Media Mix, Sept. 16, 2018

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the Asia Games basketball scandal. As I tried to say in the last paragraph, the media response has been dual—the MSM expresses shock and disgust, while the tabloid press shrugs and winks—even though the same impulse feeds both reactions, namely a belief that men cannot control their sexual desires. The former finds this a problem while the latter accepts it and even celebrates it sometimes. The jokey tone of the Shincho article I referenced is representative of the tabloid attitude—one source thinks buying prostitutes is no big deal and wonders why the Asahi photographer didn’t join the group (“they probably could have gotten a bargain”)—and conveys a deeper feeling that as long as women offer themselves in this way it’s only natural for men to take it. Such transactions are only the business of the two parties involved, but, especially when money’s involved, the notion of coercion still has to be factored in. Neither Shincho nor Asahi said anything about the women these players bought because no one talked to them, but it isn’t far from credible to think they might not have been prostitutes willingly. I say that not to demean sex work but rather to point out that the transaction isn’t necessarily as clean cut as Shincho makes it out to be. While the magazine has a point in ribbing Asahi for its puritanical approach to the story, the reporter also writes that the newspaper “revealed its priorities” by publishing it. “After all,” he writes, “that’s how they covered the comfort women issue.” This is a reference to Asahi’s sex slave coverage, for which it has been lambasted on the right, mainly for one instance of fake news. Those who maintain that the comfort women were all professional prostitutes and thus were not coerced into servicing front line soldiers during World War II implicitly hold that monetized sexual relationships are only negotiated with the complete willingness of the female side. Males have no conscious agency; they are just a jumble of confused, incontrovertible urges. Rape is one of these urges, and in the heat of combat it becomes acute. That’s why front-line brothels were supposedly necessary. Disregarding the evidence that Japanese soldiers—like all soldiers throughout history—did their fair share of raping, this narrative assumes that the comfort women could have only been willing participants in this endeavor because the purpose was practical and the military’s intentions therefore pure. But this narrative also indicts prostitutes for providing the service that allows men to indulge in their least admirable trait, which is why prostitutes, both as a group and as individuals, are hated by the general public. Despite documented historical proof, not to mention logical thinking informed by familiarity with human nature, the former comfort women who have come forward later in life to say they were forced into serving Japanese soldiers have been called blatant liars. Any problems having to do with sex are still the fault of women.

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