Stacey Dooley: Young Sex for Sale in Japan | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Stacey Dooley: Young Sex for Sale in Japan

TV's Abbie Pease gives her opinions on Stacey Dooley's latest documentary, investigating the sexualisation of children in Japan

BBC Three’s favourite investigative journalist, Stacey Dooley, travels to Japan in an attempt to uncover the truth behind the countries fixation on the sexualisation of young children. The documentary, which represents a visual step up from previous BBC Three investigations, shines light on the disturbing nature of popular culture in one of Asia’s most prosperous countries. Once again, Stacey Dooley delves into the depths of her investigation, letting no barrier stop her from getting to the truth.

In the bustling city of Tokyo lays a dark secret that exploits children. It was only in 2014 that child pornography became illegal in Japan, a fact that most western observers would regard as deeply horrifying. Despite this shift in the legal status of child pornography, there is still an entire market geared towards the sexualisation of children. This popular culture, which centres predominantly around school girls in uniform known as ‘jk’, is big business in Japan. The culture is so vast that there is a street in Tokyo called ‘school girl avenue’, where teenage girls in school uniform sell themselves to men. The services they offer include holding hands, going for coffee and allowing men to sleep on their laps. To kick off her investigation, Stacey attempts to talk to one of the girls, who is being guarded by older men near by. The aggressive onlookers soon begin verbally attacking the BBC Three camera team, and eventually involve the police. Much to the surprise of Stacey, who knows fully well that they have engaged in no illegal activity, the team gets taken to the police station, where they are held against their will for two hours. As pointed out by Stacey, it is amazing to think that the police took the side of men who were exploiting vulnerable teenage girls. This event seems to demonstrates from the get-go how intrenched Japanese culture is in the view that exploiting young girls is acceptable work.

During a visit to one of Japan’s school girl bars, at which men can pay for quality time with young teenage girls, the question of culture comes into view

During a visit to one of Japan’s school girl bars, at which men can pay for quality time with young teenage girls, the question of culture comes into view. Is it universally wrong for men to sexualise young girls? Or is this something that western ideals perceive as wrong due to a different form of culture? In opposition to many of the men that she speaks to, Stacey supports the view that such sexualisation is always wrong, as exploiting those who are most vulnerable is an abuse of power.

Although the government currently has no child protection service to offer these ‘jk’ girls, there is NGO’s that offer hope to those being exploited. Stacey visits a drop in centre and shelter that offers girls the help they need. Speaking to the head of the organisation, Stacey discovers that in Japan youth is a quality that is placed higher than any other. For this reason, beautiful young women are targeted. Unknown to many of them, working as a ‘jk’ can often be a gateway into prostitution. Stacey meets with a 17-year-old girl who fell into this path. She began working at a cafe after school and on breaks, which eventually led to having sex with five to six men a day. The girl reveals that her way of life has led her to become incredibly depressed and suicidal, which is telling of the ways in which such exploitation can mentally damage young girls.

After meeting with the girls affected by the industry, Stacey moves on to look at the art and imagery that encourages the sexualisation of children. Visiting a porn shop, it is clear that a large and popular genre is Lolicon, a term that describes a sexual attraction towards pubescent girls. The DVD’s are covered with images of small pubescent looking girls in uniform, decorated with animations that evoke a childlike feel. The size and scale of the section available reveals that “there is clearly a target audience that are desperate to see adult women that look like children.” Despite the fact that it is illegal to possess and distribute child porn, the images and videos that are still available play to an appetite that is in high demand. A producer of a shoot that Stacey visits agrees to talk about the issue. Trying to remove himself from responsibility, he reveals that he directed a shoot with a 6-year-old girl, at a time when this was legal. Staying as calm as ever, Stacey asks how he would feel if this had been his daughter that was used. Incredibly, the man states that he would kill her and then himself, revealing the lack of responsibility he feels for the children who were not his own.

Stacey goes on to look at Manga, an art form that “captures the visual landscape of Japan.” The comics, which made a profit of £2 billion in 2015, sometimes depict graphic scenes involving children. Manga artists defend such images on the grounds of free speech, arguing that they resemble an art form that is not directly involved in the abuse of children. Despite admitting that no children are harmed in the creation of Manga, Stacey feels quite different from these artists, regarding certain forms of Manga as child pornography. It is up to viewers to decide whether the depiction of children being sexually abused in art is wrong; does it offer a scapegoat for paedophiles or encourage the problem?

It is up to viewers to decide whether the depiction of children being sexually abused in art is wrong; does it offer a scapegoat for paedophiles or encourage the problem?

Stacey’s last investigation involves a meeting with a man who outwardly admits that he is sexually attracted towards children. Entering her hotel room, he brings a childlike doll who he openly admits he is involved in sexual activity with. The man claims that, if it were legal, he would have sex with a child. The encounter is raw and disturbing, as the man regards his desires as natural and separate from the paedophilia that is regarded as illegal and so many see as wrong. Despite her calm nature, it is clear how uncomfortable Stacey feels after the encounter. Personally, I found the scene incredibly disturbing but also necessary to understand the full extent to which child exploitation is rife in Japan. The message of Stacey Dooley: Young Sex for Sale in Japan rings clear; there remains a mentality in Japan that it is acceptable to sexualise young girls.

History and Politics student, TV editor


26th March 2017 at 10:00 am

Last Updated

25th March 2017 at 8:42 pm

Images from

BBC website