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Japan Changes Age of Adulthood, Allows 18-Year-Olds to Perform in Porn with No Legal Safeguards

Overnight, millions of young people in Japan became legal adults on April 1, 2022, as the government made a bid to revitalize its aging workforce.

Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization. Some of the issues discussed in the following article are legislatively-affiliated. Though our organization is non-legislative, we fully support the regulation of already illegal forms of pornography and sexual exploitation, including the fight against sex trafficking.

In the United States, the base legal age of adulthood is 18 years old.

Imagine going to bed one night at 16 as a non-adult only to wake up the next day and be legally considered an adult–and we’re not just talking about a “13 Going on 30” situation.

Rather, imagine the U.S. government decided that 18 is no longer the age of adulthood, and 16 is. Essentially, that’s what Japan just did—but the age of adulthood dropped from 20 to 18.

Related: Tricked Into Porn: More Than 60 Actresses Forced Into Sex On Camera in Japan

Overnight, millions of young people in Japan became legal adults on April 1, 2022, as the Japanese government made a bid to revitalize its aging workforce.

This means 18 and 19-year-olds in Japan no longer need their parents’ permission to sign a phone contract, rent an apartment, or perform in porn.

And while the first two items in that list haven’t been met by much resistance, the third has.

Bark

Why is the ability to work in porn at age 18 controversial?

Before April, the Japanese government offered the country’s nearly 2.4 million young adults who were at least 18 years old, but below 20 (the previous age of adulthood) additional protections, such as needing parents’ approval to make porn and allowing them to rescind any contract they signed anytime and demand their videos be removed.

Now, these young Japanese adults no longer have these safeguards because they’re considered adults.

Related: Man in Japan Uses Deepfakes Technology to De-pixelate Pornographic Content

Some activists and government officials say the lack of continued safeguards could become very worrisome because of the possibility of causing an increase in sexual exploitation among 18 and 19-year-olds.

Some of these young adults are still in high school, and could possibly be more easily coerced to have sex in front of a camera.

What are these activists and government officials saying about the age change?

This is no laughing matter. It is an important issue,” representative Ayaka Shiomura said as her fellow lawmakers laughed at her while she was speaking in front of the Japanese Parliament in March.

Shiomura was proposing a bill that would keep protective measures for those in their late teens even when they’re technically now considered adults.

While Shiomura seemed to be a lone voice in parliament, other human rights groups have similarly called for the Japanese government to continue to allow 18 and 19-year-olds to nullify contracts when they’d like.

Related: How Porn & Technology Might Be Replacing Sex for Japanese Millennials

And, the week before Japan raised its age of adulthood, lawyers and nonprofit leaders were able to collect nearly 42,000 signatures for a petition that asked the government to keep the safeguards in place. Note that some of the signatures are from professionals in the commercial sex industry and former porn performers.

As Suzuki, a porn talent manager, puts it, “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you still deserve a proper explanation about the contracts you’re signing, and you deserve protection if you’ve been deceived.”

Are younger porn performers really at risk of exploitation like some activists and government officials claim?

If you’re skeptical that exploitation happens in Japan’s porn industry, listen to YouTuber who goes by the name of Aroma Kurumin.

At a different parliament meeting in March, Kurumin spoke about being coerced into filming porn as a college senior. She called the experience “…a scar that will never go away.

While she was asked to be in a music video on the streets of Tokyo, that was reportedly a cover for what she was actually being signed up for. When she showed up on the set, it was clear that the gig was a porn shoot, not a music video shoot. Kurumin said she initially resisted, but she was reportedly coerced by more than 10 people to strip and film.

Kurumin is not alone in her story.

Related: Real Stories of Sex Trafficking Victims in Porn

“Lisa,” whose name we have changed for her privacy, shared with us that she was 18 when she was scouted for a modeling gig in San Diego. The address she was supposed to meet the photographer at was for a grungy hotel.

There, she ended up alone with a man who progressively pushed her to remove more and more clothing for pictures, until she refused to go beyond her bra and underwear.

Lisa’s family would later uncover that the man did a lot of porn-related work in Dubai and the Philippines, places known for trafficking. According to police who were called about the man, what he was doing could easily be considered part of the grooming process for trafficking.

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Why this matters

It doesn’t matter whether someone is 12, 18, or 30—sexual exploitation is a real and present issue in our society. Too many stories exist of men and women, young and old, who are manipulated into and groomed to act in porn or other exploitative circumstances.

Related: How the Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content and Abuse

The porn industry markets itself as a high-paying, “regulated,” and “safer” alternative to selling sex directly to buyers, yet too many cases show it is anything but that. Abuse, trafficking, violence, and child sexualization are commonplace.

Stopping the demand for sexual exploitation starts with acknowledging the industries that fuel, perpetuate, and normalize it. Consider how the porn industry does exactly that.

To learn more about how porn and sex trafficking are intricately connected, click here.

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