The Purity Fixation

This article is also titled "In Defense of Dirty Hoes." Because who wouldn't defend a ho like Nagi?

Two years ago, a comic serialized in Comic Rex stirred up a huge controversy after the sexual purity of its main heroine came into question. Flamewars were had on 2ch, and over-zealous fans teared up their tankobon volumes in protest. The author fell deathly ill after the controversy occurred (in an unrelated and extremely unfortunate incident), and she has not returned to drawing manga since then. To this day, there is no official resolution to the controversy.

Have you worked out what series I’m talking about? Correct. The answer is Kannagi.

So why am I talking about something almost two years old? Well, instead of being a one-off lulzfest, the “used goods” phenomenon just refuses to die. Instead, “used goods” drama has increased in both frequency and magnitude. A most disturbing trend on many fronts, but I find it hilarious.

HITAGI IS MAI WAIFU

Otaku love claiming wives. It’s one of their favorite past times, and one of the greatest honors one could bestow upon any character in any anime. 俺の嫁 (my wife) is an interesting proclamation: it’s almost certain that the English version, “MAI WAIFU” came after the idea of 俺の嫁, and is a rather facetious parody thereof. I assert this without much evidence, but I think it’s fair to say that one doesn’t scream “MY WIFE” at a girl they find attractive in the United States. You know what we do say, though?

Refer to the next section title.

I’D BONE HER

Mmhmm. Dirty barbaric foreign devils, the lot of us. All we think about is boning chicks. Shame on us for fapping to cartoons!

In the west, attraction often starts out as something sexual. At first, we are attracted by looks, and looks alone. The assessment of character, if it occurs at all, happens way later in the game. Not the case in Japan, where people immediately pick up on the entire package and choose their favorite characters that way. Fellow reviewer Kylaran, watching Simoun, said: “Fuck, Paraietta is so hot!” Hot, he said. Absolutely no analysis of character there. Japanese fans, however, analyze character right off the bat. You’d never hear something like “Yeah, her personality sucks, but I’d bone her anyways” from Japanese people. Why is this…?

LET’S PARTY OBJECTIFY WOMEN LIKE IT’S 1950 1590

The Japanese fixation on “wives” comes from the old idea of “owning” a woman. This is a very traditional concept. One begins going out with someone, and as the relationship deepens, the couple naturally sticks together for all life. This emphasis on the stability and longevity of a relationships is seen clearly in many romance anime, but can be seen most clearly in eroge: inevitably, at the end of a game, the theme of “everlasting love” is always inserted into the work. Even if the heroine dies (looking at you, Key!), the protagonist philosophizes about how he’ll see her again, or how she’s watching over him. So much melodrama! In addition, in anime relationships, the focus is often not on the physical aspects of the relationship, but rather, the emotional aspects. As Sorrow-kun rightly pointed out, romances in anime are not torrid. They are devoid of physical passion, and usually focus much more strongly on emotional ties. All of this culminates into a culture of romance in which physical companionship is downplayed in favor of emotional companionship. And since the man and the woman are together forever, and will remain by each other’s side at all times, it logically follows that the woman should relinquish her virginity to the man she loves.

FILTHY STRUMPETS!

Which is why there is so much rage and hurt feelings over Nagi’s perceived lack of character. How dare she not save herself for her true love and throw herself away to some waif!

While the purity fixation is understandable once societal norms have been examined, I still believe that it’s counter-productive. For one, heckling manga-ka until the point of mental and physical exhaustion for something as petty as the chastity of a non-existent female is incredibly rude. As the creators of said female character in the first place, the manga-ka should naturally have 100% control over her character traits. There is no place for overzealous fans to throw hissy fits and threaten creators with death threats.

In addition, having every female lead ever be virgins gets boring. While I understand that sex isn’t an oft-explored aspect of anime romances, it should be. After all, physical intimacy is a fairly important part of any successful long-term relationship, and to simply dismiss physical aspects of a relationship as irrelevant or unimportant hampers realism.

