Enjo kosai (“dating for assistance” or “compensated dating”) is one of Japanese society's most infamous phenomenon: schoolgirls dating older men for money. Although many encounters don’t involve sex, this prostitution of Japan’s youth has been cause for serious concern.
Enjo kosai emerged towards the end of Japan’s 1980s economic boom. Young, middle-class girls had become used to an expensive lifestyle, funded by their prosperous fathers, but the economy was starting to fall apart. With their families unable to fulfil these materialistic needs, but discouraging them from taking part-time jobs, many girls looked elsewhere.
When you’re a middle-aged man, it isn’t easy to pick up schoolgirls. Where do you meet them? You’d look ridiculous if you started hanging around outside high-schools or purikura, and you’d soon get pestered by the police. “Telephone clubs” sprung up to solve this problem. These are places where men pay for a girl’s mobile phone number. Apart from that, all negotiations are between the schoolgirl and the dirty old man.
The internet has made telephone clubs largely redundant. Safer and cheaper, it also allows men to contact a greater number and wider range of girls. All he has to do is put an ad (“40,000 yen for dinner and sex”) on the message board with his contact details, and he can choose the most alluring response that rolls in.
These sugar daddies are usually middle-aged, married men with children of their own. Why do they pay so much, and take such great risks, to have sex with young girls? Many describe this craving as “tamaranai”, an “uncontrollable attraction”, which hardly seems to excuse the fact that they’re exploiting girls their daughter’s age.
“Lorikon” (Lolita complex) and “bura-sera” (the erotic fascination with schoolgirls) are crucial aspects of modern Japanese sexuality. The ubiquitous sailor-suit school uniform is as important a feature of Japanese pornography as breast implants are in Western filth. Bura-sera also drives the thriving trade in used panties.
This widespread sexual fetish is exploited by the “kogals”, young Japanese women who wear school uniforms, loose socks, and heavy make-up as a fashion statement. Many of these girls finished high school years ago, but enjoy the attention the outfits get from men.
It’s easy to understand why middle-aged men want to have sex with young girls. But why do the girls do it?
Japan has always been a country where external appearances are important. Traditionally, social prestige has been held in material symbols (samurai’s swords and hairstyles, exclusive aristocratic colours), and nothing has changed. The rabid desire for flashy designer clothes, born during the economic “miracle”, hasn’t been stemmed by economic problems.
It’s not all about money and fancy clothes. Japanese children lead a restrictive life at home and school, so enjo kosai could be seen as a sexual rite of passage for curious young women.
It wasn’t until the mid-90s that enjo kosai was recognised by the Japanese press. They compensated for this sluggishness with an amazing bout of hysteria. Astonishingly, it was the “kogals” who faced the most criticism.
Japan was disgusted that the younger generation had been pawning its innocence, ignoring the fact that it was the nation’s pillars of society who had been paying for it. Before long, the country was terrified of its daughters, who were roaming the streets, hunting innocent men.
Sanity was restored by an number of serious studies, which found that only 5-13% of girls had ever taken part in enjo kosai. Interestingly, one study also found that 75% of girls had been offered money for “dates” by older men.
The Japanese government recognised that something had to be done to kerb the harmful libidos of its frustrated workers. In 1999, it was made illegal to “engage in paid sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 18.”
However, the indirect nature of payment in enjo kosai has made such a law difficult to enforce. More worryingly, Japan’s national age of consent of 14 indicates that sex with minors is implicitly accepted by Japanese society. A symbolic change in the law has allowed Japanese mothers to sleep easily, but their husbands are still chasing their daughters.
'She's only a little schoolgirl'
- Enjo Kosai: "Compensated Dating"
What do you think? Anything to add? Mail me at email@example.com. I'm always looking for contributions, new ideas, and interesting Japan links.