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By Dr. Anthony Al-Jamie

Japan’s schoolgirls get sex education on the streets

High court judges, homeroom teachers and corporate executives engage in after school affairs with underaged prostitutes. Such stories have headlined the news over the past few years. Enjo kosai – often translated as “compensated dating” has become a trend amongst teenage schoolgirls and their middle-aged patrons. Whether it be for the sake of purchasing a new designer handbag, or paying off an astronomical cell phone bill, a relatively large percentage of Japanese teenage girls are engaging in what we refer to in the west as prostitution.

Obviously, gathering statistics on just how many girls sell their bodies is quite difficult, as neither the schoolgirls nor their patrons are willing to admit to the whole truth. However, the majority of studies show that more than just a few teenage schoolgirls partake in the world's oldest profession. This is not a new problem, however. According to a 1997 report by Asahi Evening News, 17% of female students in their senior year of junior high school saw nothing wrong with compensated dating. This study carried out by the National Congress of Parents and Teachers Associations of Japan showed that some 13% of students ranging from 14 to 15 years old felt little reluctance to engaging in sex for money. These numbers have undoubtedly grown over the past few years and our own informal and completely subjective research has shown far higher percentages of young girls engaging in prostitution.

TJ pounded the streets of Shibuya looking for the reasons behind compensated dating.  Miki, a 15-year old junior high school student agreed to speak with us.  “Yes, I have sex with older men for money, but my parents don’t know about it. I haven’t even told my friends.”

TJ: “Can you tell us how you first got into it?”
Miki: “The first time I did it, I had to. I had an ¥80,000 cell phone bill and they were threatening to shut off my phone if I didn’t pay it. I couldn’t tell my parents because they would get angry and make me give up my phone. I decided that since it was my cell phone that got me into this situation, I would have to use it to get me out. Using my cell phone I sent out a few messages to Internet sites where men were looking for young girls to meet. The first two guys paid me ¥50,000 each. However, the second guy was really creepy and after having sex with him I was so stressed and upset that in order to relax, I decided to buy a new wallet, which left me short of money to pay off my phone bill. Because I didn’t want to have to deal with anymore creeps, I promised myself that the next guy would be the last and after paying my phone bill I would never do it again — no matter what. However, he was really young and only had ¥15,000, so I wound up sending more messages to the same Internet site. Before I knew it I had slept with ten or fifteen men.”

TJ:  “So at ¥50,000 per customer, you must have saved over half a million yen by now!”
Miki: “No, the amount I get is different each time and actually I’m totally broke. I really don’t know what I did with the money.”

TJ: “What do you mean? You must have spent it somehow.”
Miki: “Yes, I bought a few designer bags, and some clothes and stuff but the problem is if I use them my parents and friends will ask where I got the money, so I keep them in a locker at the station.”

TJ: “Well, it seems like you don’t have much use for the money, so you can stop now, right?”
Miki: “No, I have to pay my phone bill next week. I owe about ¥95,000 so I will have to meet a few more guys, but this time will be the last, for sure.” 

TJ: “Wouldn’t it be easier just to get a part-time job?”
Miki: “That’s impossible. The school I go to doesn’t allow us to have part-time jobs.”

There are thousands of girls throughout the nation in situations similar to that of Miki. For one reason or another, they saw compensated dating as a way to make quick money. We have learned from those that we have spoken to that it is not always as easy as it appears. TJ recently took a tour around Shibuya to talk with people about their views on compensated dating and school-aged girls’ relationships in general. Obviously, not many of them were willing to divulge their true identities, therefore we have labeled them as A, B, C, etc.

Teachers A & B: Two Japanese female physical education teachers who work at a private all girl junior high and high school in Tokyo.

TJ: “What do you think about the phenomenon of young girls sleeping with middle-aged and elderly men for money?”
Teacher A: “We both think it's terrible. This is a big problem for many of the students in our classes. They don’t seem to find anything wrong with it and there is not much that we can do to stop it. One girl in my class has had four abortions and she hasn’t even turned 17 yet. When I asked her what the fathers of the babies said, she said she wasn’t sure who they were. Another who is not yet 16 has slept with over 50 men. It is completely out of control.”

TJ: “Don’t teachers have a strong influence over their students? I would think that there would be some way through a Sex Education class or something that you would be able to influence these girls to take a look at some of the dangers involved in compensated dating.”
Teacher B: “Yes, you’re right. Teachers do influence students — not only with their words but also with their actions. One of the problems is that some of the male teachers date the students in our school. You see, young girls tend to fall in love with their male teachers and a lot of these guys take advantage of them. I know that at least one of the teachers invites students to his house for private consultations and it is obvious that he is having sex with them. I am not sure that this problem can be resolved through a Sex Education class. It is a moral issue. In fact, many of these young girls are more experienced sexually than the teachers and seem to have no guilt about what they are doing. Recently, I tried to approach one of my students that I know is selling her body to men. She looked at me and said “Sensei, it is none of your business. When was the last time you had a boyfriend, anyway? What do you know about sex?””

TJ: “Well, at minimum, you should be able to do something about male teachers dating your students. Can’t you report them to the principal?”
Teacher B: “Are you kidding? The principal himself just recently married a college student that was a former student of his, and I probably wouldn’t be around for long if I started making too much noise. In fact, if anyone knew we were telling you this stuff, we would both be fired.”

