Is Japan’s New Adult Video (AV) Law Working?

Is Japan’s New Adult Video (AV) Law Working?

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Japan AV law - man photographing woman
Picture: mayucolor / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
It was intended to protect women. But is Japan's new AV law working? Some signs say yes - but detractors still exist on both sides.

It was meant to protect women. But is Japan’s new adult video (AV) law actually working? Recent evidence suggests it is – but many in the AV industry say it’s affecting legitimate productions as well.

Coercion and duplicity in Japan’s AV industry

It’s axiomatic that sex sells. And sell it does in Japan. Besides night work and legal prostitution, the country also has a thriving adult video industry (known simply as “AV” in Japanese).

While many AV productions are legitimate, some use underhanded and coercive tactics to fool people – almost always young women – into participating. A common tactic is for AV scouts to talk women into signing a “modeling” contract that actually binds them to filming pornography. The AV “company” (read: men looking for sex) may also withhold the actual contract from the participant so she can’t even see what she agreed to.

The AV Law

That’s where the new law comes in. Lawmakers proposed the Law to Prevent and Assist AV Performance Victims (AV出演被害防止・救済法; commonly known as the AV新法, or “new AV law”) in response to Japan’s lowered age of adulthood. Previously, only persons 20 years old or older were legal adults who could enter contracts. That age is now 18. So now, 18- and 19-year-olds could also find themselves victims of predatory AV productions.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and their coalition partner, the Komeito, proposed the new law in conjunction with four of Japan’s opposition parties. (The Japan Communist Party did not take part in bringing the law to the floor.) The law enforces several new stipulations on AV productions:

  • Companies must provide a copy of any contract signed and must explain what the production expects from performers. Failure to do so can bring fines and even prosecution.
  • No matter their age, participants have the legal right to break their contract – for any reason – for a full year after the production finishes.
  • Production cannot start until a month after signing a contract. And the company cannot release the final product until four months after production wraps.

Opposition to the law

Woman signing a contract - Japan's new AV law
Picture: Graphs / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

The proposal became law in June 2022 – despite opposition from groups on polar opposite sides.

Advertisements

Two different factions opposed the law. Groups involved in protecting women and children from sexual abuse – such as Nito Yumeno of Colabo, and Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Motomura Nobuko – charged that the law legalized contractual sex. Nito charged that the law “solidifies sex business in national law and grants AV public recognition.” She and others characterize it as a massive gift to the AV industry.

Which is funny because the industry doesn’t see it that way. AV production personnel – as well as some full-time AV actresses – say the immediate application of mandatory waiting periods has cost them time and money.

AV star Kanae Nozomi told The Tokyo Post that all of her planned shoots for July 2022 were canceled. “The law doesn’t protect people,” she complained on Twitter, “it takes work away from working actresses. Who benefits from that?”

In a subsequent tweet, she clarified: “I don’t oppose the law in its entirety. But legitimate productions go the extra mile to ensure consent at the time of signing. They shouldn’t paint all of us with a broad brush because of a few bad actors.”

Contracts broken – and even an arrest – under new law

All of this begs the question: is the law working?

Some initial results show signs of a positive impact. According to statistics gathered from local governments by 47News, there were 103 consultations with authorities under the new law between June and October 2022. 70 were related to requests before signing a contract. 12 regarded contracts already signed. The rest pertained to “other consultations”. Jurisdictions have trained consultation center workers on how to advise AV participants on breaking contracts, which includes introducing them to attorneys.

The law has even resulted in an arrest. A man in Tokyo signed contracts with several women that stated he could distribute movies without the traditional “mosaic” censorship used over genitalia. However, he refused to hand over copies of the signed contracts to participants, who say they never agreed to this stipulation. Prosecutors are preparing to take the case to court.

Does the reform go far enough?

Video camera equipment
Picture: sasaki106 / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

Despite the seeming wins, some industry personnel say the new law needs changes. One male AV producer complained that, while he sees the point of the new law, it’s too vague about what a “proper” AV production consists of. He repeats the claim of some actresses that the law paints the entire industry as bad actors.

Others in the industry, however, say the law doesn’t go far enough. Former actress Imazato Rumi (pseudonym) told 47News that she found her own performances becoming more extreme as time went on. In one case, after the new law’s passage, her studio sent her to perform a scene with several novice male actors.

Imazato recounts feeling a sense of unease and even humiliation around the men. However, there was no one from the production on scene to help her. The experience was so traumatic that Imazato quit the Japan AV scene.

Besides calling for more assistance for performers, Imazato says the industry needs to change how it pays actors. Pay scales differ wildly across productions, with some companies paying performers as little as possible.

Meanwhile, organizations that help AV performance victims say that they find themselves under fire since the law’s passage. Paps (ぱっぷす), which assists women with a range of digital sexual crimes including coercive AV contracts and revenge porn, says they receive a flood of online harassment daily. Their staff is so concerned that the organization has installed security cameras outside of its headquarters.

The problem with porn is that, in the digital age, the barrier to entry is so low it’s practically nonexistent. That opens the door to everyone from swindlers to outright rapists. So it’s understandable that authorities and advocates would seek to raise that bar. Hopefully, the law evolves to prevent victimization while also protecting the full-time performers who’ve made AV their careers.

Platonic Sex: The Wild Ride of Japanese Porn Star Iijima Ai

Sources

「これは仕事だ」AV出演強要、契約までの手口「自己責任じゃない」. WithNews

AV業界や購買者目線で作られた「AV新法」には反対です!! imidas

本日施行AV新法 「撮影が中止に」など出演者らの抗議相次ぐなか. The Tokyo Post

AV新法、効果が徐々に出始めた 施行直後は批判が渦巻いたが… 一定の評価する出演者ら 業界になお残る「混乱と課題」. 47News

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

Japan in Translation

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly digest of our best work across platforms (Web, Twitter, YouTube). Your support helps us spread the word about the Japan you don’t learn about in anime.

Want a preview? Read our archives

You’ll get one to two emails from us weekly. For more details, see our privacy policy