Maybe It’s Time You Got Some Glasses

I found something that makes me happy. It provides useful distraction from everyday stressors, and has shown me a whole giant pile of new things to learn. Yet, for some reason, though I’m harming no-one, there are some people who feel the need to make cracks that may seem joking on the surface, but have turned out to be pretty hurtful. I guess I just don’t understand how it is that people I thought were open-minded and considered me an adult capable of making my own decisions could say such things to me.

It starts with a determined kid. That kid decides to reach for a goal, because they’ve found something they think they’d be really good at. So they go for it. They train before school, after school, late into the night, for years. Then they try out to be accepted into a program to be trained by professionals to do this thing. More training, in many areas, and they’re expected to not only be well-rounded in that training, but also to keep up with their schoolwork and excel academically. College is expected to happen, no matter what. So they train themselves, physically, mentally, and work their butts off – 16- and 18-hour days are the norm. After years of this training and competitions, they might be chosen to perform either with a team or solo, and that’s when the REAL work begins. They saw precious little of their families before, now they’re living in a dorm with anywhere from 3 to 11 other team members, and maybe if they’re lucky they can see their families on holidays. Constant competing, constant training, constant dieting, very little time to oneself, hardly any privacy, every single move and word scrutinised. By the time that person is a young adult, if they have talent and they have worked very hard, they will still be working very hard, but they’ll be doing something they love, and maybe they’ve gotten some fans, and they’re traveling the world, performing and competing.

When it’s an Olympic athlete, nobody says anything derogatory about the fans of that athlete, no matter the age or sex of that person. Apparently, though, when it’s a person who’s chosen to go into the entertainment field, all bets are off. No matter the level of training, the age, the maturity of the person and the amount of work they’ve done.

The life I described above doesn’t only apply to Olympic athletes, however. I was describing the life of a person who decides to go into the entertainment industry in South Korea that’s widely known as K-pop. They start young, they train for years, they sing and dance and do tae kwon do and ballet and frequently branch off into acting. They do all of this while going to school and then college. No privacy, every move and facial expression and outfit and word scrutinised. But they set their sights on a goal, they knew that it would involve sacrifice and hard work, and by the time they’re in their late teens/early 20’s, that hard work pays off, or begins to.

The average age of the guys in groups I tend to follow tends to be about 23-25, with a few older ones thrown in the mix, and a couple of younger ones. But for the most part, we’re looking at mid-20’s. And over the past year, more than one person has decided to call me a pedophile over it. One said, “they look like they’re young enough to still get a lollipop from the doctor if they’re really good during the appointment”. Mostly, the fallback is, “They look 12.” So I went and did a GIS for “average 12-year old boy”. The photo that was in the top row of that search turned out to be (after more searching) a kid who has also decided to be an entertainer, but he was 12 when he “burst” onto the scene by doing a really impressive cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” at his sixth grade talent show. His name is Greyson Chance. This is what a 12-year old boy looks like.

Average 12-year old boy

By contrast, the photo that has been met with such derogatory comments has been this one:

Ravi & Hongbin nnf

Granted, they aren’t 40 or 50, but if those two look anything similar to the 12-year old above to you, then you have larger problems with which I cannot help you. Oh, and before you start screaming “OMG CHILD PORN” at me, both of them are of legal age, they were of legal age when that photo was taken, and neither one of them was coerced into doing it. Quite frankly, if I’d done all the work to have a body like that, I’d be showing it off too, but although there are a number of K-pop idols who look for any excuse to get their shirts off (see: Lee Joon), there are others who are perfectly happy keeping their shirts ON, and nobody makes them get their kit off (see: T.O.P., N).

Are K-pop artists exploited, perhaps some of them over-sexualised? That’s a discussion for another time. The music industry in general has always been a “chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out” sort of thing, and it’s a fine old tradition here in the U.S. as well as worldwide (ohai, Britney writhing around with “Baby One More Time” at age 17, Xtina being a “Genie In A Bottle” and asking to be rubbed the right way at 18).

But I will tell you this: if it was just about ogling tasty guys with no shirts on, I could find that anywhere – they’re all over the internets. Prurient interest alone, though, wouldn’t have me diving headfirst into learning about Korean culture, watching Korean shows, and learning the language from the ground up. Instead, I hear music or I see choreography, I want to learn more about that group, and so I do. If some of them happen to be also attractive to me AND they are prone to whipping their shirts off (see: Kim Jonghyun), I am not averse to looking at such a thing. But that doesn’t make me a pedophile. It doesn’t even make me really all that pervy. And if the gender roles were reversed (guess what, they’re reversed every single day of the world), I have no problem with men enjoying After School performing their song while they also pole dance, or Dal Shabet tearing aside what looks to be a floor-length skirt to reveal a short miniskirt underneath.

By calling me a pedophile, and reducing my interest to nothing but prurience, you not only insult me but you also diminish the amount of work that these people have done to get them where they are today. By calling me a pedophile, you diminish the effect for when somebody actually IS a pedophile and is actually dangerous to children. And by saying that grown men look “young enough to get a lollipop from the doctor” or that they are “unripe” simply because they aren’t to YOUR personal taste just makes you look ignorant and a bit blind. May I recommend visiting an eye doctor, or picking up some ThinOptics, or maybe just getting yourself some nice useful perspective? Any of those three would be fine.

The funny thing is, some of the people who like to get up my nose about this are functioning with absolutely NO room to talk. They are not speaking from some position of moral purity – QUITE far from it. And yet, I’ve seen the things that they do for fun, the things that they enjoy that make them happy, and even though those things aren’t to MY liking, I’ve managed to just get along in my life without feeling the need to comment. I don’t need to judge them, or challenge them, or talk smack about their choices. I’ve always been happy to give people more information if they ask for it – from knitting to various fandoms to going on cruises – if I have information, I’m happy to share it. And I like learning about things too. I ask questions if I’m intrigued. But if I’m not interested, I don’t need to ask questions just because I think I’m going to get ammo to fire back at the person about whatever their hobby/fandom is. I just pass right by and let them do their thing. You are welcome to afford me the same courtesy. Because from this point on, I’m not going to be nice about it if you don’t.