Ever seen this hash tag? It spread like wildfire after it appeared in October of 2017 with actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet of October 16. She wrote: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
I believe the purpose of the #MeToo movement, which prompts sexual harassment victims to raise their voices against their assailants, is as follows:
1. to let the predators know that the victims continue to suffer
2. to let the victims know they no longer need to put up with the
hurt they suffer
3. to let the world know that a plethora of sexual abuse incidents
4. to let the world know that the victims go through unimaginable suffering,
and even contemplate suicide.
I first learned of the hashtag through blogger haachu’s posting. According to a BuzzFeed News article of December 17, 2017, Ms. ‘haachu’, who worked at Dentsu, the renowned advertising company, constantly experienced sexual and power harassment under her boss, Yuki Kishi. The harassment, she claimed, continued even after she quit.
After reading the article, I started looking for more information and postings of its kind on the Internet and Twitter. Harsh memories of my past came back to me. “Me too!” I screamed. I couldn’t stop myself from posting what I had gone through. I continued, attaching a #MeToo to every comment I uploaded.
My past and present as #MeToo.
I don’t feel I am a victim anymore. I’ve been liberated from the environment that breeds such harassment, and I am living a happy life. But tears well up and fall as I write about my past: the torment, vexation, my immaturity then, embarrassment, then the feeling of liberation for having been able to express what I used to think I would never be able to speak about. I used to cry aloud in
the middle of the night, alone. Tears fall, even now, as I write this. I wasn’t aware at the time that the harassment I was experiencing was causing me serious stress. I only thought it was one of those things in life I disliked but had to endure: “It’s a totally natural thing. That’s how the ball bounces. You have to put up with it, for yours is an otherwise worthless existence. It’s no big deal. Everybody is bearing it. You must too.”
A ‘me’ inside talked me into believing so. But the kindness of many people around me, my own efforts in overcoming my trials and tribulations,
and then the #MeToo movement, tell me it’s okay to admit to myself that I was then going through a long period of undue torment.
Before you read my #MeToo.
Then, I was shallow. I lacked self-esteem. I was immature, pitiful and ignorant. All these shortcomings combined made it happen. That’s how I felt about it. Which is why I couldn’t talk about it in public. I well knew that if I said anything, I would only hear “You asked for it!” In fact, I thought so myself, and was afraid that speaking out would only cause others to rub salt into my wounds.
“You’re to blame. You weren’t firm enough.” “You’re being too naïve.” “You had sex with someone you don’t like for your career? That’s despicable! So filthy!” That’s how many would think. I am fully aware of that myself. Still, I don’t think it’s proper for anyone in a hiring position, or a superior, to deceive those in a weaker position or demand sexual acts of them. Absolutely not. That’s why I decided to shout out “Me too!”
Exposure issue during my gravure model days Nude photos in magazines
The first time I felt I didn’t like being a girl was when I worked as a photogravure model. I was scouted in my hometown, Nagoya, in autumn, in my final year of high school. I modeled for photo magazines for ten years. There are more than 30 so-called “image DVDS” of me.
I continued modeling for photo magazines where I exposed some flesh. Then I played the leading role in Onna no Ana (A Woman’s Hole), a 2014 movie
in which I played a love scene. In the same year, my first “Ishikawa Yumi Photo Collection - ACT 1” (Chikuma Shobo, 2014) was published. There I appeared completely nude. I was on the front cover of a magazine several times, although not a very well-known one.
My modeling career started with a “photo session” I applied for in Nagoya. Soon was doing promotional work with my manager, who was also the president of the company, and eventually we worked our way into the Tokyo market. After several photo sessions, I was made to wear a bathing suit for some photos at the studio. I’d worn bathing suits only at the school swimming pool, but I was told to wear a bikini. I very clearly remember how much I didn’t want to. Still, I told myself that all the girls were wearing them at the beach, that it was no big thing, and decided on my own to meet the challenge.
Not long after that, my manager and I went to Tokyo to do promotional work with some publishers there. Luckily, one immediately decided that they would take pictures of me for one of their magazines. In those days, this magazine featured nude photos of adult video models in its photogravure pages, but because they had pages of models in their swimsuits as well, I was to be in that category. My first visit there, and I was already going to be featured in the opening pages of the magazine! I reminisce and tell myself I was then truly very fortunate.
