Friday, August 15, 2008

Dokuritsu Girls: Help Fight Sex Crimes Against Japanese Women



Please check out Dokuritsu Girls on MySpace.com. They are a group of women trying to bring awareness to rape and other sex crimes in Japan, and have asked me to write a series of articles for them. So please check it out and join the conversation!


Help Fight Sex Crimes Against Japanese Women!


Part 5: Pornography Brings Awareness to AIDS and the Spread of STDs in Japan


By Tristan Vick

8/14/2008


December 1st of 2007 Hotaru Akane, one of Japan’s most publicly recognizable AV idols, was invited to speak at “World AIDS Day” in Shibuya, Tokyo. Since then Akane has put links up on her Blog and website which help bring AIDS awareness to Japanese people. Before you shrug off this as a PR stunt, be aware that Japan does not have formal sex education training in schools and many young Japanese students never learn about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. Combined with the early age of sexual experimentation in Japan, knowing that (by word of mouth and confiscation of passed notes) some of my own 13 and 14 year old students are sexually active, I would say that some education is better than none—especially if it comes from a source where sex is going to be an interest/focus. The alarming growth of the AIDS virus in Japan since 2000 shocked the nation, and due to Akane’s high-profile celebrity image in the sex industry, I would say Akane’s humanitarian efforts and attempt to educate and bring awareness to HIV and AIDS quite admirable.


Since 2000 HIV rates have significantly increased and continue to do so. In 2004 HIV/AIDS cases had topped one million, and as of 2006 the Mainichi Daily News reports that AIDS has sky rocketed to well over a million, citing that, “In Tokyo it is thought that HIV infection increases at a rate of one a day. 75% carriers of HIV have only discovered via their local doctor or hospital once the virus had developed into AIDS that they were infected.” In the article “Japan Failing to Wake up to the Danger of AIDS,” Dr. Kunio Kitamura warns that AIDS is growing faster than anyone expected. The Japanese AIDS foundation cites casual attitudes to sex as a big factor in the increase in cases. Despite news articles like this, the level of Japanese knowledge on HIV and AIDS is low. In addition, many people fear prejudice or fear finding out they have contracted the virus and refuse to be checked up while remaining sexually active, another factor which hides the true extent of the problem. Make no mistake, the growing problem of HIV and AIDS, the lack of education surrounding how the virus is spread and how to prevent it, plus adequate funding to treat it is one of the major issues facing Japanese society today.


Akane, like any mainstream AV star, is in control of her carrier and is quite safe. All Japanese porn stars, like the U.S., must undergo blood testing and scanning for AIDS and any other diseases. Akane has ventured into mainstream film and starred in Sekiryu no Onna (2006) and she also was featured as a singer on a celebrity compilation CD titled Mero Raba. However, like the leading American female porn star Jenna Jameson, Akane has defined her role as a sexual woman who has personally chosen this line of work citing her love of having sex and being in the lime light. To deny her this right would be to deny her an independent choice, and so we cannot say that because Hotaru Akane likes to make porn that she is a bad person. She is simply an entertainer in a country that does not put unfair stipulations on sex. Nor does Japan confuse sex with religion. Sex is strictly a personal matter for the individual and how they live their lives—nobodies business but their own.


Japan may be the rare case in which porn is not a final solution to injustice but a viable carrier choice to expanding the horizons for women, who like Akane, have a deep seeded sexual desire. Unlike America, where women’s lib groups find porn a demeaning form of entertainment, always stemming from a deeply anchored religious conservative bias and historical anxiety of having been repressed, the Japanese do not automatically approach it in the same light. On the AV industry in Japan Wikipedia.org reports:


The line between “adult” and family entertainment in Japan is not as clear-cut as it is in some other countries. A celebrity may appear in AVs after already having established a carrier in mainstream television. Also, it is not rare for a popular AV actress to go on to mainstream celebrity. Fornander reports that, “a background in porn is not necessarily a skeleton in the cupboard anymore. In some cases, it’s a carrier move.


The transition of many gravure idols, i.e. models and pop stars, into working AV idols, i.e. full fledged porn star, is not uncommon in Japan. Other women may have held high paying professional jobs, such as Ann Nanba who began as a successful News Anchorwoman and who later opted to quit that life and became a popular AV idol—proving that it’s not always about the money. Sometimes it’s about the woman getting’ some! It’s about a woman’s independent and free choice to do what she wants and be in control of her own body, and that’s an independence which I will defend to my last breath.


