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The Exploitation of Saaya Irie

The story about Saaya Irie in the 22 May 2005 issue was a tad disturbing by itself, but what really brought the story home was the photos that were the topic of the story. That story — and a couple of example photos of an unusually …uh… mature 11-year-old girl, are here. On this page, reaction to the story and the photos.

“Having lugged a genuine F-cup around for the last 40 years, I can assure you that the fact that this lovely young woman has dozens upon dozens of professional photos on her various websites indicates her management’s chicanery, not her mutant precocity. Folks who buy into her publicity campaign merely perpetuate the exploitation of other child-women who want mostly to be admired and celebrated — even at the cost of their integrity. There are so many odd and amusing things going on on this planet; is stuff like this really something you need to perpetuate on your fine website? Thanks, as always, for making me think.” —Allena, California

True has always been about social commentary, using stupid things people do as its launching pad. The girl can be excused — she’s only 11, so presumably her parents are there to help her make decisions. And they’re doing a spectacularly bad job. Now, thanks to that, their daughter is being used as a political pawn. You better believe I have something to say about that! As for making you think, that is, after all, the idea. Clearly, the story helped you focus your own thoughts and express them well, so I have to believe I’ve done a very good job at prompting thought, even among those who find the images disturbing.

“I couldn’t help but wonder at the minds of the people behind the 11-year-old girl’s pictures and campaign. Using an 11-year-old child in this way is just wrong. Even if she is an unusually well-endowed 11-year-old. Is it any wonder why we live in a world full of social decay, when this is the sort of thing that the media exports around the world? Keep fighting the good fight against all this stuff, and the insane ‘Zero Tolerance‘ in schools, and all the rest of it…. Maybe send some GOOHF cards to the Japanese girl, and the kids in the ZT stories — I’ve got a feeling they’ll need them.” —Jon, U.K.

It’s a fine line to toe: how to comment on the situation without being a mere party to her exploitation. I did obviously decide to publish a couple of photos of the girl with the story; I have found over the years that the way to make people think twice about doing weird things isn’t to ignore them, but to confront their acts head on and expose their actions for what they really are — in this case, exploitation. If the girl were old enough to make an informed decision, I’d be fine with it, even if her decision was to exploit herself. But she’s not old enough, and the adults she is depending on have put her in a pretty rough place. It’s quite possible she’ll come out of it just fine; I hope so. Meanwhile, I have succeeded in making a lot of people think about the issue. My mail is about 40-1 in favor of my decision to run the story and the photos, so I think I’ve succeeded in keeping “within the line”.

It took several weeks, but I finally got the letter I was waiting for:

“Am I the only one upset about the political reason behind this exploitation — that the Japanese were attempting to ‘whitewash war crimes’ in their history books? I’m not sure which is worse — that the Japanese are trying to ‘bribe’ the Chinese into accepting a rewrite of history by showing them [clothed] juvenile breasts or that Chinese men seem to be buying into it. The rape of Nanking? Who cares, look at these breasts! That’s frightening. If I saw this in a movie (and it wasn’t an obvious parody of the human condition) I would think how totally unrealistic it is. And I’d be wrong.” —Dan, Illinois

Congrats, Dan: it’s about danged time that someone really understood the real message of the story!

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17 Responses to The Exploitation of Saaya Irie

  1. Robin, Ontario May 5, 2008 at 8:22 am #

    Not only is the child being exploited politically, but in a particularly vile way. Pedophiles of the world have a new poster-girl.

    Thank you, Randy, for bringing this to our attention. It will make a powerful case study in my “Social, Ethical and Legal Issues for Computer Scientists” course next year.

  2. John in Idaho May 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm #

    I am, of course, appalled by this inappropriate use of a young child, but my comment is directed more to Robin in Ontaria, who indicated that she will be teaching a course on the “Social, Ethical and Legal Issues for Computer Scientists” next year, and declared that “Pedophiles of the world have a new poster-girl.”

    I hope she will look up the meaning of the word “pedophile,” before embarrassing herself in an academic environment. Pedophiles, be definition, are aroused only by prepubescent children. Many words could be used to describe Saaya, but “prepubescent” is clearly not among them!

    Certainly, “Child molesters” may have a new poster girl, but no true pedophile would give Saaya a second glance, except perhaps out of curiosity.

  3. Piet Durban, South Africa May 11, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    In my neck of the woods I understand a paedophile to be somebody that has a sexual interest in a minor, around ten years younger. So a 24 year old, interested in a 14 year old could be considered paedophile. It sometimes would just be easier to accuse them of statutory rape, once it has come to that. Which is what happened in the case that I am familiar with.

    Let’s not get too caught up here, especially the difference between the dictionary definition and the medical/legal aspects. It’s really beside the point. -rc

  4. Kiera, Sydney Australia May 11, 2008 at 10:08 pm #

    There is a strong irony that Japan is trying “whitewash war crimes” which include the rape of minors in China by sexually exploiting an 11 yr old Japanese girl.

