Long story short: I’ve had unwanted pedophilic thoughts practically my entire adult life, but have managed to keep them from making me harm or sexually abuse or exploit minors - or so I’ve thought. In the past, these thoughts led me to compulsively look up drawn and written pornographic material featuring children ( have since overcome this porn consumption compulsion, thanks to counseling, and am practicing my own sexuality free of it); now, I worry that, in a roundabout way, I have harmed minors by doing so because by adding to the viewcounts of these works, I have potentially given impetus to the creation of more such works, which in turn can have harmful effects (they can be used for grooming, and exposure to them can affect the way people perceive adult/child sexuality and lead them to believe that treating children as sexual objects is admissible and desirable). This happened largely on sites with 18+ age restrictions on pornographic content, and only ever gave viewcounts instead of favourites or other explicitly positive feedback.
When I try to distance myself from my personal bias in the issue and examine this moral quandary in the light of other, similar ones, I always come to the same conclusion; that the actions of others, and the education or miseducation others receive, is ultimately not the fault or moral responsibility of the end-consumer, similar to how it would function with consumers of other pornography or with, say, responsible gun owners. However, I cannot seem to be able to fully absolve myself under this same worldview, either, given how I feel I would merely be trying to absolve myself of guilt so I can “pretend” I am pure and haven’t harmed and am allowed to believe I’ve successfully contained my damage. I have been signal boosting my quandary across the net and, while responses have overwhelmingly supported the former view, there have been some people supporting the latter - but I haven’t actually received any proper arguments for it.
Whether fictional drawn/written child porn is harmful or preventative is ultimately tangential to what I’m concerned with; I’m more concerned with the end-user’s moral responsibility and how much, if any, they ought to bear.
If possible, I’d prefer people who don’t self-identify as MAPs or pedophiles to respond, as that category may have the same bias towards a favourable reply that I am avoiding by asking around in the first place.
I have no interest in discussing the morality of being a non-offending pedophile or MAP or what have you (nor do I consider myself one; I haven’t embraced these thoughts as part of my sexuality and direction in life, and they consistently disturb and repulse me). I’m of the opinion that whatever thoughts you have inside your head don’t define you as long as they stay there; hence my conundrum, as I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to believe mine have, as it were.
Hi. I’m not a MAP, but I do support the broad legalization and availability of loli/shota hentai. I’ve also worked with individuals with said desires such as yourself, and I’m confident in my ability to discuss these things with you.
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with lolicon. There have been studies on the effects of violent pornography, and even child pornography viewing and consumption and potential “ill effects” of simply viewing. (with the exception of CSAM being itself child abuse).
In sum, the majority consensus is that consumption of pornography is harmless, with little to no outside effect. A correlation exists between individuals who may commit acts of violence or sex crimes against minors, but it’s so negligible in the grand scheme of things that it’s hard, if not impossible, to consider it a causal relationship.
What you’re feeling is guilt brought about by shame and anxiety about your desires and your confidence in your ability to control them. Art and fiction have absolutely zero ill effects on society at large.
This is anxiety-induced paranoia backed up by insecurity. There is absolutely zero evidence that the consumption of these works will contribute to, or create/induce attitudes favorable towards real-world CSA or child pornography. Consider the argument: speech and expression are reflections of attitudes and ideals already shared or had by people, rather than exclusive attempts at disseminating or creating them by reaching new audiences. If these attitudes are indeed prevalent in communities that consume these materials, then that only begs the question that they induce aggression or proclivity necessary to qualify as a “risk factor” when evaluating sexual abuse. As observed by Diamond et al, the availability and high consumption of these materials had not translated into an increased rate of crime or abuse.
Countries such as Japan and Denmark seem to have a grip on these issues by adopting liberal approaches to the content, rather than exacerbating anxiety by taking action against it.
Also, the argument that loli/shota can be used for grooming is not a good one. In Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, the SCOTUS acknowledged that anything can be used to groom or seduce minors, from pornography depicting adults, to candy, games, toys, money, etc. Just because it can be unfortunately misused is not a valid reason for banning it.
Sometimes, the argument is as simple as that. People feel like they shouldn’t have to conduct themselves in a more limited fashion or live with less freedoms just because of how the content is presented by “less favorable actors”, especially knowing that the material or content itself is harmless. I agree with this notion because I shouldn’t have to limit what kinds of anime I can watch or what kinds of fiction I can read just because someone who was already prone to criminal acts so happened to view/consume it. It’s like banning Doom because of Columbine.