TJ: “Can you tell just by looking at them which ones are involved in compensated dating?”
Teacher A: “No, not really. They all seem so innocent, but once in a while I will hear the girls talking or I will notice a sudden change in attitude but it is not always obvious. Some of the students that have consulted with me about their involvement with compensated dating seemed to have some kind of stress coming from their home life or relationship with their boyfriends. I would say that it is a social problem that society itself needs to address. The Japanese media is constantly influencing men to go after young girls, so the men give them what they want — money for designer clothes and accessories and the girls give them sex.”

Group C: A group of five college-aged girls at a fast food restaurant.

TJ: “This may be a little difficult as you are a pretty large group, so why don’t we appoint one of you as a spokesperson and you consult with everyone and summarize the views of the group. Okay, have any of you taken part in compensated dating?”
Group C: “No! We’re too old for compensated dating. Compensated dating is only something junior high and high school girls do.”

TJ: “Oh, so you mean college girls don’t sell their bodies for money?”
Group C: “Well, of course some girls do . . . but it’s not called enjo kosai. That’s prostitution.”

TJ: “So are you trying to say that compensated dating is not prostitution? What’s the difference?”
Group C: “Men who hire college girls are just looking for sex but those who are interested in enjo kosai are looking to fulfill their Lolita fantasies.”

TJ: “So have any of you ever had sex for money?”
Group C: “No.” (Unanimously)

TJ: Do you have friends that have?
Group C: “Yes.” (Unanimously)

TJ: “What is the difference between you girls and your friends that have done it?”
Group C: “Well, most of them started by working in a hostess bar and began having sex with the customers from the bar for money. None of us have ever worked in a hostess bar . . . well except for Tomomi. Hey, Tomomi — have you ever done it?”

(Tomomi shakes her head “no” nervously.)

TJ: “I would like to ask you a question on a slightly different topic. What do you think about schoolgirls dating their teachers? Do you girls find anything wrong with it?”
Group C: “Well, it depends how young they are. We thought 14 or under is probably too young to date a teacher, but if they are really in love, it wouldn’t be so bad for a junior high school third grader.”

TJ: “So none of you see a problem with the age difference and the fact that it may influence the teacher to pass the student with a higher grade than she deserves?”
Group C: “The age difference isn’t a problem and it is the teacher’s responsibility to have ethics that allow him to separate his relationship with the student as a teacher and a lover.”

Interviewee D: A 16-year-old high school girl who admitted to engaging in compensated dating

TJ: “So why did you engage in compensated dating?”
D: “Some of my friends are the most popular girls in my school and come from some rich families. They all enjoy collecting designer goods. My family can’t afford such things and some girls at school told me a way I could make some easy money. All I had to do was have sex with some men. I was already having sex with boys anyway, so I figured if I could get money from doing it, I could go shopping and hang out with my friends.”

TJ: “So do you have a lot of brand name goods now?”
D: “No. Actually, I have been selling a lot of them to a second-hand shop because I don’t like the brand I used to collect anymore, but they only pay a little bit of money for second-hand goods. I just started collecting this brand. Do you like my new wallet? I just bought it yesterday.”

Interviewee E: A 19-year-old beauty college student that has been having sex for money with men since she was sixteen.

TJ: “Have you ever had a boyfriend while engaging in compensated dating?”
E: “I started dating men for money during my second year of high school right after my boyfriend broke up with me — he was the one who I lost my virginity to. I wouldn’t do it if I had a boyfriend — that would be rude. The first time, I put a message about myself on an Internet message board and chose a sex partner from the men who wrote to me. It was pretty easy. From the Internet, you can find men who just want dinner, men who want dinner and sex, and those who just want sex, but on most of the dates I had sex. Some of the guys want to give me money, and some of them feel uncomfortable, so they just give me presents. That’s okay, as long as they give me the receipts in case I don’t like them.”

TJ: “Have you saved any money?”
E: “No. I usually spend all of my money on shopping. Then I feel blue and quit doing it for a while. During that time, I always give away all of my stuff because it reminds me of all the bad experiences I have had.”

TJ: “Have there been many bad experiences?”
E: “Too many to talk about and many too bad to even think about.”
 
So, who are the victims and who are the victors in this web of sex, lies and Lolitas? Are the schoolgirls the victors because they are able to earn astronomical amounts of money in a very short time? Or are they the victims because they are selling their souls for designer goods that tomorrow may be out of fashion? Is it the male Johns who are being taken advantage of by these young girls that are experts at manipulating the men into giving them whatever they want or are these men simply getting what they pay for? Could it be that the true victor is behind the scenes -- the corporate marketers who have an in-depth knowledge of today’s culture and through marketing research know that these young girls will go to any length to stay in fashion?  Might one philosophy be that the real pimps in this ring of prostitution are the designers and department stores that target and get rich from these young, vulnerable girls?

Who the victims and victors are remains to be answered.  We would like to hear your feedback on this.  Send your comments and opinions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Did you know . . .

134,282 students were absent from primary and middle schools in Japan for prolonged periods of time exceeding one month during the fiscal year of 2000?

 

Staff Continued

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