Having a non-virgin female lead can also lead to interesting dynamics between the two characters. Too often, the non-virgins in anime are older sister types; there’s value to be gained by having a same-aged couple with the woman having more experience than the man. It’s traditionally the role of the male to lead in relationships, with the woman following. Flipping this dynamic may lead to fundamental changes in the workings of a relationship and lead to interesting and unpredictable results. I’d love to see an animation studio or a manga-ka tackle this set-up.

We should celebrate diversity in our female leads. Having virgin characters all the time is simply unrealistic, and it is easy for creators to fall into “pure love” cliches when characters are all young and naive. Having a lead who is more cynical and bitter about relationships, or simply one who has more experience with them, will lead to potentially higher quality in romance anime. At the very least, it will bring variety. In a world of cookie-cutter characters and predictable plots, reversing the relationship dynamic would be an extremely welcome change.

Plus, otaku are just too butthurt sometimes. So what if Nagi’s not a virgin. I’ll take her anyways. Fuck you guys.

Notes:

First, housekeeping. Pictures are from danbooru. Not safe for work.

There really has been an increase in “used goods” rage throughout the past few years. Nowadays, people simply throw around accusations of used goods at the slightest offense. Any utterance which implies any sort of sexual experience whatsoever makes rabid fanboys rage. Shouldn’t we be confirming the virginity of some character before accusing them of being dirty sluts in the first place? Jesus, people.

Oh, right. The characters aren’t real. As much as people love screaming “2D FOREVER” or ridiculous utterances to that effect, the fact of the matter is that neither you, nor I, nor anyone, will ever be boning any of these chicks. The dakimakura that we all own (…we do all own dakimakura… right?!) are simply symbols of an unreachable “ideal.” There’s no reason for us to physically harrass real people (manga-ka) because of something inherently unobtainable.

This is not an article about the anime fandom in general. I am criticizing what I view as the ugliest, most bigoted and most pathetic niche within the global fan community.

I love Takenashi Eri. I think she’s written one of the most genuinely hilarious comedies of the last decade, and it’s a huge shame that she’s no longer drawing because of her illness. I wish her the swiftest of recoveries (though, it has been a year and a half already since Kannagi went on indefinte hiatus). In addition, I think it’d be hilarious if, after all this brouhaha, she makes Nagi a non-virgin in the end. I’d laugh, hard.

Finally, I encourage all of my readers with twitter to follow me @Hofrenska; I’d return the favor because it keeps me active and out of my little ivory tower.

23 Responses to “The Purity Fixation”

  1. WORD!!!
    The whole “my waifu” thing is both hilarious and horrifying. Hoping not all the 2ch guys are this kind of tards.

    B Gata H Kei crossed my mind. I know Yamada is a virgin, but reading the manga (and the manga especially) there are A LOT of girls there brekaing the “virgin” mold.

  2. Excellent work, good sir.

    Even with the cultural explanation, I find the whole purity thing tough to grasp … but it’s mostly because I have a huge problem with the whole “slut” phenomenon as a whole. I guess I can understand being morally outraged if someone (male or female) uses sex in a way that harms another person, directly or indirectly (as corny as that sounds, haha), but judging someone for having a lot of sexual experience just seems so childish, and hypocritical in many cases.

    Adults make their own choices. Who the hell am I to get pissy just because someone has had a lot of experience? I sure as hell wouldn’t someone evaluating my character based on my sexual experience. Really, that’s what gets me about the whole thing — the character evaluation is so mean-spirited and based on such limited information.

    You brought up Key briefly: This post reminds me of the part in Clannad ~After Story~ (spoiler alert!) where Nagisa admits to her parents that she and Tomoya have been having sex, and that she is pregnant. At first glance, it might seem that Nagisa’s admission is bold, but if you think about it, isn’t Key just trying to have its cake and eat it too?

    There’s not one instance where Tomoya and Nagisa are physically intimate beyond holding hands or hugging or whatever. Not even a kiss. We don’t need to see them furiously screwing in the bathroom, or something, but Jesus. You’d think the Virgin Nagisa was granted Ushio by God/Kami-sama/who the hell ever without having to sully herself with that filthy sex stuff.

