Tricked into porn: Ja­panese ac­tresses out of the shad­ows

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Young, pretty and hop­ing for star­dom, Saki Kozai thought she had found her ticket to fame af­ter an ap­par­ent model scout spot­ted her on a Tokyo street and of­fered her a job. Then just 24 years old, starstruck and ex­cited, she quickly signed a deal with the agency he in­tro­duced her to, be­liev­ing that she would soon star in pro­mo­tion videos.

In fact, it was not a mod­el­ing agency, and on her first day Kozai dis­cov­ered the job re­quired her to have sex on cam­era. “I couldn’t take off my clothes. All I could do was cry,” she told AFP, adding that she saw no way out of her dire sit­u­a­tion. “There were about 20 peo­ple around me, wait­ing. No woman could say ‘no’ when they’re sur­rounded like that,” she said.

Kozai, now 30, is among a grow­ing num­ber women who are step­ping out of the shad­ows to say they were forced to work in Ja­pan’s multi-bil­lion-dol­lar porn in­dus­try. Adult films are widely avail­able in Ja­pan, which has a rel­a­tively lib­eral at­ti­tude to­ward pornog­ra­phy. But the in­dus­try’s dark side is rarely dis­cussed, nor are the rights of those who work in it.

Ac­cu­sa­tions that women were made to per­form in some­times bru­tal sex scenes, on film against their will, prompted the in­dus­try to is­sue an un­prece­dented apol­ogy and prom­ise change. The sur­prise mea culpa fol­lowed the June ar­rest of three Tokyo tal­ent agents ac­cused of forc­ing a woman to ap­pear in more than 100 porno­graphic videos.

Like Kozai, the un­named woman also thought she would be mod­el­ing. Crit­ics say porn re­cruiters trick young wom­enin­clud­ing mi­nors — with prom­ises of show busi­ness star­dom. In other cases, girls have been lured by a lav­ish lifestyle be­fore they are put to work in sex films to pay off the “debt”. Agen­cies keep them stuck with threats, in­tim­i­da­tion and fraud­u­lent con­tracts.

‘No choice’

An­other woman AFP in­ter­viewed, who de­clined to be named, said she was tricked into porn by an agent who promised to help her be­come a singer. She signed a con­tract that she says did not make clear the na­ture of her real work. “The agency spent months try­ing to con­vince me. I had no choice” af­ter sign­ing the con­tract, the 26year-old told AFP.

She re­sisted at first. But like Kozai and oth­ers, she suc­cumbed to the pres­sure. “At first, I said I couldn’t do it,” she added. “But when I did, it re­ally hurt. The pro­duc­tion team wouldn’t stop though.”

Ja­panese non-profit group Light­house, which works to stop hu­man traf­fick­ing, said more than 60 ac­tresses try­ing to es­cape the busi­ness con­tacted them in the first half of 2016 — well above pre­vi­ous years. “And we think this is just the tip of the ice­berg,” said Light­house spokes­woman Aiki Se­gawa. “Many vic­tims feel guilty, think­ing that what hap­pened is their fault.”

Most women are young-be­tween 18 and 25 — with lit­tle knowl­edge of le­gal con­tracts and a tough case to prove in court. “They’re not nec­es­sar­ily all abused or locked up...It’s more like they are tricked into it,” Se­gawa said.

Kozai got hooked on tran­quil­liz­ers to deal with the anx­i­ety and she was iso­lated af­ter the agency con­vinced her to cut off con­tact with fam­ily to fo­cus on her ca­reer. “I couldn’t make ra­tio­nal de­ci­sions any­more,” she said. Kozai even­tu­ally left the agency that she says brain­washed her. But she con­tin­ues to act in adult films as a free­lancer.

A re­port by Tokyo-based Hu­man Rights Now de­tails a list of dirty tricks used by porn re­cruiters. Among them, vic­tims are some­times threat­ened with ex­or­bi­tant fines to get out of vaguely worded con­tracts or told they would never be able to find a job out­side porn af­ter ap­pear­ing on film.

Scouts have also shown up at univer­sity cam­puses or a vic­tim’s home to de­mand huge fines from their par­ents if they re­fused to work, it said.

De­pres­sion, sui­cide

Last year, the Tokyo Dis­trict Court threw out an agency’s bid to ex­tract a 24 mil­lion yen ($240,000) penalty from a women who re­fused to ap­pear in porn films-a rare le­gal vic­tory, crit­ics say.

Ja­pan re­leases some 30,000 adult films an­nu­ally, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try fig­ures. And it can be nearly im­pos­si­ble to get co­erced pornog­ra­phy out of dis­tri­bu­tion in the in­ter­net age. One woman cited in the re­port had re­peated plas­tic surg­eries to es­cape her past, while an­other told an NGO she planned to hire a lawyer to stop the dis­tri­bu­tion of movies she ap­peared in. But she hanged her­self be­fore pro­ceed­ing with the case, the re­port said.

Mariko Kawana, a porn­star-turned-nov­el­ist, started an or­ga­ni­za­tion this sum­mer call­ing on the in­dus­try for uni­form, trans­par­ent con­tracts. “Ev­ery adult movie com­pany has its own rules-it should be uni­fied to pro­tect the rights of ac­tresses,” said Kawana, who says she worked in the busi­ness by choice. — AFP

TOKYO: This photo taken on July 15, 2016 shows Ja­panese porn star-turned-nov­el­ist Mariko Kawana an­swer­ing ques­tions dur­ing an in­ter­view with Agence France-Presse. — AFP

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