Porn no laughing matter

Women campaign with seals of disapproval

By William Wetherall

Drafted 18 July 1987
Posted 28 January 2006

For better or worse, women's liberation sometimes turns men off in Japan. The unwieldy names of some uuman ribu groups may be one cause. A group which shortened its name got better results, for a while.

Kodo suru onnatachi no kai (Association of women who act) used to be called -- take a deep breath -- Kokusai fujin nen o kikkake to shite kodo o okosu onnatachi no kai (Association of women taking action on the occasion of the International Women's Year).

The English-language press has dubbed it Women's Action Group.

At the beginning of the year, the Tokyo-based organization took serious aim at pornography in the men's tabloids, sports sheets, and pulp magazines that men like to read while commuting. The group awarded certificates of "disgrace" to the publications with the most offending pictures, articles, and ads.

Two-hundred yen will buy a set of ten 4-cm seals with the Chinese character for "anger" in the middle. A fist thrusts up from the "woman" element. The rim of the seal declares "Women's Anti-Porn Campaign".

The seals are used to protest pornography in trains, busses, and other public places. If bothered by the naked woman on the back of the sports sheet being read by the man (or woman) in front of you, just zap the nasty parts with a seal of disapproval.

In Japanese public, this means anything but the organs of sex and elimination, and the fuzz around them. Breasts and buttocks are allowed in any size, color, shape or pose.

Japanese photographers of both sexes are making an erotic cult of armpits, too. Underarm hair is the current rage, thanks to a media-smart woman named Kaoru Kuroki, who is making an fortune from her axillary antics and an equally seductive gift for gab on talk shows and in magazine columns.

Kuroki is obviously not a member of the Women's Action Group, which implicitly criticizes sisters like her who bare (and tell) it all for the putatively prurient commuter.


They seemed like a nice enough bunch of people. I didn't talk to them myself, but my assistant said that they didn't bark or scream on the phone. She had called them to ask for a sample of the stickers they were selling to those who wished to join the campaign to stamp out porn in the popular press. I, for some reason, didn't have the courage.

18 July 1987