I don’t think I have ever been more uncomfortable in my entire life. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but upon pressing play within the first two minutes of watching this video I burst out laughing. This was an awkward, ‘I can’t believe this actually exists’ kind of reaction. I do not think and surely hope that Americans or other cultures would pay for services like the ones observed in the video. I had a very strong disgusted and shocked reaction to the Japanese sex industry, and I certainly cannot wrap my head around any sort of rationalization for it, even though there may be one. Despite this, I was able to recognize the fact that actions like the ones observed are a direct result of the changing image of the family. Gender roles have shifted and will continue to break down the dynamic of the classic mom, dad, two kids, labrador, and white picket fenced house.
The Japanese sex industry has commodified human emotions. Cyber girlfriends have replaced real ones, consumers can pay to snuggle, date, and pay for sex with dolls. Their society at large is removing the many human aspects and are completely separating their physical and emotional realms. The testimonies from featured women particularly disturbed me, “When I see happy couples at Christmas, I want them to die” said one Cuddle Cafe employee. Her point was downshifted off of another woman who earlier proclaimed that love fades when couples grow up and have children. Emotional attachment is not necessarily a weakness, but rather a dying trend.
I think that technology is largely at play here. It has connected individuals and has allowed them to be ‘hyper-connected’ while at the same time has caused a large riff in our classic view of a relationship. Today, people may not talk face to face as much as they interact over screens. Technology has also caused a phenomenon among our generation to commodify everything. Apps like Tinder have started to catch on in the US, but I do not think this complete emotional detachment will catch on as much as it has in Japan.
Maybe this is a personal bias, but there are clear differences in Japanese and American culture that may have caused my strong reaction. Exploring this option, I googled, “Japanese emotional detachment”. What I found was an excerpt from a book (find it here) that talked about the psychic distance between literature found in the east and the west. Japanese poetry praises terms like ‘hininjo’ which means ‘non human’, ‘unsympathetic’, and addresses ‘detachment from human emotions’. Reading further, I found that historically Japanese aesthetic culture has praised the achieving of hininjo as an essential element of art. Only when one has achieved this, are they able to truly listen to and view art in its purest form.
What has given this movement more depth? First, across the globe, the role of women is changing. Women are not seen as only domestic figures, but are also taking charge in the work force, military, and political schemas. While this may be a cause of the changing face of the family, it goes hand in hand with the technological and capitalistic influence on commodities.