Goodbye Madame Butterfly, book

Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman. By Sumie Kawakami.

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The Preface is also available for download in PDF format along with a sample chapter (The Mannequin):

sumie kawakami, Tokyo, July 2007:

The women portrayed in Goodbye Madame Butterfly are real. I interviewed all of them between 2005 and 2007. I didn’t put out any ads to find them; instead I tracked them down via word of mouth, one person leading me to another and then another until I found the stories contained in this book.

Many of the women I interviewed asked me variations of this question: "My life isn’t all that interesting or exciting. My life is so ordinary. Are you sure you want to hear my story?" I told them that the fact that they volunteered to talk about love and their sex lives (or lack thereof) was a good indicator that they had something they wanted to express. And I was right. Everyone had an interesting story to share. We couldn’t include all of them in this book due to space and time constraints, but I felt that each woman I talked to had something important to say. But before going into the book in detail, allow me to offer some pertinent background information.

Japan is known as a place where sexual fantasies come true. At least, that’s the reputation. The sex industry is so prevalent in Japanese culture that it can influence even the most personal and intimate matters. Prostitution is illegal in Japan, but "entertainment and amusement" services, as they are called, continue unabated all over the country. A man can go to an establishment called soapland, for example, and pay a "bath service fee" to have a woman wash him with soap. So-called fashion health clubs offer genital massages, blow-jobs, hand-jobs and other sexual services. Delivery health businesses deliver a woman — or women, if you so desire — straight to your door. And image clubs allow people to dabble in costume play. Men can choose women dressed as nurses, teachers, playboy bunnies or characters from popular anime films. Strip clubs often encourage audience members to participate in the shows. And at happening bars, as the name implies, sex has a way of just happening, whether it be with an acquaintance or a slew of strangers.

You don’t have to travel deep into the inner sanctum of Japan’s red light districts to find these places. The sex shops are often integral parts of their communities. Schoolchildren in Japan’s urban centers commute through narrow streets lined with these clubs. There is no attempt to hide these establishments from view.

Japanese men generally are not shy about using these services, either. Middle-class men in business suits openly read pornographic stories in the sports newspapers while commuting from work in the evening. Japanese women, too, seem more lenient than North American women when it comes to men using these services. While I was researching this book, I often heard wives say they would forgive their husbands for cheating on them with a "professional" because that would be just about having sex, not becoming emotionally attached.

However, a striking paradox emerged in my research of this book: while the sex industry maintains a high profile in Japan, the nation doesn’t seem to be having much actual sex. A case in point is the results of the Global Sex Survey by Durex, the world’s largest condom maker. In its 2005 survey (Link to survey PDF), the company interviewed 317,000 people from forty-one countries and found that Japan ranked forty-first in terms of sexual activity. The survey found that people had sex an average of 103 times a year, with men (104) having more sex than women (101). The Japanese, at the very bottom, reported having sex an average of forty-five times a year.

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