What “moral responsibility” is there to bear if there isn’t any real harm? Why put yourself under that type of guilt or stress when it’s not warranted?
I’m not a MAP, but I am a CSA survivor.
It’s great that you’ve managed to overcome your desires with counseling and therapy. I personally know people who have had sexual desires such as yours and were able to cope using both loli/shota hentai and counseling, and to this day they all regularly consume it and have not committed a sex offense. It can be very helpful, especially if reconciling your desires via the cathartic and personal acts of self-pleasure are important to you. It’s important to know that different people cope differently.
I believe that before you even ask that question you should ask if “ill effects of lolicon” really exist. For, although tempting to believe that it turn people into pedophiles, the other side that says it keeps potential abusers from going after real children are both equally possible, and equally unproven.
In addition, your axiom: “Whether fictional drawn / written child porn is harmful or preventative is ultimately tangential to what I’m concerned with”
contradicts your question, since you assumed in the question that the effect is negative.
BUT lets suppose that your question was “less biased” and that you asked only if the end user has any type of responsibility for “whatever effect it may be”
So, in that case my answer would be: No. Precisely because everything you do will inevitably generate some effect in someone else that is extremely difficult, if not impossible to predict. So the thought that you are responsible for any of these effects is at least a useless concern, as it does not change anything in practice.
Let me answer your concern from the perspective of a person who has been sexually exploited as a child multiple times. Albeit, I don’t really like to talk about my past, neither I find the specifics of it all that important or interesting, so I will try to spare the details if that is fine with you.
I’m also was never interested in minors of any ages, in case if you are wondering what my bias is about this topic. I do have a bias about this topic, naturally, everyone will, but I take it under consideration in this response.
Let’s analyze your situation:
Your worry stems from suspicion, that by creating a demand for fictional works, you indirectly caused harm of real minors, by increasing the amounts of such works. This worry would hold value if you were to see actual CSEM, created by exploitation of a real minor. Because demand covered by a supply in the case of CSEM would mean more children would have to be abused, in order to create such materials.
But you didn’t use CSEM, you used drawn and written materials. Purely fictional, without using any minors whatsoever. So this problem is non-existent in your case.
You also have noticed, that while having such thoughts, fantasies, and using such materials your entire life, you have never actually harmed a minor by yourself. You worry is that by increasing such demand, you have caused someone harm. So the problem of you actually harming a minor person directly is also non-existent in your case. Your worry is about indirect damage.
So the list of your potential ideas in which you could contribute to the harm of a child is as follows:
You contributed to an increase in materials that can be used for child grooming.
You contributed to an increase in materials to which if a person is exposed, it can make them perceive and treat children as sex objects in an admissable and desirable manner.
To answer the first one. Child grooming isn’t a magical process in which you use tricks to make a child have sexual interaction with you. It’s a multilayered and gradual process, that is focused on building trust. The building of trust is the most crucial thing about it. The process of child grooming is not that different than building a relationship with a predatory adult, as adults also have to deal with individuals who have predatory intentions, and try to make a person have a sexual relationship with them motivated by their own personal pleasure as a priority, and not the wellbeing of the other human being.
You can ask yourself a simple question: would using regular pornography, convince an adult, to have sex with you?
And the answer is, no, not really.
To my knowledge, peoples argument about such artworks being used for grooming has something to do with this repetitive idea that it cause “pedophilia to be normalized”. I never managed to find any person who would be able to really define either of those concepts, so I have to assume, that what they mean by it, is that by using such artworks, they can make a minor believe, that it’s normal for them to have sex with an adult.
But it’s a completely non-existent concept. No person evaluates their decisions basing them on whenever they are considered normal, or not. Do people decide not to cheat on their partners, simply because it’s not normal or acceptable by society? Of course not. They either do it because they want to have a relationship with someone else, or choose not to because they care about the person that they are currently within a relationship. And what other people think is irrelevant. If anything, the only reason why they would think about whenever some act is normal or not would be to decide whenever they have to hide it from others or not.
Child predators actually want to achieve the opposite of normalization. They want children to think, that they have to keep their relationship as a secret. Making such targetted child think that “it’s normal for them to have sex with adults” would result in a risk of them telling someone else about their relationship with an adult. “Since after all, it’s normal, right?”.
