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Yes means yes and no means no. Sounds relatively easy, right? Ask the same question about sexual intercourse and suddenly the distinction gets blurry. This is particularly true in Japan where it’s considered cute when a woman is too ashamed to express her sexual desire and men are glorified for acting pushy (the kabe-donhitting the wall next to a woman — phenomenon being a prime example).

Japan can do better

On paper, Japan boasts a relatively low rate of sexual assaults but the worldwide spread of the #MeToo movement brought to light the painful truth: Sexual violence against women does exist in Japan, it just goes massively unreported. Legally, the definition of rape is rather narrow; essentially rape is considered as nonconsensual intercourse with extreme violence. Other forms like date rape or sexual assault committed by a partner do not fall under the definition. Consent is not mentioned.

The #MeToo movement hasn’t yet sparked a strong public debate, at least not as much as in other countries. In an environment where “no” is way too often perceived as a cue for men to assert their dominance, it seems like Japanese society needs to start a frank discussion about what sexual consent actually means.

Wait, what?

This pretty much sums up the reaction of a lot of Twitter user @ka0mc3’s followers when she shared a screenshot of a TV show she was watching that was broadcasting a poll about what people think constitutes sexual consent.

え?そんなの「エッチしよっか?」「うん!」しか ないいんじゃ無いの??= What? Isn’t “Let’s have sex?” – “Yes!” the only way to consent??

Conducted by the NHK Net Club, this poll’s results are an indication that the notion of sexual consent is blurred for some:

“性行為 せいこうい同意どういがあった”とおもわれても仕方しかたがないと思うもの = Types of behavior that imply sexual consent

  • 2人 ふたりきりで食事しょくじ = Dining alone with someone (11%)
  • 2人きりで飲酒いんしゅ = Drinking alone with someone (27%)
  • 2人きりでくるまる= Riding alone with someone in a car (25%)
  • 露出ろしゅつおお服装ふくそう = Wearing revealing clothes (23%)
  • 泥酔でいすいしている = Being very drunk (35%)

The least we can say is that there’s some work to be done so the notion of sexual consent becomes absolutely crystal clear. And if you’re dating in Japan, keep in mind that there’s no such thing as “ruining the mood” with asking for your partner’s consent. Never hesitate to voice your desire to be intimate and to verify if your partner is comfortable sharing more than just a meal.

How to express limitations in Japanese

The Japanese particle きり is used to set limits on things. When you combine this particle with a noun representing a number or a quantity, きり translates as “only” or “just.”

  • 二人ふたりきりの時間じかんがほしい。= I want to have some time just for the two of us.
  • 1回いっかいきりのお客様きゃくさま100回ひゃっかい客にそだてる。= Turn a one time customer into a repeat customer

きり can also be combined with verbs in their casual form:

  • 一度いちどはなしたきりで、友達ともだちになりました。= After speaking only once, we became friends.
  • 人生じんせいは一度きりだから、やりたいことをおもいっきりやればいい!= You only live once, so do what you really want to do.

In the second example, the second きり implies emphasis:「おもいっきり」comes from .


Japanese Romaji English
エッチ ecchi sex, sexual
する suru do
うん un yup
しかない shikanai only
性行為 せいこうい seikoui sexual intercourse
同意 どうい doui consent
おも omou to think
仕方 しかたがない shikataganai it cannot be helped
きり kiri only, just
食事 しょくじ shokuji meal
飲酒いんしゅ inshu drinking alcohol
くるま kuruma car

noru to ride
露出ろしゅつ roshutsu revealing (clothes), physical exposure
ooi a lot
服装 ふくそう fukusou clothes
泥酔でいすい deisui dead drunk
時間 じかん jikan time
hoshii want, wish to do
人生 じんせい jinsei life
dakara because, since
ii good
客様 きゃくさま kyakusama customer
一回いっかい ikkai one time
sodateru to raise

au to meet
一度 いちど ichido once
hanasu to speak
友達ともだち tomodachi friend
ni naru to become



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