Pornography has its upsides and its downsides. What we need to realize is that there is a difference between the fantasy aspects of the entertainment. American porn is totally unrealistic. I’ve never in my life heard of a woman ever uttering the words, “Oh yeah, give it to me…harder.” That is ridiculous. Whereas Japanese porn is easier to watch, it’s less sport and more pleasuring, as the girl squeaks and moans in a more naturalistic manner when engaging in sex. Although this too is fantasy, because she’s performing, and it’s sometimes taken too far where she begins squeaking like a mouse gone into hyper drive—this is what we might call over acting.


Not all the women are in the Japanese porn industry with aspirations to become professional entertainers. Some of them are college students exploiting the industry, which in turn is exploiting their sex, to pay off their college debts by making a couple videos. However, because porn in Japan isn’t viewed as negatively this is a viable “part time” gig which many girls choose over working low paying part time jobs for five years unable to become financially independent. It may be sad that it’s difficult for women to get higher paying jobs in Japan, although not impossible, I should inform you about an intelligent and charismatic Japanese woman who frequently attends my adult English class, owns her own real-estate traders agency in Tokyo, drives a Jaguar, flies first class to and fro Hiroshima every week, and brings a new $3,000 designer brand purse to my class each time. She figured since Japanese men wouldn’t give her a job she would create her own company. She’s been driving the men out of business ever since. According to Rosemary Iwamura speaking about the progressive feminist AV idol Kaoru Kuroki, she has this to say, “…she didn’t seem to be making videos because of a lack of options but rather as an informed choice.” Many Japanese women do opt to make a few amateur videos on the side, after all they’re free to enjoy sex too, it’s not like they don’t have other options—the options are just limited (for now). Respectably, an AV idol can make in the range of $20,000 (American) per video, whereas stars like Akane make upwards of $70,000 per video (and she made 10 videos last year! I think only a woman who loves loves loves sex would be capable of a feat like that). Again referring to Wikipedia.org we find some other odd statistics.


The AV, or “Adult Video” market is a major industry in Japan, reportedly worth about ¥400 billion per year. In 1992, it was reported that over 11 AVs were being made every day by over 70 production companies in Tokyo alone. The AV market was estimated to make up about 30 percent of Japan’s video rentals. It was estimated in 1994 that, between legal and illegal videos, around 14,000 AVs a year were being made in the country, in contrast to about 2,500 in the United States.


This isn’t to excuse all pornography though. A lot of it is down right awful. But we must distinguish between the good and the bad by keeping in mind that under the conditions of bringing greater cultural awareness we may approach a different culture with an open mind to how they do things. My first Japanese girlfriend (before I met my wife) casually invited me to a “love” hotel, not because she was in anyway kinky, but because she wanted to enjoy the sexual encounter! At first I thought what sort of dodgy girl did I get myself involved with? But at the time I was oblivious to the cultural aspects surrounding Japan’s need for love hotels. As I came to learn more about Japan I learned that sex to them means something different than to Americans. So too with pornography, it means something different to different degrees. Still, we cannot escape the fact that many men do abuse and oppress women. This happens in every society. But placing all the blame on pornography doesn’t solve our human rights issues which would exist even without pornography.


Unexpectedly, it seems that (according to the study by the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Hawaii) pornography doesn’t add to sex crimes but instead solves many of the social problems on its own by giving us an outlet to be sexual and express or enjoy what nature has to offer us. For years I was anti-pornography if only because I was under the impression that it destroyed women’s lives. Until I came to Japan and learned more about the AV industry and how Japanese women use this medium of adult entertainment to their advantage, and indeed as a liberating vehicle, I never would have thought to be a supporter of the AV industry—or more accurately a supporter of the women of pornography. Of course you may not like pornography, and you don’t have to, but in regards to sex crimes against women it seems to have little to no adverse effects other than clogging up one’s personal hard drive. Clearly, level headed people everywhere understand that pornography is just as much fantasy as Batman punching the Joker in the face. And the one’s that don’t understand the distinction, the lewd and mentally ill sex offenders, they will go to jail—and they will not pass go or collect $200 dollars.


