Vol.10 “The Issue of “Sexual Consent” at the Root of Everything: Thoughts from the Front Lines of Supporting Victims of Sexual Exploitation”

(NFSJ Café #24, June 23, 2021, Held online)
Guest lecturers: Ms. Megumi Oka (a counselor at the NPO PAPS)

NPO PAPS is a member of JNATIP (Japan Network Against Trafficking in Persons), of which NFSJ is a member, and Ms. Oka is a member of its steering committee. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to assist Ms. Oka in her preparations for a meeting with the Japanese Government and JNATIP.  At the time, Ms. Oka murmured, “Anyway, sexual consent is the root of sexual exploitation,” which led to the realization of this NFSJ Café.

From the very beginning of the lecture, key words like “self-determination of the body,” “boundary” and “sexual consent” came up. Both children and adults have the right to “body self-determination,” or how to treat their own bodies. She explained that we can also decide the distance and boundaries between ourselves and others as we see fit.

There are also “private zones,” which we do not show to others or allow them to touch, and if someone tries to, it is OK to say “No!”  in a clear voice. Many of the victims who consult with PAPS are unaware of these rules.

During the discussion time, participants said, “We were not taught these things either” and “This is a basic problem that needs to be addressed before sex education. It is important to teach children how to take care of their own bodies from an early age.”

The key points I understood regarding sexual consent are:
– Sexual consent is possible only in a relationship of equals. It is difficult to be established under unbalanced power relationships, such as parent-child, teacher-student, etc. In situations like adult video performances, where there is a contractual relationship or where money is paid, there is no sexual consent because the relationship is unequal.

– Sexual consent should be confirmed every time. Even if you consented in the past, you can say no if you don’t want to now, and your will should be respected. In photography and videography, it is necessary to confirm the consent of the photographer and the subject, not only at the time of shooting but also at the time of viewing. However, since this is almost impossible in reality, sexual consent is not possible with images, videos, etc.

It made sense to me.

In other words, in commercial as well as private filming, sexual images and videos do not constitute sexual consent in the first place. In order to create a society where people are not sexually exploited, this concept of sexual consent must be widely known. It is necessary to have the common sense that whoever says “no” must always be respected.

Another thing that impressed me was the importance of what kind of message society sends to the younger generation on a daily basis. The social tendency to emphasize self-responsibility makes victims think that it is their own fault, and makes it difficult for them to ask for help.

You are definitely not to be blamed. Whenever you realized, “I really didn’t like it! ” you can ask for help.  It doesn’t matter if you were paid for it. Talk to us first!

This is the message we at NFSJ want to send out.
(Nozomi Kuriyama)

*NPO “PAPS” website

*Enforcement of the AV Appearance Victimization Prevention and Relief Act (June, 2022)

*For more information on Ms. Oka’s profile, refer to the NFSJ Cafe #24 announcement page.