Lack of female representation in Japanese culture problematic

A game called RapeLay appeared on Japanese shelves and was immediately pulled due to an uproar of consumer complaint. In the game, a player can portray a man who rapes women. Other men can join in for a gang-style rape or choose to impregnate a rape victim and force her to abort. This is a video game?

Women’s groups were outraged over the distribution of the game but in this age of the Internet, pulling the game proved to be too little too late. It was already available for download (free on some Web sites) with the click of a mouse. It was even available for purchase on, who pulled the game from their site in February 2009.

Upon first reading a news article about the game I was horrified, then I started doing some research. Japanese people tend to view women a little differently than we are used to. They live in what is called a male-led or “patriarchal” culture, which essentially means men have all the power. It is sad, outdated and, unfortunately, accepted as the way things are.

Japanese sex culture and pornography, called “hentai,” mainly focuses on the submission and even the abuse of women. Although the laws in Japan do come down on nudity and graphic sex, they don’t condemn the actual content of a game like this. So even though RapeLay isn’t on the shelves, there are dozens of similar games readily available in stores in Japan and now, thanks to the Internet, easily downloadable for anyone.

To say it’s abhorrent is an understatement. What I wonder is, why is it accepted? How do women in Japan feel about this type of thing, and have they done anything to rail against the dehumanization of women in their country?

Kyle Cleveland, a sociology professor in Japan, told CNN that Americans just don’t understand the sex culture there. Cleveland said that there is a lack of women in powerful positions in Japan and since men dominate practically everything, there’s not much done about the repression or sexualization of the country’s women. What the norm is for them may seem horrifying to us, and according to CNN, we were ignorant of the situation until the Internet brought it to us.

It was seemingly fine for the Japanese to trash women through pornography and video games when they kept it in their country, but now that we and the rest of the world can access it, attention is being brought to it that hasn’t been placed on it before. Could these Japanese men really find these type of video games acceptable? I find that truly hard to believe.

Even worse, possession of child pornography isn’t even illegal in Japan, according to CNN. To say that we don’t understand their sex culture is a ridiculous understatement. It truly makes me wonder how children and women are treated there and how many rapes there are there. There is actually a group of people in Japan trying to educate people and turn the tides for women, but they are repeatedly running into obstacles since most women are too ashamed to say anything or speak out, and most men consider it the cultural norm.

Rape statistics are difficult to find in Japan because even some women there say they wouldn’t report a rape because they feel women who are raped “ask for it” somehow. That’s what these women are raised to think, and that’s what culture tells them. This is terribly sad to me.

There was a case a few years ago involving a woman raped in a train restroom, and even though she was screaming, none of the passengers helped her or tried to stop it. Rape is prevalent in comic books and movies of all types. It almost seems like the culture is promoting rape.

Women who do come forward and report rape may find a gender bias when it comes time to seek justice, so what’s the point anyway? Women’s stories of rape or abuse may be marginalized especially if there isn’t any clear-cut violence – such as a beating or a stabbing – involved or “intent to harm,” since some do not see rape as inherently violent.

In a society that treats rape as a game in which players can rack up points for the number of rapes they perpetuate, how will real Japanese women ever get justice for rape in the real world outside of games and comic books? If two-dimensional women “enjoy” rape, what message is that sending to the young men of Japan about three-dimensional women?

Christi Aldridge is a senior strategic communication major from Hillsboro.