: “boku” when they speak about themselves.
Even if it were a fantasy, when looking at it from a parent’s point of view, the freedom of fantasy you would grant a mature adult sitting next to you in the train, reading or watching such materials as privately as possible, ends at the moment your underage child becomes exposed to such materials, as it could well harm and hurt him or her, for life.
The Worldwide Web
We have taken the liberty of giving you a sample of Hentai-related drawings, taken from the public web. If that’s not enough for you, a simple Google search with the phrase “Hentai girls” will bring you the most disturbing of results, within seconds.
So as people become a little more informed about Hentai, it’s origins and objectives, both past and present, it is easy to see the correlation between Hentai and the current material distributed by pedophiles on a variety of channels, both on the web and the darknet.
The U.S. Supreme Court on determining what is obscene
The Miller test, AKA the three-prong obscenity test, is a test originating from a 1973 court case (Miller v. California) from the United States Supreme Court’s need to determine a method by which speech or an expression can be deemed as obscene. If deemed obscene, it is no longer protected by the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution and can be prohibited. Here’s how it works:
- Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards,” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.
- Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions, specifically defined by applicable state law,
- Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
The work is considered obscene only if all three conditions are satisfied.
Freedom to Get Away With It
We imagine pedophiles and predators in the manner that Hollywood portrays them. They are shown as smart, contrived, vicious, child obsessed cold-hearted predators, yet the truth is far from it. Without diminishing the pure evil of their deeds, most pedophiles are outcasts that share a fascination that is considered immoral in our society. They are hardly the masterminds depicted in films.
Hentai artists, on the other hand, depict characters that are in tune with some people’s dark fantasies – hence masking the same desire in a colorful artistic protective bubble, providing them with recognition and acclaim, on top of the substantial monetary rewards.
With Hentai being “legal,” and sold over the counter at bookshops and magazine stands; and with pedophiles being members of a very closed and hunted society, it allows the latter to communicate under the radar, in an unnoticeable manner. In other words, they hide in plain S1ght.
Now take a minute and go back to the sentence we used at the beginning of this article. Back to the advice of our Zen Master to “hide in plain sight.” Is the answer simply “It’s easier to use art to depict children in sexual positions. It’s just a fantasy”. Or is it?
“The art of a people is a true mirror to their minds.” – Jawaharlal Nehru
Since Hentai does not depict a “real” child (e.g. a victim) that can be identified, Law Enforcement Agencies tend to direct their resources towards the distribution of real child pornography (and rightfully so). This is also the reason why CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Materials) discovery engines pass on Hentai as well.
That, in a nutshell, explains why the distribution of Hentai materials, with an emphasis on those depicting children, is on the rise…
To that end, L1ght has made its move to identify this phenomenon, and we are pleased to announce that we now have state-of-the-art capability to identify and notify incidences of child Hentai in almost real time.
About the Writers
Shunit and Ron are siblings. Although they come from two different disciplines, they are both deeply concerned by the growing phenomenon of using Hentai art as a method to openly distribute Pedophile related materials via the internet.
Shunit Shahal-Porat, PhD
Shunit holds a PhD from the Hebrew University, and an M.A. from the Kanazawa University in Japan. She specializes in Modern Japanese literature and culture. Living in Japan for nearly a decade while raising a child, and performing academic research, Shunit was a faculty member at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Tel Aviv University and Bar-Ilan University.
Ron Porat, Co-founder & CTO for L1ght
Ron is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of L1ght, a company that has created cutting-edge technology designed to save children’s lives by detecting online toxicity and dangers to children (e.g. shaming, bullying, self-harm, pedophiles, predators, and more). Prior to founding L1ght, Ron founded, headed and sold, several high-tech companies in the cyber security arena.
L1ght is an AI-based startup, founded in 2018 by Zohar Levkovitz and Ron Porat with a goal to eradicate online toxicity and ensure that the Internet is used for what it was originally intended for – connecting people, sharing ideas and driving humanity forward. By building algorithms that detect and predict toxic and abusive behaviors, L1ght serves as a solution for social networks, search engines, gaming platforms, and hosting providers to identify and eradicate cyberbullying, harmful content, hate speech, and predatory behavior. L1ght is based in Tel Aviv, San Francisco and Boston but its mission is a global one.