Akiko Takeyama is associate professor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas. Her research and teaching interests lie in changing gender, sexuality, and class dynamics in the context of neoliberal globalization. Her first book, Staged Seduction: Selling Dreams in a Tokyo Host Club (2016 Stanford University Press), which theorizes the commercialization of feelings, emotions, and intimate relationships in contemporary Japan’s service-centered economy, was shortlisted for 2017 Michelle Rosaldo Book Prize, Association of Feminist Anthropology in American Anthropological Association. Her second book project explores the interrelation among politico-legal systems, information technology, and the global economy through the lens of contract-based sexual labor in the adult video industries of Japan and the U.S. She is a recipient of Japan Foundation Research Fellowship, SSRC-JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) Fellowship, and Wenner-Gren Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship.
This study contributes to the public awareness of contract-based social relations today and expands the field of legal anthropology to include socially invisible fields such as the adult video industry. The most legally protected area in sex commerce, the adult video industry provides a unique window onto the contemporary socio-legal processes that produce particular kinds of gender subjectivities, sexual labor, and juridical compliance. At the same time, it offers an opportunity to expose the socio-legal subtexts created through a series of juridical ambivalences. The focus of this study is on legal ambiguity as a culturally contesting site —wherein social actors justify their own principles of legality— and also as a powerful device through which those who have legal knowledge, financial capability, and social status can legally control those who do not. It compares three policy-relevant contemporary issues surrounding the adult video industry in Japan and the United States in a cross-culturally comparative way: (1) women's paradoxical —legal and social— subjectivities; (2) an ambivalent juridical line between legal pornography and illegal prostitution; and (3) so-called technology-facilitated sexual violence in the digital age, including nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit images across national borders, online sexual harassment, and sextortion. This research hypothesizes that the fine line between legal and illegal sexual labor, along with the lack of policy and legal clauses beyond child protection from sexual commerce, places women at risk for human rights abuses, including forced performance of potentially dangerous sexual acts on camera and physical and psychological violence. In Japan, an AV actress becomes a juridical worker only when coerced into acting in pornography and legally proven to be forcefully engaged in "harmful work" under the country's Worker Dispatch or Employment Security Law. Otherwise, her sex work is assumed to be consensual. As a victim of coercion, however, she loses her bargaining power and may lose her livelihood. As a sex worker the legal concept of harmful work paradoxically refuses her workers' rights since sex work is, by definition, illegitimate. This ambiguity effectively silences her about violence and social discrimination and forces her to tolerate any maltreatment in order to work. Comparing the ambivalent legal status of AV actresses in Japan —who are neither prostitutes nor wage laborers, and yet not fully autonomous contractors— to porn actresses in the U.S., this project probes the larger social implications of legitimate pornography. My cross-culturally comparative book, Legal Ambivalence: Gender, Labor, and Justice in the Adult Video Industries of Japan and the U.S., will offer data and insights derived from the findings to help policy makers, law practitioners, and activists develop culturally sensitive and legally sound remedies for these public concerns. The fieldwork and archival research have been essentially complete for Japan. Support is sought for the U.S. portion of the study and a brief follow-up in Japan.