Japanese women are independent enough to make the educated choice to go into the porn industry or the sex industry on their own, or not. All this may prove Japanese women are free to think for themselves and that like any society of patriarchal design there is a focus on sex used for commercial means and gain. However, as long as women are allowed the same control and can amass great fortunes from this industry—then we might tolerate it as long as it serves a positive function in society. It is not the final answer, by any means, but I postulate that the AV idol industry and Sex Industry in Japan does more good in the interim. It may serve as a detour on the way to full liberation of women, allowing them to take power with their bodies when they are denied the power of their intellect, however—even when and should they be granted unconstrained and total equality—I have the strong feeling that the porn industry will only grow more cemented in Japan’s historical context. As long as we remain sexual beings, then, sex is here to stay. Let’s all be responsible. And please, if you do happen to see a clown, do not automatically assume he is evil and punch him in the face. That would be rude.


If you have any questions on Japan, the Sex Industry, Japanese women’s rights, or anything related to Japan please feel free to email me at: tvpikachu@gmail.com


Tristan Vick is a Junior High School English teacher living in Hiroshima Prefecture of Japan. He has written for the Wide Island View, a newspaper publication in Hiroshima, has written numerous articles about Japanese comics, called manga, enjoys Blogging about Japan, and is married to the most amazing Japanese woman ever! His blog on Japan can be found at: www.swirlymuffins.blogspot.com

7 comments:

Jen said...

That's a fantastic site - thanks for the link. I've been reading your articles over there, and I just wanted to point out that I think you need to be careful in your depictions of Japanese men. I think you're a bit unfair and a bit too broad with your statements, particularly in "The Future of Japanese Women" article. I know many Japanese men who would love to have more time to spend with their families but are constrained by the demands of their breadwinner role. I doubt many men find incredible amounts of overtime and long commutes to be a part of their male "Fantasy Island".

Kudos for discussing the issues though and you raise some very valid points. Just wanted to point out that both men and women struggle with the expectations of their respective roles in society. But your absolutely right that a lot of fault lies with the male politicians. But are their policies indicative of being male or being old?

Sorry this is so long - I tried to comment over there but myspace was freaking out.

Tristan Vick said...

No, I totally agree with you that not all Japanese men are "opressors" and don't enjoy being tied to a 9 to 11 Job in which overtime doesn't pay. However, a conter argument I'd make is that this is a system put in place by a generation of men who wanted to hold onto all of the "good" jobs.

This model has seemingly backfired in their faces however, for numerous political and economic reasons.

I would make the argument that this strong hold of job positions being horded by the older generation of aging men is why the Japanese youth of today find such an impossible economic situation with almost no access to better, or at least, higher paying jobs and job stability.

My Japanese friend, a man, in Kumamoto went three years after graduating with his degree before landing an entry level job in a decent Japanese co. This is what every young Japanese man faces, and the position which do become available most always go to the young men before a woman, even if they have the same qualifications and experience!

I see your point, but I don't think I was typecasting the men so much as pointing out that this is a real problem which must be addressed.

Trog said...

Your views on Japanese porn are completely superficial and quite simple-minded, and are little more than what a typical, quasi-intellectual Westerner male would spout off after a beer or two. In Japanese pornography, even more so than Western pornography, women are typically reduced to little more than breathing sex toys. Themes of humiliation, objectification, sadism, and domination are common, and even the typical Western adult star's tools of glaring at the camera (similar to the motif of the power gaze in literature) or talking dirty are rarely there. They have little or no control over what goes on, and are used in every sense of the word. Japanese pornography is not healthy nor superior to any other. I suggest you check out some of Erika Lust's creations, and compare the two, if you are able to keep your intellect on the subject, something I highly doubt due to the lack of depth in your thought.

Your comment, "...to deny her this right [Hotaru's right to make porn] would be to deny her an independent choice, and so we cannot say that because Hotaru Akane likes to make porn that she is a bad person..." is laughable. It is akin to saying denying a drug dealer's right is wrong because it restricts individual choice, or to stop a contract killer from doing a little cleaning is wrong because it interferes with his choice and presumably what he enjoys doing. No, my friend, regardless of issues of choice or individual freedom, some thing things are objectively wrong, anything that objectifies women to the extreme that Japanese porn does is wrong indeed.

"Sex is strictly a personal matter for the individual and how they live their lives—nobodies business but their own." Oh really, so I guess pedophiles are okay by your logic, huh? No limits, huh?

"Until I came to Japan and learned more about the AV industry and how Japanese women use this medium of adult entertainment to their advantage, and indeed as a liberating vehicle" is another laughable quote. More quasi-intellecualism. You say something and then attempt to validate it by weakly establishing yourself as a expert? What did you learn? Where are you sources, your quotes? Who are you? Do you think you are an expert on the effects of pornography?

