Here’s my translation of a report from the Yomiuri Shinbun Newspaper, dated May 29.
Ruling Coalition Aims To Strengthen Regulation of Sexual Violence Games, Creates Team to Consider Ways To Put Brakes On Circulation
As international human rights groups and others criticize Japanese-made computer games that simulate the rape, impregnation, and forced abortion of girls, the Liberal Democratic Party, on the 29th [of May], formed a team to consider ways to put the brakes on the current situation, in which such games are circulated in huge numbers.
The New Komeito Party created it’s own team in the middle of this month, and it now appears that the debate within the ruling coalition on the strengthening of regulations is shifting into high gear.
The team created by the L.D.P. on the 29th is called the “Study Group for the Regulation of Sexual Violence Games.” As Japan is accused of being one of the most lenient of the developed nations in the regulation of games involving sexual violence as well as child pornography, the relevant ministries will hold hearings on the matter. In a series of meetings to come, the necessity of strengthening regulations shall be considered.
Minister of Consumer Affairs [Seiko] NODA noted, “In Japan, barriers for the protection of children are extremely loose.” Upper House member Eriko YAMATANI, who chaired the meeting, said, “In terms of further developing Japan’s content industry, it is important that we not risk the loss of trust on account of these games.”
The New Komeito Party created it’s own joint project team to consider the problem of sexual violence games in the middle of this month. Party leader [Akihiro] OHTA and other Diet members conducted an inspection of game shops in Akibahara, and held a hearing of experts.
Additionally, representatives of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reported that the independent screening agency of the personal computer software industry has 1) requested software distributors to cease selling the sexual violence games in question, making them virtually impossible to purchase domestically, and 2) is considering the a ban on the production of sexual violence games known as “rape games.”
(Yomiuri Shinbun Newspaper, 23:20, May 29, 2009)
I think it’s safe to assume that pressure will be high on Japan’s Ethics Organization of Computer Software to ban “rape games” when it meets on June 2. Politicians everywhere like to put a notch in their guns to show voters that they are “protecting children,” but I think what they are doing here is giving the industry a chance to regulate itself, much as the congressional hearings on the effects of comic books in the 1950s led to the creation of the (now all but defunct) Comics Code Authority. Most industries are smart enough to read trends in public opinion and reign in excesses before government intercedes. The manga industry has done a good job of playing this game for some 50 years. This is, in my opinion, the way it should work.
Defenders of Japanese rape games, both inside and outside Japan, have been demonizing Equality Now and other non-Japanese for supposedly “imposing their own values on Japan,” but the bottom line is that the international attention is simply making the general Japanese public aware of a genre that has been all but invisible outside the Akibahara bubble. What worries both politicians and industry insiders, ultimately, is not what foreigners say, but what Japanese voters and consumers will say.
If you search the Internet for Japanese-language discussion of this matter, you will find that, while it is male otaku supporters who are making the most noise about it, other Japanese are saying pretty clearly that such material should be restricted in some way. Most residents of Japan (including me) never even knew about the existence of this genre until the current controversy brought it to light.
Some comments in my last post on this matter challenged my description of such games as a form of “hate speech.” I admit that my viewpoint is subjective, and perhaps arbitrary. All I can say is that, to my mind, “rape games” cross a line that rape fantasies in manga (for either men or women) generally do not. I suppose it is the “active” versus “passive” aspect I see as fundamentally different. It is hard for me to see such games (though I have never played them or even seen the content beyond the box covers and product descriptions) as anything but an expression of a profound misogyny that has the potential for boiling over into actual violence.
We can argue about such distinctions till the cows come home, which is precisely why I oppose government censorship of any form of expression, unless that expression incites violence in a manner that makes the threat of violence immenent. But I am all for industries regulating themselves in ways that reflect that ever-elusive “common sense” that we all know of, yet cannot (and perhaps should not) define.
P.S.: Considering how quickly things have transpired this month, this is already “old news,” but here’s an English-language article from the Asahi Shinbun, dated May 14, that sums up the basic facts of the controversy, and includes comments by a representative of the Ethics Organization for Computer Software.