  3. Also, Kylaran has good taste — Paraietta IS hot! Damn!

  4. When I first heard of the Kannagi outrage I thought it was a few stupid delusional people helped by a bunch of trolls. I think it was a Sankaku comment thread I read once (the one where Mio possibly got herself a boyfriend in the manga) where my eyes were opened to the fact that this phenomenon was far more widespread. People genuinely believe that purity is a serious deciding factor in a girl

    I wonder if the female otaku are wired the same way…

  5. Really interesting stuff. But I wonder, how much of the focus of emotional vs. physical is based on cultural reasons vs. tailoring to the audience? Is there the same focus when looking at RL J-dramas, or is this something that’s particular to anime, because you know… otakus are butthurt like you mentioned.

  6. Akira, sometimes we’re so on the same wavelength that I think we’re brothers somehow. You’ve read the article I have in the works. I forgot about the Kannagi incident. Thanks for reminding me. It just pissed me off all over again.

  7. I like to think that a lot of the “used goods” crap is just trolling. But, the point you raised is right on the money, and it’s one that seemed to get passed over, even at the height of this rigmarole. The whole obsession with virginity might have its roots in past culture (which is just as true in Western history as it is in Japanese) but that doesn’t make this sort of behaviour excusable. It’s regressive, controlling and completely about the objectification of women to imply that a woman’s worth is dependent on her virginity.

    Then there’s the whole point about how these characters aren’t real, which makes me think of Kylaran’s article about otaku’s reluctance to accept reality. If otaku see virginity as part of an ideal, then perhaps what they’re raging against is more about an infiltration of less-than-ideal (and therefore unwanted) aspects into their culture. I remember reading comments on Sankaku Complex when a subsequent, similar controversy broke out over a new manga (that was before I was repulsed by Sankaku Complex to the point where I stopped reading it) that asked why the manga-ka didn’t have any sense of idealization. It reinforces the point of view that some otaku see the culture as a way to escape from reality, and that they’re willing to fight back when they see any influences that threaten to upset them getting exactly what they want with absolute convenience. If this comes at a compromise to creativity, then this is absolutely unacceptable.

  8. You know what? I think it would be splendid if the next entry is the one drafted by TIF. It would perfectly complement each other’s entries since they’re on the same topic and pretty much on the same page about it.

    I know this whole otaku fandom can get messed up, but it’s hardly something you can easily ignore. It’s even worse when the purity fandom is even affecting real people. Like my MAL friend Hal pointed out, Aya Hirano was even harassed before over some ring they spotted in a photograph.

    And FYI, I do visit Sankaku, but I never take the place seriously over anything that’s posted there. I’m just in it for gratuitous pr0n.

  9. Hmm, never knew the Kannagi controversy reached to that extent. The more you know.

    Western culture does love a virgin, just for different reasons. It follows more along the lines of taking someone’s first time than actual possession, but yeah, I have to agree with Shinmaru on this one; I don’t understand the slut phenomenon.

    The idea of characters not being real makes me want to break out literary theory of characters being more real than authors, but I’ll pass on that because it’s not relevant to the otaku culture. What’s really more relevant is the notion that the perfect image you’ve formed that is shattered by canon is in any way important. Really? Harassing people because the general masses don’t agree with the author? That’s like calling an adaptation like the Lord of the Rings movies the “correct” interpretation and flipping the finger at anyone who corrects you because he/she read the books.

    @Sorrow-kun
    It’s probably because these characters are imaginary that otaku are so willing to mold them into the perfect ideal. We can’t control who real people are, but the break from reality of imaginary characters gives some people the notion that they can decide on whatever little detail they wish, including the character’s sexual endeavors (or lack thereof).

  10. @Elineas

    Exactly. It’s not about proper ownership anymore; it’s about showing them what they want to see. They’re just pissed when the creator/author/just about anyone who shatters their perfect image of their waifus.

    Since we’re on the topic of waifus, guess who’s the #1 waifu (psst, Sankaku). Yep, go figure >__>

  11. “Plus, otaku are just too butthurt sometimes. So what if Nagi’s not a virgin. I’ll take her anyways. Fuck you guys.”

    Damn Straight!

