Sunday, April 25, 2004

"Compensated Dating" in Japan

Here's an interesting RealMedia BBC Report on the Japanese phenomenon of "enjo kosai" ("compensated dating"), a euphemism for schoolgirl prostitution. It's one thing for young women from Third World countries to migrate to Europe in search of easy money, and something else again for teenage girls from well-off homes, living in one of the world's most affluent countries, to be selling themselves in order to buy frivolous items like Prada bags and Malono Blahnik pumps.

Although one of the girls profiled in the report began participating in such activities at the age of 14, and two of the others are 16 and 17 years old respectively, one can't really call this "underage" prostitution, as Article 177 of the Japanese Penal Code sets the age of consent for sexual activity at 13 years. Many from English-speaking countries will likely feel uneasy that the age of consent should be so low, but one can argue that the Japanese way is actually better, in so far as it acknowledges that few people wait till they're 18 to engage in sexual activity, and it is better not to needlessly criminalize large numbers of people for deeds participated in willingly. In any case, the age of consent in 15 in France and Sweden, 14 in Iceland (as long as neither partner is older than 24) and Canada, and 13 in Spain, so this isn't a matter of exceptional Japanese sexual attitudes at work. If anything, the American tendency to set the age of consent at 18 strikes me as deeply unrealistic, and a reflection of the same puritan ethos that has young people unable to legally drink until they're 21.