But the thing is, that “Normality” is a factor without weight, it doesn’t influence whenever people make a decision since it has no motivating or disincentivising power, it only makes a person adjust their action if they decide to do something that isn’t considered normal.
And then there is also the counterargument, of something being considered “out of the norm”, actually creating the appeal. A lot of people, especially rebellious or antisocial individuals, like a stereotypical teenager, do like to break social rules and norms. There is an appeal to doing things that are forbidden, and unusual. It gives such things a uniqueness. Making things that are not normal, can be interpreted, as making something that is special, out of most peoples reach, a unique opportunity in a sense.
The fact that something is considered not normal or abnormal, doesn’t mean it’s something that is good for the reasons by which it’s considered nor normal or abnormal.
And just being shown some drawn, or even realistic artistic production isn’t enough to convince a person that something is normal. Even a child. When I was watching Batman movies and cartoons as a very young child, the idea of being a vigilante who dresses in dark costumes to fight against crime was never considered by me as something normal. The idea of “is it normal or is it not normal to fight crime as a superhero vigilante” simply was never something that crossed my mind while watching those cartoons.
I simply enjoyed the show, very much, knowing it’s just a fictional story that doesn’t really happen, and liked the character, knowing perfectly well that in the real world no such people like Batman exist. And personally, while I liked the idea of becoming a superhero, and I was fantasizing about fighting evil individuals and protecting the earth while playing play-pretend with friends, the simple idea of running all the time chasing other people and being exhausted due to it, being potentially shot by someone, which would be painful and could result in my death, and all the other realistic aspects of such activity made me decide, that I definitely don’t want to become like Batman. But I still liked to keep the fantasy of it, that was devoided of real-life consequences and pain, and play with others pretending Justice League heroes. Simply because it was fun, not because I believed it’s normal to fight crime in a costume resembling a bat.
And I’m talking about times I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. Children do have minds, they lack experience, they are prone to making mistakes, but are capable of basic logic, reasoning, analysis and especially: the feeling of fear, that determines most of their actions.
This is why grooming, is all about building trust. You won’t make anyone do anything unless you made them trust you. And I just can’t see a scenario in which drawings of erotica could result in an increase of trust between a child and another person. You don’t really need a child to think anything, especially if the child is really young, to make them do anything you want them to do if they really trust you.
If such drawings were really effective, for the purpose of child grooming, I have the feeling that we would hear about it in various news. Or that there would be research performed by criminologists about how exactly it works. Yet neither of those situations has happened, and artistic works of this nature have been existing for a long time.
And even if they were to have any power, I don’t think a child predator would use them. The problem with situations like rape is that they leave little to no evidence of such a crime. And it makes it difficult to prosecute accused rapists, unless you ignore the “Innocent until proven guilty” rule. But sending pornographic explicit material to a minor is not only a crime in it of itself, but it would also greatly diminish any doubts if such perpetrator were accused of sexually exploiting a minor to which they showed such materials. Using such arts is risky since it leaves tangible evidence that can be used against child predators.
Especially with erotic arts depicting characters that are interpreted to resemble children in sexual acts.
And then there is also a question, as to why such people don’t use real CSEM. Wouldn’t convince a person to be more effective if you were to give them a photo of real people, rather than drawing that is fictional?
I could enumerate issues with the idea of such artworks being used for child grooming without an end. This is how drastically illogical and flawed this concept is. And if anything, it shows a person has a complete lack of understanding of how grooming works in real life.
The steps are as follows:
A predator tries to someone vulnerable to target. Someone with emotional problems, having a difficult situation in their household, someone who is an outcast.
Those issues the child has are then later used to appear as a friend, as someone they child can trust. For example: if such a child is excluded from their peers, an adult talking to them might supply them with the sense of companionship and belonging that they might seek. So naturally, such child will keep contact with such adult due to this reason, thinking, this adult wants to help them.
The relationship develops as a regular relationship would. The predator tries to garner more trust, helps the victim with their personal problems, listens to their complains, gives advice. They try to test boundaries, might give such child some benefits, like money, or gifts, or take them to some places, or spend time together doing something that interests the child - whatever will work to make the child find them more favourable and likeable. And to make them feel like they have to return the favour.
