There is this thing in Japan called "moi." It's not French for "me" moi, although that raises interesting connotations; instead it's a subset of anime aesthetics that involves "children you would like to nurture."
So why do I mention it? because it got me thinking about how nerd culture creates fantasy worlds that can be used as substitutes for real life, and how that relates to porn. Moi is not porn in the usual sense-it's not trying to entice sexual fantasies about the imaginary children that the cartoonists are cranking out, thank God. It's enticing paternal or maternal feelings. So it's not offensive the way child porn is offensive, but something about it still makes me go ick.
I think it's the fact that it makes such a base and simple appeal to the emotions, the same way that porn does to the sexual drive, or that sleazy power-fantasy action movies do to the thanatos, that leads me to lump moi in with exploitation. A base appeal is a base appeal, no matter how potentially sophisticated the emotion to which the appeal is made may be. Sexuallity and nurturing are both potentially rich or cheap, depending, and the nurturing drive often kicks in earlier than the sex drive. Three-year-olds will coddle a baby or a baby doll, and good for them, but adults should save the serious coddling for real babies, and leave the dolls for the kids, whether the dolls are three-dimensional or merely lines on paper. Kids can justifiably use cartoon characters as imaginary testing grounds for their own emotional development. Adults can justifiably regard cartoon characters as sources of entertainment and symbolic, totemic significance (heaven knows I do.) But adults who spend much time coddling dolls are probably in need of emotional counseling, at the very least. I suspect the same of adults who indulge in moi. Kids who indulge in moi are another story, of course.
Apologies for any inchoate prose; it's been a night of fun, frolic and refreshing beverages.
Edit 03/07/07: Moe like the stooge, not Moi like French. In retrospect Moe probably appalled me as much as it did because I had a Moe sensibility in college. A female friend set me straight. I was well aware that holding boys to a bogus young masculine ideal ("mommy's little athelete/soldier") was awfully limiting to boys, but needed to understand that holding girls to a bogus young feminine ideal ("daddy's little princess") was just as bad.
P.S. The show is going full tilt and New Year's Eve is your last chance to see it.