I’m interested in the great variety of sex-money exchanges all over the world, and Japan is home to many. These cards advertising sexy dating and talking services are pasted all over public telephone kiosks there.
The Japanese term enjo kôsai (援助交際, subsidized companionship) describes women who meet male strangers for dates that may involve sex in exchange for money or gifts. Some campaigners simply call it child prostitution, since nowadays the term mostly signifies teenage girls who go out with older men, often, in Laura Miller’s words, to
a karaoke box for several hours and are paid for their time. They essentially replace the much more expensive bar hostess, who likewise puts up with fumbled gropes and juvenile utterances but for a much higher price. What the media finds most irritating about the phenomenon is that the young women involved feel no shame or remorse at all. According to a 1996 police report on more than 5,000 girls involved in subsidized dating, 39 percent gave “monetary gain” and 34 percent offered “curiosity” as their motivations (Iwao 1997:45). The young women themselves often express disdain, pity, or contempt for the men they see themselves as exploiting, rather than the other way around. [The girls] like to have sex with boyfriends their own age, but if they have sex as part of enjo kõsai, they say that they “lie there like a fish” (maguro ni naru, literally ‘become a tuna’).
The subsidized dating trend is supported by several related industries, including terekura “telephone clubs”). These clubs provide a space for men who have paid a fee to sit and wait for phone calls from girls who want to arrange dates. Because the girls are able to call at no charge, this is the most common way that enjo kôsai operates. *
Rey Elbo notes that websites now allow men to contact many offering enjo kosai, as all a man has to do ‘is to put up an ad that he’s willing to spend 40,000 yen for dinner and sex.’ [295 euros]
* ‘Those Naughty Teenage Girls: Japanese Kogals, Slang, and Media Assessments.’ Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Vol. 14, Issue 2, 2004, p. 225-47.