The conflation of moé and lolicon happens a great deal more often than I’d like. Unsurprisingly, it’s almost always coming from someone who’s failed to actually grasp the concept of moé, but knows that they hate it, and lumps it in with lolicon because they hate that, too.
Let me make it clear: Moé is not loli and loli is not moé. The two might intersect on occasion, but they are two separate phenomena.
The “Lolita Complex” (Which “lolicon” is short for) describes an attraction to characters who are or appear very young. While not necessarily sexual, it can be and, as a result, there’s quite a crusade against it and fans of it often find themselves marginalized by the general fandom when they’re out in the open about it. Many people are still on the “pedophile” thing, in addition to other lovely terms like “kiddy fiddler,” which has become a common one.
This extends to moé for some people, to the extent that some will (very incorrectly) define moé as an attraction to prepubescent characters specifically. Still others will simply conflate the two casually, implying that all moé fans are lolicons by default.
In today’s Western anime fandom especially, it’s incredibly easy to vilify a group of fans simply by associating them with lolicon. Worse than ecchi and hentai, lolicon is swept under the rug in the Western fandom. People don’t talk about it, except when they need an easy target, and lolicon is the easiest target of all. Not many people are willing to legitimately stand up and defend lolicon, considering what it is. Not only that, it’s easy to dismiss those that do as “pedophile apologists,” or worse, pedophiles themselves.
Some Anti-Moé Brigade thinkers will adamantly cling to the notion that moé and lolicon are the same thing, chiefly because it fits their narrative of moé being always bad and never good. They’re not interested in finding a definition for moé, as moé has already been defined for them: The sexualization of prepubescent girls.
No matter how many times it’s pointed out that Clannad’s Nagisa Furukawa is around 19, and no matter how many characters like Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko’s Meme Touwa, who’s still a moé character despite being around 30, come around, these people will still do the mental pole-vaulting necessary to justify their flawed views to themselves and those who think similarly to them.
In addition, they will stop at nothing to maintain the anime fandom status quo of loli being an absolute evil, and fans of loli being sinister perverts. It’s a game of dismissal. Point out that the attraction to lolicon is often not sexual, or that the attraction is to an aesthetic and body-type rather than the actual age of the characters, and the Anti-Loli Brigade shifts into dismissal mode. “Oh, that’s just what the pedophile defense force throws up anytime they’re called into question!”
The reason the Anti-Loli Brigade does this is because they’ve become so complacent with their moral high ground within the fandom that they don’t feel the need to argue and, to a certain extent, the knee-jerk reaction most Western fans get when lolicon is mentioned validates this. Who needs to argue when people will agree with you even though you’ve yet to make a real point besides “but I think that stuff’s gross!”?
Though, by definition, lolicon being not always sexual means that it sometimes is. This is where the Anti-Loli Brigade strikes, sometimes openly calling for persecution or ostracism of lolicon fans as “pedophiles,” coming dangerously close to trying to be the Thought Police. When that doesn’t quite work, it’s back to dismissal, disavowal, and derision.
Lolicons don’t get a voice. Fans of Kodomo no Jikan and Astartotte’s Toy don’t get to stand up for themselves and the things they like. Their place is in the corner, where the light doesn’t reach and nobody can hear them. If you like loli, but still want to interact with the Western fandom, you either have to jump on the wagon and pretend you hate loli, or yell loud enough, hard enough, and long enough that you become hard to ignore.
And then you have to deal with them disparaging you to your face, rather than behind your back.
The conflation of loli with moé is an effort to push moé fans into the same corner, and the logic behind it is flawed from start to finish. The vilification of loli fans is based on reasoning that’s incredibly selective in nature and comes from a place of moral outrage rather than any kind of actual facts. The association of moé with lolicon is based on similarly selective, similarly flawed reasoning, with a complete ignorance and disregard for the actual nature of both moé and lolicon.