Cover of Involuntary Consent by Akiko Takeyama
Involuntary Consent
The Illusion of Choice in Japan’s Adult Video Industry
Akiko Takeyama


July 2023
252 pages.
from $26.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503628762
Paperback ISBN: 9781503633780
Ebook ISBN: 9781503633797

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Excerpts and More

The popularity of pornography is predicated on the idea that those participating have given their consent. That is what allows the porn industry to dominate the media economy today, generating staggering sums of money. Looking at behind-the-scenes negotiations and abuses in Japan's adult video industry, author Akiko Takeyama challenges this pervasive notion with the idea of "involuntary consent." This phenomenon, she argues, is ubiquitous, not only in the porn industry, but in our everyday lives. And yet modern society, built on beliefs of autonomy, free choice, and equality, renders it all but invisible.

Japan's AV industry alone generates a conservatively estimated $5 billion a year. In recent years, it has drawn public attention, and criticism, because of a series of arrests and trials of former talent agency owners and executives. This led to a report calling for a systematic investigation of the industry over the issue of "forced performance." This report has had ripple effects beyond Japan, as the US Department of State subsequently also cited forced performance as a human rights violation. Using this moment as an entry point, Takeyama argues that contract-making writ large is based on fundamentally dualistic terms, implying consent and pleasure on the one hand, and coercion and pain on the other. Because sex workers are employed on a contract basis, they fall outside of the purview of standard labor and employment laws. As a result, they are frequently pressured to comply with what production companies (mostly run by men) expect and often demand. In this ethnography of Japan's porn industry, Akiko Takeyama investigates the paradox of involuntary consent in modern liberal democratic societies. Taking consent as her starting point, Takeyama illustrates the nuances of contract making and the legal structures, or lack thereof, that govern Japan's adult video and sex entertainment industries.

About the author

Akiko Takeyama is Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Staged Seduction (Stanford, 2016), which was shortlisted for the 2017 Michelle Rosaldo Book Prize.

"Takeyama elegantly sifts through and complicates the seemingly straightforward, transparent, and transactional nature of relations in this industry by arguing for what she calls 'involuntary consent.' In doing so, she is able to sketch the paradoxes and contradictions inherent in Japanese porn's various interactions. Amidst the emergence of porn studies, this book exemplifies the value of an incisive anthropological inquiry, a sensitive eye, and a compassionate yet trenchant analysis. The book provides a valuable case study that can pave the way to comparative, transnational and global scholarly inquiries into porn industries."

—Martin F. Manalansan, University of Minnesota

"Involuntary Consent is not only a fine-grained ethnography of porn work in Japan, but also a brilliant analysis of the increasingly ambiguous nature of the work contract that Takeyama astutely theorizes as symptomatic of late liberalism in crisis. Scholars who do not work narrowly on labor, pornography, or Japan will also find this book relevant."

—Gabriella Lukacs, University of Pittsburgh

"Offering the concept of 'involuntary consent,' Takeyama masterfully taps into the space once illegible, that which falls in between consent and coercion. She uses the Japanese adult video industry, a compelling work environment to examine in its own right, as a case study. In a world where we are fixated with "consent" and are taught to make sure to express it or obtain it from others, we have yet to critically unpack it. This is why Takeyama's work is necessary and important. It is theoretically influential, engagingly written, and will easily become a classic. A must read."

—L. Ayu Saraswati, author of Scarred: A Feminist Journey Through Pain

"A provocative and insightful addition to anti-porn vs. sex-positive feminist debates."

Publishers Weekly

"In this extraordinary book, Takeyama pulls the reader into a billion-dollar industry that is often hidden in plain sight, using Japanese pornography to theorize the intersection of gender, labor, power, and consent. With vivid and empathetic writing, she sidesteps any simplistic notion of exploitation or empowerment, and instead describes complex social structures that simultaneously promise and foreclose opportunities. Involuntary Consent provides a brilliant and recognizable portrait of laborers seeking opportunities from compromised positions. Takeyama's balance of insightful analysis and evocative ethnographic writing are a stunning achievement."

—Allison Alexy, University of Michigan

"Involuntary Consent offers a sharp analysis of the labor politics of Japan's adult video industry that pushes far beyond stale pornography debates centered on questions of representation. Rigorously researched and a highly compelling read, the book challenges dualistic understandings of coercion and consent in liberal democratic societies and introduces fresh questions of gender and sexuality into discussions of precarious labor."

—Lieba Faier, University of California, Los Angeles

"Choice and consent are often pitted against force and violence in debates and studies about sex work. In this study, Akiko Takeyama reminds us that this binarism misses the point. Through ethnographic research amongst adult video performers in Japan, Involuntary Consent skillfully demonstrates that individual decisions and choices are inseparable from contexts of structural inequality and liberal contractual relations. This is an invaluable study, not only for nuancing and complicating the intersections of coercion and consent/ structure and agency but also for delivering profound insights into the muddle of gendered sexual labour in the pornography industry. An important new contribution to the field of global sex work studies."

—Kamala Kempadoo, York University

"Involuntary Consent is an ethnographic tour de force. Takeyama offers a masterful and nuanced analysis of consent within Japan's adult video industry, drawing from voices of AV performers, agents, directors, videographers and fans. Anyone interested in voluntary versus forced labor debates, or with legal illusions of rational choice, must read this book. It provides critical insights about liberalism, precarity, and gendered compromises."

—Nicole Constable, University of Pittsburgh

"This monograph's worth of thick anthropological description is both enlightening and appalling. In the end,Involuntary Consent is at its best when it shows howunremarkable the sex work of the AV industry is—just another lousy gig in a society intractably structured by sexism, widening economic inequality, and neoliberal democracy where no truly good options for individuals exist in the first place. Highly recommended."

—C. Brienza, CHOICE