When Japan Is Involved, Even Pornography Loses Professionalism

The case background is at MOP Hunts Pornographers and Mainstream Media Hunt Pornographers.  The following is a translated blog post that cuts at the heart of the issue: Are these photographs pornographic?  There are no legal or community standards as such, and therefore this is a debate without clear resolution.  The more interesting point is that this situation was red-hot because it managed to bring together hot-button topics such as "Japan," "pornography," "young girls," "Henan," and "Chinese kungfu."  In fact, this looks so good that it almost looks like the handiwork of a professional packager ...

(163.com BBS)  By Li Ming (黎明).  August 18, 2006.

In various places in China, when Chinese women sell their bodies for money, they are condemned morally by some people and punished under the "security regulations."  When they sell their bodies outside of China, they are also subjected to local laws and "customs."  Most Chinese believe that there is no "reactionary politics."  Most Chinese who do not sell their bodies have deep humanitarian sympathies for those female compatriots who are selling their bodies.

But when Chinese women sell their bodies to the Japanese, things become different.  Many Chinese who do not sell their bodies to Japanese no longer consider those who do so as compatriots; instead, those are "Chinese traitors."  It is a minor thing to sell their bodies; it is a major thing to sell their country.  Many Chinese male chauvinists think that their 'country' can be sold through the body.  This may be over-rating "prostitutes" and "dickheads."

Pornography has no borders.  Erotic photographs and movies of foreign girls are disseminated in China.  The foreigners do not say that their girls are selling out their countries, and the foreign male chauvinists are not angry.  Erotic photographs and movies of Chinese girls appear on foreign websites.  The Chinese male chauvinists know that and they do not seem to be upset on any large scale.  The dirty-minded masses of the world are sharing their resources.  They seem to have reached a tacit understanding on this common enterprise, and they have swept aside nationalism and regionalism.  But near the date of August 15 (victory day for the war of resistance), a group of Chinese people became angry.  They were angry because somehow Japan is involved.

On August 10, a netizen named 灰飞湮灭中的轮回 published a post titled "The Shame of China!  Pornographic martial arts school served Japan" at a certain website.  It claimed that "young girls at a certain Chinese martial arts school were guided by their teachers to make erotic films that were sold as AV in Japan.  Some of the girls were not more than 12 years old."  This forum post quickly drew many netizens to investigate.  Some netizens believe that since a Henan museum appeared in the background of one of the photographs, the "martial school girls came from Henan."  An Internet "red arrest warrant" was issued to find the people who organized the filming, production and distribution.

This case involves not just Japan, but also Henan.  This affects the image of Henan and "local dignity."  From August 11, Zhengzhou Evening News investigated the matter.  The newspaper said that apart from one outdoor scene involving a martial arts performance, all other photographs that netizens have identified to be from Henan were shown not to be from Henan.  Even the police got involved.  The Zhengzhou police said that the photograph with the museum in the background was just an ordinary martial arts practice session and unrelated to any pornography.

The Zhengzhou reporters and police were trying to extricate Zhengzhou from the ignominy, but the "suspicions" about Henan have not been eliminated.  Actually, it does not matter what location the photographs came from.  As long as they came from China, many people will feel justified in their condemnations because they are defending the "dignity of the nation and its people."  But once this affair was connected to "regional prejudice" and "regional image," the newsworthiness and topicality were enhanced tremendously.  Over the past few days, this has become a huge debate and media wave.  "Japan," "pornography," "young girls," "Henan," "Chinese kungfu" ... damn, when these terms appear in the same news story, how it not be red-hot?

Since there terms attract the eyeballs of ordinary people, the media are glad to propagate the story.  For observers and analysts, the first thing to do is to determine the objective basis.  Thus, we must begin with trying to establish if these are "pornographic photographs."  This is the basis for all criticisms and reflections.  If this cannot be established, then all commentary is rubbish and the critics are just fools.

The problem occurs at this most important place: the so-called "pornographic photographs" had not been examined in accordance with the law.  "A group young girls alleged to be mainland martial arts students wore sexy bikinis to assume certain martial arts positions that may also be sexually provocative poses"; "the website describes its contents: the photographs and videos on this website are the top female martial arts performers in China.  The photographs show scenes of martial arts performances with performers in proper uniforms or bikini swimwear.  Our website will add new photographs every week.  Members pay a monthly fee of US$15."  Based upon what was written here, the so-called "pornography" in the current debates is basically imaginary and misjudged.

I have carefully examined these photographs with respect to the standards for defining pornography under the law.  I cannot see anything pornographic.  I see only things that are frequently seen at swimming pools, fashion shows and beauty pageants.  If it has to be forcibly tied in with sex, I might say that these girls have sex appeal and that the more difficult but unstaged actions convey the aesthetics of feminine physical health and natural beauty.  I don't understand why some people feel that these are "pornographic photographs."  Are these people sexually over-active and over-imaginative?

Some people say that even though the people in the photographs wore bikinis, this is still pornographic because the girls are under-aged.  This reason is invalid.  Is showing your ass at any age pornographic? from what age is it considered pornographic to show your ass? from what age is it considered pornographic to wear a bikini?  None of these things have legal definitions or commonly accepted standards.  These girls did not expose more of themselves than adults in public areas, and this should mean that there is no reason to assume that they were "oppressed" or "exploited."

