An academic article published by a PhD researcher at the University of Manchester is raising concerns from child safeguarding experts after it was discovered the article was focused on the writer’s experience masturbating to fantasy child sexual abuse material.
Karl Andersson, a Swedish-born academic, is currently a PhD student at the University of Manchester in the Japanese studies department. According to his Researcher biography on the University’s site, his focus is on how “fans of subcultural comics in Japan experience desire and think about sexual identities.”
In April of 2022, an academic research paper written by Andersson was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Qualitative Research. The paper, titled “I am not alone — we are all alone: Using masturbation as an ethnographic method in research on shota subculture in Japan,” outlines Andersson undertaking an “experimental method” of masturbating to shota pornography.
Shota, a shortened version of shōtarō complex, refers to comics, cartoons, and other forms of visual media which focus on young boys in erotic and sexualized situations. The boys are primarily depicted as prepubescent, often having hairless bodies and very small features, and may be engaged in romantic or sexual situations with other young boys or even adult men. Less commonly, the boys are shown in sexual situations with adult women.
The medium is largely regarded as a form of fantasy child pornography, and is illegal in many countries including Canada and Australia as a result. It is also considered illegal in the United Kingdom, where Andersson may reside.
“I wanted to understand how my research participants experience sexual pleasure when reading shota, a Japanese genre of self-published erotic comics that features young boy characters,” Andersson writes in his abstract, “I therefore started reading the comics in the same way as my research participants had told me that they did it: while masturbating.”
Andersson describes that he had masturbated exclusively to shota media for three months as part of his research. Andersson logged his masturbation sessions in a diary, excerpts of which he published in his paper.
In one, from September 2021, Andersson describes a shota comic he read and orgasmed to as featuring a young boy “sniffing” and “licking” the genitalia of another young boy after catching him masturbating in the bathroom. He concludes the excerpt by writing: “… and while waiting for the shot I came!”
While Andersson does not reveal the ages of the youth in the sexual comics, he does refer to them as “young boys.” Later in the paper, Andersson writes that “very young boy characters would greedily jump over the first cock that presented itself” in a description of some of the comics he read.
In another excerpt, Andersson writes: “Took long time before any action. I read everything and once they started undressing and comparing their cocks I came immediately. Vague memories of me and [name retracted] … What was exciting was definitely the whole atmosphere with two new friends who discover sex together. Something you only do once in life. … I was there, was one of them, not sure who, or wait a minute: I was Haru! The new boy. Whereas Ken was the active one, and the one who was sexy!”
Following the excerpt, Andersson states that he enjoyed the comic as he could “relate” it to his own experiences growing up, and ascribes the allure of shota to a sense of “nostalgia.”
Andersson goes on to describe that masturbating to shota provided a sense of “self-care” both for him and for other men who regularly indulged in this form of material.
“I experienced a sense of self-care, which I also call the ‘spa effect’, since I often felt so relaxed after these sessions that it reminded of going to a spa, or why not an onsen, a Japanese hot spring.” Andersson writes, continuing: “While my previous masturbation habits had been rather routine, masturbating to shota became more of a ritual: carefully choosing a [comic] (what am I in the mood for today?), creating a comfortable position in the bed, dozing off a bit afterwards – it was all part of the ritual.”
In the article, Andersson also states that drawn, 2D comics are not his preference and that he prefers 3D mediums, though does not elaborate on whether that means he also indulges in computer-generated fantasy child sexual abuse material of a similar theme.
Prior to publishing his article on shota, Andersson had made a documentary film on those who watch shota titled Unreal Boys. The film is described as featuring “three young men in Tokyo” who “explore the limits of fantasy through the comic genre shota, which features fictional boys in sexual situations.”
The film won two prizes, including one at the Kiev Film Festival.
On his YouTube channel Andersson regularly posts “hauls” of shota and other Japanese media he purchases. In one haul posted around Christmas 2021, he displays various comics he purchased, most of which featured an adult woman romantically or sexually interested in young boys.
In another video uploaded to his YouTube, Andersson insists shota does not represent pedophilic desire in Japanese culture, and it is only when it is “misread” or “taken out of context” that there are concerns.
Japan has been notorious for its lax approach to child sexual abuse material, with the country only having made the possession of photos and videos of actual children being raped illegal in 2014. At the time, those who possessed real child pornography were given a one year grace-period to dispose of it or face a fine and a short period in prison. Drawn and CGI depictions of child sexual abuse, including those of children of any age, is legal and widespread.
Japan is known as an international hub for the production of both child pornography and trafficked children. According to child safeguarding organization ECPAT International, the Japanese government regularly allows child exploitation cases to be suspended, and for suspects to walk free.
While Andersson claims in his research paper that “untangling [the] largely unresearched knot of desires for fictional boy characters will give us a better understanding of human sexuality and provide a more solid basis for policymaking,” child safeguarding experts are unconvinced.
Andersson’s article appears to be the latest in a marked increase in openly sympathetic views towards pedophilia and providing them access to “fantasy outlets” at the academic level, with multiple incidents being reported over the past year alone.
In October of 2021, a ‘non-binary’ assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, came under widespread scrutiny after going on a podcast to promote her book: “A Long, Dark Shadow: Minor Attracted People and Their Pursuit of Dignity.” The podcast was hosted by Prostasia, a charity many consider to be “pro-pedophile.”
Copies of Walker’s PhD dissertation quickly began to circulate, showing Walker had entertained theories regarding allowing pedophiles to access “high quality child pornography” and other fantasy outlets in belief it may reduce offending. Prostasia, the group Walker was interviewing with, has also lobbied extensively to make or keep fantasy child sexual abuse material legal.
While there has been little research conducted on the impact of fantasy child sexual abuse material on actual offending, there is extensive evidence demonstrating a connection between the consumption of child sexual abuse material and the sexual abuse of real children.
According to one federal review, while only 12% of a sample of criminals charged with child pornography-related offenses had prior contact sex offenses in their official records, 55% self-disclosed that they had prior sexual contact with a child. Another study placed the latter figure at closer to 85%, another another places it at 76%.
Disturbingly, a 2009 study of men in treatment after being charged with receiving, possessing, or distributing child sexual abuse material found that while 74% of them had no prior criminal record for hands-on child sexual abuse, by the end of their 18-month program, 85% had admitted to having sexually abused a child in real life at least once.
Due to the illegality of fantasy child sexual abuse material in the United Kingdom, Reduxx reached out to Jordan Kenny, the manager of media relations for the University of Manchester, for comment on Andersson’s research but did not receive response in time for publication. This article will be updated in the event a statement is provided.
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