With nine-year old girls in thong bikinis currently leading the march of eroticism in Japan (or at least grabbing the most real estate in der Zeitgeist), refined culture magazine for urban professionals Brutus has decided to come out and remind its readers that “adult” women can also be beautiful. The idea is a bit of radical contrarianism, for sure, but such sensational headlines are known to move copies. Relatively young and over-make-up’d Kashii Yuu graces the cover, but the main feature exhibits portrait shots of various older and professional Japanese women that buck the recent infantile gravity of beauty standards.
From the Brutus website:
As seen in the rush of new women’s magazines starting publication, this is an era of diverse ways in which women can “shine.” From catchphrases such as “You’ve graduated from trying to attract boys (mote)” and “Adult, but cute (kawaii),” more focus is being put on “adult” women. Beauty comes from refinement, intelligence, and a strong will. The keyword for the charming female image is “adult” for men — and maybe for females as well. Our sessions with famous photographers are full of charming beautiful women. In this special feature, adult women are beautiful!
Japan these days is a bit SCREAM — Socio-economic Class Rules Everything Around Me — and we therefore are best seeing Brutus as a media representation of the taste culture of professional, well-educated upper middle-class Japanese men rather than as just as a magazine. Brutus is “kachi-gumi” (winners) media and not targeted towards either middle-range salarymen in the “make-gumi” (losers) without proper cosmopolitan taste or artistic freeter who have chosen passion for individual creation over a high income. Mr. Brutus is drinking champagne at the opening of Tokyo Midtown in a slim navy-blue pin-striped Super 120s suit with slant pockets. He is not playing pachinko within a dirty cloud of nicotine and J-POP Trance Best 2005.
Sexual attraction and social class are not independent of each other, especially seeing that a specific attribute underlies both career success and interest in “adult” women: self-confidence. This is starting to read like the script to one of those businessman LPs of the 1960s, but the self-confident man has no need to fear women who may challenge him in the realm of ideas or even, gasp, on the income ladder. A sophisticated man needs a sophisticated women on his arm. James Bond does not dote after 16 year-old girls — at least while the camera is rolling.
But whether self-confidence is a source of business acumen or just an inherited privilege of the wealthy, lusting after little girls under the guise of appreciating “genki” or the “blossoming of youth” does not match the chic Brutus lifestyle. The relative newness of the Under-15 boom suggests that it is a sexual desire born of contemporary social conditions: Men are attracted to these girls’ innocence as a retreat from a harsh reality in which they are completely emasculated. The “make-gumi” man lacks self-confidence, and extremely young girls (or in more mainstream cases, hostesses/prostitutes) symbolize a desire to create fantasy moments in which the man can regain a sense of control and dominance. Adult women are no good, because they are a reminder of the fall in stature rather than a cure for the failure itself.
Brutus smartly reminds us, though, that “adult” is not just the key for men, but also for women. Japanese analysts posit that women in contemporary Japan pay attention to their style primarily to meet and secure upwardly-mobile men (or at least, self-confident without necessarily the economic motive), and if so, the woman herself must now move towards “adult.” A man’s affection for the immature is a sure sign of low earning potential. This means young women must eventually abandon the simple algebra of “mote“ (being cute in the way that boys like –> a boyfriend) for a more complicated calculus of following your own will as a means to attract the sophisticated man (who may just happen to possess a bulging pocketbook.)
I had doubts on the fairness of putting “adult” sophistication on the same continuum as the pedophilic tendencies of the otaku, but I just went to the bookstore to check out the issue, and much to my surprise, the intro paragraph of the Brutus feature specifically name checks the “Junior Idol Boom” as proof of infantile sexuality taking over modern society. And they too see the fear towards adult women in the communal lack of self-confidence. Without saying it specifically, Brutus does seem to be asking, are you enough of a Winner Man to take on a Winner Woman?