    I do wonder about the actual Impact of Japanese culture on the circumstance though. I mean, I understand there is that image of what a perfect Woman is in Japan. However, you never see such an outrage over Female characters in the Film industries or TV serials in Japan [at least, not as far as I am aware].

    So, is it that this rage seems to stem solely from Otaku and Anime?

  12. As always, thanks for your generous comments. This is a fairly contentious issue, and I’m glad to see that my readers all have some amount of sense in them.

    Oh, just in case anyone cared, I do facetiously claim waifus. My favorite female characters include:
    Senjougahara Hitagi (Bakemonogatari), Nagi (Kannagi), Ochibana Ame (Denpa Teki na Kanojo), Chane Laforet (Baccano!) and Kuhouin Murasaki (Kurenai). Psychoanalyze away.

    @Titolion: I would say that most 2ch guys are not like this, even the otaku amongst them. I remember that after Kannagi was put on hiatus, people were seriously pissed at the people who had fussed about Nagi’s “used goods” status. I saw many posts in the vein of “Fuck you guys! You just had to ruin it for the rest of us, didn’t you?!” I would say that 99% of 2ch has their head screwed on right, just like the rest of us.

    B Gata H Kei is an interesting take on the entire concept of relationships. I argued previously that it can be potentially revolutionary, and even Yamada breaks out of traditional female lead stereotypes.

    @Shinmaru:
    The whole “slut” phenomenon, in 2D as well as 3D, represents a double standard for women and men. Of course, as I always say, “A key that opens a million locks is a master key. A lock that opens to a million keys is a shitty lock.” 😛

    People fuss about sexual purity because so many people view it as a “sacred shrine” of sorts; the last bastion of a relationship, the ultimate goal. To easily give that away is seen as morally wrong or lacking of character. While I highly disagree with this sort of construction, it seems to hold some degree of force within society.

    Key is indeed trying to have their cake and eat it too. It detracts from the realism of the situation, in my opinion.

    Also, thank you for your generous comment on twitter.

    Finally, FUCK Kylaran. Bitch doesn’t know SHIT.

    @Scamp:
    You know, I’m not sure about female otaku, but I do know that fangirls get very angry whenever their favorite actor or singer gets married or engaged.

    @RP:
    I think that J-dramas are a little bit better about VIRGINS RAAAAEG because actors have a life seperate from the characters they play. Peple rage in real life when actors and actresses become pregnant or get married, so that would be the relevant comparison, I guess.

    @TIF:
    Hey man, it’s all good. The world needs people like you and me. Though you are much angrier than I am.

    @S-K:
    I have been planning to write an article critiquing “anime as escape”, not from a philosophical standpoint (that’s Ky’s realm), but from a practical standpoint. While otaku may be looking for some “ideal”, the pursuit of an unobtainable ideal also stifles creativity, which you and I both agree is absolutely unacceptabe.

    @AC:
    The porn isn’t that good, though.

    @Elineas:
    Like I said before, people are butthurt all the time. It only becomes a problem when their malice affects reality and stifles creativity, which is happening in this case.

  13. I forgot to mention earlier, but I’m pretty sure the Western version of the “mai waifu” meme was inspired by Azumanga Daioh, when Kimura said that after the students found a photograph of his wife.

  14. You sir, are wrong.

    But before I justify my reasons for contending your points, a bit of ad hominem: FUCK YOU! D:

    With that out of my system, I think there are more fundamental problems here than a simple culturally rooted obsession with purity. For example, if your argument is correct, we would need a distinct reason why otaku are so obsessed over virginity more so than others, despite similar cultural backgrounds. One of the biggest clues available to us is this “slut phenomenon” as pointed out by Shinmaru.

    It’s not culture that’s at play here; it’s jealousy. A deep-rooted jealousy that develops into behavioral monstrosities due to underlying cognitive phenomena. It has to do with a complex relationship between denial and belief. The fact that these underlying mechanisms could potentially be universal — rather than located in a specific subgroup of individuals — poses an interesting question for us to look at. I’ll write about this sometime in the future.

