My Problem with the Word “Pure” Being Used to Describe Anime Characters and Series

18 comments

There’s a term that gets thrown around. One that supposedly describes a genre or a relationship or a female character.

“Pure.”

And the particular way this particular word is used bothers me. Allow me to try to explain.

Pure can mean “wholesome and untainted by immorality, especially that of a sexual nature.” So technically, these individuals are using the word correctly according to its definition. Who am I to say that they can’t call a girl who gets flustered by sexual things pure? That a relationship that doesn’t involve sexual intercourse is labeled as pure? They have every right to do so.

Be that as it may, I cannot accept that these people are indirectly calling sexual activities immoral. Sometimes sex can be the ultimate expression of love. Other times sex is only a means of comfort and escapism. But in my opinion, sex is not evil or immoral behavior.

The sentiments I’m talking about can be found in the modern idol industry in Japan, for example. Said industry could possibly be construed as a misogynistic “sex-sells” industry where the marketed product is a fantastical and fictional relationship with a woman who is forced to adopt a fake persona to make herself desirable to her “fans.”

As a result, Japanese idols are typically contractually forbidden from having sexual relationships. If they were to have romantic or sexual pursuits, said idols would no longer be perceived as “available” to her supporters. In other words, virginity is fetishized and anything that affects the product from selling well is abandoned.

And there’s nothing that idols can do about it. Companies will drop idols and destroy their careers within a heartbeat if they have anything remotely resembling a sexual relationship. The best idols can do is insult and mock the system if they want to still keep their jobs.

Here are a series of gifs that depict, Shibata Aya, an ex-member of SKE048, doing exactly that.

The consumers want their idols to be “pure.” And the same applies to how viewers want their anime characters or anime series. Any mention of sex and the series or character is suddenly “impure.”

I acknowledge that this all could be a minor point. Maybe no one else but me cares about this.

But I do believe this sort of twisted belief still thrives in real life. It even applies to males and not just females like I’ve chosen to outline and focus on in this post. For example, my own parents consider me to be filthy and abnormal after finding out from my brother (who kind of betrayed my trust) that I have had casual sex on numerous occassions.

By all means, use “pure” if you want to. We get nowhere by telling others what to not say or do. Freedom of speech and all that. Demonizing others does nothing.

But all I’m saying is that I will try to distance myself from using the word, “pure,” to describe characters or series that lack sexual content. Instead, I’ll use more apt words to describe specific scenarios and situations. Like chaste. Or innocent. Those are fine words that lack the loaded connotations I’ve come to associate with “pure.”

Hopefully I kind of made sense.

Thank you for bothering to read this.

 

 

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18 comments on “My Problem with the Word “Pure” Being Used to Describe Anime Characters and Series”

  1. This is an interesting thing to think about, Remy. Language is an ever evolving construct and your post alludes to how changing societal standards affect connotation.

    Purity as it relates to sexual behavior still largely refers to a person’s “untainted” or virginal state as part of socially conservative doctrine that was prevalent from the middle ages till today. The prevalence or social conservatism and the age groups that adhere to it most strongly have changed a lot though.

    For some people, the connotation behind the word “pure” is exactly what you described, including the distaste for the opposite which be default is “impure.” For others it’s just habit or convention, the same way we treat most words we use on a daily basis.

    It makes perfect sense for you to not use the word in that way though, as you feel that non-committal sexual encounters don’t diminish the wholesome quality of a person. Sex certainly isn’t inherently an impure or immoral thing. It’s only society’s treatment of it and peoples’ individual preference on how to address it that assigns it any place on a moral compass.

    As a tip for your discussion of what you formerly called “pure,” I think the word “innocence” best captures what you’re referring to. “Chaste” may not always apply as it usually refers to the lawfulness of an intimate or sexual act. eg: a husband and wife can only ever have sex with each other and still be chaste.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your insightful comments as usual. Not only are they educational but they are also always a pleasure to read.

      I will try to keep what you mentioned regarding word choice in mind as I write!

      Like

    2. Pretty much summed up everything I had to say on the topic. But out of curiosity, Remy, I’m wondering what triggered you to talk about this. Was it based on comments on Tsuki ga Kirei, or something more personal? Don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, I was just wondering, because if feels like there’s a bit of weight hanging under this post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mmm he was very thorough!

        I guess it was due to a variety of factors. It’s been an silly pet peeve of mine for a while now, for instance.

        There was also this post by the Anime Feminist that claims trap is a slur word for crossdressers, which made me more aware of language to a degree. But said post also motivated me to word the closing statements in my own post the way I did since I think their approach was a little close-minded. Saying “you can’t say this or that” does absolutely nothing. Ah, that’s coming from Jonathan Pie, which is no surprise considering how I have been watching some of his videos recently. Satire or not, he makes good points.

        And yes, you’re right. There is a bit of a personal edge in this piece considering how I’m surrounded by very conservative and traditional people who holds beliefs I disagree with. Sorry if that made the piece seem like a rant.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, rants are rants. Better in than out, I say.

        Accuracy of prose is important to the extent that it makes our views less prone to inconsistency. It’s always important to be aware of the EFFECT of language, and the extent to which it can AFFECT others.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I almost missed this post and that would have been a crying shame because this is a really interesting thing to think about.

    I’ve seen the word ‘pure’ thrown around a lot in terms of characters but not a lot to describe their sexual behavior. It’s usually used to refer to their kindness/naivety/something. But when I do see pure or even innocent used in terms of one’s sexuality, I do go all ‘argh why people’ because my culture is conservative as fuck too and considers sex in general as taboo. It’s common to call unmarried virgin women (men too to a lesser extent) as immoral or “ruined” because their virginity is gone. Even rape survivors are often called less than flattering terms that basically brand them as somehow lesser.

    People suck sometimes, yeah?

    Also something to consider. Being a virgin doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pure or innocent. I mean, fantasies are a thing? And they can get really filthy regardless of your sexual experience and the internet is always happy to cater to them. Just because your body remains untouched by another doesn’t also mean that you’re a stranger to/discomfited by sex.

    You’ve also made me wonder what I use to describe shows or stories without sex in them and if memory serves, I just stick to non-explicit and terms like that. As for characters, virgin sounds direct enough.

    And once again, sorry you family behave like that. It sucks :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmm fair point. Pure just gets used so often that I think it’s lost meaning. It’s also being used to describe things that it shouldn’t.

      Innocent carries the same connotations huh? That’s a shame.

      Good points about the virgin =/= goodness.

      Mmm it’s my lot in life wahaha. They wouldn’t understand.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read your review and planned to leave a lengthy comment but then read Weekends comment… So “what he said”

    Honestly though, I never considered this before but see how it could absolutely come across as offensive. The feminist in me wants to share this post with the masses!

    Liked by 1 person

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