By Ryann Connell Staff Writer
Saturday June 30, 2001
Dyed hair, make-up, body piercing, 40 percent with sexual experience, 30,000 of them having abortions every year. Unthinkable among teen-age girls a few years back, it's the norm in Japan now, according to Shukan Asahi (7/6). And if the once unthinkable is now common practice, it should be no surprise that we're witnessing what had previously been unimaginable -- girls nowadays refuse to change their panties.
"My undies? It's a pain changing them sometimes. You know, like after you've stayed at a friend's place, you don't change 'em much," 16-year-old Yumi says. "But ... I do make sure I use a protective sheet for secretions so my panties don't get dirty."
Kyoko, a 17-year-old Tokyo teen, tells a similar story.
"It costs a lot to buy underwear if you're away from home for two or three days, right? That's why I always used the protective sheets," Kyoko says. "But I've stopped using them now. I used to leak a real lot of fluids. My panties would get all crunchy and the hairs would stick to them. It really hurt when I changed my undies."
Physicians are astounded by the girls' attitudes.
"These girls have got an alarming knowledge of sex techniques, but most of them have no idea about illness or hygiene," says Tsuneo Akaeda, a gynecologist. "Some girls think it's fine not to change their underwear for a few days as long as they replace the protective sheets for secretions."
Akaeda tells Shukan Asahi that a random test he conducted last year found that 82 percent of 125 girls in their late teens or women in their early 20s have had some form of venereal disease. He adds that random tests on teen-age girls this year have come up with even more alarming results.
"Just changing the protective sheets and not their panties can lead to a build-up of smells and conceal the degree [to which a sexually transmitted disease (STD)] has progressed. Sometimes, this makes it too late to treat the STDs," Akaeda says.
Shinya Iwamuro, a doctor from Kanagawa Prefecture specializing in public health, agrees there're problems with young women's awareness.
"Most of them think that if they come down with an STD it'll be easily treated," he says. "But they've got no idea of the difference between germs and bacteria, or what's clean or dirty."
It seems the problem lies largely at the feet of the protective sheets women can insert in their panties to absorb nether-region secretions. But the sheet-makers are shocked to hear that many young girls are using their products as an alternative to changing their panties, Shukan Asahi notes.
"Many women feel uncomfortable with the fact that secretions can dirty their underwear. Protective sheets were developed in 1988 so that even if secretions did appear, women could feel clean in their delicate zones without having to change their underwear," says a spokesman for Kobayashi Pharmaceuticals Co., Japan's largest manufacturer of the sheets.
Kobayashi has found that 36 percent of all Japanese women use the sheets, with the core market made up by 20- and 30-somethings. Those in their teens account for 39 percent of all sales.
"With the declining birthrate, sales of all women's sanitary products are down, except protective sheet sales, which are booming," the spokesman says.
Shukan Asahi finds that some girls feel that using the sheets as an alternative to underwear helps their sex life.
"If secretions dirty my panties, it's really embarrassing when I have sex," says a 17-year-old girl. "But all I need to do is take the sheets out just before I do it, and my panties stay clean."
Perhaps cartoonist Mimei Sakamoto speaks for many when he utters his disgust at the idea of girls leaving their knickers on for days.
"They're not changing their undies?" Sakamoto scoffs in disbelief. "Letting their panties smell so bad that anyone who gets a whiff becomes sick shows a complete disregard for others."