Teenage Prostitution as a Response to Gender Roles in Japanese Society

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Teenage Prostitution as a Response to Gender Roles in Japanese Society Buuuzzzzzzz. “Oh, a page,” says Michiko to her friend, “give me a minute to check it.” She pulls out her mobile phone and dials the number to check her messages. This message is from one of her regular customers, Mr. Tanaka. He would like to meet this afternoon at the little restaurant next to the same “love hotel” they used last week (a place that rents theme rooms by the hour). Michiko giggles to her friend, “Poor Tanaka-san, he is such a lonely guy, but he’s very generous.” Michiko meets up with Tanaka-san, a businessman in his mid-forties, later that afternoon. They grab an early dinner, then head directly to the love hotel. After about an hour, their transaction is complete and Tanaka-san “offers” Michiko about ¥10,000. Suddenly, Michiko notices the time. It’s nearly eight, and she has about an hour commute, by train, to her house in the suburbs. “My parents will be angry that I’m so late again, especially since I have an important algebra exam in the morning!” Michiko quickly kisses Tanaka-san on the cheek and rushes around collecting her things. “Call me soon. Okay?” says the seventeen-year-old as she slips out the door. Michiko and Tanaka-san are imaginary, yet they illustrate a very real phenomenon in Japanese society — teenage prostitution. Young girls selling themselves to older men is not a new phenomenon. Underage women around the globe resort to prostitution as a means of survival. There are few industries women can enter where capital costs are low, barriers to entry are few, and educational requirements are nil. Yet what is puzzling in the Japanese case is that most young women like Michiko do not depend on the money they receive from prostitution for survival — yet it does help to buy Burberry scarves, Chanel hand bags and other “must-haves” (Moffett 50). While it is tempting to say that teenage prostitution is a means for young women to obtain the material items they feel they cannot live without, there is more to this phenomenon than meets the eye. If it were merely a matter of wanting extra money, young girls would most likely seek legitimate employment — translation, the increasing popularity of prostitution among teenage girls in Japan is a response to the strict gender stratification of Japanese society.

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