The actual purposes of these photographs are for international cultural exchange and commerce.  The anger that ensued are built upon blindness, "lack of principles" and "double standards."  Failing to identify the main theme, the reporters and police were wasting their time, money and efforts with their work.

Perhaps the Chinese forums and websites were looking for more hot topics to hype up in order to expand their business?  Perhaps the fiercely competitive martial arts schools were deliberately seeking to hurt their competitors?  Based upon the assembly of so many "sensitive factors" in one place, this is the work of an experienced old hand at hyping and "framing."  As far as the hyping and hurting of the competition, I am just wondering whether all this is the usual operation by professionals.  I am just throwing up some doubts and I am not paranoid.

As soon as the word "Japan" is invoked, it becomes "pornography."  What is normally not pornographic is treated as pornographic and it is a betrayal of the country.  This is risible.  A normal Chinese person does not have to build his self-confidence upon the hypothesis that "foreigners are morally inferior to us."  He does not need to identify other Chinese people as "Chinese traitors" in order to establish his own superior position.  Ignoring whether the initiator suffered from a "tragic need to oppose Japan," this affair showed the "weak and vulnerable psychology" of the sensitivity of the Chinese towards Japan during a sensitive period in Sino-Japanese relationships.

Some compatriots are trying hard to find evidence that the enemy nation is insulting and hurting us.  At the same time, they are looking among our compatriots just who is a "Chinese traitor."  But if we lose the ability to detect pornography as soon as Japan is involved and if we cause some of our own people to be misjudged as traitors, this means that our most true deadly enemies are our thick skulls which refuse to understand things.

(New York Times)  Using Nearly Nude Pictures, Child Sex Sites Test Laws.  Kurt Eichenwald.  August 20, 2006.

In the photograph, the model is shown rising out of a bubble bath, suds dripping from her body. Her tight panties and skimpy top are soaked and revealing. She gazes at the viewer, her face showing a wisp of a smile that seems to have been coaxed from off-camera.

In just over seven months, the model has become an online phenomenon. She has thousands of fans from around the world, membership lists show, who pay as much as $30 a month to see images of her. According to the posted schedule, new photographs of her — many clearly intended to be erotic, all supposedly taken that week — are posted online every Friday for her growing legions of admirers.

The model’s online name is Sparkle. She is — at most — 9 years old.

Sparkle is one of hundreds of children being photographed by adults, part of what appears to be the latest trend in online child exploitation: Web sites for pedophiles offering explicit, sexualized images of children who are covered by bits of clothing — all in the questionable hope of allowing producers, distributors and customers to avoid child pornography charges. 


Under law, for an image that does not involve a child engaged in a sex act, a court must find that it entails “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area” of a minor to determine that it is child pornography. As a result, courts have ruled that images of naked children were not automatically pornographic, and thus not illegal, while also holding that the mere presence of clothing on a photographed child was not, in itself, adequate to declare the image lawful.

Instead, the courts often apply a six-pronged test, developed in a 1986 case called United States v. Dost, to determine whether an image meets the “lascivious exhibition” standard. That test — which requires a court to examine the child’s pose and attire, the suggestiveness and intent of the image and other factors — includes one standard on whether the child is naked. However, no single standard under Dost is absolute, and courts must continuously examine potentially illegal images while considering each part of the test.

The leading precedent on child pornography involving clothed minors is a federal case known as United States v. Knox, which involved a pedophile who obtained erotic videos of girls. In that 1994 case, the Federal Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of the pedophile, Stephen Knox, saying explicitly that clothing alone did not automatically mean that images of children were legal.

“The harm Congress attempted to eradicate by enacting the child pornography laws is present when a photographer unnaturally focuses on a minor child’s clothed genital area with the obvious intent to produce an image sexually arousing to pedophiles,” the court’s ruling says. “The rationale underlying the statute’s proscription applies equally to any lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area whether these areas are clad or completely exposed.”

While adult pornography has some First Amendment protections, there are no such protections for child pornography. Still, some experts have expressed discomfort, in general, at criminalizing clothed pictures of minors.

“This is a difficult area,” said Michael A. Bamberger, a First Amendment specialist at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, based in New York, who filed a brief on behalf of a booksellers’ group in the Knox case. “The whole history of the exception from First Amendment protections for child pornography is based on the harm to the child. But there is in my view a free speech issue with respect to designating photographs of persons under the age of 18 who are clothed as child pornography.”

But Mr. Bamberger expressed uncertainty about whether his concerns applied when told details of the model sites found by The Times. “To me, it sounds as if you are really talking about nude equivalents, almost like cellophane clothing, and that’s not clothing at all.”To distinguish between illegal images and, say, photographs of children posing in underwear for a store catalog, the court said it had to apply the Dost standards and review a range of facts, like the nature of the images and whether the marketing was intended to appeal to pedophiles.

For example, the court noted, a potential customer could know the images of minors were illegal if they were marketed with statements proclaiming that they would “blow your mind so completely you’ll be begging for mercy.” Explicit listing of the children’s ages, along with sexually loaded terms like “hot,” could also be used as evidence of illegality, the court said.

The modeling sites reviewed by The Times incorporated many such references to encourage viewers to subscribe. 


“Call 911 before viewing!!!” proclaims the site for Sparkle, which shows her in a thong so revealing that she appears to be naked below the waist. The ad for the site uses words that echo those cited in the Knox decision, reading, “Only 9 years old! Hot!”