Have young people in Japan given up on sex and relationships? Thomas Pluck wonders.
In Japan young people “have stopped having sex.” At least according to an article for the Guardian, which states that “61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship.” And worse, 45% of women, and 25% of men “were not interested in or despised sexual contact.” In a country that doesn’t shame sexual behavior, and the “tanuki” raccoon statues outside restaurants have testicles the size of grapefruits, this sounds terrifying. What could be afflicting young people, to bring about such a joyless existence?
When I visited Tokyo and Niigata to train in Shooto, the young men seemed plenty interested in sex. If one in four men despise sexual contact, a bunch of dudes were pretending to point out all the beautiful women to the American as we wandered the city. And the women were very interested in sex. A friend of mine who taught there was never single for long. I got to hear about it every time we talked. So what’s the deal?
As is usually the case, the real story is more complicated than a catchy headline. People in Japan are still having sex. However, young people are finding it more difficult to balance work and relationships. Not every young male is an otaku with a pillow shaped like an anime girl. Despite the stagnant economy and fickle job market, the “salaryman” tradition of a man working to support his family is still strong in the culture. Women who work after getting married are called “devil wives,” and businesses stop promoting them, assuming they will be too busy taking care of a family to work. The economy is so tough that you need two parents working to afford children, but women are punished for working after marriage. Can you blame young people for not wanting to jump into marriage? When cultural mores are so strict and expectations so high, it’s enough to shrivel even the tanuki’s mighty testicles. Hell, mine are ready to crawl into my abdominal cavity, just thinking about it.
Notice that no one asked the unmarried men and women if they were having sex outside of a romantic relationship. The article combines two polls, one that says 25% of men are not interested in sexual contact, and another that says 61% are not in a relationship. The country’s economic stagnation and job insecurity make a long-term relationship difficult. Japan is undergoing a cultural shift, and when the old guard stops punishing women for working after marriage, things might change. When you deify work, play suffers. In the meanwhile, young Japanese will survive. And have plenty of sex. They just won’t date, so their families can’t pressure them into a marriage situation they don’t want.
–Photo spinster cardigan/Flickr