Then, once the relationship is well developed, and the predator gained the full trust of the victim, the relationships become more sexual in nature. But this process isn’t about introducing things associated with sex. It’s about making the relationship sexual. About making the contact between two people have an erotic component, and developing the interaction in a direction that is less about friendship, and more about sexual partnership. It’s about things like ambiguous touching, or hugging, holding hands - non-explicit physical contact, that slowly progresses to erotic talk, and more inappropriate physical interactions. This is not the step in which anything concrete about sexual interaction is happening. There is still a risk of the target simply getting scared and running away, telling someone about the situation, if the actions of the predator are too drastic for that child. Making such minor do something incriminating, shameful or embarrassing and documenting it for example with a photo, is the bigger goal, for the last step.
Which is to hold complete control over the minor, and being prepared to blackmail them into submission. There are many tactics by which at this stage such predator can control and manipulate the victim to do whatever they want. The risk of them getting caught needs to be minimized before they get into more explicit actions.
This is of course a generalization of this process. There is more nuance to it, and different situations can happen differently. In my case, for example, the first person who has exploited my trust was already having it, since it was a person from my own family, and it was a one-time situation, that this person has made under the influence of alcohol, while being in a very difficult life situation, making me believe that I will help them if I agree to do what they wanted me to do. Once again, I don’t really want to get into details, but my point is that while situations can be different, they do share a common set of rules by which such situations do happen, which these steps cover entirely.
And none of those rules suggests the usage of lolicon arts would have any positive results for such child predator. It’s a huge risk for such person, without any gain. There is no point in there where you could use such artworks for any purpose. The only case in which someone could speculate about such usage would be the penultimate step. But in here, I doubt you could make any speculation that wouldn’t also apply to regular pornography, especially if one of the actors looks very young or regular movies with romantic plots, or simply made up stories of a predator, or regular convincing with arguments. But once again, we don’t see that happening, none of these works seems to be used in stories told by victims of child grooming, at least to my knowledge.
As for the second idea of yours. I don’t really think I have to explain it in detail, since you yourself, are a great example of that, simply not being the case.
If there was anything special about such mediums to turn peoples perception of things, why a person like you, who already have been biased with having such thoughts their entire life:
Resistant to their effects?
It’s most likely because there are no such effect. But it also really depends on what you mean exactly by this hypothesis:
Since the term “treating children as sexual objects” is quite ambiguous.
One interpretation of this line is that such works can make people become attracted to children. The simple answer is that it’s not possible. No method of sexual conversation therapy has worked, and the “therapy using audiovisual erotic mediums” also was tested in such efforts. You cannot change peoples sexual interests, and this also means, that no person without a preexisting interest in such works would ever indulge in them.
I’m pretty sure there are many genres of movies or pornography that you simply have no interest in, so you never watch any productions from such genre. The same applies to such materials. So regular people who don’t find such works interesting would never willingly entertain them in the first place.
The other interpretation is that it would make people think about concrete children in the context of sexual topics. it’s kind of happening regardless of such works existence. The moral panic about pedophilia makes a lot of people think about children in sexual situations, of course, not in arousing ways, quite the opposite. But while the fact that they personally don’t enjoy such ideas stays, they still do have them, they still do evaluate children in the context of them being a sexual object, even though through the prison of how they suspect other peoples think of them.
But that convoluted explanation that I just provided, in my opinion, renders this worry obsolete. Does it matter that people think of children as sexual objects if they do it to evaluate whenever someone else might find them as sexually arousing? I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if they use such a process to learn more about the topic and become more effective in giving their own children better protection.
But I think, regardless of what you meant by this idea, there is a better answer, which is to diminish the importance of peoples perceptions, by providing statistics in which under the assumption of this hypothesis being correct, the empirical evidence would suggest no negative consequences from people having such perception.
And seeing the statistics of Japan rates of sexual abuse of children, and sexual abuse in general, considering how open they are towards such works of fiction, allowing even more controversial things like child sex dolls, in contrast to for example Australia, that has strong religious and sexually repressive attitude to the topic of anything sexual really, that bans even non-erotic fictional production under the suspicion of them leading to child abuse, and even prohibiting pornography with adults, if they look young, seems to provide such evidence.
Australia rate of rapes as of 2010: 28.60 per 100000 citizens
Japan rate of rapes as of 2010: 1.00 per 100000 citizens
Depending on the source, these values might vary, but the enormous disparity between them is same. I used this source since it has both of those values recorded at that time by the same people with the same method. The rate of rapes in Japan has been lowering ever since steadily, with Australia, there are peaks in both directions, but it largely stayed the same up till 2020. I will not give you any concrete source of this data, since like I said, it varies from website to website. You can find them easily with a single phrase, and determine who you trust. But all of them share the same trend.