I wore bikinis of different colors -- white, pink and such, a school uniform and a school bathing suit -- outfits that exposed very little, I’d say, as I think back. I didn’t feel any anxiety being photographed for what to me was work for a new magazine, and all went well.
The problem started with the next work.
“We have an offer for a photo shoot,” my manager said. “But they tell me you’ll have to expose more. You’re not very photogenic, so that’s what you’ll have to do.”
That’s true. Only a handful of girls get the green light when it comes to being repeatedly featured in magazine gravure. That’s the way it goes. I wonder what was making me feel so desperate after only a month since my debut.
I was mentally pressured then. I felt that if I refused, I wouldn’t receive any more offers. I am not very cute, and I thought the only way to survive was to erotically expose myself. And my manager needed money badly. That’s how I think now.
He strictly prohibited me from making contacts or becoming friendly with the staff and others in the business. Time after time, he kept telling me that I didn’t have the looks. Come to think of it, it was close to brainwashing. When I refused, he drove me into a corner and said, “Don’t you want to succeed? Is that all the guts you have?” As I kept losing self-confidence, he accepted more demanding offers. I think his revenue increased proportionately.
I was paid 10,000 yen per day. It remained the same no matter how tough the picture-taking sessions became or how many DVDs got sold. 10,000 yen times the number of days worked. My manager never told me how much he made. “Concerned about money?” he would say if I mentioned money. “I take it you’re not too serious about work.”
My manager was the only person I knew in the industry. I couldn’t find out anything about going rates or working conditions in general. After I became a freelancer, I was paid for all I worked -- 200,000 yen to 300,000 yen for a DVD (which is before I appeared nude in the movie). This translates to having worked for my manager for 5 percent to 10 percent of what I should have been making, for I made 20,000 for a DVD that required two days of work.
Offers of work came every month, but my manager kept telling me I had to expose myself more if we was to receive more work. I was frustrated, angry at the incongruity, but in six months I was half nude. My costume changed from bikini, to underwear, to thong, to hiding my breasts with my hands, to semi-nude. My inferiority complex, about not being cute, made me accept the escalation as inevitable. I did put up some resistance, though.
“I can do so much, but not more.” I can’t remember how many times I said that. But then there was an incident that made me feel it was useless to argue. I was told to bare my behind for a picture to post in a magazine. I had told them, in a discussion prior to the photo shoot, that I didn’t want to be showing my buttocks, totally in the nude. Surprise awaited me at the studio.
“We’ll have you wear a string-like thong,” they said. “We’ll retouch the pictures and erase it afterwards. Don’t you worry. You don’t have to show your bare butt.”
Sure, I was wearing a thong while the pictures were being taken. But it was getting erased. My naked butt was going be circulated everywhere! I was shocked at the spurious treatment I was getting, and went crying to my manager.
“Sorry. My understanding was that you’d be alright with a thong. But I accepted the offer on condition that you’d show your bare bottom. I can’t say no now. Go and get your make-up fixed. You’re holding everybody up.”
He didn’t care about how I felt. He only told me to stop crying. There was nobody I could turn to, and the shooting continued.
Again I thought I was to blame, unable to get myself across well enough. When I reflect upon it with a cooler head, I realize all I needed to do was leave the manager and look for work I could do. But I lacked the emotional and mental capacity to do so. I had lost the power of judgement. Neither did I have the confidence to imagine I could do something other than what I’d been doing. I thought I needed only to endure it all, or life would end for me. I am not exaggerating.
I did in fact try to quit several times, leave the company. But then I was told: “Don’t use the modeling name we gave you.” “Don’t accept offers to pose in bathing suits.” “Otherwise, you’ll be out of a job.” Such were the overbearing words I got in response. So it took me quite a while to quit. Besides, there was also the problem of unpaid compensation.
Thus began the negative spiral.
Having allowed myself to expose my body, however reluctantly, I realized I couldn’t just stop with a thong. I was sure I wouldn’t get any work offers if I didn’t bare myself as told. But I would then end up a miserable photogravure model who constantly exposed herself indecently. Marriage would be impossible for such a girl. I would have no children, no native town to return to.
