Westerners who long for a revival of patriarchy might hope to see a day when brides no longer engage in pre-marital sex, but rather approach the altar as virgins. I will argue that while moe might promote patriarchy in a few specialized cases, moe is not a panacea. Moe might be a very effective weapon against feminism, but moe will not bring about a new patriarchal culture.
Konagi Yawakaze (柔風 小凪) is moe (萌).
MyAnimelist summarized this character well:
Konagi Yawakaze (柔風 小凪)
Yuuouji’s best friend. She is very pure at heart and very innocent. She often feels very embarrassed around male students, as she rarely spends time around them, but wants to learn to do so. She is the third most popular girl in the school, and has many admirers who wish to guard her and protect her innocence. If any student attempts to do something of a perverted nature with her, her “guards” will beat that person up.
The community wants to guard this girl’s chastity for a specific purpose; no one wants to see her become a celibate nun. Everyone wants to see her have a picture-perfect marriage. During the ten episodes of Noukome, Konagi is not a very sexual character; she is physically and mentally ready to be married by some suitable suitor, but no suitor courts her, and so she pines away. Any sexual desire she might have is dormant, which implies that not only do her bodyguards shelter her somewhat, her family must have conditioned her to live a very respectable life instead of following the path of least resistance.
Konagi is an “ero-kawaii moe” character. That is to say, she has obvious erotic appeal, she is obviously very cute, and her “moe” is so pure that she can only be a fictional superstimulus, not a real person.
Konagi’s “pure virgin” stereotype is a fictional exaggeration of a real-life phenomenon. Pubescent virgins do exist, even in the post-industrialized countries. However, due to the nature of the human hormonal system, as virginal girls grow into women, their hormones start signalling their brains that their bodies are now capable of reproduction, and thus “pure virgins” tend to develop into “pure-but-sexually-frustrated virgins” and then to “sexually-desperate-virgins-who-will-try-very-hard-to-have-sex.” This is why patriarchal societies tended to marry off young women who were still in the middle of puberty; patriarchal societies were willing to accept 16-year-old married girls who risked their health with pregnancy. Patriarchal societies were not willing to accept girls of any age who risked their reputations by associating too closely with boys.
The fact is that, in modern post-industrial societies, many young women give their virginity to the first boy who seems to be attractive. This is often a boy of roughly the same age, who is entirely incapable of supporting the girl as a wife. Usually, when the girl discards the boy, the girl believes she hasn’t destroyed her chances of a successful marriage; she believes that there is a superior husband-candidate who will be utterly loyal to her, regardless of how many men she’s slept with.
Some male anime viewers really are virgins, but many male anime viewers are not virgins. Whether they are virginal or not, most of these viewers understand the realities of the sexual marketplace; they understand that a pure, virginal bride like Konagi is an impractical dream, much like developing super-telekinesis and smashing Tokyo Tower by sheer force of will.
But anime is not just a passive form of entertainment. Anime also can serve to connect isolated loners into geeky subcultures. Some anime watchers are totally isolated, but others go to cosplay events or anime-themed stores to become part of a meatspace community.
Take a look at the young people in that cosplay photo. They are not models. They are not getting paid to be there. They are the grass roots of a subcultural community of fantasists, escapists, and aesthetes.
Patriarchy needs grass roots as well, but patriarchy is considerably less entertaining than anime. Gathering a grass roots group of aesthetes is pretty easy, because the requirements for functioning as an aesthete are not terribly rigorous. To be an aesthete, you have to be able to recognize something as beautiful and affirm that the beautiful is better than the ugly. To uphold patriarchy, you have to commit yourself to believing that the ethics of patriarchy are YOUR ethics, you have to give up your personal convenience and comfort, and you have to try to make the numerous, painful sacrifices that are necessary to maintain a viable, patriarchal community.
The aesthetes who appreciate anime are not likely to form a viable power-base for a patriarchal community. To begin with, any anime lover outside Japan who is primarily a gaijin lover of Japanese culture cannot be a pillar of patriarchy, because Japan has never been strongly patriarchal. Furthermore, many anime lovers are lovers of the visual arts who have been thoroughly indoctrinated in the sexual mores of the Western fine arts – i.e., gay pride, pro-sex-anti-marriage feminism, etc.
Anime (and Asian culture in general) might subtly undermine Western political correctness. If little girls are wearing T-shirts with Konagi Yawakaze’s face on them, those same girls cannot simultaneously be displaying T-shirts that read, “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.” If girls are going around chanting “Cute is Justice!” they can’t simultaneously chant “Men Can Stop Rape!”
If anime-inspired virgin-marriage were to get insanely popular in the next ten years, it might crowd feminism out of popular discourse. In the West, it would be powerless until it linked up with the “Quiverfull” variety of Christian Retroculture. Girls who are now eight years old might actually have a chance of marrying as virgins in ten years. However, while “Quiverfull” Christians might buy into fiction like the Mormon-authored “Twilight” franchise, I doubt that they could reconcile Western Christian culture with Japan’s un-patriarchal celebration of the merely sensual.
What would be much more likely is that Asian culture could defeat Western feminism while buttressing Western consumerism and implicitly weakening Western Christianity. If Asian culture were to crush Western pseudo-puritanism, divorce rates would decline, but marriage would probably not get any stronger. The absence of divorce cases might mean that lawyers would starve to death in the gutters of the USA, indirectly bringing about William Shakespeare’s celebrated suggestion for social reform:
Unfortunately, even if anime culture gets tremendously popular, a lot of men who are currently adults will miss out on marriage.
If the cult of anime – or any other cult – inspires Westerners to start marrying off their daughters at age 18, and keeping them married, that will strengthen Western patriarchal culture – in a collective sense.
A collectively strong culture can field armies and float navies, but you can’t run your fingers through its hair.
Even if the West kills feminism and saves itself, there will be a lot of sad men who get left behind – and there might be even more sad women who will cause social problems because they will envy the husbands, children, and social prestige of younger, more fertile matrons.
If the West doesn’t kill feminism, first feminism will kill the West – but then it will run into the Great Wall of China on one side and Russian mud on the other. China (and all other Confucian cultures) will not bow down and let feminism walk all over its reproductive potential. Russia has the Orthodox Church at the altar, and the police who arrested Pussy Riot guarding the throne.
This series of essays on moe will continue over the next few days.