And with the history of Japan, creating and allowing distribution of lolicon since 1950 year. with an entire generation of new people living in a world where such works are widely distributed, even visible in public shops without strong restrictions. Seeing that ever since lolicon was created and named, Japan was only steadily improving their protections of minors, delegalized CSEM, prohibited minors from working and performing erotically-soft services to their clients, increasing the Age of Consent to 18 in every prefecture (with the exception of one island that is used for military tests), ever since. I think it’s beyond any reasonable doubt that such works cause any harm to minors and that maybe instead of debating whenever it should be prohibited and not used by people, it would make more sense to focus on actually finding ways that directly solve the issue of child abuse.
So even if we assume that such works change peoples perception in the way you were worried about, it doesn’t influence the amounts of actual sexual abuse or peoples attitudes to pedophilia. It doesn’t make them less effective in protecting children. So even if that is true, the question is, does it really matter then?
But that being said, I genuinely have an issue believing that erotic drawings could have any power over peoples perception of sexual exploitation of children as something positive since we do have empirical evidence and research of such situations being, generally speaking, simply not positive, with all the testimonies of people being sexually exploited as minors confirming that this is the case. And you won’t change that fact with drawings.
Before I finish, one note about one of your caveats:
You are largely correct about this attitude, but not for the reason you stated, since it implies you don’t consider yourself a Minor Attracted Person because you didn’t have any sexual interactions with any minor, and that is not really what Minor Attracted Person is defined at.
I don’t imply that you are a MAP, and I don’t care about how you identify yourself as, it’s irrelevant. But I have found this statement of yours as indicative of you having some misconceptions, and I find it important to clear up any misconceptions you might have about the topic of pedophilia so you can have a better framework of understanding this topic, to reason about your situation, since evidently, it causes you a huge degree of emotional distress.
You might be attracted to minors, without having ever an intention to have sexual interactions with them and never having such interactions.
And you can be a child predator, without finding minors attractive. Around 50% (either 40% or 60%, I don’t remember exactly) of child sex offenders aren’t pedophiles.
I have talked to many individuals identifying themselves as a MAP, and a couple of them, really a small sub-group, but still significant, believed themselves to be MAPs without actually meeting the criteria of having a pedophilic disorder (DSM-5), or even the more common definition of pedophilia derived from the definition of paraphilia, that states, the sexual interest in minors must be primarily or exclusive. With all of them never finding anyone underage, in their environment, as attractive (with the exception of one female MAP that was attracted to the young adult boy that was not really that younger than her).
But many of them enjoyed the drawn and written erotica of such theme.
Usually, after realizing that there are more people like that, I was simply asking such people a simple question: “Can you describe someone real who was underage, that you have found as attractive since you became an adult?”. This was good enough to actually make a lot of them rethink if they have figured out their identity properly, and only with one case of a person, who insisted that she is a pedophile, while the example she provided was a person that was underage, but still in an age-appropriate range of healthy interest in their own peers. So I guess you can ask yourself the same question.
Since the case might be, that you are simply a person with high openness to experience (you can make a Big Five personality test to determine it), that simply enjoys any ideas without constraints and is willing to indulge themselves in scenarios that are socially unacceptable, by using imagination, that isn’t constrained by any social norms. If that is the case, then your thoughts might not be an indicator of anything abnormal, it’s simply your personality, and the case might be that the reason why you have such persistent thoughts about this single theme has to do with the fact that you have such a strong emotional reaction to them. Your worry and desire to not think about them might be in a sense the very thing that causes you to go back to them. But that is only my hypothesis, I would advise you to consult this with someone more professional than me when it comes to psychology.
Just having thoughts or fantasies, and even enjoying them doesn’t determine your actions, as you do have consciousness for that very reason of having full autonomy over your decisions. Even if you were to stop feeling repulsion towards these thoughts and be disturbed by them, you don’t have to worry about “acting” them out, since the reason why you find them repulsive and disturbing in the first place indicates you have an understanding why such acts in real life are justifiably unacceptable and prohibited. And allowing yourself for mental entertainment won’t change that understanding.
So in summary, I don’t think you have to unnecessarily torture yourself due to having the improper thoughts alone (especially since I suspect, this torture might prevent you to solve your issue more than help), which you yourself admitted not to be in control of.
