Many already know it, Japan is at the origin of a rather disturbing invention: gashapon distributors (ガ チ ャ ポ ン) which offer for the purchase of used panties of young women. A very strange fusion between the nostalgic candy machine of our childhood and a little harmless sexual fetishism … But if, a few years ago, we could still come across some of these machines in the sex shops of Tokyo, this business is now officially banned and seems to have practically disappeared from the pink basements of the capital. The exceptions are rare and above all, outlaw. This strange business has naturally migrated to the Japanese web, which is now exacerbated by the global health situation. State of play.

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Classic gashapon (the versions for panties are more daring).

Fall on a used panty machine at the bend of a little stroll in Tokyo, it was a great classic of surprising and wacky stories to tell on returning from a trip to Japan. If the practice makes some laugh and disgusts others, it is above all synonymous with a certain relationship to the sexuality of the Japanese towards (very) young girls and female students.

Yes these machines have now practically disappeared, the market has simply transposed to the web where Japanese women can resell their dirty panties discreetly. And the phenomenon seems to have taken, in recent times, a systemic scale. Sure Yahoo Auction JAPAN especially, Today there are thousands of used panties, thongs, stockings and tights for sale. Men snatch them away in fiery auctions.

At first glance, however, one would believe in simple sales of second-hand clothes intended for other women: so why shouldn’t it be just such transactions? After all, wouldn’t we be making films?

The codes of the Japanese market for used panties

Used socks for sale online
Online sales of used panties

Although the publications appear at first glance to be about selling simple clothes online, descriptions openly target men by seeking to excite them over the private details of their owner. All these announcements specify an age, a woman’s name and her position in society : student, businesswoman, nurse,… There is something for all fantasies. This recurring youth, it is moreover one of the reasons which had pushed the government to eliminate the distributors: it was sometimes question of panties deliberately torn by the male salesmen to make believe in the used, but also, there, often real underwear, sometimes even underage girls

In theory, the practice is also prohibited on the sales platform. To get around the blocks, the alleged sellers use text codes and some kanji specific so that men – informed through specialized forums – can find these ads in a simple search, without confusing them with simple second-hand products. This is also how we stumbled upon this very astonishing vein. By searching for the term ” Tansu – traditional Japanese furniture that we have been restoring for a few years. Indeed, the headlines repeatedly state that these panties are from their personal Tansu. Other keywords, known to this fetishist community, allow them to find thousands of under users in an instant.

Ayaka’s panties, 23 years old… It’s hard to be more explicit.

Young girls panty fetishists precisely look for worn and unwashed underwear so that you can enjoy their scent. But sellers cannot clearly specify this at the risk of being banned from the platform. To work around the problem, the photographs are taken explicitly, often displaying the inside of the panties, rather than its exterior design, always with the precise references of the girl.

Covid-19: good news for the sex trade

Sexshop Tokyo @PhilippeReichert

Of course, we are not here to judge the inclination. As long as it is understood between consenting adults, this trade is perceived as “neither good nor bad” in the eyes of Japanese culture. Each party finds its account. However, if the phenomenon is nothing new, we have observed an increase in this type of sales since the start of the health crisis. And this phenomenon echoes a situation of galloping precariousness among young Japanese people who are looking for alternative means of generating money. The mass sale of used panties then becomes a symptom.

We indeed assume that insecurity in which many young girls were suddenly thrown probably had to feed these alternative ways of generating income. If all of Japanese society is obviously hit hard by the pandemic, women – who hold the majority of precarious jobs – find themselves on the front line of these effects. Sad testimony to this state of affairs, from summer 2020, a wave of suicides has hit Japan, with statistics without appeal: “According to statistics published by the police and the Ministry of Health, the phenomenon mainly affects women, with a 27.5% increase in the number of suicides, while the toll for men remains stable, ”reports Courrier International.

On the other hand, the world of prostitution also benefited from the coronavirus. While prostitution is theoretically prohibited in Japan (mostly camouflaged but widely practiced), it has never been easier to “order” (in the words of the advertisers) a woman delivered to you the same day. We will remember the words of a Japanese host who publicly rejoiced at the effects of the coronavirus: push a whole generation of young girls into prostitution. But this will be the subject of further investigation. Also, the combination of an offer boosted by the growing poverty of women, more and more demand ease, because anonymized and personalized thanks to the internet, and a global climate of confinement and withdrawal home, she presents herself as a powerful engine of sexual e-commerce.

On a Tokyo sidewalk drags a flyer to order an escort girl

But let us be reassured that it is only lingerie used or that we are sorry for the place that a fantasy can take in the internet representativeness of the female body, one thing is certain, this business is to be considered as part of a whole: the culture of sex in Japan.

Sexuality and the Japanese

Is this trend a sign that the Japanese are quite comfortable with their sexuality? Not really. Paradoxically, access to a fulfilling sexuality remains difficult for a good number of Japanese, which is not without generating many frustrations. In 2016, the Japanese National Institute of Population and Social Security revealed that 42% of men and 44% of women between 18 and 35 years old had never had sex. A major societal issue because the fertility rate in Japan is decreasing, as is its population.

But how to cultivate an intimate life when the daily newspaper is a chain of restrictive imperatives? Indeed, the sex life of the Japanese is, in fact, as for everyone else, inseparable from the conditions of existence. Gold, drowned in an extremely demanding world of work and taking, because particularly competitive and codified, often housed in very cramped rooms or studios because of the price of real estate in big cities, and worried inequalities amplified by the global health crisis : how to comfortably accommodate physical relationships?

Beyond the timetable, add that social relations are contained in a set of conveniences and traditions that modernity, far from having erased, has come to supplant. The promiscuity between these two temporal and cultural dimensions is very present in Japan, a country constantly straddling the ostensible border that separates them. But customs should not be confined to total puritanism either. Japanese art having known, especially during the Edo era, to maintain a certain erotic appeal, in particular through explicit prints called shunga, which still inspire painting and cinema around the world today. The Empire of the senses (1976) seems today stuck in yet another paradox: a historically flourished sexuality on the one hand and the codes of modernity and its share of extreme frustrations. An ideal breeding ground for the used panties business, but sadly also for sexual abuse and rape.

Shunga engraving by Haronobu Suzuki (1725-1770) presented in Paris, Musée Guimet – National Museum of Asian Arts.
Thierry Ollivier / RMN-GP

Conclusion: from discomfort to reflection

The phenomenon of used panties can therefore be read in the light a socio-economic context and enlightens us, conversely, more about the latter. At first a little disturbing, we finally say to ourselves that it is indeed about intimacy and the choice of responsible individuals on which one would be very presumptuous to formulate a judgment. However, as with other practices, we are still very skeptical about the image of women that this fantasy cultivates, sure the place they really occupy in this market (by choice or out of spite), and on the propensity of this particular market to favor, by a clever detour, a form of pedophilia which does not say its name. It is also impossible to measure to what extent the easy access to panties for young girls can generate other frustrations to be satisfied, this time, on very real humans … Indeed, we must never lose sight of the fact that rapes in Japan go largely unpunished, and very rarely reported to the authorities. Sex criminals enjoy near immunity by default, especially when the victim is very young. But Japanese women are less and less silent, as the Shiori Ito affair demonstrates. Things are changing, but here more than elsewhere, much too slowly.

– Mr Japanization


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