    Though to be fair I am kind of not surprised that there are Chinese men not willing to boycott this propaganda considering the male to female ratio and the prospect many Chinese men face at most likely never getting married. It’s one of the reasons for the rise in prostitution in china. So Chinese could be forgiven for being more concerned with breasts than Nanking, considering also many of those men were born a long time after Nanking they don’t have as much feel for the pain of the history (though I’d hope there would be Chinese who would dispute my statement).

    But to be honest, when I first saw this article, probably because of the controversy in the Australian fashion industry of a fourteen year old model I couldn’t help think what is too old? It seems twenty year olds are already too old to be sexy. Why didn’t Japan use a twenty year old? Even an eighteen year old. Why is it that we have fourteen year olds modeling clothes for twenty year old women?

    I don’t know maybe it’s just me but I’m constantly seeing young girls advertising things that are ten years out of their age range and can’t help wonder why not get a thirty year old to model thirty year old clothing why a fourteen year old?

    Are we as a society, that obsessed with youth?

  5. Joel-Steven, California May 25, 2008 at 1:41 pm #

    I wonder if Miley Cyrus, her publicist, and her father Billy Ray have seen this.
    After all, this kind of sexual objectification of youth has worked out so well for the Britney Spears’ and Lindsay Lohans of the world….

  6. Alina, Ohio August 23, 2008 at 9:54 pm #

    Oh, that’s horrible. I’m not much older than her, only a few years and I know several girls her age that are just as developed. I hope they never use it to the “advantage” (or in her case, something that’s just terrible…) that she is. I understand she’s young, but even at her age, I would have never done such a thing. Even if I were as developed as her.

  7. John, TN September 7, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    Japan is a nation of 130 million and China is a nation of 1.3 billion. I don’t understand why you are blaming an entire “culture” (as you put it) for the exploitation of this girl. It was a cynical internet meme/joke – not propaganda tactic sanctioned by the Japanese government. And why assume that Chinese men are willing to forget what Japan did during the war based on a few comments by Chinese pedophiles on message boards? The US has plenty of child abusers, should this nation be held collectively responsible every time there is porn ring sting? Please stop exoticizing and stereotyping entire races.

    When no one in a “culture” condemns the act once it becomes national news, one assumes they condone it. I still haven’t seen condemnation from Japan, and this happened three years ago. -rc

  8. Ernest - Junee, Australia January 9, 2009 at 10:20 pm #

    G’day,

    When reading an article like this we have to take into account the differences between the cultures. The girl is obviously trying to launch a modelling career, and appears to be doing a good job of it, to generate some income (probably to put her through college and uni later). In Japan modelling and nudity are NOT regarded the same as in USA, UK, Australia. Many cultures regards people as adults when they reach a certain stage of physical development, I’m not sure what the situation is in Japan.

    What isn’t right is the way the government are using her to play politics, but I doubt she’s concerned about it as long as she gets very good royalties for the photos.

    Can we award the government person who thought of this project the boobie prize?

  9. Kyon, Montana March 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm #

    well you have to remember japan and other countries around the world are way different than the US. Hell the legal age of consent in Japan is 16 in some districts. Also the USA is one of, if not the biggest prudes in the world. We tend to think are opinions matter more than anyone’s. Hey think of it this way at least she is in a bikini with a smile on her face, not naked and getting porked by 10 guys at the same time.

    Yes, I’m quite aware that things are different in different places. Still, she was eleven, not 16. -rc

  10. Andy LA April 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

    I personally think that she should wait until she reaches a more mature age. I don’t like this idea at all ,hearing this makes imagine my daughter at only 10 in a bikini and a pervert watching and doing some thing sinful ,so I’m very concerned of this child.

    To regular readers: Yeah, “Andy LA” looks like a moron. But you don’t know the half of it! He immediately came back and posted another comment, but using a different name (Arnold — he doesn’t have enough imagination to use a different initial!), a different state (Nebraska), and a different made-up email address, in a sorry attempt to support his own point. He doesn’t seem to realize that any site owner has the ability to track the people who post — he’s actually in Irvine, California, using his SBCglobal DSL line to comment. His follow-up agrees that there’s some “masterbation” (sic — and sick!) going on. By the look of his typing ability, I don’t doubt it — looks pretty one-handed to me. But Al/Arnold, decrying it doesn’t erase your guilt: it just makes you a hypocrite. Stop lusting after the 11-year-old here (or is it your 10-year-old daughter?) and get some help. And stop pretending that you’re someone you’re not — you don’t have the brains to pull it off (as it were). -rc

  11. Charles ,San Diego April 25, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    Im going to have to agree with Randy ,andy LA sounds like a [pardon my french ] dumbass

    Yes, you are. READ what I said to you on your first post. I could tell you were the same guy without even looking. Now bugger off — I have better things to do than deal with your pedophillic urges. -rc

  12. Nick, Aus June 15, 2009 at 7:49 am #

    The national age of consent is not 16 in Japan. It’s 16 here in Australia. In Japan, it is 13.

    Yeah, you might say that she is still 2 years shy of the age of consent. But you forget that the age of consent is the age at which a person can legally consent to sexual relations. Not the age at which they can pose completely non-nude.