Since your actions and decisions have proven themselves not to be determined by them, and have proven your understanding of your position. You know what is wrong and what is correct, and you never actually hurt anyone. You have proven that having such thoughts and fantasies, as well as enjoying artificial erotica, doesn’t result in a person try to act such fantasies out.
And your worries, as illogical and unreasonable they turned out to be, about causing some harm to minors indirectly, further proves you are a good person at heart.
Being born evil and working hard to overcome your evil nature is the definition of decency and virtue. You don’t have to pretend that you are still “pure” since you ascended above people who are just “pure”.
Thank you all for your responses and taking my concerns seriously. I was worried that, by posting in a place like this, I’d just get MAPs back-patting me to make themselves feel better about having embraced pedophilic thoughts as something completely alright to have, but it seems I was proven wrong and can confidently take these messages seriously. This has helped. I suppose part of my issue is that I feel shame for having participated in and contributed towards something that I thought had the potential to cause harm, but your responses have helped me get closer to letting myself believe that I don’t need to bear the guilt of having harmed minors.
Some things, though:
This is incorrect: I don’t consider myself a Minor Attracted Person because, by and large, I don’t feel true sexual attraction towrds children. The notion of being sexually involved with a child has consistently been repulsive to me on a visceral level beyond just the moral concerns involved, and outside “fits” of looking up drawn/written child pornography and experiencing intruding ““fantasies””, what has given me actual sexual satisfaction and what I’ve willingly and pleasurably sought out has been different kinks entirely.
Furthermore, some comments here have expressed the idea that art and fiction can never have any negative societal effect whatsoever, which I can’t help but disagree with. If art can influence people positively, it can influence them negatively; if it can impart positive messages, it can impart negative ones. Propaganda wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is if art were fully incapable of negative influence. I agree with the example given that Doom players shouldn’t feel morally culpable for Columbine, but let’s not go too far into the other end here.
This is exactly what I meant by the part beneath the one you quoted. I said that how you want to call yourself is irrelevant because I suspected, you might not be attracted to real children, since I’ve met a lot of people who enjoyed drawn erotica, written erotica and fantasies of such theme, without really finding any real minor as attractive their entire lives. Based on your reply, it seems that my suspicions were quite accurate.
Okay, let’s start with propaganda. There are two understandings of what propaganda is:
The common and wrong one: It’s a process of using mediums to brainwash people into believing something that isn’t true.
The proper one: It’s an effort to provide false information, presented as truthful.
They might sound similar, but the difference is, that the first implies that there is some voodoo magic allowing to control peoples minds, while the second is actually how propaganda always was and is to this very day.
Propaganda is nothing more than just a presentation of false informations, hoping that people will accept them as true, in lack of any other informations that oppose them. There is no method that can help you make a person believe something they don’t want to believe, nor any method to control peoples thoughts and behaviours, nor any method to make a person believe something they know isn’t true. You cannot really “brainwash” people, forcing them to do something you want them to do. You can only hope, that they will trust that informations you give them are true.
A good example of propaganda, are modern ads. You probably have seen the perfectly well looking McDonald’s burgers on an online ad or in TV. You are presented of course, with a false image of such burger, and maybe once in your life, you really expected to get something that looks exactly the same as on the ad, just to get disappointed. Knowing that the advertisement has lied, in your future, have you ever become exactly disillusioned with such propaganda as the first time? You might of course hope, that the next time it will be different, rationalize, that maybe the previous one was simply not prepared properly by a mistake, and decide to try again. But the more times you try it, the more sure you will become, that the ads were lying and that you never will get such a burger. Depending on your naivety level, you will realize it sooner or later that these ads are false, and you can’t trust them.
Once that happens, no amount of such propaganda will be able to convince you otherwise, since you have something stronger now - personal experience. That simply tells you otherwise. If you have the knowledge about something, manipulation of information about this thing simply has no effect on you, and never will.
You can further use the example of ads to understand how propaganda works, for example, the reason as to why propaganda posters of the WWII had been using art to convey the message, is exactly the same as in the case of ads. It’s not that art is somehow better at “brainwashing” people. It’s simply more interesting and allows for the poster/ad to be more distinct from the background it’s displayed on, so it garners more peoples attention when they cross the street or browse the web.
That is the purpose of using art in propaganda, to get peoples attention to the message. Not to convince people of the message.
