Lolita complex, the sexual attraction to young, pubescent girls, is woven into the fabric of everyday life in Japan. Turn on the TV and you’ll see group after group of scantily-clad teenage and preteen girls singing or dancing to music. Peek in any bookstore and you’ll find a section of photo books featuring children in swimwear.
Online ads for so-called JK businesses still abound, where a hug, a massage or an outright sexual service from a girl in a school uniform is only a phone call away, despite international criticism and recent police and government crackdowns.
The number of cases drawing police charges over alleged instances of child pornography has been on the rise, even after the July 2015 introduction of punitive measures for possession of such material.
During the six months from January 2016, police turned over 1,023 cases to prosecutors, compared to 637 cases for the same period in 2011 and 831 cases for the period in 2015, according to National Police Agency statistics.
Masahiro Morioka, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Waseda University, has delved deep into the psychology of men with Lolita complex, widely known as lolicon in Japan.
Calling Japan a “lolicon power,” he says the nation’s obsession with puberty-age girls has justified sexual exploitation and crimes against them — though, of course, not everyone with Lolita complex acts on their desires and commits sex crimes. Like many people, Morioka finds the culture that tolerates lolicon problematic and wants to change it.
His academic approach to the issue, however, has been less conventional. Morioka advocates “life studies,” in which researchers approach topics by analyzing their personal experiences on the subject, instead of “shelving their own experiences and discussing social issues as if they were someone else’s problems.”
In his book “Confessions of a Frigid Man,” originally published in Japanese in 2005 and recently translated into English, Morioka examines his own fixation with — and sexual fantasies about — young girls.
Then he proposes a hypothesis: His lolicon resulted from a feeling of having grown into a man’s body “by mistake.”
When he was about 12 — an age at which secondary sexual characteristics such as the first menstruation for girls and the first ejaculation for boys emerge — he recalls he was “unable to affirm” having a man’s body.
“As my body became that of an adult, it began to produce male hormones, grow muscles, acquire a more rugged, angular shape, grow more hair and dirty itself with seminal fluid, and a strange odor began to emanate from somewhere inside me,” he writes.
He felt uneasy about his physical transformation, which he says led to his fixation on the “clean” body of a girl and “a desire to slip my consciousness into her body, and while inhabiting it, experience her puberty from the inside.”
Morioka, a native of Kochi Prefecture who moved to the capital and began to live away from his parents after high school, says that for him, Lolita complex slipped in just as he succeeded in severing psychological ties from his mother, the only woman close to him.
“When I fulfilled my strong desire to terminate my mother’s influence on me (after coming to Tokyo), I began to have feelings of regret about having turned the wrong way at puberty,” Morioka said during a recent interview. “And that’s how I started to develop a kind of sexuality where I feel like projecting myself onto puberty-age girls.”
Morioka, who is heterosexual and married, concedes that none of his hypotheses has been or will ever be “scientifically” proven. He insists that his analysis only applies to himself, and it cannot be generalized.
Yet science is only one of many ways through which one’s wisdom and knowledge can be passed on to others, Morioka argues, noting that, as a philosopher, he needs to get to the bottom of his own sexuality and share his thoughts with others — no matter how embarrassing or shameful they might sound.
By doing so, he wants to inspire more men to talk about their own sexuality instead of keeping it taboo.
Morioka adds that he was inspired by the women’s liberation movement and the independent-living movement of people with disabilities in the 1960s as he adopted this type of “self-analysis” approach.
“I think that if more heterosexual men talk about their own sexuality, it could prevent or correct further ‘lolicon-ification’ of Japanese society,” he said.
“We need to first understand why there is so much demand for child pornography, even though it is clear that the children appearing in such materials are being sexually abused. I think my book, and the approach I have taken, will contribute to identify the forces.”
In March, a 38-year-old man in Tokyo was arrested on charges that he made a 13-year-old girl perform sexual acts and videotaped them. Public uproar ensued when reports emerged that, prior to his arrest, the suspect, Kazuki Morikawa, who had been known as a fan of pop idol Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, had written on Twitter that he couldn’t understand why sex with underage girls was banned by the anti-child prostitution and pornography law.
“A theory (of mine) is that sex with a minor is outlawed, which is nonsense, because, if you say it’s OK, all men would choose minors over adults,” he tweeted.
Morioka commented that such remarks reflect the shallowness of thinking on sex among many people in Japan.
“A comment like that comes from the sheer lack of self-reflection on sexuality,” he said. “The man had never pondered why sex with minors is outlawed in every culture, and how children can be exploited.”
Getting to the bottom of one’s sexuality is not fun, Morioka says, adding that he was clinically depressed for a while after writing the book.
“Part of me still thinks I should have kept these thoughts to myself,” he said. “But at the same time, I feel a philosopher should do this much, as it’s his job to think deeply about things. If a philosopher writes a book about sexuality, he should not borrow (Sigmund) Freud to explain himself. That would produce only a haphazard work.”
Morioka’s book, “Confessions of a Frigid Man,” can be viewed for free at www.philosophyoflife.org/tpp/frigid.pdf