We tend to think of prostitution as a desperate circumstance—a single mother driven to her last resort or a young girl forced into a brothel. But among Japan’s young adults, this is not necessarily the case. Award-winning filmmaker Brent Ryan Green took his crew to Tokyo to film Paper Flower to expose the disturbing—and growing—trend in which Japanese schoolgirls volunteer sexual favors to older men in exchange for high-fashion designer items. Known as enjo-kosai, which translates “compensated dating,” it’s actually a modern form of prostitution. We asked Green to talk to us about the reality of this issue behind the scenes.
What is “compensated dating”?
It’s a new trend in Tokyo driven by materialism. Many of the participants are middle-class girls who are not engaging in this sort of activity to get by or afford food but to supplement their income and keep up with the latest fashions.
What surprised you in researching this practice?
The frequency of these transactions. Ten percent of girls in Japan have been approached for enjo-kosai. Also, Japanese men face a lot of pressure to provide the latest fashions, which has led to longer working hours, a high suicide rate and the breakdown of the family.
How is the film supporting a solution for this issue?
We hope it engages girls emotionally to help them see beauty comes from within. Schools are using it to educate and open discussion, with the hope of re-humanizing sexual intimacy and affirming that being viewed as a sex object is unacceptable.
What’s the connection between film and faith for you?
For me, there is no difference. They are both a part of me, with no distinction between the two.