As someone with a great love for cute stuff, in particular shota, and possibly loli to some extent, seeing the word ‘loli’ in my twitter feed grabbed my attention. What could this possibly be, I wondered, as I read Irina’s post on The Modern Loli and The Importance of Being Earnest.
So it appeared that the term ‘loli’ was up for debate, and since Irina wrote it was meant to be a collab post, I thought to myself, why not write a response post? The discussion appeared to be on whether the term ‘loli’ has a sexualised context to it: does it refer to young girls, be it sexualised or non-sexualised, or does it refer to only sexualised girls?
At first glance, the answer seems apparent that loli applies to young girls, be it sexualised or non-sexualised. Not only are drawn underage girls that are engaging in sexual acts considered loli, as in lolicon R18 manga, but also in all-ages anime context, where we refer to young girls as ‘that token loli heroine’ or the very ancient grandma loli trope.
With further thought, Irina makes a distintion between the eroticised and sexualised. A young girl can be drawn to look provocative and designed to be sexually appealing without being drawn to participate in sexual activities. Could the term ‘loli’ apply to young underage girls who are not drawn in a manner designed to appeal to your sexual senses? Could drawn underage girls that do not tickle your sexual instincts and are only drawn to be innocently reading a book minus panty shots, minus sexy curves, could that be considered loli?
This brings us back to the history of the word ‘loli’ and how it came to be. The word ‘loli’ came from Japanese, ロり, which supposingly came from the book Lolita depicting a relationship between an underage girl and a guy, if I recall correctly. Loli came to be profitable in Japan, when producers capitalised upon the erotism and cuteness of young underage girls, producing many Japanese products from anime to visual novels to manga of loli heroines. While the majority were likely R18 material, it soon influenced mainstream otaku media, such that the anime we see today sports a loli heroine, despite being completely all-ages. Often times, these anime resort to panty-shots or bath scenes to tickle our senses and appeal to our “loli-sense”.
It is crucial to note that central to the meaning of loli lies erotism and cuteness. Loli succeeded because of the cuteness of young girls being reappropriated in a way that was sexually appealing and erotic. In other words, they sexualised drawn young girls and achieved loliness. (or holiness? x3)
In Japan, most likely if you were to refer to a young elementary school girl as a ‘loli’, you’ll get awkward stares. They would rather refer to them as Joshi Shogakusei. Do they call drawn anime girls at elemntary school age Joshi Shogakusei as well? Or are they more likely to call them Loli?
We have now affirmed that the term ‘loli’ can be used on sexualised girls, as the whole existence of the genre ‘loli’ arose from the sexualisation of cute underage girls. Even today, companies continue to dole out visual novels full of loli characters with their sex scenes and all, manga with loli characters having sex, and anime with loli showing their panties accidentally. Who’s to say that loli does not apply to sexualised underage girls?
To say that loli does not apply to non-sexualised underage girls is assuming a false dichotomy. Simply because loli applies to sexualised underage girls does not mean that loli cannot apply to non-sexualised underage girls. As the term spread beyond lolicons who enjoy drawn R18 material, the general anime public have by and large understood the meaning of loli to be a young girl and used it as well. The explosion of pixiv art of drawn underage girls appealing not to sexyness but to cuteness, points in the direction of a new age of moe. No longer is loli only used to appeal to sexual desire, it has also reinvented itself to mean cuteness and moe to the general anime population. In that case, the argument that loli cannot mean non-sexualised underage girls is moot, since loli may not necessarily sexualise, but preserve and reinforce this very innocence and cuteness of young underage girls.
It is a simlar concept to looking at babies. Babies have neotenous features that appeals to mothers as cute. This evoluntionary feature ensures babies receive protection and care from not just mothers but also adult males in the population. Loli is a similar case, in which the appeal of young underage girls is in the neotenous features, and anime underlines this fact very well. Through drawing wider foreheads, bigger eyes, and displaying cute baby-like behaviour in young underage girls in anime, they are able to make a similar appeal to you. Whether you are drawn in by that and react sexually depends on how far you have ventured in your sexual deviance, but if they are not drawn with provocative design, by far and large there is simply no attraction towards such drawn girls. And these, are still referred to as loli.
I deny that it is a case that the anime community wants to cover up the ugliness of the presence of the group of lolicons masturbating to drawn young underage girls in the corner; instead it is the use of the word loli that has became mainstream. The word ‘loli’ has evolved on its own from its original meaning as used by manga and game companies, and now has taken up a new meaning in the mainstream anime community: and that is moe.
Let me know your thoughts below!