Do Fans of Cartoon Porn Stars Hate (Real) Women?

Projekt Melody doesn’t do much but sway, but every swish of her cartoon hips is met with a horny digital howl. When she takes off her barely-there top, revealing what she calls her “big ol’ anime titties,” her fans shower her with hearts and wide-eyed emoji. When she uploads a 13-minute lecture about whether hentai, a sexually explicit anime genre, is art or porn, it gets more than 200,000 views. When one eye freezes half-closed like a broken doll’s, followers take screenshots and fawn over them. “Broken face is the best face,” one comments. To fans, the occasional glitches seem to be something like digital dimples.

Melody claims to be the world’s first hentai camgirl. Though her creators are loath to admit it, the Melody character is, of course, a fiction. Melody was designed by the animator Digitrevx to resemble a fusion of popular anime characters, including Mokoto Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. The character’s appearance, physics, and speech are rendered in real time using Unity, a videogame engine. Projekt Melody has swelled into a multiplatform phenom: It—“she,” if we must—is on Twitter, YouTube, Patreon, and, yes, PornHub. Melody has appeared in music videos and on Japanese morning shows. A week and a half ago, Melody appeared on Chaturbate, a site that allows cam models to livestream sexually explicit videos and chat with fans. As Vice first reported, the avatar seduced 10,000 followers in just three days. Today, the audience is nearing 20,000.

According to Melody’s fanbase, this is only the beginning. Most Melody-based memes swirl around the same theme: the idea that virtual women are the future, an upgrade to flesh and blood. The sloganeering is endless. “The future is now.” “Reject tradition, embrace modernity.” Most succinctly: “Bots not thots.” (“Thot” is crude slang for a promiscuous woman, an acronym for “that ho over there.”) They foresee an internet swarming with Melodys. They’re probably wrong; they might be right. Either way, being virtual is becoming an asset.

If you ask Melody—and I was given no other option, despite requests to speak to an actual human—it all started with an infection. “Last year, I was just a basic AI that scanned emails for malware. I accidentally opened up an email with an adult virus that infected my code,” Melody “wrote” to me in an email. “Ever since then I’ve been more and more obsessed with human sexuality.” Camming, apparently, just seemed like fun. Worldbuilding aside, Digitrevx (or someone capable of typing) seems to have begun developing the Projekt Melody brand last year on Twitter, where Melody first acted as a broken piece of software and then as an AI gradually acquiring sentience and interest in having a “real” body. “Excuse. How do make a person when not a person??” one early tweet reads. By the time Melody started streaming on Chaturbate, Digitrevx had imbued the character with a better command of English and an unquenchable sex obsession.

The character’s sudden popularity wouldn’t have happened if internet culture wasn’t primed for it. Online interest in hentai goes back decades: 4chan got its start as an anime forum, and hentai appealed to 4channers for several reasons. It’s transgressive, which edgelords can’t get enough of. This is a genre that features girls with tails and hooves having sex with tentacle monsters. It’s also hypersexualized—its characters not only have anatomically impossible bodies but are often submissive to their male counterparts. For an isolated man or teenage boy, especially one who feels rejected by and unattractive to living women, hentai is a thrill.

On top of the intrinsic appeal, there’s the rise of VTubers—cartoon “virtual YouTubers”—and other virtual influencers. “Hatsune Miku and Kizunai Ai are huge inspirations,” Melody’s minder, as Melody, tells me. “Kizuna started the entire VTuber genre a few years ago, so I wouldn’t be here without her coming first.” Hatsune Miku is a piece of voice-processing software that has become a sort of virtual pop star and an object of admiration for many. A Japanese man married a hologram of Hatsune Miku in 2018.



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