I’m curious, Peadar, did you ever consider the moral implications of what you were doing?
The implications of what?
Cheating on your wife, Haruka. Cuckolding Kei’s husband.
Oh, that . . .
Well, back when I first started sleeping with Xiuying, I felt nervous more than anything—nervous that Haruka might find out. I didn’t know how I would explain myself. But then, Haruka never did find out . . .
At least you don’t think she did.
Are you implying that she knew about the affairs?
I’m not implying anything, Peadar. It’s just that many women turn a blind eye to their husband’s infidelities, knowing that divorce would be far more disruptive to their lives than the occasional fling.
True. You know, before we married, Haruka surprised me by saying that she would be able to tolerate her husband visiting a soapland . . .
Soaplands are a uniquely Japanese kind of brothel. Customers pay to take a bath with a woman who washes the man, massages him, and then depending on the customer’s needs and budget, either has sex with, or performs some kind of act on the man resulting in the man’s “pipes” also getting “cleaned”. Or so they say; I have never been to one myself.
Those enigmatic Japanese.
Yes, well anyways, Haruka said she could forgive “an affair of the body”, but not “an affair of the heart”, the latter being the bigger threat.
How would you have felt if Haruka had also sleeping around?
A German friend once asked me the very same question and it gave me some pause. How would I feel, I wondered. Would I be upset? Would I be angry? Or, would I be relieved? I had been with Haruka for more than four or five years, married for over two of those years, and I was now quietly longing for a way out of the marriage. If Haruka were also engaging in an extramarital affair, I concluded, why, there was the exit! All I needed to do was walk through it.
And don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
Knowing Haruka, though, I don’t think she would have overlooked the opportunity to lay into me with her usual extortionist demands, so I doubt she ever knew.
So, you didn’t think about the morality of . . .
Knowing what the right thing to do is, and when to do it.
Was it morally wrong to sleep around while I was married to Haruka? That’s what you want to ask, right?
This isn’t about my wanting to ask you anything, Peadar. That isn’t my place. All I can do is help you reflect upon your actions, and hope you ask those questions yourself.
Alright, then! I’ll ask myself: was it morally wrong for me to have slept around? Before I answer that, let me say that I think the morality of any action depends on the circumstances.
Moral reality. Listen: I have a friend who sleeps around a lot and isn’t very good at keeping it from his wife. I’m sure he tries to be discreet, but he makes bonehead mistakes. It wouldn’t surprise me if his wife knew much more about his infidelities than he realizes. The interesting thing about it, though, is his wife has, as far as I know, never ever confronted him about the philandering. Her own father was a randy old sod who actually livedin a love hotel of all places, so I doubt she has any illusions about the trouble men’s dicks can get them into. The bar she has set for my friend to be “a good husband” is so low that he is able to skip over it. It seems that if he is able to bring home a steady paycheck and be a halfway decent father, she’s more than content. Is it, then, immoral for my friend to cheat on his wife? Probably, but then his wife might actually be disappointed if he didn’t, perverse as that may sound. So long as my friend is able to keep his extramarital relationships on the physical level, not the emotional one; so long as he doesn’t shove his wife’s face into the affairs, there doesn’t seem to be any overtly negative consequence to his infidelity. Expectations are important, too.
Yes. If you enter into a relationship where there is no expectation of the partners being faithful, then it probably isn’t immoral if either of them seeks sexual encounters outside of the relationship.
What do you think Haruka’s expectations were?
What about mine? I didn’t go into the marriage thinking that I would end up sleeping around. If she had been more cooperative, I doubt I would have ever . . .
So, you’re saying it was Haruka’s fault?
No . . . It was both of our fault. We were both in our own way uncompromising and selfish.
Prostitution is illegal in Japan. Technically, that is. The definition of prostitution, however, is limited to coitus, meaning that pretty much everything else that one can image isallowed. Also, there is no stipulated penalty for those who are prostitutes or those who use them, so, if a prostitute does have vaginal sex with a John, the act is considered to have been done in private between two consenting adults. (How convenient!) Although the laws regulating “businesses affecting public morals” (風俗法, fūzokuhō) have been amended over the years, prostitution is still going strong in Japan.
Case in point: a few months ago, I was approached by a “pimp” on a street corner in Nakasu, Fukuoka’s “adult-oriented” entertainment area. He asked me if I was interested in going to a “soapland”.
In my two decades in this country, it was the very first time that any of these black-suited panderers had ever approached me. It left me with the impression that either Japan had come a long way in accepting foreigners or the economy still hadn’t recovered completely, “Abenomics” notwithstanding. A buck is a buck, no matter which schmuck the girl fucks.
I had a minute or two until the traffic signal changed, so I asked the pimp how much a visit to his soapland would cost. (No harm in asking, right?) He answered that there was a flat fee of fifteen thousand yen (about $160).
Surely there must be some catch, I thought, and asked him if that was just the price you paid to get into the joint, the so-called nyūyoku-ryō (入浴料, lit. “entering bath charge”).
“No. It’s fifteen thousand for sex.”
I then asked if there was an extra charge, known as a shimei-ryō (指名), for choosing the girl, and he said, “No, you may have sex with any girl you like.”
While I didn’t take him up on his offer, I could see why many Japanese men do. When the light changed, I crossed the street and walked away, the modest price of a convenient “affair of the body” niggling at the back of my mind.
“An affair of the body” in Japanese is karada no uwaki (体の浮気); “an affair of the heart”, kokorono uwaki (心の浮気).
The first installment/chapter of A Woman's Hand can be found here.
A Woman's Hand and other works are available in e-book form and paperback at Amazon.