Why is the number of female college students working in the sex industry skyrocketing in Japan?

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Nowadays, the sex industry has a much better reputation in Japan than in the past. Until the 1990s, the industry was seen as a last resort for women with nowhere else to go. The then-common turn of phrase “to cast oneself down into the sex industry” illustrates that all too well.

However, the 2000s were a turning point. Slowly but surely, employment in the sex industry began to be seen as a valid life choice for women. Today, even women with no prior connection to the sex industry experiment with part-time jobs in the industry. Working in the sex industry has become acceptable for women of any age.

This new environment attracted one particular group in large numbers: female college students. The establishments where they work now advertise the presence of college student prostitutes in order to draw clients. In other words, “college students” have become something that some brothels specialize in.

Two developments in Japan lie behind the influx of female college students into the sex industry: the social advancement of women, and the recession plaguing the country. For women, the sex industry has become a stepping stone towards social advancement even in the midst of that recession.

Working in the sex industry to cover college expenses

Advancement of women is one of Japanese society’s great goals today. One essential thing for accomplishing that goal is for many women to get a good education. Today, women in Japan also have access to the traditional path of success which consists of graduating from a top-tier university or technical school, and then joining a top-tier company.

However, attending college is an expensive undertaking. In the old days, when it was customary to send only sons to college, most Japanese families somehow managed to scrape together the money to pay for tuition.

However, when both sons and daughters began going to college, many families found themselves at a loss. Their struggles worsened as the economy remained mired in a chronic recession after 2000.

The situation forces many female students who have come to Tokyo and somehow managed to enroll in college to fund their tuition fees by working various part-time jobs. However, when their college studies gradually take up more of their time, more and more young women find that working regular part-time jobs leaves them unable to cover their costs. Even part-time jobs that are considered “good” jobs rarely pay more than ¥‎2,000 per hour.

Some students then find themselves turning towards work in the sex industry. This is not as surprising as it may sound, because work in the sex industry actually offers many benefits for college students.

The benefits of working in the sex industry for college students

The vast majority of college students who work in the Japanese sex industry say that they used to have a “regular” part-time job before. However, at these jobs they had to work predetermined hours, which resulted in scheduling difficulties whenever their studies required them to suddenly focus more on classwork.

In the sex industry, however, they can set their own working hours. Sometimes they do have to wait a while before a client is assigned to them, but this is not long enough to prevent them from completing their academic work.

It seems that at first, many of these young women reason that it is better to take a job in a hostess bar rather than go into the sex industry. However, a job in a hostess bar does not come with a flexible time schedule, which is precisely what female college students value the most. Working in a hostess bar is also difficult for women who do not like drinking alcohol.

Besides the flexible hours, another benefit of working in the sex industry is the high hourly earnings. In general, work in the adult entertainment industries pays incredibly well compared to other part-time jobs. So-called “pink salons” that offer only foreplay services are also easy places to work for women. In these establishments, servicing a client for 30 minutes earns a woman over ¥2,000 at the very least. The math is simple: an hour’s work means ¥4,000.

With that kind of money, female college students can finally afford life in college. Having this kind of breathing room also gives seniors plenty of time to devote to their job hunt, increasing their chances of getting a place in a good company. There are plenty of Japanese women with a job in a major corporation who managed to get into their companies thanks to their work in the sex industry.

The recession has made it even more difficult for women to advance in society. However, jobs in the sex industry can offer them salvation. For the female college students who have started flocking to the sex industry in recent years, this work is a stepping stone towards social advancement.