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Soapland boy-sans turn tables on their tormentors

An advertisement for a soapland in Yoshiwara
An advertisement for a soapland in Yoshiwara
“Over the past 20 years, the biggest change the sex industry has undergone has been the male staff at soaplands,” begins Nikkan Gendai (June 24) in the latest installment of its long-running series “The Dark Side of the Sex Business.”

These staff, known as “boy-sans,” typically robust young lads with crewcuts who bow welcome and see off visitors to their erotic bathhouses, belonged to a clearly established pecking order.

In the past, the boy-sans were expected to be particularly deferential to top earning hookers at the shop, who in a good month brought in as much as 7 million yen in revenues, the source of their regular paycheck.

Those who failed to show the proper attitude and treat the top gals like goddesses would be rudely slanged and on occasion pummeled like a punching bag. Likewise for their attitude toward the tabloid reporters who visited the shop, who were to be always addressed politely as sensei.

In most cases soaplands did not maintain dormitories for their staff, and the boy-sans at the bottom rungs of the totem pole usually just sacked out for a few hours sleep on the still-damp air mattresses in “play rooms,” after the shop closed for the night. The next morning they would be aroused by a senior, who would kick and screech at them like a sadistic drill instructor.

But times have really changed. For one thing, the boy-sans are no longer willing to put up with such abuse. Snap at them in a nasty manner and they’ll quit on the spot. And if you smack them with your open hand — the kind of traditional discipline that teaches them to respect their elders — they’ll even threaten to charge you with aggravated assault.

Good grief, what’s the world coming to?

While soap shops are now obliged to cuddle their boy-sans, the soap ladies are the target of ever stricter training in their speech, attitude and service. After all, the shop depends on repeat customers to keep the money spigot flowing.

And when the sudsy sluts refuse to take any more hard love and blurt out, “That does it — I’m quitting!” how does the boss respond?

Dozo. Gokatte ni” (go ahead, do what you want). After all, in these hard times, there’s a waiting list of women looking for work. It’s a buyer’s market, and the days when masseuses got treated like goddesses are gone for good. (K.S.)

Source: “Naguru keru ga atarimae datta soopurando,” Nikkan Gendai (June 24, page 20)