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‘Toon porn’ pushes erotic envelope online

The number of Internet sites featuring cartoon pornography has soared in recent years.'s Mike Brunker reports.
The three faces of "toon porn," from left to right: "Hentai," a hard-core school of cartooning from Japan; the Americanized version, featuring recognizable characters or genres from U.S. comics; and 3-D, anatomically correct avatars, created using computer software.
The three faces of "toon porn," from left to right: "Hentai," a hard-core school of cartooning from Japan; the Americanized version, featuring recognizable characters or genres from U.S. comics; and 3-D, anatomically correct avatars, created using computer software.Duane Hoffmann / MSNBC
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Reality has always been an insubstantial constraint for pornographers, but never has it been as trifling as it is in the thriving Internet niche of “toon porn” – a world where impossible couplings among cartoon characters are as routine as bad plots and fake orgasms in the flesh and blood arena.

It’s impossible to definitively gauge the appetite for cartoon copulation on the Internet, but anecdotal evidence indicates it is strong and growing.

The number of sites featuring adult cartoons has soared from just a handful five years ago to many hundreds today, with surfers paying as much as $39.95 a month for rights to view the illustrations and animation behind the credit-card window.

‘A robust market’
“Most owners of major adult Web operations now have at least one cartoon Web site that can be promoted by their affiliates,” said Kathee Brewer, technology editor of adult industry trade publication AVN Online. “… There’s obviously a robust market for it.”

The animation sites on the Internet fall into three broad categories – “hentai” (“perverse” in Japanese), which is the hard-core school of the art style known as “anime”; the Americanized version of hentai, featuring familiar cartoon faces or characters derived from recognizable U.S. cartooning genres; and anatomically correct three-dimensional computer generated figures similar to those in the Sims games.

The half-human, half-vampire animated character \"BloodRayne\" appears in this computer-generated image courtesy of Playboy. The October issue of the men's magazine features several video game characters from \"BloodRayne,\" \"Leisure Suit Larry\" and \"Darkwatch\" posing in the nude, images created by the game companies through highly detailed computer illustration. (AP Photo/Playboy)PLAYBOY

The trend also is crossing over to mainstream media, with an increasing number of adult computer games and hentai films reaching the American market and a recent Playboy pictorial featuring female cartoon characters, several of whom were shown posing in the virtual nude.

While the notion that one could be sexually aroused by “toonication” might strike some as laughable, an expert on cybersex said the leap from human to cartoon isn’t a huge one.

“Cybersex is all about fantasy,” said Dr. Jennifer Schneider, coauthor of “Cybersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy or Obsession.” “It can be pictures of attractive women, pictures of women that have been altered, it can be cartoons. It’s all the same.”

Schneider also said the rise of toon porn is likely being fueled in part by porn aficionados becoming jaded with real-world content.

“They’re not going to look at the same pictures over and over again,” she said.

A world beyond ‘normal pornography’
The “Hentai Kid,” a 29-year-old American artist and toon porn Web master living in Spain, who agreed to an e-mail interview on the condition he not be identified, said he believes his customers are seeking something they don’t get from “normal pornography.”

“Imagination,” he wrote when asked to explain the appeal of his hard-core Japanese-style artwork. “There is no end to the situations and variations that can be explored, and no restrictions as to how far a fetish can be carried.”

The work of the Netherlands "fantasy adult cartoon artist" known as "Hentaibee" amply illustrates that point.

"Hentaibee," who also agreed to an e-mail interview on condition of anonymity, is renowned for his drawings of women with dirigible-sized breasts, creations that he said appeal to "young males who are now adults and surf the Net to acquire XXX-rated images … of their favorite female video game heroes."

"My art might not be proportionally correct," he said. "But hey, it's people's twisted fantasies that spawn my creations."

Not all porn artistry is juvenile. The better-executed artwork on many hentai sites compares with the best mainstream cartooning and appeals to many people who find porn featuring humans uninteresting, said the “Hentai Kid,” a former mainstream illustrator who decided to try his hand at porn after determining that "the animation business was not exactly stable or stimulating."

Appealing to art lovers
“Some people consider this sort of material ‘art,’” he wrote. “I’m a bit too close myself to make that soft of judgment, but certainly a lot of it is made to very high standards of craft.”

Brewer agreed that well-drawn renderings are part of the attraction, but noted that fans also get a healthy dose of the fantastic to fuel their sexual fantasies, a trait that she said appeals to many women.

“Research has shown that women respond more to text and fantasy and generally are not stimulated visually to the extent that men are,” she said. “With the best hentai sites, it’s all fantasy – fairies and aliens and unreal beings, gods and goddesses and mythical creatures. … It’s almost like it’s not porn, since it’s not people.”

That distinction troubles Schneider, the cybersex expert, who said that viewers can become inured to objectionable content, particularly if it is acted out by cartoons.

“Stuff that they would never have thought about doing or imagining is right there for the taking,” she said. “So people do get on these sites where you have sex with children or corpses or people who’ve had limbs amputated … What the cartoons do is make it even more OK because you can say it’s not humans.”

Some cartoon porn sites undoubtedly cross boundaries that could land their operators in prison if humans were involved, including depictions of rape, incest and sex with children, often perpetrated by aliens rather than humans.