Here’s a headline to wake us up of a Monday;
Boob Aid: Japan porn queens take part in 24-hour 'squeeze-a-thon' for Aids charity
Actually, this saucy sentence comes from Singapore’s The Straits Times and dates back to Aug 25, 2014. The reason for reliving this ‘bit of blue’ comes from another headline that hit the papers over the weekend, referring to the same event;
Japan adult TV channel’s Boob Aid charity event rubs some the wrong way, sparking online petition (The Japan Times, Jan 16, 2016)
First off; Boob Aid! Whatever else gets said in the following sentences, surely we can all take some giggly, childish kicks from this wonderfully high-concept word combo. I wonder if the Japanese from which it is derived carries an equal sense of blunt thrill (or misery) - Oppai Bokin.
The articles referenced above, explain clearly the event in question, but very quickly, Boob Aid is an annual charity event, organised by an ‘adult’ TV channel, aimed at raising funds for eradicating AIDS. Sounds good so far. However, the format of the event brings together a collection of Japanese (female) porn stars to bare their breasts, and have members of the public give money to charity in exchange for a literally ‘hands on’ experience with said porn star’s prize assets. No, not their extensive collection of rare insert item here, but rather, their breasts. Some people have taken umbrage with this, namely Change.org who, last month, set up a petition calling for the event to ‘not be condoned and continued’.
So, how are we to look at this? I suppose we could do the simple math and take the utilitarian route i.e, calculate what is likely to create the most happiness, and call that the best thing to do. In this case, porn stars do what porn stars do, a group of punters come away with a sense of satisfaction (up for debate as to what kind), and a load of money gets given to a worthy cause. A few numbers on the last event - 7,175 participants, ~ 6 million yen raised, 7-10 porn stars involved, the event took place over 2 days, and it has been held since 2003.
The problem with utilitarianism though, has always been the question of what equates to happiness and whether it can be reduced to mere numbers.
The people at Change.org have this to say about the event;
"Please stop exploiting women’s body for promotional and commercial aim."
The porn stars on the ‘Boob Aid’ landing page look happy enough, and seem upbeat in some of the quotes from The Straits Times piece ("Squeeze them, donate money - let's be happy.") but how do we know that they don’t go home afterwards and silently hate themselves. And not just the women in this:
"This event hides behind the front of being a “charity event” but in reality, the participants are basically just paying to touch bare breasts." (Change.org)
I don’t think anyone can argue this to be untrue. However, will said participants (Shock alert! They’re mostly men!) look back on this with pride, or will they be reduced to crying themselves to sleep in the future?
Does this have anything to do with the expat community?
I’ve no idea if any of us lot were at the event (there seems to be no foreign language information over at Boob Aid). However, Change.org have translated information accompanying their petition into English. They want us to know about it (and presumably sign the petition).
Of course, this could all just be one of the lesser unsettling entries in the encyclopedia of weird Japanese sexual kicks (charity just being the excuse). Or, is it an unfortunate truth all over the world, that in order to get money for charity, you have to push boundaries in this way? Whilst I can’t think of this event happening back home, without question the best way to raise money with a calendar is to have plenty of flesh on show (models, firefighters, athletes, pensioners … yes, really).
These things about the event seem clear to me - an AIDS charity got some money, few (if any) of the participants care about that, and the TV channel cares mostly about the promotion.
But what of the porn stars, and the participants? Should we be praising their sacrifices, or are they in need of better protection from exploitation?