Pornography and prostitution are “sexual exploitation”
March 28, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo
Author Minori Kitahara interviewed by Ami Chibana
The situations in which young women are likely to be pulled into the sex industry and the issue with people being forced to make an appearance in porn – what exactly is in the background of this huge industry revolving around sex and where exactly does the problem lie? We asked author Minori Kitahara, who is also interested in sexual violence that stems from the U.S. military bases.
Question: We heard you attended an Okinawan citizens meeting held last June in Naha that protested the incident of a U.S. military personnel sexually assaulting and murdering a local woman. Could you tell us more about that?
Answer: I think that people should never be allowed to talk about sexual violence committed by U.S. military personnel as if it is a “natural occurrence” that happens because the bases exist. Last year’s incident made me realize that there really is a need to come up with theories to pinpoint the assailant’s liability. If people begin to normalize that sexual violence only exists because of the armed forces or the bases, then the focus will shift from the assailant to the bases and the assailant’s liability will lessen. This is similar to the Japanese military’s comfort women issue; referring to it as a “tragedy of war” lessens Japan’s liability. Society has a weak sense of sexual violence because a culture exists where men buy women as if they have the right to do so.
Question: What do you think about the situation in which minors are being pulled into the sex industry?
Answer: I once covered a story in Tokyo regarding the JK business, or compensated dating with high school girls. A teenage girl wearing a school uniform alone will prompt the question, “How much?” from older men. If you look up “high paying part-time jobs” online, with just one click, you can step into the sex industry. At what point does personal responsibility turn into social responsibility? Shouldn’t society take responsibility too? The big issue is that the environment is so well-established that it makes it easy for women to get pulled into prostitution.
We need to also look at laws, awareness, history, and culture that promote prostitution. If you ask older men why they partake in prostitution, they simply answer, “It’s the world’s oldest job.” Why does prostitution keep on developing? How do the anti-prostitution laws, with all of their loopholes, compare to the rest of the world?
Question: The government works to eliminate child poverty. However, young people who work in the sex industry while also raising children find it hard to qualify for this type of aid. There seems to be a misunderstanding that the prostitutes put themselves in this situation. What are your thoughts on this?
Answer: I’m sure some men feel that paying money for a prostitute’s services supports the prostitute. But some could also look at it as “I have to pay that much?” or “Maybe I can pay afterwards?” Former diplomat Masaru Sato, who I wrote about in my book, “Sex and Country,” clearly stated that he hated it, but some men like that do exist. I wish men would tell other men, “Hey, let’s stop partaking in prostitution.”
Some men’s understanding that women sell themselves because they want money to party is only there to make the men, who want to buy, feel better about it. Men are the ones that put a price tag on the service, and it is also men that want to buy that service. Meanwhile, I think that men’s sexuality is also being exploited as well. In a society where so many porno magazines are on display at convenience stores, I’m sure men also feel a strong sense of pressure to conform. I presume that some men don’t like it, but must tag along to hostess bars because certain business relationships and/or cultural norms exist.
Question: Recently, issues regarding people being forced to appear in porn has come to the surface more and more. What are your thoughts on this?
Answer: This situation where the porn and prostitution industries are becoming so big and normal, really isn’t seen in any other country. In the end, whether it’s porn or prostitution, it’s not a sexual labor or sexual expression problem, but a “sexual exploitation problem.” If we are able to recognize it as sexual exploitation, then we can shed light on the issues we see in society. It would also allow us to say that society, which is demanding such things, is messed up. There are a couple reasons why people don’t ask for help after being forced to appear in porn. One reason is that there is a performance fee. Another is that, people fear that if they raise their voice while the video circulates, it will only make it worse. Using freedom of expression as their shield, people portray it as if the director(s) and the actors and/or actresses are a part of an artistic performance. This only creates more violence and it silences the victims. First, we need to show just how many victims there are out there. We must also make it clear how much damage was caused and to stop men from demanding it.
Minori Kitahara. Born 1970 in Kanagawa Prefecture. Author. Established “Love Peace Club,” a sex toy shop for women from a feministic viewpoint in 1996. Publications include: “Poisonous Woman,” “Patriotic Wives (coauthor),” and “Sex and Country (coauthor).”
(English translation by T&CT and Chelsea Ashimine)
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