Breaking a Taboo: Women Opening Up about Slut-Shaming in Japan

Copyright by Josh Reynolds

Celebrating female sexuality has been a struggle for decades and women would be shamed if they do : this is called slut-shaming. It can have detrimental results. This time we talked with women in Japan to break this taboo.

In Japan, “I am experiencing slut-shaming all the time” confess Aisha, a Japanese Indonesian national working and living in Japan. “I am relatively open about how I have sex with people who I am not in a relationship with, or how I enjoy having sex, and interestingly people enjoy that… By making a joke out of it.” She recalls a moment when she was slut-shamed. “At my previous work, my colleague, who is a middle-aged man said in a nomikai that I have a face of someone good at giving blowjobs out of nowhere. I think that is slut-shaming when they think it’s okay to embarrass someone in public. I was not even shocked and that was shocking how I am used to this kind of situation.”

Ideal prude female model

Aisha also believes women slut-shame other women. “I see women, regardless of whether or not they are open about sex, bitching other women. Especially when they look like they are ‘asking for attention’. I sometimes catch myself doing this too. It was, of course, embarrassing and disturbing,” she admitted. “Also other people there, including women, were laughing about it too. But in that situation, like most of the women do, I would pretend I am not bothered in order to protect myself.” But in these situations not showing your vulnerability might not be the best idea. “I think that protection as well closes up a chance for women to express that they don’t like it, letting them think that it’s okay to say stuff like that.” The victim is not responsible to fight back: “It’s difficult to resist in that situation and it’s not their responsibility to do so.”

In a society when a female breaches the ideal prude female model, and commit behaviors that involve accepting their sexuality they are most likely to be called “sluts”. Because of the perception that male sexuality cannot be controlled when they accompany women, there should be an extent of sexual regulation over females’ bodies’. Other than dress-codes it has been noticed that females who are demanding birth control, having casual sex before marriage, engaging in prostitution are being slut-shamed.

Victim-Blaming

There is a high chance that women who are slut-shamed will not receive assistance from authorities, such as police, in cases like rape or sexual harassment. Victim blaming is normalized due to the slut-shaming which contributes victims not receiving the help they need. It happens when the accuser denies the fact that the victim did not show any form of consent, however, because of their immoral dress code or behavior, the assault is justified. This kind of normalization feeds the rape culture, which creates a dangerous environment for both females and males. For example, in the context of slut-shaming, when a female victim goes to police one of the first questions that they receive is “what were you wearing?”, “why were you going home—this late?”, “have you committed any behavior that might seduce the accuser?”, which has no relation to the consequences of the accused crime. Although many people think that men play a big role that contributes to slut-shaming, women play an essential part to internalize this oppression. These women view themselves as secondary to men and thus have to work to detach themselves from this stigma.

Slut-Shaming in Japan

Slut-shaming differs depending on the culture that happens in. To understand slut-shaming in Japan, I have interviewed several people who are familiar with Japanese customs. “I have never heard of the word slut-shaming before!” said Megumi, who was born and raised in Japan and currently learning English in Australia. “Certainly! If a girl has a lot of sex partners, people would surely start to see her as if she is crazy.” She confessed that before going to Australia, she also judged women by their outward appearance, saying “Oh she is that kind of girl…”

Megumi shared her impression upon a Japanese friend she made in Australia. “She had bigger breasts than an average girl. I believe that she had to hide her breasts and she probably worried when she was a student in Japan. Guys probably teased and mocked her and girls probably thought she was a bitch.” Megumi said that our approach to those features should be different. “It is a feature that is special to her and actually if you think about it, we should be jealous about it! Really, aren’t you supposed to feel more confident!”

Do women have to own responsibility?

“Slut-shaming happens in Japan frequently too but at least people in Turkey are feeling the pressure of it and protesting against it. The young generation in Turkey is aware of the problem but it feels like in Japan they don’t really care or they do not act against it,” said Lara, who is a Japanese Turkish national who knows both societies really well.

It feels like when it comes to sexual assaults, women in Japan have to take responsibility and slut-shaming becomes one of the agents that justifies it. After listening to the stories of sexual assault victims at Flower Demo, there are some links to slut-shaming. Some victims claimed that the police would not help them. Some police have said to other women: “If you are going to dress like that what is he supposed to do?” or “You were too tempting for him”. Some victims were shamed by their parents because they were sexually harassed as if it’s women’s fault. This treatment normalizes sexual violence while shaming women, which results in bigger problems for women, such as not finding justice or to live with a painful memory of the sexual assault.

Slutwalk starting in Japan
Slutwalk is a feminist political action that is when people who believe that women shouldn’t be victimized because of slut-shaming. Slutwalk aims to emphasize that reflecting characteristics of a “slut” is something celebrated not something to be ashamed of. The walk aims to normalize female sexual behavior and dress code, along with doubting the male aggression. Japan is going to conduct its first SlutWalk in Osaka on November 3rd! You can follow them on Twitter : @slutwalkjp

Elif

From Istanbul, Turkey living in Nagoya, Japan. Studying Law and Political Science at Nagoya University. Feminist Bash patriarchy

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