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The Lowlife

Humans are such complicated beings. However, sometimes (or to be honest, quite often) we tend to forget that. And right then, ‘objectification[1]’ happens. Life becomes objectified, like a TV show. It is replaced by something that can be judged so easily, and eventually tossed away, to be long forgotten. It doesn’t take much to worship or blame a show. Sadly, human lives are just too complex to be like one of those, and acknowledging the ‘human life’ is never easy. Especially when that human life is the ‘lowest’ of all.

There is a novel which gives voice to these people. by Mana Sakura introduces four women who are related to the sex industry of Japan. Being an AV[2] actress herself, Sakura gently delivers the sorrow and diverse moments of the ‘lowly’ characters.

AYANO

Ayano leaves her perfect family in Okinawa and moves to Tokyo on her own. She always saw herself as the ugly duckling in a house of swans. She constantly felt the urge to be separated from them, and somehow achieves it by being an AV actress. This shocking news eventually reaches her family, making Ayano go through a whirlpool of emotions.

MOMOKO

Ishimura, a 30-year-old man, a smart but unfortunate person, agrees to start an AV agency with a snobbish businessman named Fukuwatashi. Fukuwatashi introduces Ishimura to Momoko, an under-aged prostitute from a high-end brothel. Momoko leaves her hometown and follows Ishimura all the way to Tokyo, and they gradually fall with each other. But a happy ending seems like a fantasy for their love.

MIHO

Miho is the so-called perfect wife. She is beautiful, obedient, and great at housework. But after seven years of marriage, Miho and her husband have become nothing more than mere cohabitants. Miho, lost and empty, starts seeking an outlet for her repressed desires. The void, solitude, and depression drive her to start an indecent life.

AYAKO

Ayako lives with her mother and her grandmother in the countryside of Japan. Ayako’s mother, who was once an AV actress, isn’t quite the caring parent. Ayako’s feelings for her mother are complicated, and the “You’ll understand when you’re old enough” excuses from adults are far from helping.

The author Sakura reveals untold stories of the ‘lowlifes’ by giving a realistic touch to the characters. Their lives can no longer be objectified as ‘slutty’ or ‘pathetic’. Although they might be lonely, their lives are just as colorful as everyone else’s.

However, Sakura portrays the sex industry of Japan in a positive light throughout the whole book.

“ […] Even though it [the AV-related job] is not a bad thing, and it might’ve even lighted up someone’s heart, people unconditionally think of it as a disgrace. We are still confronting prejudice, discrimination and criticism every day. […] I want them [AV actresses] to know that acting in AV means doing good for the world and men,” says Ishimura, the agency CEO from the story.

This might seem reasonable, but we should understand that whatever the purpose might be, humans should never be treated as objects. I agree that discrimination against AV actors, especially treating them as sex dolls, should end right now and forever. But it is undeniable that the AV industry is also responsible for the sexual objectification of women, paedophilia[1], rape fantasies, and much more. The AV industry can never be justified, unless it finds a way to put a stop to all of these (which seems very unlikely at the moment).

Sakura’s attitude towards social problems, such as the sex industry or gender issues, may incur rebukes from many. However, we should never forget – despite whatever view we might have upon the matter – that there are actual human beings behind the lenses, and that even the lowest life of all is still a life.

[1] objectification: treating people like tools or toys, as if they had no feelings, opinions, or rights of their own.

[2] AV: abbreviation for Adult Video, usually refers to pornographic videos in Japan.

[3] paedophilia: the condition of being sexually interested in children, or having sexual activity with children.

Lee Giwon  jlee1402@naver.com

<저작권자 © 홍익대영자신문사, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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