Foolish as I may have been, I thought in earnest that I had no choice but to continue or die. Because my manager took charge of all the work we got and lied to me about it, I thought no fault lay with the publishers. Not so, as I look back more objectively. They knew very well that I didn’t relish baring myself, but they made arrangements with my manager in a way that guaranteed that they, too, would profit. I was then a girl who couldn’t flatly refuse, and my manager took advantage of it.
Exposing myself on DVD
As if going down a slippery slope, my gravure modeling became more and more racy. After about a year, the company decided to produce “image DVS” of me. Over the years, I made about 30 solo videos. Producing them was bitter work, really.
A case in point. One time, while we were taking some behind-the-scene shots to appear at the end of one of the DVDs, my nipple was inadvertently exposed. This was to be cut in the editing, but no. A fan of mine saw it and reported it to me. In those days, at my company a model couldn’t review her videos. I complained to my manager, but all he said was, “It’s already on the market. I’ll be careful next time.” I was furious, but the fear of losing a job was stronger, and I couldn’t say anything more.
As I expected, the DVDs that followed entailed “inadvertent” exposures of my nipples. I believe there was a hushed up agreement between my manager and the publisher about this. By then, I’d given up complaining. I told myself I’d already done it before, and that my next DVD wouldn’t sell if I didn’t do it again. I was truly afraid of losing work.
Being forced to act as a hostess entertaining business associates
I remember some other bitter experiences.
After I somehow managed to quit the company that first recruited me, I got to know a man who told me he would bring me lots of work. This man frequently called me to attend drinking sessions with his business associates. I went, believing he would think I wasn’t interested in working if I said no, or if I asked if I could go home before the wining and dining was over. Almost always, the trains had stopped running by then, and depending on my work schedule for the next day, I had to go home by taxi, which was expensive. I worked part-time to make ends meet.
When I declined the drinking sessions saying I had part-time work to do, the man said, “Part-time work for what? Your modeling work should take priority over everything else. Otherwise, it’s meaningless.” Sensing that I couldn’t reply with a sour face, I smiled.
At the drinking place, this man would say, “Ishikawa! Do something to make Mr. So-and-so happy.” This he would say in the presence of others there. And if I didn’t do very well, he’d say, “You don’t have what it takes to be in the entertainment business. You lack the drive.”
Once I had to attend a drinking session to which he had invited a producer at a TV network. This was the pits. They took me to a hotel, as if it was the most natural thing for them to do. Two men. I was too scared to escape. I was put into the bathtub (there were three of us in there), and was forced to perform fellatio on them. I had to. I had no choice. I couldn’t think of a way to avoid it. It was two on one. I clearly remember the disgust and hurt, even as I write about it now. It’s nauseating. I feel sick in my mind and heart.
The pain and hurt of sex acts forced upon you remain etched in your memory. And I wasn’t even allowed to show my disgust. I did it, smiling. I remember doing it as if I was enjoying it.
I know it sounds strange to say this, but I didn’t have sex then, fortunately. When the hostess duty was over, I left for home, feeling like I was escaping from it all. No work offers came from it. The man who said he’d give me work only used me to curry favors from the TV producer.
“Pillow business” (casting couch) scam
My worst memory is this.
I literally fell for a “pillow business” scam. This was about ten years ago. A girl I met through gravure-modeling work mailed me: “I’m going to work with a big shot at Dentsu. I showed him pictures of what you’re doing, and he says he wants to give you some work. Can I give him your contact info?” I remember I was elated when I gave her my contacts. But this man was an impostor.
That I was duped by this man remains a terrible, shameful taint on me. He claimed he was the son and heir of a large enterprise and said he wanted to use me as a campaign girl. “It’s a big job,” he said, “so, of course, there’s going to be some pillow business involved. You don’t mind that, do you?” I said no, believing him to be the man he said was.
I engaged in pillow business twice. Once, when I was made to give those blow jobs, and this tim when I fell for a scam. I didn’t doubt the opportunity, coming from a friend. But she, too, seems to have been duped. If I had thought more calmly, I would have realized from the start that the whole thing was a hoax.
“Pillow business” is generally known as sex a woman willingly provides to get work or to enhance her career, and I had been led to believe I was doing exactly that. I came to my wits only after people around me told me it wasn’t “pillow business” I had done but “coerced sex entertainment”. I hadn’t done it on my own accord. I’d been tricked into it.