All manipulation tactics rely on using natural human instincts, logical fallacies, emotional biases, natural reactions etc. to direct given human being in a direction that is predictable. A manipulator can only control their own words, themselves and the objects in a manipulated person environment, but never the person itself.
In reality, manipulation is very boring, which is why people have spiced it up with a conspiratorial definition that includes theories of brain control, social engineering (the unscientific one, with ideas of radio waves, used to control peoples thoughts), secret societies using media turn civilians into sheep etc.
Also, most people greatly exaggerate the power propaganda has. In the past, sure, it was fairly effective, since the flow of informations was controlled, and on top of propaganda posters, you had other people saying the same thing, leaders saying the same thing, books saying the same thing, media saying the same thing and scientists saying the same thing. In lack of any opposing voices, people had to either assume the information are false without any evidence, and live in uncertainty, or put the trust into all those people around them, believing that they give them the proper informations.
There is nothing special about propaganda. Their decision to believe in the given informations is a result of simple logic and trust they gave other human beings, it’s just how basic human interactions and communication has always worked.
Let’s use a thought experiment: if you were to suddenly see a poster, with information, that an asteroid will hit the earth today, and a nice painting of flying rock covered in flames on the sky, would you believe it? Of course not. But if you were to also see other people panicking, your friends and family contacting you, to say goodbye, and the president of your country, saying the same exact thing, you would believe it. Is it the power of art? Or is it the power of peoples natural gullibility and how social interactions work?
The artistic aspect of propaganda simply has no other significance, than to simply look “cool” and get peoples attention. That is all there is to it. Such art doesn’t have any magical properties of being more effective in creating peoples beliefs or trust.
As for your idea about art itself:
Art can impart any messages, determining which are positive and which are negative, is purely subjective. And that is the core of answering your question, which is that art is interpretative.
So it’s not that art does influence people, but rather, it’s that people use art in the context of their own lives. Or put differently, there is an inverse of a causal link. It’s not that the art causes something in the viewer, it’s that the viewer uses art to cause something in themselves. You decide what movies to see, and for what purpose you want to see them. The art you don’t know exists doesn’t cause a compulsive need in you to watch it. And if you were to see a movie that simply bores you, you would forget it the very next hour, so what kind of influence such experience could have on you in the end? None.
So in reality, the only “influence” a person can receive due to watching such art, is the “influence” that they already expect and desire. If that isn’t the case, the result of such experience is boredom and lack of attention to the medium. Therefore, if possible, such people will simply try to find something else instead to occupy their time.
Because of that, no single art can really create a unified societal result, since society at large won’t indulge themselves in media that doesn’t already interest them, and even then, each person will react to given media differently, which will depend on who they are as a person, with almost all people understanding perfectly well that such artistic media are fictional, artificial, performative - not aligning with reality, and that such ideas are for entertainment only, holding no value in the real life. Leaving the fantasy be a fantasy, and real-life be the real-life.
Ask yourself the question, with the sea of endless ideas being conveyed through different artistic productions, with billions of them presenting drastic things, topics and ideas that are beyond a regular persons ability to imagine, in so many decades of such mediums existing and being widely and easily accessible due to internet, how probable it is that some negative effects wouldn’t be already clearly visible by now?
There are groups of people, who have a fanatic obsession with certain works of fiction, creating a fandom, communicating with each other. If art were to have the power to shape society, wouldn’t such fandoms become especially unified in at least one domain of life? Wouldn’t such fandoms be a perfect testing ground for a hypothesis about the effects of the fictional medium on society, since you can treat such groups as small societies.
Every fandom I have seen so far, has people who disagree with each other, a lot. People from different political ideologies, religions, organizations, groups, people with different opinions and beliefs, different personalities, goals, plans, interests - they all coexist in the same online spaces, living with each other despite their differences. The infighting in such groups is constant because such groups are always diverse. The truth is, the only domain such people share between each other, is that they have a common interest in the same art piece, but nothing else.
There are many atrocities presented in artistic mediums, mediums that have many fans, yet I have yet to see an organized criminal group created out of fandom. If we assume a premise of art having influence over the society, wouldn’t such group already happen, especially with all the violent, drastic productions, ones with the theme of terrorism, sexual assault etc.?