    Australia can get pretty bad sometimes too, but this is a prime example of America’s prudish nature and insensitivity to other cultures. Japan is not America. The sooner you learn that, the better.

  13. James, Los Angles August 10, 2009 at 1:23 am #

    I agree with what Nick from Australia posted on June 15th, 2009. Americans are all too often notoriously known as the Police of the world (watch Team America if you don’t know what I’m talking about). We tend to impose our beliefs and values on other societies even without taking the time to understand the other society. I’ve lived in Japan, and so I have first-hand knowledge of how different the two cultures are. But we can’t ignore the fact (although it makes us Americans very uncomfortable) that we as human men are naturally attracted to women who have matured through puberty, no matter what age they happen to be. The woman’s body changes in order to bear children. And as a result, the opposite sex is naturally going to be attracted, and the Japanese society (both men and women) holds less shame about that. In fact, they have much less shame surrounding sex than the rather sexually conservative United States has.

    The argument might be made that we as higher beings (now 400+ years beyond the time of Romeo and Juliet) should shame away that attraction. I mean, otherwise, we’d be animals, right?

    Now that Saaya is a bit older, she’s enjoying success in other ventures such as her musical group “Chase”. Further, how is Saaya much different from Miley Cyrus, who at 15 had some rather racy photos taken of her own or, perhaps, the Olson twins or Vanessa Hudgens (granted they were slightly older).

    I guess only time will tell if Saaya’s really been exploited, as this site purports. One thing you might be surprised to learn is how respectful the Japanese are in sharp contrast to Americans. Perhaps from our perspective inside our disrespectful society… we can’t even imagine such a thing!

  14. Magoichi, Philippines March 6, 2010 at 1:09 am #

    I’d like to point out that the United States – always the 2-faced Puritan that it always was – is really a “nation” at odds with itself because it’s actually a very large country comprising of 50 states and actually many more cultural differences which the federal and state governments try to generalize. Telling the people at one state county to be like everyone else in the U.S. is like telling Japan to be like everyone else in the planet. Truth is, each country is different from each other and each state county different from the others. That’s why we have a federal government to “pull” all these cultures together (by force, i mean). The more we forcefully integrate everyone in the world, the more we culturally die as human beings. Maybe we should travel more to exotic places and get to know more about these exotic cultures firsthand and with an open mind. Ignorance is the real enemy here.

  15. Noi December 26, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    I love Saaya Irie her very pretty.

    Noi posted from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, more commonly known as Laos. -rc

  16. --,-- January 12, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    The Junior Idol culture in Japan is broad and the part that practices the creation of erotic to full-fledged pornography of under aged children is disturbing. The pop-music scene in other Asian countries is similar: young pre-teen to teen girls sing, dance, and are dressed provocatively and sold to a target audience of men 15 years and more older than them. Yet women of age in the same music industries are usually expected to dress modestly and act demure.

    I think what makes this interesting is the contradiction of “conservative Asia” that frowns upon questionable western culture yet exploits the young just as much. Some people might argue that it’s not as bad as the US market in general, but when children are involved there’s no justification for any of it (Cyrus or Saaya). In the end such an issue is not about adults being sensitive to/respecting the cultures or prerogatives of other adults…we should be concerned for the well being of children and the protection/preservation of childhood. But whatever I guess it’s perfectly fine to sell our young daughters’ bodies and send or adolescent sons to war if that is the culture designed by the perverted greedy old men in charge.

    [The past wartime relations of the Chinese-Japanese-Koreans are sordid. The Japanese government has proven time and again that they aren’t apologetic. And the Chinese don’t have the best track record for their treatment of women and children. The whole world is full of evil doers and hypocrites.]

  17. Paul, UK August 23, 2015 at 10:27 am #

    It is interesting to see how you write this article without once really trying to understand the society from which it came. Japan is a VERY different society to the US. It is interesting to see that a lot of disgust is aimed from the US. A nation where it is perfectly fine to witness blood and gore as thousands are massacred on TV, but a single nipple? The world is ENDING!

    How do you know no-one has protested against this girls being used in Japan? Have you asked all 130,000,000 of them? Fact is, Japanese dont protest. Its not part of their culture. When they do, its usually very quietly.

    But many Japanese ARE uncomfortable with the use of very young girls in magazines. Indeed, the Japanese government is looking into laws tightening how images of girls are used. Problem is, in Japan, you have to seek complete consensus at all stages. Progress can be glacial, at best!

    Make up your mind! You complain that I didn’t check to see if there was a protest, yet also say “Fact is, Japanese dont [sic] protest.” To contradict your own point is a pretty silly stance, especially considering that nowhere on the page do I discuss whether there is, or should be, some sort of “protest” in Japan over this (which, as noted, was written more than TEN YEARS ago). The story, rather, is clearly about her parents (to a minor extent) and gullible Chinese (to a major extent), not whether or not the Japanese people as a whole should “protest”. If you wish to bring up a different point that’s related to the story, fine, but blaming me for supposedly saying something that anyone can plainly see hasn’t been addressed here just makes you look like a fool. -rc

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