First Hong Kong AV actress means first step to changing views on pornography

The 25-year-old Hong Kong artist, So Hoi Lam, who goes by the stage name Erena, achieved an incredible feat by being the first Hong Kong actress to be entering the Japanese adult video (AV) industry with her debut film coming out during August of this year. This caused her fans to rejoice for Erena’s career. But why is it such a big deal for a Hong Kong artist to enter the Japanese AV industry?

The Japanese media talent industry is heavily centred around its talent, who are often referred to as idols. Idols thrive in the media talent industry by gathering support from their fanbase. This phenomenon can be seen mimicked by Hong Kong talents such as members from Mirror and Collar, where each idol is expected to be able to muster up their own fan base and sell merchandise from photo albums to calendars while promoting their own image through performances. This situation can also be found in the AV industry in which pornographic actors and actresses are expected to reach out to their audience and attend events to sell their image.

Because of this abundant support for AV actors and actresses, Japanese people are quite open towards pornography. This can be seen along the streets of the Harajuku district in Shibuya, in which sex shops and stores selling merchandise of AV actors and actresses can be seen in broad daylight. Some of these stores even have signs that state they are “duty free,” which means tourists who present their passport are able to purchase items without paying for tax as long as the purchase is equal to or above ¥5000. This shows that these stores are encouraging foreigners to indulge in Japanese culture and be more accepting towards pornography.

Duty free sex shop along the streets of Harajuku. (Photo Credit: Brian Cheng)

Some sexual products are even produced for children. A particular version of the popular Japanese kids toy, Kendama, can be found in one of the shops in Harajuku. It has been moulded to appear more vulgar with a phallic shaped spike and a yonic shaped ball.

A Kendama made to look more explicit and vulgar. (Photo Credit: Brian Cheng)

Hentai, which is a genre of Japanese manga or anime that is characterised by overtly sexualised characters and sexually explicit images and plots, is another form of pornography which is widely popular not only in Japan, but internationally as well. According to the pornographic site, Pornhub, the most searched terms in the site were ‘Hentai’ and ‘Japanese,’ which further establishes the importance and international interest of pornography in Japanese culture.

Statistics for most searched terms on Pornhub in 2022 (Photo Credit: Pornhub)

In comparison to Japan, Hong Kong is not as open towards pornography. Although there are stores scattered around the city that sell pornographic products such as magazines, DVDs, and sex toys, they are much more discreet. These shops are located in deep alley ways, away from major streets and centres, such as the far end of Temple Street. These shops also do not have a sign stating the name and what the shop sells; the only indicator that tells people its a pornographic shop are posters of AV actresses posted outside the store, and short curtains at the entrance to prevent outsiders to see the content inside the shop.

For Erena, being able to star in Japanese AV is an incredible milestone for her as it not only boosts her career by becoming known by people in Japan, but it also expands her image in Hong Kong. In likeness, it also acts as a potential gateway in normalising Hong Kong’s view on pornography. Acknowledging her success and respecting her career is the first step in changing Hong Kong’s closed view on pornography.

There have been local efforts in normalising the discussion about sex and pornography. Sally Coco is a local “intimate lifestyle” store that sells sex toys, accessories, and clothing. They have also held workshops to help educate people in Hong Kong to learn and be comfortable with performing safe sexual activities such as spanking,  bondage, and wearing collars.

A student at the University of Hong Kong, who will be referred to as Anori for the sake of privacy, is open about purchasing pornographic items for his own pleasure. He has purchased a few pornographic magazines and used sex toys on himself for a better sexual experience. Anori has requested to conceal his eyes for anonymity.

Anori showing his collection of pornographic items. (Photo Credit: Brian Cheng)

Anori feels Hong Kong should be more accepting towards the idea of indulging oneself in their own pleasure. He has also explained that people can be more open to it if they saw it more professionally instead of something taboo.

If people acknowledge that porn actors are on the same level as (traditional) actors, it would make it more acceptable (for them) to pursue this line of work. Such acceptance would also make it safer for porn actors, as their work would be acknowledged and respected. This is why I believe that Hong Kong should be more accepting of the porn industry,” said Anori.

It’s hard to tell whether Hong Kong people would take Erina’s achievement seriously, see it as a joke, or not discuss it at all given the taboo nature of the subject of pornography. However, Erina has shown Hong Kong its potential in its actors and actresses in the pornographic industry, which could lead to a change of minds within the city.

Featured Image: Instagram account @thisisshl

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