Middle-aged Sex Workers and the Dissolution of Social Safety Nets in Neoliberal Japan

Conférence exceptionnelle de Chiaki Nishijima (Université d’Oslo), le 18 novembre 2021

Photo de Chiaki Nishijima, Quartier de Kabukicho (Red light district), Tokyo.

Jeudi 18 novembre 2021, 13-15h
Salle A385-387 à l’EHESS-Condorcet
Entrée libre dans la limite des places disponibles

Abstract
Sex work reflects the lack of social safety nets for Japan’s poorest
female residents. My research examines how the sex industry
evolved in response to the economic recession over the last decade and half.
From 2013 to 2016, I interviewed sex workers, managers, and staff at
an erotic outcall business featuring Japanese women in their forties
through sixties. Once viewed as pariahs in the industry, middle-aged
sex workers entered the mainstream in the 2000s when businesses
marketing “jukujo,” meaning mature or ripe women, began to
proliferate. Enterprising managerial minds have been perceptive to
emergent socio-economic vulnerabilities. Whereas the demand-driven sex
industry of a robust economy was fueled by the money and desires of
customers, today’s deflationary, supply-driven market responded to
women’s economic needs by inventing gimmicks to cultivate new customer
demand. Jukujo workers inhabited a sex industry governed by the
political economic and ideological imperatives of neoliberalism,
rather than the logic of victims and perpetrators that abolitionists
of the anti-trafficking movement have focused on. Challenging the
normative assumption of sex work as always already lucrative, my
research demonstrates a malleable sex industry intimately connected to
systems like social welfare and the job market.

Chiaki Nishijima is a social anthropologist of contemporary Japan
whose research interests include sexual labor, social welfare, and
political economy. She is a senior lecturer in Japanese studies at the
Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of
Oslo. She received her PhD from Harvard University and BA from
Wellesley College.

 

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