The United Kingdom's Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (part 2, chapter 2) makes possession of images portraying fictional child abuse punishable by law. Wikipedia has a summary, but here's a snip from the primary-source legalese:

(5) “Child”, subject to subsection (6), means a person under the age of 18.

(6) Where an image shows a person the image is to be treated as an image of a child if—

 (a) the impression conveyed by the image is that the person shown is a child, or

 (b) the predominant impression conveyed is that the person shown is a child despite the fact that some of the physical characteristics shown are not those of a child.

Of particular significance is the conviction of anime fan Robul Hoque whose cartoons the court found to be infringing. As summarised by The Mirror's Gareth Lightfoot:

Despite being cartoons, they were classified as prohibited images as they depicted young girls, some in school uniforms, some exposing themselves or taking part in sexual activity.

The April 2007 consultation on the law (HTML summary) (full pdf) prepared by the UK Home Office asserts that the law helps to protect children against abuse, in § Concern about the material, ¶ 2–3:

The police, children’s charities and others represented on the Criminal Law Sub Group of the Home Secretary’s Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet are concerned that the fantasy images themselves fuel abuse of real children by reinforcing potential abusers’ inappropriate feelings towards children.

In addition, these images can be used to help groom victims. Whilst the use of these images for grooming purposes may result in a prosecution under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, making their possession an offence would enable these images to be taken out of circulation and make them unavailable for use as a grooming tool.

In ¶ 1 of the same section, the consultation also expresses a need for caution:

It is the case that cartoons, drawings and material created entirely by manipulation of computer software do not harm real children in the same way as taking indecent photographs of children, which are currently covered by legislation. The creation of a simple possession offence in respect of fantasy material is a serious step.

Australia has similarly decided to outlaw films where a naked actor "appears to look under the age of 18", regardless of actual age.

I suspect that such laws stem from a wrong working hypothesis of "fantasy leads to action". Regarding other human sexual behaviour, the contrary is supported by evidence that—

Does similar evidence exist for whether such a ban protects children from abuse?

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    'I suspect that this law stems from a wrong working hypothesis of "fantasy leads to action". ' No, the hypothesis is that virtual porn leads to real porn and that real child porn requires real children. I.e. it's not the watcher that you expect to have sex with a child. It's the person from whom the watcher obtains the real child porn. Also, virtual child porn sites make it easier to find customers for real child porn, which again leads to more real child porn being made. – Brythan Jul 1 '16 at 23:51
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    @Brythan I don't follow your reasoning. Say someone goes to Comiket in Tokyo and buys a loli porn magazine. How does that lead to the artist having sex with a child? – Anko Apr 18 '19 at 16:00
  • The someone then realizes that the loli porn is not fully satisfying. So the someone then looks to buy real porn. Possibly from the loli artist. Or possibly from a different person. And in general, a real porn distributor can go to Comiket, watch who buys the loli, and approach them about buying the real thing. That doesn't work with rape, as it is not sold. At most, brothel pimps might look for porn buyers. I.e. the comparable would be porn increasing brothel use, not rape. – Brythan Apr 19 '19 at 1:29
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    @Brythan works pretty well with murder though - we see action movies that are fantasy where people kill each other and watchers pay for that entertainment. Same logic would say that this isn't enough and people will start paying for snuff movies that show real live action. – Frank Hopkins Nov 8 '19 at 3:28
  • @Brythan Watching a movie about a hired assassin does not make people become hired assassins themselves, nor does it make people be contacted by hired assassins looking for jobs. The assertion, as it stands currently, is false by default, since it's very premise is false. – XenoRo Feb 16 at 20:54

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