  15. Ky,

    I think it’s a bit deeper than that. In some cultures, especially those with the thar value system, the idea of a woman sleeping with someone other than their love, husband, owner, etc is repugnant to the point of societal shunning. I don’t think there is just jealousy involved here, though that may be a root cause. There is a particular disgust about the whole thing.

    Not saying Japanese have a thar value system (in fact, this person here points out the major distinction: The World’s Most Toxic Value System), but there are times when there’s a very close similarity.

  16. TIF,

    I feel this whole issue is only particularly salient because the object of jealousy is a 2D girl. Why do we have to assume that something extra must be wrong for a human being to become jealous of something 3D? My argument is that, given time, we all have a possibility of becoming these people obsessed with imaginary waifu — we’re no different from them. And the reasons are because of certain similarities shared across culture; these similarities are far more fundamental than cultural differences. One could, in fact, argue that they’re biological and evolutionary.

    However, don’t mistake what I mean by jealousy. I feel that a complete picture hasn’t been painted with an analysis of culture, and that’s why there should be other possible theories of how this whole thing came about.

    And, finally, I think almost every culture in the world would react to adultery similarly. No matter what happens, I would predict some level of societal shunning. Now, certainly countries with cultures such as Japan may have a more significant amount of this, but that doesn’t mean the real problem lies in culture. And that is a possibility that I feel must be considered.

  17. Barring the fact that it reminded me of the otaku bullshit that compels me to roll my eyes in the face of anime, I think this article was just what I needed to get back into it. Though out of curiosity, is the whole obsession with a woman’s purity simply an otaku phenomenon, or does it permeate throughout all things Japanese? I keep finding myself between Rashomon, where the fact that the wife was “damaged goods” overshadowed the fact that she was in fact raped (one thing that has made sitting down to write a review of it such a chore) and the novel Wind-up Bird Chronicle, where sexual intimacy is an integral part of the book as a whole.

    And AC, I’m pretty sure 90% of the time, most of us on of Sankoku explicitly for the gratuitous pr0n.

  18. Good read. I think this post alone is worth a vote in the ABT.

    Something I haven’t seen mentioned is the fact that Nagi is an amnesic, though I’m sure it has been, so who’s to that she wouldn’t otherwise be unflinchingly in love with her old boyfriend. And with this recent Love Plus manga hoopla, it was clearly raining and it’s stated that the reader is the main character anyway. So could it just be that these type of otaku are just bad at context? Perhaps further research is in order.

    That being said I love controversy, in and of itself, and for the fact that it gives me new manga to read.

    Also I like Sankaku for it’s Yellow Journalism, the porn is only alright.

  19. So what if Nagi isn’t a virgin? I’ll take her anyway. Fuck you guys.

    I cannot put the awesomeness of this quote in words.

    I’m all for Nagi not being a virgin. I can’t remember her exact age, but all those years and no sex ever would be a bummer.

  20. Great post!

    The phenomenon of fandom virgin-obsession all comes down to the restrictive and sexist virgin/whore dynamic of female sexuality. It’s the idea (going back to Biblical times) that women are either virgins or whores and never anything in between. The virgin is revered and any sexual contact that a woman has is considered tainting. This view pervades Western society just as much as Asian and Middle Eastern societies. In the West, it manifests itself as slut shaming.

    It’s an outdated and sexist trope that otaku seem to perpetuate. It’s unfortunate and it reduces any female character to her sex. Nothing else is important, just the idealized vision of chastity.

  21. Found this via Ghostlightning’s recommendation in his Editorial Folio on his site – thanks for a very interesting and in-depth read and, as I said on Ghosty’s site, it’s also now making me consider more seriously about the female otaku view(s) of main characters and how these are also represented in anime. Anyway, as I said this was a great read and, as new blogger, I’ll look forward to further exploring sites like yours.

  22. […] world in gen­eral, but it’s con­sid­er­ably more notice­able in otaku cul­ture, with the pur­ity fix­a­tion. The idea that the girl of your dreams should remain pure and untain­ted, where even the […]

  23. […] world in gen­eral, but it’s con­sid­er­ably more notice­able in otaku cul­ture, with the pur­ity fix­a­tion. The idea that the girl of your dreams should remain pure and untain­ted, where even the […]

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