Walk into certain areas of Tokyo—Kabukicho, Ikebukuro, or Kinshicho, for example, and you’ll find little ambiguity about what’s being offered up for sale.
It could be conversation and flirtation that could lead to something else in the case of a hostess club, or a wide range of different (ahem) services at soaplands or similar places. And if you haven’t seen a love hotel or two on a walk around town, you might need to get your eyes checked.
But far and away, the casual sex industry is designed with salarymen in mind—with the exception of host clubs, there are few places where women who don’t feel like they’re getting enough lovin’ out of their marriages can go for an easy fling. That might be one of the reasons that the adultery site Ashley Madison has managed to reach one million members in Japan in less than a year.
The site launched in Canada in 2002 with the simple slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.” It’s a message that has not been lost in translation: the site broke the million mark here faster than it did in any of the other 37 countries where the service operates. Men make up 64% of the site’s users in Japan, but as Noel Biderman, CEO of the company that runs Ashley Madison, explains, the site can serve as a “a leveling out of the playing field” for women who are trying to get a little more play. Women can use the site for free, while male members have to shell out ¥4,900 ($47.25) for a pack of 100 credits, which can be used to connect with possible partners or send them virtual gifts.
According to a survey of 3,500 Ashley Madison’s Japanese users, 55% of the women and 51% of the men said that they were looking to begin an affair because there was “not enough sex” in their lives. And there was very little remorse on behalf of either sex for having an affair—only 2 percent of the women said that they felt guilty, and only 8 percent of the men. (Compare that to a “guilt rate” of about 20% for the poll’s worldwide average.) In fact, 84% of the women who replied to the survey said that having an affair “worked as a plus” to their marriage.
It’s probably a good idea to add some nuance to the notion that there’s not a lot of sex going on in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Image: “SEX” by Jean KOULEV/Flickr