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Teenage Prostitution As A Response To Gender Roles In Japanese Society

2013 words - 9 pages

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 ...view middle of the document...

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.

The Bifurcation of Japanese Society

The fact is that Japanese society is bifurcated into two spheres: the productive sphere of the man and the reproductive sphere of the woman. There is little, if any, overlap between the two. Success in each gender sphere depends on one’s ability to live up to the societal expectations associated with his/her gender role. The principle role of the male is that of breadwinner. Success in the male sphere, therefore, greatly depends on a man’s ability to provide for his family. The principle role of the female is that of wife and mother. While her overall status in society is linked to her husband’s socioeconomic position, her success in the female sphere largely depends on her ability to be a good wife and mother.

From childhood, men are encouraged to participate in group sports, to study hard, and to get accepted into a good university. These activities are believed to build the strong character a man will need if he is to become a “salary man,” or one holding a position within a prestigious Japanese firm. A salary man, therefore, is the idealized version of a man who has fulfilled his role in relation to the societal expectations placed upon him. While every man may not achieve the salary man ideal, each man’s goal is the same, regardless of occupation: to financially support his family. Women, on the other hand, have an equally well-defined gender role in Japanese society as housewife and mother:

Though Japanese women are among the best educated women in the world, they are, by Western standards, second-class citizens in their own country. Traditional values discourage women from appearing outspoken or independent-minded and demoralize those who try to climb the political or business hierarchies. (Makihara 35)

It is quite uncommon for Japanese women to maintain careers after they are married and almost inconceivable that they would work during their child-rearing years. According to an article in Time,many companies uphold traditional expectations that women will resign once they are married. Toyota Motor Corp., for example, “gives women who do so a special ‘farewell money gift’ of up to three months’ salary” (Makihara 36). Although many women obtain a university education, few put it to much use. Marriage is the ideal, and women are expected to conform to it. If a woman has any professional aspirations, she will most likely “aspire” to be a professional housewife. Japanese women take marriage very seriously, and it is not uncommon for them to enroll in bridal training courses. Such programs stress traditional women’s roles with courses like flower arranging, wearing the kimono, traditional cooking, and the tea...

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