Myth of the ‘willing’ prostitute

In his May 23 letter, “Use of ‘force’ was the difference,” Paul Gaysford, a former fighter pilot, agrees that “where there is a military, there is sex,” but seems to justify American “comforts” during the Vietnam War by claiming the providers did so “willingly.” He further questions why the Japanese did not use their own citizens as comfort women during the East Asian War.

Gaysford is wrong on both counts, and his comments may provide a reason to believe that Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is not the most insensitive resident of Japan.

Japanese women did serve as comfort women during the war. They further worked in the network of brothels that Japan found itself “obliged” to set up (duly segregated by race) for the comforts of the U.S.-led Occupation. (My question for the U.S. State Department: Do the women who served in these brothels also qualify as “comfort women”?)

As for the “willingness” of those who serviced “other armies,” I would suggest to Gaysford that relatively few prostitutes provide sex willingly. Most are largely forced into prostitution because of economic necessity; thus it does well to consider what creates their monetary need. In the case of Vietnam, the systematic destruction of that nation by service members of Western militaries just might have had something to do with it.

Perhaps Gaysford should take a trip down to his local DVD rental shop to pick up a copy of “Les Miserables.” It contains a famous song by a “willing” prostitute that nonetheless drives most to tears.

paul de vries
kawaguchi, saitama

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

  • Jack

    This sensitive issue has many sides to it. Prostitution as we all know is the oldest profession. Women during the Japanese Occupation of Asia, were forced into it. However, in other parts of the world, economies play a most important role. We cannot condemn those who had to engage in it in order to survive during peace time because no other form of employment was or is available. The comfort women issue is very old and it’s difficult to find but a handful of those who are still around to discuss their misfortune.

    • Eoghan Hughes

      Actually, the comfort women issue started in the 1980s precisely because those who were still around decided to discuss their misfortune. (That these women’s stories just happen to serve the 21st-century goals of the South Korean government of attacking Japan’s territorial integrity I’m sure is just a happy side effect.)

  • Joseph Jaworski

    Gaysford got it right. There is too much distance between the “force” exerted by economic circumstances and the “force” exerted by the threat of immediate physical violence to draw equivalence between these two situations.

    The situation of a man who takes a job cleaning bathrooms because he is poor and has few marketable skills is fundamentally different from the situation of a man who is forced to clean bathrooms at the barrel of a gun. In the first case, the man makes undertakes a rational cost-benefit analysis and decides that cleaning bathrooms for a living is preferable to being unemployed, engaging in crime, or any other imaginable alternative. In the second case, the man is robbed of his ability to make decisions about his own life.

    We can call the first case sad or unfortunate, but is not evil and criminal like the second case.

    Also, we could do without the ad hominem attacks. It is perfectly appropriate to call ideas “insensitive” but we do not further our arguments by labeling people.