"Many Japanese women do opt to make a few amateur videos on the side, after all they’re free to enjoy sex too, it’s not like they don’t have other options—the options are just limited (for now)." Oh they do, do they? And who are these Japanese women? Is this established fact, expert opinion, or more rambling of an unqualified fool who wishes to appear as an academic?

Tristan Vick said...

Trog said, "Your views on Japanese porn are completely superficial and quite simple-minded, and are little more than what a typical, quasi-intellectual Westerner male would spout off after a beer or two."

This comment was worthy of a reply, if not implicitly begging for one. So to start off, I rarely ever drink a beer. Once a year on average. I don't like alcohol to tell you the truth, so you can save your judgment calls... they are... inaccurate. It would be more correct to say, "You sound like a typical... etc."

Undue slander aside, you bring up some good points.

"In Japanese pornography, even more so than Western pornography, women are typically reduced to little more than breathing sex toys."

This is true, of any pornography I think you will find. My distinction was that in Japanese culture there are other sociological and cultural elements to consider. You can't just make the blanket statement all porn is demeaning and bad. Most of it, I agree, is... but not all--or at least not in every case. And that's what I am giving an example of.

"They have little or no control over what goes on, and are used in every sense of the word."

You are speaking like a Westerner with a Western perspective with no sense of Japanese culture whatsoever. It is well known that Japanese AV idols have total control over there videos and what they choose to do, due to national Japanese health laws and anti-abuse policies. Much of what you see in porn is a grotesque fantasy. So please don't confuse the fantasy, as demeaning as it is, with the assumption that the women have no say, power, or control.

"No, my friend, regardless of issues of choice or individual freedom, some thing things are objectively wrong, anything that objectifies women to the extreme that Japanese porn does is wrong indeed."

Again, you're making blanket assumptions. I totally agree with you on the part that certain things are bad, but you are talking as if all porn objectifies women. Which tips me off that you've only been exposed to male-egocentric videos of a vile nature. There are many relationship enhancement, health, and non-discriminatory pornography which have little more than two couples making love--or showing you technique. Nobody gets objectified, nor need they be. The sad fact is many videos do depict women in such an unhealthy light. But then is your criticism against porn in general, which your opinion holds to be bad, or certain morbid genre tastes?

""Sex is strictly a personal matter for the individual and how they live their lives—nobodies business but their own." Oh really, so I guess pedophiles are okay by your logic, huh? No limits, huh?"

Sex means the sexual act of copulation between two consenting adults. You've confused an abusive violent crime against children with the act of making love responsibly.

Tristan Vick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tristan Vick said...

"Until I came to Japan and learned more about the AV industry and how Japanese women use this medium of adult entertainment to their advantage, and indeed as a liberating vehicle" is another laughable quote. More quasi-intellectualism."

You are mistaken. The article was focusing on the cultural instance where pornography can be used to the woman's advantage, thus empowering her in overthrowing outmoded patriarchal norms... and that is liberating. It doesn't sound like you read the full article.

"You say something and then attempt to validate it by weakly establishing yourself as a expert? What did you learn? Where are you sources, your quotes?"

As you may have noticed, this is section 5 of a larger study on women's rights and the Japanese porn industry. If you read the full article you will find I quote from many source, including:

Fox News: On Porn Revenue
USA Today: Violent Rape in Japan
The Mainichi News article on the rise of Aids in Japan.
Wikipedia on Feminism and Feminist Japanese porn stars.
I quote a study about ""Pornography, Rape and Sex Crimes in Japan" done by Diamond and Uchiyama at the University of Hawaii.
Just to name a few.

I recommend reading the whole article, instead of taking section #5 out of context.

""Many Japanese women do opt to make a few amateur videos on the side, after all they’re free to enjoy sex too, it’s not like they don’t have other options—the options are just limited (for now)." Oh they do, do they? And who are these Japanese women? Is this established fact, expert opinion, or more rambling of an unqualified fool who wishes to appear as an academic?"

Again, please read the full article. You'll find cited polls with show that on average 4 Japanese women everyday make a porn video. This is 4 random, different, women every single day in Japan make a adult video to sell in Japan.

And you'll also read that since 1972, and the legalization of pornography in Japan, violent sex crimes like rape have decreased by over 66%. Again, please follow the link and read the full article, in full, if only to offer a more well rounded, better informed, and well educated opinion.

Thanks for reading.

Tristan Vick said...

Anyone interested may want to check out Boye Lafayette's recent book "Sex and the Japanese: The Sensual Side of Japan." (Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing, 2006.)

And this link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_Japan