In the first place, no company big shot would directly contact someone he or she didn’t know. When we met, the man said he’d run out of name cards. He even made me pay for the dinner and hotel saying he’d reimburse me. He called me at my parents’ home, where I was staying for a while, and said, “If we don’t talk about the work now, you might as well forget it.” So I borrowed money from my mom, and took the Shinkansen to Tokyo. I strongly remember the words this man spoke: “I watched your DVD. You firmly communicated your ideas of the role you were playing. You came across to me. Repay your mom and dad’s kindness with the contract money.”
I didn’t want to expose myself, but I did. I bore it. It was hard, but I was glad I didn’t give up. I had often caused my parents undue financial difficulties, but I could now pay them back, help them with the house loan, repay them in some small measure for all they’d done for me. I was a fool then, truly believing I could do that. I was so happy I cried.
In those days, I used to think that “pillow business” was a matter of course because I was born a “female”. I believed that sex was basically something women had to endure. This may sound untrue, but I engaged in the “pillow business” (I can’t call it a business, actually, for it was a scam) without much hesitation.
Sex with someone you don’t like is pain, but I had to put up with it. Moreover, the man had to enjoy it. That’s what I thought. That was me then, and I did my best at it. I couldn’t think with a cool head. I was totally numb to everything.
When it was over, I went home to my parents. Although I believed the man, something made me look up his name on the Internet. I then found a website that showed his face and an article that told of exactly what had happened to me. Tears uncontrollably ran down my cheeks, and I told my mom everything. I again borrowed money from her, and she took me to a nearby obstetrics and gynecology clinic where I received a prescription for morning-after pills. “I had a vasectomy,” the man had said before shooting into me. I can’t forget my mom’s grieving face. “Oh, why, my dear . . .” was all she softly said.
Afterwards, I kept close contact with my friend who had introduced me to the impostor, and went to Shibuya Police Station with a man who said he wanted to help. The con man had been arrested once before, according to information on the website. And he had repeated the same scam!
His M.O. was to call out to girls on the streets, or to e-mail anybody and everybody writing blogs who aspired to become a TV personality. The message to the girls was:
Excuse me for this sudden mail. I happened to come across your picture on your blog, which suits the image of a commercial film we are planning to produce. We are pressed for time, and would like to hear from you as soon as possible.6
All the victims received the same message.
The police didn’t take up my case. Instead, they faulted me, saying, “You provide sex to get work?” I went to report as a victim of a fraud. Why was I being taken to task? My mind went blank. Did they think I deliberately went to the man for sex to get work? I had sex because I’d been told that, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t survive in the industry. I had no choice. Why were they holding my feet to the fire before they listened to my story about a man once arrested for a crime? I just couldn’t understand.
Confused as I was, I desperately asked, “Is it alright then to cheat such a girl? Dupe her?” No reply came from them. Their attitude of looking down on women made my desire to tell them what I thought they needed to be told shrivel like a leaf. “Indeed, I am the one at fault!” I thought to myself. So I decided to let it pass as if nothing had happened, and tried to forget it.
Why I want to say #MeToo
Putting all this down in writing, I think to myself I’m really a fool. A level-headed girl would’ve chosen some other means to make the best of herself, not expose herself if she didn’t like it. She would have turned down attending drinking sessions. She wouldn’t have fallen for a con. But in those days, I let others decide things for me. I had forfeited the duty of thinking for myself, which left me open to schemers and frauds, who took advantage of me. People in this business say to me: “It’s taken for granted in this trade, so put up with it. You looked like you were enjoying it. You allowed yourself to have sex with such a guy because your sensitivity is a bit off.” That’s a valid opinion. But I was feeling miserable. I still cry over it. Each time I see a gravure of mine from those days, I lose sleep. I couldn’t sleep the night before the photo shoots,either.
The police ignored my case, probably thinking these things happen because women are fools. Is that why we’re victimized, why these things keep happening? No. It’s because male superiors and men in hiring positions take advantage of women who want to work. It’s because they’re allowed to exploit the disparity in the power balance between the sexes. I was afraid of people knowing about my bitter experiences, but I wrote this, hoping there’ll be no more victims like me.