At the end of the day, art is just a means of conveying information. Ideas that people create in their own heads. If some artistic production exists, any person can very much create an idea conveyed by that art in their head without such art, at any point in time. The only thing art is used to is to create a possibility, to convey information from one person to multiple people if those people choose to entertain given artistic work.
An art piece can present informations that can be used to harm someone. For example, an artistic production might portray someone real, as a parody, making that person feel bad due to it. Or an art piece can be used to spread incorrect informations, although, it would be hard to convince anyone to anything using art, considering as I said before, that most people have a layer of separation between informations and ideas from works of fiction and real life.
But to say that it could lead society at large to consider child rape as something normal, and in no need of change, or even worse, make people commit sexual crimes. To risk their lives in prison, lose their families and friends, and have issues finding a job after getting released from the prison, if even ever getting out of prison, living with the realization that they drastically hurt innocent people among many other effects of such action. All of that, just because they saw some set of erotic images, is an irrational exaggeration. It implies that art has the power of influence that exceeds any disincentivizing factors of such commitment to act a criminal and immoral offence, a power so strong that it makes a person willing to discard their lives just to follow what the art supposedly told them to do.
Art like lolicon is nothing more than a configuration of colours. To say, that such arts influence people is to imply, that patterns of light have some special powers of affecting our brain, which they don’t. They convey information, which you interpret with your imagination. But this process is not that much different than a person simply fantasizing about something by themselves. The act of creating art requires you to first imagine it after all. So the idea that through the elimination of lolicon arts any negative effects can be omitted, is flawed since people can always substitute such arts with their own created fantasies. The main appeal of art isn’t the type of fantasy itself that it allows realizing, since it can be achieved without art, but rather, the act of discovering other peoples fantasies, communicating them, the nuance of it. It’s also less exhausting to see a prepared depiction of a fantasy than to create one from the basis, especially in bigger quantities, than our brain could ever process. So naturally, people enjoy such works, even though they have the ability to make their own. But the effects of both actions, are the same, or at least, near the same.
This research has shown, that with an increase of accessibility in pornography (art), there was no increase in rates of rape (the negative influence). And it was measured by looking at statistics about the entire countries (society).
When we look at every other type of artistic production out there, researching their alleged negative effects, things like rock and roll music, dungeons and dragons, violent video games, and many other things that have been accused of having a negative influence on the society, we can come to the same results. The alleged negative societal influence was simply not a thing.
Each and every one of them has been proven with empirical evidence not to cause what they were accused of causing, setting a clear trend, that can be safely assumed applies to lolicon works as well, especially seeing how Japan is doing with the 60 years of them allowing such works widespread distribution, and not having any negative results due to it in their entire society.
I have to admit, that it’s really hard to reason about the idea you proposed. Mainly because I think, you put too much weight to the importance of art in peoples daily lives. I mean, do you have any particular examples of art influencing society in mind when making such a hypothesis? I’m asking about both options, I don’t really know any artistic work that would have either a positive or negative effect on society. Popular things like Game of Thrones do show up, there is a hype about them, then they end, people forget and move with their lives as if this show has never happened. I don’t think that this fictional production has affected them in any significant way in the long run. And I don’t think any artistic production would be different, since all of them, are perceived by us the same way, regardless of what emotions and reactions they induce, be it fear with goosebumps, sadness with tears, joy with laughter or sexual arousal with an erection.
When anyone downloads any image or material of any kind, UK law describes it as “making” that material; and fair enough one is making a copy either on the hard drive or whatever memory device is used.
However, you are concerned that in doing this in the past you are now complicit in harming children “because by adding to the viewcounts of these works, I have potentially given impetus to the creation of more such works, which in turn can have harmful effects…”
Have you stopped to consider who “adds to the viewcounts” of sites that produce - not just loli-con or other drawn material, but images of serious real-life child abuse - more than any individual? The Police, and to some extent child protection organizations. If you’re feeling guilt or shame simply because of the viewcount and how increasing it might encourage the producer, how should they be feeling?
Maybe you weren’t “looking up” this material with a view to getting it removed, or prosecuting anyone. But rarely do law enforcement agencies manage to (or even bother to alot of the time) remove content as they have limited jurisdictions and know that ‘taking down’ one site will only move it elsewhere.
There’s also the fact that news reports in main-stream media about court proceedings in relation to this, or when the police and cps admit there is low arrest and prosecution of low-level culprits etc also “potentially give[s] impetus to the creation of more such works”. So the long & the short of it is; don’t beat yourself up about it.