Why Defend Freedom Of Icky Speech?

This post by Neil Gaiman originally appeared on his Neil Gaiman’s Journal on 12/1/08.

This is a bit long. Apologies. I’d meant to talk about other things, but I started writing a reply this morning to the letter that follows and I got a bit carried away.

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I have questions about the Handley case. What makes lolicon something worth defending? Yaoi, as I understand it, isn’t necessarily child porn, but the lolicon stuff is all about sexualizing prepubescent girls, yes? And haven’t there been lots of credible psych studies saying that if you find a support community for a fetish, belief or behavior, you’re more likely to indulge in it? That’s why social movements are so important for oppressed or non-mainstream groups (meaning everything from the fetish community to free-market libertarianism) -and why NAMBLA is so very, very scary (they are, essentially, a support group for baby-rapists.)

The question, for me, is even if we only save ONE child from rape or attempted rape, or even just lots of uncomfortable hugs from Creepy Uncle Dave, is that not worth leaving a couple naked bodies out of a comic? It is, after all, more than possible to imply and discuss these issues (ex. if someone loses their virginity at 14, and chooses to write a comic about it) without having a big ol’ pic of 14 yr. old poon being penetrated as the graphic. I also think there’s a world of difference between the Sandman story-which depicts child rape as the horrific thing it is (and, I believe, also ends with a horrific death for the pervert, doesn’t it?) and depicting child rape as a sexy and titillating thing. I think there is also a difference between acknowledging children’s sexuality, and pornography about children that is created for adults. Where on this spectrum does something like lolicon fall? And, again, why do you, personally, think that it should be defended?

Thanks for reading my ramble, and for being accessible to us, and engaged in things like CBLDF. Mostly, they are a fantastic org., but I’m really on the fence with this case…

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Let me see if I can push you off the fence, a little, Jess. I’m afraid it’s going to be a long, and probably a bit rambly answer — a credo, and how I arrived at that.

If you accept — and I do — that freedom of speech is important, then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don’t say or like or want said.

The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don’t. This is how the Law is made.

People making art find out where the limits of free expression are by going beyond them and getting into trouble.


Read the full post on Neil Gaiman’s Journal.