Middle-aged Sex Workers and the Dissolution of Social Safety Nets in Neoliberal Japan

Conférence exceptionnelle de Chiaki Nishijima (Université d’Oslo), le 18 novembre 2021


Sex work reflects the lack of social safety nets for Japan’s poorest female residents. My research examines how the sex industry evolved in response to the economic recession over the last decade and half. From 2013 to 2016, I interviewed sex workers, managers, and staff at an erotic outcall business featuring Japanese women in their forties through sixties. Once viewed as pariahs in the industry, middle-aged sex workers entered the mainstream in the 2000s when businesses marketing “jukujo,” meaning mature or ripe women, began to proliferate. Enterprising managerial minds have been perceptive to emergent socio-economic vulnerabilities. Whereas the demand-driven sex industry of a robust economy was fueled by the money and desires of customers, today’s deflationary, supply-driven market responded to women’s economic needs by inventing gimmicks to cultivate new customer demand. Jukujo workers inhabited a sex industry governed by the political economic and ideological imperatives of neoliberalism, rather than the logic of victims and perpetrators that abolitionists of the anti-trafficking movement have focused on. Challenging the normative assumption of sex work as always already lucrative, my research demonstrates a malleable sex industry intimately connected to
systems like social welfare and the job market. 

Chiaki Nishijima is a social anthropologist of contemporary Japan whose research interests include sexual labor, social welfare, and political economy. She is a senior lecturer in Japanese studies at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo. She received her PhD from Harvard University and BA from Wellesley College.

Aires culturelles Sociologie Japon

Informations pratiques

  • Jeudi 18 novembre 2021 - 13:00 - 15:00
  • EHESS-Condorcet (salle A385-387) - 2 cours des Humanités 93300 Aubervilliers
  • crj@ehess.fr