Shotacon (ショタコン, shotakon?), sometimes shortened to shota (ショタ, shota?), is a Japanese term for a sexual complex where an adult is attracted to an underage boy, or in which two underage boys are attracted to one another. In the Western world, it refers specifically to artwork or manga depicting pre-pubescent or pubescent boys in sexual situations. Shotacon art is often explicit in nature; some common themes include yaoi (homosexual relationships), cross-dressing, and in some cases incest with an older sibling or other family member. The female equivalent of shotacon is lolicon.
Though shotacon typically features relationships between two boys of the same age or between boys and men, a related but less common genre is straight shotacon. Straight shotacon features young boys, but includes women or girls as pairs for them. In anime, straight shotacon themes are far more common than homosexual ones. Many prominent series, notably FLCL, Negima!, and Pitaten, include scenes where older women press themselves on boys.
Like lolicon, shotacon often depicts children in sexual situations with adults. While the shotacon community argues that drawn art is protected under freedom of speech, critics claim shotacon is a direct offshoot of child pornography and may lead to child sexual abuse, though there is no evidence or documented cases to back this claim.
Shotacon has dubious legality in most parts of the world. The sale of shotacon is outlawed and punishable by imprisonment in some regions of Japan, but is legal in others. The United States PROTECT act of 2003 prohibited obscene or sexual drawings of children, while the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition ruled that such legislation is unconstitutional. Shotacon is illegal in Canada, Sweden, Norway, and South Africa, but prosecutors do not typically press charges unless other crimes are present. Since most shotacon is trafficked internationally (such as through the Internet), national legal prohibitions are difficult to enforce.
The term "shotacon" is a Japanese portmanteau of Shōtarō complex, a reference to the young male character Shōtarō(正太郎) from Tetsujin 28-go.
In the anime and manga series, Shōtarō is a bold, self-assertive young detective who frequently outwits adult adversaries and helps to solve cases. Throughout the series, Shōtarō develops close adult friends, and acts within the adult would despite being a young boy. His bishounen cute embodied and formed the term "shotacon", putting a name to an old sexual subculture.
Where the shotacon concept developed is hard to pinpoint, but some of its earliest roots are in readers responses to detective series written by Edogawa Rampo. In his works, a character named Yoshio Kobayashi of "Shōnentanteidan" (Junior Detective Group, similar to the Baker Street Irregulars of Sherlock Holmes) forms a deep dependency with adult protagonist Kogoro Akechi. Kobayashi, a beautiful teenager, constantly concerns himself with Kogoro's cases and well-being, and for a time moves in with the unmarried man. The adult-boy relationship in part inspired the evolution of the shotacon community.