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Danes work up head of steam over manga exhibition

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A manga exhibition in a Danish museum is attracting protestors concerned that material on display depicts fictional children in a sexual manner.

The exhibition opened on Sunday in the Kunsthallen Brandts' media museum in the city of Odense, and is due to run through to late October.

According to museum curator Christian Hviid Mortensen, reported in The Copenhagen Post, there are no depictions of explicit sexual acts, and the point of the exhibition was to encourage debate and question the power of media.

In an interview with that newspaper, he said: "I have to admit that I myself was shocked at how extreme this genre is, and how deranged the imaginations are in this universe.

"But we’re not showing the works for the sake of displaying child pornography. We’re looking for a debate on the issue. So if people are offended by it then they should by all means speak out and say so."

A number of bodies have since taken him up on that offer, including the the Danish Psychological Association and members of the Social Democrats party who have voiced objections publicly.

The exhibition includes erotic manga such as Taro Shinonome's Swing Out Sisters, Kondom's Bondage Fairies, Tuna Empire's The Spirit of Capitalism, Kengo Yonekura's Pink Sniper, and Yumisuke Kotoyoshi's Juicy Fruits.

As part of the online publicity for this exhibition, the museum makes use of an image hosted on Wikimedia Commons that has already been the subject of some controversy: it was reportedly cited earlier this year by Wikipedia co-founder, Larry Sanger, as an example of alleged "child pornography" when he denounced the site to the FBI and other authorities. However, Mr Sanger has since contacted us to state that this is not the case.

For now, Denmark remains the only Scandinavian country where sexual depictions of fictional children is permissible. This may change, following a proposal to introduce a ban on such material by the Social Democrats in April.

If Denmark goes along with this, they will join a growing list of countries worldwide where the authorities have deliberately blurred the boundaries between real and fictional, and where the justification for pursuing pornography that features children – or child-like images – has shifted away from the original line drawn by the Internet Watch Foundation and others, that every such image is an image of a real child being abused.

Thus we have progressed slowly from the conviction in 2005 of Virginia citizen Dwight Whorley for downloading of manga on his workplace computer (upheld in 2008). Earlier this year, a second conviction in Australia saw an individual charged with possessing images of (Simpsons) cartoon smut. Meanwhile in the UK, our very own law banning the possession of underage cartoon porn went through in April of this year. ®

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