When I first started with Speed Racer as a wee toddler, I had no idea how long this would last.
By Jesse Lynn
Everyone remembers their first-ever crush. It just so happens that mine was fictional — animated to be precise, as was the one after that, and the one after that.
Between Seto Kiba, Tao Ren, Gaara, Byakuya Kuchiki, and many others, I’ve had a (some would say shamefully) long list of paramours of the the two-dimensional variety over my more than 20 years of life. When I first started with Speed Racer as a wee toddler, I had no idea how long this new predilection of mine would last or how much friction it would eventually cause between me and the so-called “normal” members of humanity.
In the early '00s, anime had just achieved an absolutely staggering popularity in the US, and the internet made it stupid-easy to gorge on all of it to your geeky heart’s content. And from this upwelling of Asian animation bloomed a particularly active sub-culture of young fictiophiles. Safely hidden from parents or judgmental peers, we were free to talk about everything from which characters we’d most want to kiss to which we’d want to take our virginity.
There’s no official reason or universally accepted theory for why this happened. Some people claim that it’s just more try-hard weirdness from Millennials. A small group of concerned/more-than-slightly xenophobic parents insisted that this newfangled Japanimation was warping good American children’s minds.
Even today, narratives diverge greatly: fictiophiles are just sad sacks who can’t get dates in real life; it’s a coping mechanism for exploring hidden desires. The harshest critics posit that people in love with cartoons are just too lazy to deal with a real spouse, or worse, want someone with no will of their own.
I’m sure there are people who fit all of those explanations to a T — there are millions of lonely and terrible people in the world — but it doesn’t describe even a small fraction of the people I’ve met. Most of us date real people just fine, and rumor has it some are even (gasp!) married.
Growing up in a Southern little-big town, my choices for male attention were largely composed of cornfed mini-football players and boys who thought I “talk funny” because I enunciated. I think it was a bit of culture shock to see male characters who could be called pretty (a huge no-no in our culture) and were also intelligent and complex. It didn’t endear parents to our viewing choices, but apparently I wasn’t alone in having that be very endearing to my downstairs place.
I don’t think I was even 10 before I discovered my first erotic fanfiction; by the time I was 13, I had a massive folder some 30 titles strong, and was working on another one for erotic fan comics. I’d become an expert at sniffing out fan communities where the main focus was on exactly how each cast member’s orgasm face would look like.
I would take it to school to read during recess, where eventually a circle of other horny weebs bloomed. We traded printed copies of our favorites like they were X-rated baseball cards. I recall one event when one of my guy friends borrowed my porn folder for the weekend, came back Monday morning, and announced to the group he was now gay.
Teachers never noticed or bothered us because, honestly, would you expect an illicit anime erotica club at your local middle school? Especially one composed of all “the good kids”? But if they did, they couldn’t have taken it much worse than my own family.
I was already the weird kid growing up: Black goth, metalhead, who much preferred reading to being social with other kids. It took a long time for my parents to figure out that they could now add “spends an inordinate amount of time trolling for cartoon porn” to the list.
They knew I was a total weeaboo and certainly weren’t happy about it, but they had no idea about the fictiophilia until I was in middle school. After that, it unfortunately became open season on all of my hobbies. Enough was enough — I was going to become normal or else.
I was no longer allowed to take comic books home from the library; my computer time was monitored. Things got to the point where I was barred from watching certain channels after school in order to keep me from watching anime at home. One day, I woke up and my erotica folder was missing. When confronted, my mother informed me that it was in the dumpster and she would be happy to get the belt if I had anything more to say about it.
After certain members of extended family found out, I routinely found myself literally cornered and interrogated/mocked for my hobbies as they listed all the reasons I was wrong for having them. (Why yes, they were emotionally abusive even before this. Why do you ask?)
As an adult, I’m now able to understand some of my mother’s behavior as thinking she was doing what’s best. Her methods were abusive and messed me up emotionally for years to come, but I know she was genuinely concerned that I’d end up a failure if she didn’t put a stop to me being so darn different. She was a woman who firmly believed that only bad things happen to those who stick out from the herd.
I’m glad to say that, regardless of her reasons, she failed. The porn folder was eventually restored to twice its original size, and I found ever more comics and anime to read from both sides of the Pacific.
Fast-forward through high school and adulthood, and I’m not so into specific cartoon characters as I used to be. It still happens from time to time, but my main interests are now flesh-and-blood young men. But I’m far from “cured”.
As it turned out, a surprising number of my favorite new webcomic artists also dabble in erotica. It was even more surprising when reading just a few of these did more for my masturbation habits than over a year’s worth of watching live porn while trying to ignore how unattractive the actors were. I still go to Hiveworks and Slipshine for my porn needs over RedTube or XHamster.
And, in a world of waifus, body pillows, otome games, hentai, and literal songs dedicated to all of the above, I think it’s safe to say that I’m still not alone.
This article was originally published at xoJane. Reprinted with permission from the author.