Sexualized Teens: AKB48 and Jailbait Culture


Anyone who spends more than two minutes walking the streets of Toyko’s Akihabara district will probably spot it immediately. There’s a barely-hidden obsession with young teen girls in Japan. 

Minami Minegishi in 2005

Minami Minegishi in 2005

With the recent breakdown of one of the members of AKB48, the issue has been brought into the forefront of the media. First, a bit of background. These teen-filled pop groups are known in Japan as “Idol Groups”. And their popularity is undeniable. Most of the major idol groups that are at the top of the charts in Japan are based on AKB48, which was started back in 2005.

The group is made up of a huge number of singers: AKB currently contains 230 members some as young as 13. Idols have long been popular in Japan, and the idea of forming a supergroup was to provide accessibility to fans. With regular performances in the Akihabara district, at least some of the members of the group would be constantly accessible to the public, as the group is divided into squads that perform together.

AKB48

Here’s where it all went awry in recent days: Minami Minegishi, one of the founding members of the group and a member of the “K” squad, was recently found to have committed the sin of spending the night at her boyfriend’s house.

Minami Minegishi Limo

Minigishi in more recent years.

 

Despite being 20 years old, she is bound by contract to be single in the first place, so potential intimacy is out of the question.

And while this may seem absurd, and perhaps even a violation of human rights, it is not an uncommon practice in the idol industry. The reason is this: if these young girls are meant, literally, to be idolized, then the “object of desire” must remain pure, virginal, and available in the eyes of the worshipper. And make no mistake about it, they are worshipped by many.

So Minegishi’s transgression prompted her to take an extreme route. She shaved her head, then released a video on YouTube with a tearful apology to the public. In Japanese culture, shaving one’s head is viewed as a sincere penance for a grave transgression.

The video was posted on the official AKB48 channel, but then pulled at a later date, after all the controversy surrounding it came to light.

 

 

It’s heartbreaking to see someone so trapped. And it’s a terrifying prospect to consider that there are even younger girls who are under the same level of tyrannical control. Something needs to be done in the industry, yet obsessive fans will likely stand in the way of any major changes in the idol marketing machine.

Minami Minegishi RooftopOne must question where this is all coming from. In the west, the term “jailbait” is used to describe any girl under the age of 18 who exhibits sexual tendencies toward older men. But there is a major cultural difference between the west and Japan. Age of consent is not looked upon in the same manner, as it would be in the United States. The Japanese penal code sets the age of consent at 13, although certain prefectures have the option of setting the age higher.

All of this leads to an open environment of lust and infatuation in Japan toward girls that one would not even consider being attracted to, or at least, an attraction that one would be hard-pressed to admit publicly. It would seem that while the thin veil of musical performance may be a cover for more intimate affections, many are even bothering to use the excuse anymore.

 

6 thoughts on “Sexualized Teens: AKB48 and Jailbait Culture

  1. I think this article would be valid if the girls were actually “forced” to enter and obey the rules of japanese idol world , but they’re volunteered aren’t they ? They choose to be part of the idol industry themselves , so i guess they’re well aware of the consequences .
    As far as i know in AKB48 , the goup does give penalty to the members who disobey the golden rules , like downgrading them to the lower team or kick them out . It’s true that the industry are cruel , but most of the girls get along with it because they really want to be an idol and make the fans happy , and most of the fans still support the member who gets penalty .
    It’s jus my opinion though , as i’m also a fans of AKB48

    • I suppose the question remains: does a 12 year old girl have the capacity to make that kind of life decision? Does she fully appreciate the consequences of a life in the public eye? My suspicion is that it has just as much to do with parents hoping to get rich off the talents of their children. (Lindsay Lohan, anyone?)

      I don’t dislike the group, they have catchy music and certainly know how to put on a show. My concerns lie in that grey area between entertainment and exploitation.

    • This illusion that the idols are there to please the fans is part of the business. Is being an idol really just a service job?
      We have no idea how much these girls really give consent. They surely don’t choose what they wear.
      Regardless, I agree with Michael in that they may be too naive to make such a decision. Nobody expects to “mess up” but the one who does gets handed the judgement of millions.
      The writer is right, the fact that Minami Minegishi chose to shave her head as an apology speaks to how deeply oppressed she is. She found no other emotional escape.

  2. It is a shame how these young girls,maybe not a lot different than in the west,get sexually exploited by their managers,or reps. As it’s been the many stories in neighboring South Korea,where a few sexually abused girls in K-Pop groups,and celebrities committed suicide.
    Japanese adult businessmen have a sick fetish for “lolitas”,some as young as 13 year olds.,and jap Pron movie producers also exploit these girls creating the Myth that these girls crave older men!

  3. Pingback: JKT48, Wota, dan Cinta (Studi Analisis mengenai JKT48 dan WOTA) by: Lex dePraxis | The Greatest Mistery

  4. Pingback: Girl Model: A House of Mirrors in the Teen Modelling World | The Asian PersuasionThe Asian Persuasion

Leave a Reply