Your body is your own
After I hashtagged #MeToo, I felt it most important that I squarely face my own mind and body. That, I thought, would lead me to enjoy life more. To that end, I should:
-- say “no” to what I don’t like
-- stop thinking I’m worthless unless I use my body
-- continue believing that new paths will open before me, even if I
lose my present work (using my body)
-- start thinking about what I really want to do.
Enduring hardships is different from making efforts. I used to think they were the same. I grit my teeth and bore it. I did my best, wondering why I wasn’t getting anything out of it. Now I avoid doing what I don’t want to do, like making gravure DVDs that I can’t fully agree to putting out, having sex with someone I don’t like, or currying favors from someone I don’t much care for. I feel I have regained myself after stopping all this, and I feel great.
Older now, the skin on my face has lost its firmness, which worries me, frankly. I can barely keep the figure I used to have, which is the only thing about me that people have commended me for. I can’t say anything witty, and my acting remains ham. But I still get work, sometimes, and have enough money to get by. I live happily every day without having to “sell my body”. I’m doing what I really want to do. People around me are good to me. My present manager, too. I’m not pushing myself anymore, enduring the disagreeable.
I used to believe that I’d be rewarded for bearing hardships and making continuous efforts. But that didn’t happen. I thought my life would be over if I refused gravure modeling. That was a big mistake. All the things I did, which I’ve written about here, are tied to the activities I am now engaged in. I can now act in love scenes without any shame or compunction. In fact, I like baring myself in works I approve of. I am writing this because I have come to strongly believe that I need to speak out on the gender issue. Too often have I experienced instances where I thought men were being unreasonable.
I’m happy now, living freely, probably because I braced myself to squarely face my past -- all of it. But I know there are those unable to do so. Many in this entertainment business, who received the same kind of mistreatment I got, quit. Some have killed themselves, loathing to be sex hostesses at drinking sessions. I thought of suicide, too, many times. To these girls, I’m telling all about myself to say it’s alright, #MeToo.
Of course, there are many men who respect women. And there are men who are victims of sexual assault. I want to stand by all who are suffering from abuse. Your body is your own.
To suffering women
I wonder if any of you are having difficulties not knowing how to deal with men who are causing you trouble, any woman tormenting herself for having been born a woman. If so, good riddance to the thought. Value yourself. Give yourself more respect. If refusing unfair treatment causes you to lose your job, surely new doors will open for you. Don’t knock yourself out. If you don’t like what you’re doing, say no -- right now. Even if your male superior lets you know he’s in charge, you can refuse. If you don’t, you’ll never regain your self-respect.
If you seek advice and you get “It’s your fault because you’re not firm enough” -- don’t believe it. The “firmness” that others say is just their pushing of the responsibility on you. Or you won’t be living as the person you really are. I decided to listen to my own voice. How do you want to live your life?
What men should do when women come seeking for advice
If someone like myself in the past were to ask you, a man, for advice, most likely you would want to help. But I would like you to be careful with what you say. Your words can have an adverse effect, make a girl feel she’s being faulted. She might think she only deserves to suffer, think she’s no good after all. These girls have lost self-confidence and are prone to put the blame on themselves. So if anybody comes to you for help, tell them to think more highly of themselves. Stand by them and speak words of comfort to them.
I’ll be happy if any victim -- female or male -- finds some solace reading this. If anybody is hesitating to hashtag #MeToo, I would like them to think about the confessions I made of myself. Writing this, as I cried my heart out, cut the chains of what had bound me. Hashtagging #MeToo can lead to healing painful memories. Take it easy, though. Never push yourself. I pray that what I revealed of myself will reach those who are suffering the pain I suffered.
Some girls, in fact many, truly enjoy baring themselves in magazine gravure, and I think that’s great. But those who don’t like it should stop. Nor should they be told to do what they don’t want to do. I don’t intend to sue anybody with this tell-all story of mine. I seek no apology. I’m not interested in that. I only want all of you, who are suffering from mistreatment by men at your workplace, to know that it’s alright to speak your mind. You don’t have to endure it anymore. In my case, the #MeToo hashtag helped me do that.
I revealed all about myself, not minding being disliked or losing a job. I’m not married. I have no boyfriend, no kids, no important work yet that I must do, nothing really that I must protect. But I am not alone. Many stand by me. #MeToo. And #WeToo. May the world be a freer place for all to live in.