Statistics reveal dark underside of sex trade
Last in a five-part series
TOKYO — What was missing from the coverage of Lucie Blackman (which at times appeared to match that surrounding the O.J. Simpson murder case in 1995) was any sense of perspective. Seldom seen was any mention of the countless Southeast Asian women who had come to Japan to work in the mizu shobai only to suffer worse misery— held in virtual slavery by their "sponsors,” beaten, raped, drugged, robbed and forced to work in cramped sex sweat shops under heavy debt bondage. More than a few of them disappeared and appeared to have died under mysterious circumstances.
Japan, undeniably, has one of the most energetic sex industries in the world. It was estimated that it employed anywhere from 150,000 to 250,000 Japanese women in a wide array of traditional and “post-modern” sex entertainment establishments, which, in addition to “deribari herusu” included "pink salons" where oral sex in a darkened booth was the norm, "image clubs" where nurse-patient/infant-nanny role-playing was featured, "S&M clubs" featuring crossdressing and anal sex and "teleclubs" where romantic liaisons could be arranged by phone. It was an industry whose imagination knew no limits, from domestic child pornography peddlers whose products were famous worldwide to the freelance 14-year old junior high school girls who entertained middle-aged men with Lolita complexes in exchange for money to shop at Gucci.
Whether all this activity represented sexual maturity, a sick culture, or the result of cramped living conditions was open to debate. What was clear was how huge the demand was with the industry accounting for anywhere from one to three per cent of the GNP. (It is interesting to note, in light of all this activity, that, according to an international survey, Japanese married couples had the least sex of all the world’s major countries, about 35 times a year.)