Just to clarify, Japan has its own rape culture and its fair share of creepers. Even before I was a JET, I had been warned (once by a tour guide) about how Japanese men would use a gaijin for free English lessons or as temporary entertainment apart from their marriage. However, was anybody warning Japanese girls about foreign men?
I recently came across a video of a pick-up artist (WARNING linked video contains sexual harassment and assault, as well as racism) posted by msdoom99. The man, named Julien Blanc, proclaims that in Tokyo, “if you’re a white male, you can do what you want” and is taped instructing a crowd of white men on how to basically assault Japanese women. He forces their heads towards his crotch and pulls them close to whisper in their ears. He also mocks the Japanese accent and thinks screaming “Pikachu” is something completely normal. On top of all this, one of his signature pick-up technique (not pictured in the video) involves putting a woman in a choke hold.
Twitter user @JennLi123 started an initiative to cancel Blanc’s events.
The petitions have been successful in Australia and America, but he’s still planning a trip to Japan. There are petitions to both bar him from Japan and to get him off social media.
As Jenn states in her video, Blanc is not alone. Even if Blanc and his fanboys are a special breed of misogynist, there are guys who exhibit predatory behavior. Some may not even know it, and some are in cultural exchange programs.
When I was on the Sister Cities student trip, there were a couple of kids who had gone to Japan before. One of them bragged about all the things you could get away with. It was mostly alcohol-related, but wherever we went, he and his friends took it upon themselves to hit on Japanese girls. They’d shout “Utsukushii” (beautiful) and ask for photos. As someone took a picture, they would slip their arms around these girls to pull them close, and one of the other students reported seeing the ringleader try to kiss a store clerk. Because our chaperones could not keep an eye on everybody, the boys only got a minor warning.
These boys may not have known better, but their actions were non-consensual and very reminiscent of what Blanc was preaching. Less obvious are the guys who take advantage of their gaijin status and brag about how “easy” Japanese women are. I never witnessed my fellow JETs behaving in this manner (though we did have a run-in with a very sketchy gaijin), but I’ve heard this being mentioned enough that I wonder about it. Even if attitudes about relationships are different, the focus on the Japanese women being promiscuous or unfaithful give the culture a negative image, just as do the warning stories about Japanese men with unscrupulous intentions. Cultural exchange is about promoting understanding, not getting your groove on and then gossiping about it.
The truth is that there are creepers all around the world. The problem is that there are foreigners taking advantage of their status in a country where saying “no” is very uncommon, and very rarely does that get addressed. We have privileged high school boys thinking its a game to pick up as many Japanese girls as possible, assistant language teachers who are perpetuating bad Asian stereotypes, and self-styled pick-up artists committing assault. Obviously it’s range of behaviors, but they are misrepresenting foreigners and exchange programs and promoting harmful attitudes. Orientations for student trips and teaching programs often feature a segment on how to protect oneself in a foreign country. It’s time to teach us how to protect the host country from ourselves.