Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Rise of Elder Porn


I really have never worried about growing old. Staying alive long enough to grow old seemed much more the challenge. I suppose I never really worried about it as I had the example of my great-grandmother. Decades before the term was coined she was a truly a giant among cougars. She died at 79, while getting ready for her ‘hot date’ – her words, not mine.

Mention her name to my mother and her blood pressures rises even though the woman has been dead for 33 years. She was a woman who ignited strong passions and evoked extreme reactions from anyone who passed through her view. In fact, I remember bringing up her name to my other great-grandmother which is how I learned the Yiddish word for whore. Of course, when I asked Bubby what Zoyneh meant she told me ‘party girl’ and not to use such language.

She wore men’s suits and fedora’s long before Marlene Dietrich took to film. Even though she spent decades in English Canada she never lost her heavy Parisian accent. My young cousins and I learned early in life never to leave our young male friends within mauling distance or unattended in her company. I realize now she kept her looks decades after most of her peers lost theirs. If anything, I have her genes to thank for others so rarely guessing my actual age. I always felt she was a woman who was born out of sync with her times and never more so then when I happened across this Time Magazine on the rise of Elder Porn in Japan.
Besides his glowing complexion, Shigeo Tokuda looks like any other 74-year-old man in Japan. Despite suffering a heart attack three years ago, the lifelong salaryman now feels healthier, and lives happily with his wife and a daughter in downtown Tokyo. He is, of course, more physically active than most retirees, but that's because he's kept his part-time job — as a porn star.

Shigeo Tokuda is, in fact, his screen name. He prefers not to disclose his real name because, he insists, his wife and daughter have no idea that he has appeared in about 350 films over the past 14 years. And in his double life, Tokuda arguably embodies the contemporary state of Japan's sexuality: in surveys conducted by organizations ranging from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the condom-maker Durex, Japan is repeatedly found to be one of the most sexless societies in the industrialized world. A WHO report released in March found that 1 in 4 married couples in Japan had not made love in the previous year, while 38% of couples in their 50s no longer have sex at all.

Those figures were attributed to the stresses of Japanese working life. Yet at the same time, the country has seen a surge in demand for pornography that has turned adult videos into a billion-dollar industry, with "elder porn" one of its fastest-growing genres.

Tokuda is rare among Japanese porn stars in that his name has become a brand. The Shigeo Tokuda series he has just completed portray him as a tactful elderly gentleman who instructs women of different ages in the erotic arts, and he boasts a body of work far more impressive than most actors in their prime.

Tokuda's exploits have proved to be a goldmine for Glory Quest, which first launched an "old man" series, Maniac Training of Lolitas, in December 2004. Its popularity led the company to follow up with Tokuda starring in Forbidden Elderly Care in August 2006. Other series followed, and soon elder porn had revealed itself as a sustainable new revenue stream for the industry. "The adult-video industry is very competitive," says Glory Quest p.r. representative Kayoko Iimura. "If we only make standard fare, we cannot beat other studios. There were already adult videos with Lolitas or themes of incest, so we wanted to make something new. A relationship between wife and an old father-in-law has enough twist to create an atmosphere of mystery and captivate viewers' hearts."

Director Gaichi Kono says the eroticism of elders is captivating to younger viewers. "I think that, as a subject, there is this something that only an older generation has and the young people do not possess. It is because they lived that much more. We should respect them and learn from them," says Kono passionately. But Tokuda stresses the appeal of his work to an audience of his peers: "Elderly people don't identify with school dramas," he says. "It's easier for them to relate to older-men-and-daughters-in-law series, so they tend to watch adult videos with older people in them."
My great-grandmother was not truly an immoral woman but rather an amoral one and that being so, I am not sure grandmere, whose life long motto seemed to be ‘no man safe, no marriage sacred’, would have gone in for daughter/father-in-law thingy – now a career as aging Diva in the porn industry would have probably suited her just fine.

Although films featuring women in their teens and 20s are the mainstay of the industry, a trend toward "mature women" has become evident over the past five years. Currently, about 300 of the 1,000 adult videos on offer at Tsutaya, and 400 out of the 2,000 at DMM, are "mature women" films.

Ryuichi Kadowaki, director of Ruby Inc., which specializes in mature-women titles, says that when the company started offering the genre a few years ago, the term referred to actresses in their late 20s, and that last year it was expanded to those in their 70s. The company believes the advantage of mature titles is their enduring appeal. "Adult videos with young actresses sell well only in the first three months after the release," Kadowaki explains. "On the other hand, mature-women films enjoy a steady, long-term popularity, which after 10 years or so might lead to a best seller." And then there are the cost savings. A popular young actress can earn up to $100,000 per film, while a mature actress is paid only $2,000.

The market for elder porn has doubled over the past decade, according to Kadowaki. "In view of [Japan's] aging society," he adds, "I think that in the future, we will see a steady increase in demand."
Ah - sigh, if only she was born 30 years later I might have received a legacy other than her genes…

1 comment:

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