A New Zealand man has been jailed for watching cartoon videos of elves, pixies and other fantasy creatures having sex.
Ronald Clark was sentenced to three months behind bars for possessing objectionable material after downloading Japanese anime cartoons three years ago.
His conviction in Auckland has sparked debate over what harm is caused by digitally created pornography.
Clark, who has previous convictions for indecently assaulting a teenage boy and has been through rehabilitation programmes, said that the videos came from an established tradition of Japanese manga and hentai, which is cartoon pornography.
Clark’s lawyer Roger Bowden argued that the images weren’t even depictions of people but of ‘pixies and trolls’ that ‘you knew at a glance weren’t human’.
He went on to describe Clark’s conviction as the ‘law gone mad’, according to the Opposing Views website.
But Anti-child pornography group ECPAT Child Alert director Alan Bell said the images were illegal because they encouraged people ‘to migrate from there to the real thing’.
He conceded that no child had been harmed in the making of the images but said that ‘it’s all part of that spectrum’.
He described images of child abuse as a huge problem in Japan claiming that the practice had found its way into computer games.
Lincoln University philosophy lecturer Grant Tavinor, who writes on the aesthetics of video games, said the case raised two key questions: Did producing the pictures harm anyone, and could their viewing and distribution be injurious to the public good?
He said: ‘The worry is that viewing or distributing such images could support the sexual exploitation of children even if the production of the images did not actually involve the exploitation of any children.’
‘It’s not enough that no one was harmed in the making of the videos, the law takes a protective role and says there are some things we just don’t want circulating in society,’ he said.
Auckland University associate philosophy professor Tim Dare added that the sentence would have been handed to Clark because of worries that the images could promote harm to real people in the future.
Clark himself argued that under the law he could, in theory, be convicted of possessing objectionable images of stick figures.
He admitted he was interested in the images but he said it was for their artistic merit and as ‘a bit of a laugh’. He did not find them sexually arousing, he said.
Mr Tavinor said there were ethical issues that complicated the case, adding that we naturally make moral judgements about the character of a person based on their chosen form of entertainment.
But he concluded that it is dangerous to convict someone for their ‘moral views’.