A link symbol  Warning: There will be light discussion of what is known as "ship discourse", from the perspective of myself; someone leaning towards being an "anti"; and how that coincides with my stance on being anti-censorship. If you come on the indie web to avoid modern internet discourse, which is totally understandable, you can click out now. I'm only going to be talking about it because I wanted to talk about my thoughts on censorship. Ship discourse isn't the main point of this article. Either way, thanks for considering reading this!

If I say I'm "anti-censorship," I'm sure that the first thing you feel is aprehensive. After all, when used online, saying that one is "anti-censorship" can be a dogwhistle for a multitude of things; most notably, conservatives who just want to be able to talk about how much they hate trans people without the "woke mob" cancelling them or whatever. If you're more into fandom, it could also be considered a dogwhistle for those who are "pro-ship". In other words, someone who creates content of pedophilic and incestuous fictional pairings; often romanticizing the subjects at hand through fiction.

Obviously, I'm neither of those things. But I still would consider myself "anti-censorship". Which a lot of people would consider contradictory towards my alignings with discourse and politics. I've been considered a "sympathizer" to the "opposite side" in both cases. So, I'd like to just explain why I feel the way that I do here.

So, here's some recent history regarding the censorship of art for you.

Around 2010, the Tokyo government began to push for a revision to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths. (Quite the mouthful.) Since manga and anime was so easily obtained by children, they wanted to be able to monitor the manga and anime market for anything that could be damaging or harmful to children. This proposed change was known as Bill 156, and, on the surface level, it seemed quite admirable. Or, at least, that's what I thought. It was focused on ensuring children's safety, and protecting them from overly-sexual or graphic content. That's a completely reasonable concern to have, and who doesn't want to protect kids from being traumatized by getting a hold of such content too early?

But, see, it sounding reasonable on the surface is how they get you.

The first sign that maybe something wasn't quite right; at least, to someone like me; was that the bill was almost entirely supported by conservatives. That's enough to make one wonder what would be considered "harmful content" to them. But, thankfully, we don't have to speculate! The governor of Tokyo and the official behind the bill confirmed my fears quite plainly and openly, saying to a PCA group that had supported his cause, "It's not just about children. We've got homosexuals casually appearing, even on television. Japan has become far too untamed. I'll go forward with this bill with a sense of mission in heart."

By the way, reminder: this happened in 2010. Just over a decade ago.

Which is a pattern that I just can't help but observe. Laws which want to censor art have a widdle-bitty problem with being made with the expressed purpose of setting precedent for future laws, in order to censor positive representation of alternative or 'untamed' lifestyles; almost always, namely, queerness. It sounds good on the surface, but that isn't where it ends. There always seems to be some sort of long game.

When Bill 156 passed, it, at first, didn't seem to cause much of a stir in the manga and anime publishing industry, which was a relief for many. But that doesn't mean that this bill hasn't been used... And, interestingly, a disproportionate amount of the manga being deemed 'harmful' by this bill are boy's love comics. At one point, ten banned comics in a ROW were ALL boy's love! And this streak happened recently! Like, 2021-2022 recently.

So, now you're thinking, "Well, what specific content is getting these works marked harmful? Maybe it's just that these boy's love comics all just happened to be on some Killing Stalking shit." But every report on why these boy's love comics were harmful were the same, copy-pasted explanation: "It can significantly stimulate sexual feelings and impede the healthy growth of adolescents."

Gee. I wonder what kind of "unhealthy" sexual feelings they may be talking about.

I think it's pretty clear to see that there were ulterior motives playing a large part in the bill's conception and its enforcement. I mean, the man behind the bill said it himself; his mission was NOT to protect kids, but to shut down anything 'unsavory', specifically name-dropping homosexuality.

"Okay, but that's Japan! How about you give an example actually relevant to you, fuckin' weeb."

Fair! Let's talk about something currently happening in my backyard, the good old U.S. of A.: the huge surge of book bannings.

During the 2021-22 school year, 138 school districts in 32 states banned more than 2.5k books from their school libraries. This is an all-time high, but some people suspect that the 2022-23 school year could outnumber that, even still!

So... What's with the sudden surge of book bannings? Well...

41% of all books banned, from July 2021 to June 2022 were about queer characters, according to PEN America. This includes 671 titles that explicitly address LGBT+ themes, or feature protagonists / otherwise important characters who are LGBT+. About 9% of these books - 145 titles - were specifically about transgender characters.

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe has become the single most-frequently banned book across America, with 41 districts either removing it from shelves or restricting access to it. I mean, do I even need to say anything? The fact that the #1 most banned book in the United States right now is literally titled 'Gender Queer' should tell you enough. But I'll give you more information anyhow.

Gender Queer: A Memoir is a graphic novel which recounts Kobabe's journey from childhood to adulthood, and eir exploration of gender identity and sexuality, ultimately ending up identifying as being outside of the gender binary.

The reason why Gender Queer is banned, according to the people who wanted it off the shelves? The comic is considered to have "explicit images". (Mind, Gender Queer isn't even aimed at children.)

So, what about the second-most banned book? Well, my friend, that would be All Boys Aren't Blue, by George M. Johnson. This book is a young adult memoir about the author's trials and triumphs related to being a black queer boy.

The reason why it's banned according to the people who advocated for its banning? Containing a passage describing sex.

And, while I feel less personally apt to tackle this subject, I feel that it is worth mentioning that titles that contained protagonists / otherwise important characters of color also accounted for 40% of book bans; 659 banned books. 338 banned books also directly addressed issues of race and racism (21% of book bans).

This leads us to the third most-banned book: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope PĂ©rez, a story which touches upon themes such as racism, segregation, and classism, and centers the love story of a Mexican-American girl and a black boy.

The reason given for its banning? Take a guess.

That's right! Sexually explicit content.

This book's availability on school shelves was first disputed in Lake Travis Independent School District in Texas, when a parent read a passage from the book at a board meeting that referenced anal sex. Kara Bell said on the subject, "I do not want my children to learn about anal sex in middle school."

The pattern is very plain to see, isn't it? Censorship will always target, not just queer expression, but the artistic expression of all minorities about being minorities, disproportionately. That is why I'm anti-censorship.

But how does that mix with my stance as an "anti"? (I put that in quotes because I find the label ridiculous, by the way.) Well, needless to say, my feelings are mixed. But, ultimately, I am hesitantly willing to side myself with the likes of borderline-pedophilic jerkoff fantasy media, because, I know that if that content was to be banned, queer and marginalized people in general would be disproportionately targeted and made to suffer for it.

Just because I think that something CAN be published doesn't mean that it SHOULD. The politicians, the higher-ups; that's who I don't want getting their grubby hands on art. But if what someone writes is just fucking gross? Your everyday average Joe can absolutely look at that and say, "Hey, dude, that's weird. You shouldn't write stuff like that." I am willing to fight to protect even "proshippers'" rights to publish what they want, if the government tries to oppose that. I am NOT willing to fight to protect them from internet users who see them joking about how much they love incest who call them a freak.

If we keep the government out of artistic expression, it is completely on the people to self-regulate what is and isn't acceptable. We can't depend on the government to get rid of writing that is hateful or exploitative, so we must be willing to do things to stop such content from reaching vulnerable people (such as children) ourselves. If weird people online can use their freedom of expression to write porn of a child without legal repercussion, I can use my own freedom of expression to say that their work is exploitative and wrong without legal repercussion, in equal amounts.

Basically, being anti-censorship is a double-edged sword, as it means even extending that protection to works that aren't worth defending, in that person's eyes. But, nonetheless, it's one that I'm willing to wield, for the sake of the protection of self-expression.