The appeal and the demand for younger and younger-looking porn performers often feeds into pedophile culture and/or child sexual exploitation, often normalizing the idea of a young female being dominated by a much older male.
Think about it—one of the most popular scenes in mainstream porn is a teen girl getting abused or taken advantage of by a much older man. And one subculture in Japan that fetishizes young school girls is a disturbing example of what happens when these sexual and predatory appetites are given full expression in public society.
To be clear, the definition of sex trafficking according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 is:
“The modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under the age of 18 years.”
Recently, the Washington Post featured an in-depth article on a particularly troubling element of “high school dating” culture in Japan, except usually only one person in the “date” is actually still in school. And it’s not innocent or organically social in any way, it’s glorified sex trafficking. This culture is referred to as “joshi kosei” or “JK” for short, meaning that the girl is in high school (16 years old and up), and the man is, typically, much older often into his 40’s and 50’s.
These girls, victims of sex trafficking, work in cafes or provide services to men that range from bar-tending to selling sex. Essentially “JK” is a sex trafficking industry that trades young girls in school into situations where men are paying customers and what they buy can be anything from a time period to simply stare at the girl in her school uniform, go on a walk with her (which usually ends in a sexual favor) or straight-up paying for sex.
And while this underage trafficking culture has been around for quite some time in Japan, it’s no secret that hardcore internet pornography is fueling this deeply troubling craze like never before.
The Growing Appeal Of Young School Girls
The popularity of female students specifically in their “Sailor Moon” styled school uniforms carries for many older men a particular sexual appeal, in this Japanese subculture. A perversion of innocence means that men seek out visual as well as physical stimulation via various encounters with young women who either are or appear to be young school girls.
And even then, the preference is that they’re still students, when it can be verified they are.
“If there are two 16-year-old girls, and one’s at school and one’s not, customers will always choose the one who’s at school,” one JK business manager said to the Post. If we’re thinking of trafficking as the definition provided above, this is blatant sex trafficking that has been deemed socially permissive. How is this okay?
As an organization, we see this kind of escalation of demand in porn all the time. For some viewers, after a while, it can’t just “seem” like someone young, it “needs” to be someone young to achieve the same thrill. It’s that kind of pattern of consumption that, tragically, leads to countless cases of exploitation and abuse, and fuels the worldwide crisis of sex trafficking.
Thinly Disguised Sexual Exploitation
One of the direct similarities with porn in the JK industry is the peep show. The Post highlights that “[t]here are various levels of high school dating, starting with cafes staffed by underage girls and peep shows where high school girls sit behind a one-way mirror in their school uniforms, posing according to customers’ requests.”
The article further explained that some businesses can make upwards of $60 per customer to allow men to simply watch, for 30 minutes, “girls between 15 and 17 years old [sit] in their school uniforms folding paper cranes, their legs arranged so their underwear [is] visible.”
In other words, businesses are increasingly allowing this child exploitation, and even profiting from it.
The Post also noted that in a recent report on international human rights, the U.S. State Department clarified that “compensated dating” is just sexual exploitation by a different name, and contributes to human trafficking, especially that of children. How is this so publicly acceptable?
One of the people trying to do something about it is Jun Tachibana, from the nonprofit Bond Project, which is trying to get girls off the streets and stop them from falling into the JK business.
“There are girls in difficult situations — they could be coming from a poor family or could be sexually abused at home — and find it hard to live their lives,” Tachibana said in the Post’s report. “Some say they are so lonely that they want to die and disappear. Often these girls don’t have a place to stay, so they get into the JK business… These girls are still children, and what they are going through is sexual exploitation,” she said.
How Porn Feeds Underage Obsession
There are two sides to this issue. On one hand, the pornification of society has caused so many to accept the sexualization of tweens and teens as casual, “harmless” entertainment. Not cool. And on the other hand, the normalization and fetishization of teens have influenced young girls to fall into blatant sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.
The fact is, since 2012, a wildly popular search term on a porn site that got 33.5 billion visits in 2018 is TEEN.
This means there is a massive porn genre dedicated entirely to girls who look (and may very well be for all anyone knows) younger than 18 years old, and now an entire child trafficking industry in Japan is dedicated to the commercialized exploitation of young school girls. How is this okay?
Studies have shown that images are especially powerful teachers since they can pack in a whole lot of information that the viewer can understand very quickly.  And while words are often interpreted as opinions, our brains are more likely to interpret images as facts; after all, it’s a lot harder to argue with something you’re seeing happen right in front of you. 
Now here’s the kicker: research has shown that our brains learn better when they’re sexually aroused. When you add in the focused concentration of searching through pornographic images to find exactly what the searcher is looking for, and reinforcing what’s being taught with the reward of sexual climax, it creates the perfect conditions for teaching and conditioning the brain.
As a result, consistent porn consumers wire their sexuality based on the virtual images that are stimulating to their body and brain. In this case, images showing teenaged-looking porn performers. Porn consumers are training their brain to seek after images of teens being used and sometimes abused. See the issue?
If we don’t take a stand, this issue will only escalate. By being informed and understanding porn’s proven harmful effects, we can make a much-needed change to our perceptions about what’s healthy and what’s not.
The fact is, porn, exploitation, sex trafficking are all closely interlinked. We can do better. We can fight to stop the demand.