I’m going to tell you a story. Bear with me a moment, O best beloved. I promise I’m going somewhere with it, and probably not quite where you’d expect.
When I was fifteen years old, I lost my virginity. I have never once regretted this, and far from the life of pregnancy, promiscuity, degradation and low self-esteem that I was threatened with (mostly after the fact) I seem to have done okay, which fact I lay primarily at the feet of a really fabulous sex ed program.
It didn’t hurt at all, although it was awkward as hell. It was not a sexy experience. We were not sexy people. We looked like coathangers with acne. I was as flat as a board, my hair was regrettable, and the only reason anyone would put lingerie on me was if they were planning on ironing it. After several abortive attempts to do the deed, we finally managed it in his parent’s guest bedroom, while they were at work, during which time A) his very large dog kept trying to jump on the bed to see what was going on, B) his performance anxiety got the better of him. Twice. and C) he was so scared that his parents would find out that when the phone rang mid-coitus, he actually answered it, spent ten minutes attempting to act normal to a caller from Science Museum who was trying to renew the family membership, and by the time he got back to the business at hand, the performance anxiety problem had fatally reoccurred, a situation not at all helped by the fact that I’d begun laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all.
This was not erotic. Me telling it to you is not erotic. At best it’s funny and stupid and a bit sad, and if I took the time to polish it and work the narrative and fine-tune the phrasing, I could probably aspire to poignancy. Still, it’s my life–my stupid idiotic wonderful life–and every word I have written is entirely true and I would change no part of it because I would not be other than as I am.
If I made a comic out of it, not only could I go to jail for child pornography, but you, O best beloved, could be in the cell next to me for owning it.
(See, I told you it probably wasn’t going where you were expecting.)
Ganked from Neil Gaiman’s blog today:
No photos. Manga. And we all know the manga style, and there’s a real taboo against pubic hair in a lot of Japanese comics, and the end result is that because they’re drawings of explicit sex and OH GOD ANIME STYLE, somebody got their panties in a wad.
Now, like everybody else with two brain cells to rub together, my response to child pornography is OH GOD NO NO NO KILL IT KILL IT WITH FIRE. But when we start to talk about art featuring such things I get the feeling of straddling two very slippery slopes, and while it’s pretty easy to see where the bottom of the child pornography slope leads — KILL IT WITH FIRE BRING THE GRENADES — I get the feeling with this case that we’re staring down at the bottom of the other slope. And it’s bad.
Really bad. Very, very, very bad.
If a comic book artist draws something sexual that looks like the participants might be under eighteen–or where they ARE under eighteen, as witness my autobiography–that’s apparently child porn.
And these guys are actually prosecuting it as such.
My outrage is late to the party, but better than never showing up at all, I suppose. I was willing to sit on my hands when they promised that they were just going after the really freaky stuff at the far end of the spectrum–I mean, I felt a sort of twitchy "this is daaaaangerous" voice in the back of my skull, but it ran into the KILL IT WITH FIRE screaming and was doused. But you start going after yaoi manga and even though it is desperately far from my tastes, that little voice starts chanting "First they came for the homosexuals, and I didn’t speak up…" I mean, dude. I know people who LOVE yaoi–normal, sane, awesome people, the vast majority of them perfectly cool heterosexual women. These are not people who should be prosecuted for sex crimes in any world that I recognize.
(Seriously, do these obscenity people know about "Love is…"?)
I’m a comic book artist. Comics provide me with the better part of my living. If I drew the love scene from Romeo & Juliet, I could get hauled up before a jury. Okay, that’s Shakespeare, I’m guessing it would fall under having redeeming artistic merit…but what about my LIFE? Sure, I think it’d have artistic merit, but I sure as hell don’t want to be having to defend that to a jury in rural North Carolina, where the BEST case scenario is that I’d wind up innocent and dead broke to say nothing of the destruction to my reputation, and if they happened not to agree that I’m the artist I think I am, I could end up on a sex offender list.
For doing a comic about my life.
And if you, O best beloved, who have listened to me so faithfully, who like my work despite it all, and bought "My Life And Dumb Luck: An Autobiography"*–you’ll be there in the cell next to me.
That’s what this is about. I was already kinda screwed, but this is the first case I’ve heard of of somebody getting screwed merely for owning comics that somebody thinks looks inappropriate. (Shit, dude, it’s manga. I mean…I mean…DUDE. MANGA. I realize that’s not a coherent argument, but all I’m managing here is a lot of meaningless hand gestures and that thing where you open and close your mouth and splutter a bit.)
I like you guys. I’m sure you’d be excellent company in the cell, but I’d much rather have coffee and skip the whole jail thing.
So the long and short of this is that the government has decided that it’s illegal for me–a comic book artist–to do a comic about my life. My teen years are now off-limits to me as an artist. (God help you if you actually sexually abused as a child and wish to do something hard and grim and brutal about it. Maybe they can slip you an Eisner with a file in it.) And not just like "sort of illegal but c’mon, we’re never going to do anything about it," illegal, but "we are going to try to get precedent to nail your ass to the wall for even OWNING a copy" illegal. (And while this section of my hypothetical autobiography would probably not be particularly explicit by my standards or yours, I REALLY don’t want to have my artistic future dependant on what the postal inspector thinks is appropriate.)
I was willing to go with the law, as part of the greater good, on the principle that surely nobody would ever go after anything that wasn’t completely freaky-wrong-kill-it-with-fire no-question-in-anybody’s-mind child porn, but this just goes to show, yet again, that if you give some people an inch, they’ll take a goddamn yardstick and try to shove it up your ass.
Seriously. What the hell?
So anyway, that’s my outrage. Go buy a membership in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund or something, and may the art gods have mercy on all our souls.
*Alternate title: "This Reminds Me Of Labyrinth: The Ursula Vernon Story."
NOTE: Discuss this in the comments all you want, but BE NICE. If somebody disagrees with you, it is not okay to call them a pedophile apologist. We tend to be incredibly civil in the comments here, and I am super proud of how y’all handled the election discussions, but this particular topic tends to get ugly as hell. Please proceed from the assumption that nobody here thinks it’s okay to sexually exploit children.