I watched this half-drunk on Tuesday night, after the Celtic horror show. I quite like Stacey Dooley, a kind of Miss Marple with sensible shoes sorting the world out, but she’s breezy and young and pretty. It depends, of course, what you mean by young and pretty. Japan has a bit of history here. You’re probably aware of the rewriting of history textbooks in which comfort women were omitted. The giant damages the Japanese government paid to South Korea which funded their neighbour’s modern steel industry. The Japanese proclivity for young girls in school uniform (and young boys?) which finds expression in popular culture in pop stars and their followers, otaku, mainly middle-aged men.
Stacey Dooley tells us that child pornography was banned in Japan, but up until three-years ago images of children being raped and abused were not illegal. Her first stop was a popular Tokyo shopping area where minders touted for business from middle-aged men and looked for talent among the young girls who could be persuaded to work in the sex trade. The minders warned Stacey that she couldn’t film them or they would phone the police, unless she scrubbed the film. When Stacey refused the police came and asked her to delete filmed images of the incipient sex trade.
Her next stop was a JK café. Young girls in school uniform serve middle-aged men drinks and food, but it’s them on the menu. They chat to their customers who pay a premium rate to talk dirty to them and gawk at them. They can pay even more and get to hold hands with them and admire their purity. That’s a word, ironically, you’ll hear a lot from child stalkers.
Sex is for sale in Japan, as it is everywhere else, but with Manga comics and nationwide talent shows its mainstream. Stacey interviews a young girl that has sex with three or four men every day and views it as a form of self-abuse, like cutting her arms, but better paid.
The commodification of sex extends to children as young as six in the grey area of Chako Ero. Stacey meets a photographer who tells her how much money he is making taking pictures of young children in a thin layer of erotic clothing, who are taught to pose for the camera. Stacey asks him what he would do if it was his own child being photographed or filmed. The businessman admitted he would kill her and himself. It’s an honour code that doesn’t extend to others.
Christian and Aristotelian ideas of virtue building character seem foreign, even to ourselves. Different epochs or cultures might impose different standards on what is true and what is a virtue. When the acquisition of money is the greatest virtue, and the commodification of young girls’ bodies is a cultural given, what is regarded as shameful shifts.
Tracy meets in the denouement a self-confessed paedophile who has the courage to appear in front of the camera. He’s a cultural stereotype, the sad loser with bad teeth, and shiny white ribbons in his hair. This marks him out as other, not part of the mainstream. Not really a threat. The kind of man the authorities would happily lock up for a very long time to prove, like Stacey, they are on the case. He carries a cardboard box. Inside it is a floppy doll. He admits to undressing it and imaging what would happen…when it does he puts on a condom. He doesn’t want to get the doll dirty. Paedophilia, he declares, is a person who loves children. He loves children, but scorns the idea he is a child molester. Molesters are people that make unlawful advances towards children. He would never do that. But if a child wanted to… and he wanted to, that might be cute. Cute is not illegal. Children are cute. Young girls are cutest of all.