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Sunday, April 29, 2012

COUNTERPOINT

Reversing Japan's rising sex aversion may depend on a rebirth of hope


Special to The Japan Times

"If young people's aversion to sex continues to increase at the present rate, the situation of Japan's low fertility rate and rapid ageing will rapidly worsen. ... The Japanese economy will lose its vitality even more than now. If this happens, this nation might eventually perish into extinction."

This startling prediction was made by Kunio Kitamura in a book published last year by Media Factory. Dr. Kitamura, an obstetrician and gynecologist who runs his own family planning clinic in Tokyo, is the author of more than a dozen books on reproduction and sexual health. Now, with "Sekkusugirai na Wakamonotachi" ("Young People Averse to Sex"), he has shown that Japanese young people are turning off sex and that this is bound to have dire consequences for the nation.

Let's get right down to the statistical basics.

Every two years a survey is conducted, under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, on male-female relations in Japan. Here are some of the results relating to interest in sex based on answers from some 1,500 people surveyed in each of the years referred to.

Males age 16-19 in 2008 who "have no interest in sex or have an aversion to it": 17.5 percent (compared with 36.1 percent in 2010). Males age 20-24 in 2008 who "have a lack of interest or aversion to sex": 11.8 percent (compared with 21.5 percent in 2010).

In fact, for all age groups of males except those aged 30-34, the rate rose significantly in the two years from 2008.

The same trend is seen in women.

In 2008, 46.9 percent of females aged 16-19 said they had either "no interest in" or "an aversion to sexual contact" (compared with 58.5 percent in 2010). Among females aged 20-24 in 2008, 25 percent said they had either "no interest in" or "an aversion to sexual contact" (compared with 35 percent in 2010).

Marked increases between 2008 and 2010 were also found in every age group up to 49, the oldest females questioned.

In other words, at least one in three young people is not interested in sex.

Kitamura goes into a thorough analysis of why this is so. His book also includes reports on a number of interviews with young people who had come to his clinic.

One young man said he has a sex drive but that having sex with someone is "just too much of a bother." Others claim that they prefer girls as anime characters or as virtual dolls rather than the real thing — so-called two-dimensional brides. "At least they won't dump you," one interviewee remarked.

Meanwhile, Kitamura states that some young men come to his clinic complaining of erectile dysfunction. Others explain that watching too much sex on Internet sites has left them with a bad taste in their mouth for human sexual contact. Many admit to extremely frequent masturbation, thereby satisfying all their sexual needs themselves.

Kitamura tells the young men that masturbation is not unhealthy; and, moreover, "in no way does masturbation itself lead to an aversion to having sex with others."

But he does indict the Internet, writing that, with its overload of misinformation and pornography, and the amount of communication done online rather than through actual human contact, "today's Internet-oriented society has had a particularly bad effect on young people in this regard."

He also points to factors in Japanese society that are exacerbating this trend. Here are some of the reasons for not having sex that Kitamura's male patients have given.

"I don't do sex because I can't get married in the end" — due to not having a good job.

"It costs money to have sex" — buying contraceptives, having your own apartment or car, etc.

"My boss is a woman and this has made me sexless."

"There are more fun things to do."

"I'm too tired after work and can't summon a desire for sex."

The definition of "sexless" set in 1994 by the Japan Society of Sexual Science, a professional organization that deals with all aspects of human reproduction, states that this is a condition occurring when someone has had "no sexual contact for a month or more." Sexual contact itself includes a host of things, such as "kissing, oral sex, petting and sleeping together naked."

Studies on the connection between long working hours and sexless behavior have shown that people who work 49 or more hours per week display a marked drop-off in sexual activity.

As for sex aversion among women, the following are some of the reasons given by female patients that Kitamura quotes in "Young People Averse to Sex."

"I believe in pure love," one young woman said, "and that's why I don't do sex." Another tells him that she feels pain when having intercourse and so avoids it. "Men are dirty and revolting, so I stay clear of them," declared another. She pointed to a number of their dirty and revolting characteristics, such as "a hair that has fallen out and sits on his shoulder, and eye mucus in the corner of his eyes, and whiskers that don't grow symmetrically and look kind of light blue ... and I can't stand it when they keep wiping sweat away, and then they go and put the dirty handkerchief in their pocket !"

Well, perhaps a two-dimensional groom is the more suitable partner for this young lady.

But other young women, just like young men, claim their hobbies interest them more than anything sexual — while some say they don't have enough confidence in their own looks to go out and meet members of the opposite sex.

Kitamura admits that moving away from sexual conduct may be a phenomenon not restricted to the young in Japan. "Wide layers of Japanese society at all ages may be experiencing just such a thing," he writes.

He goes into frank detail about his own sex education and coming of age, and gives suggestions on how sexlessness might be rectified in the future. These include providing more realistic sex education geared to the needs of today's young people, and improving communication skills of the young. "After all," he says, "sex is a means of communication between people."

Nonetheless, despite all this detail and data, I came away from reading Kitamura's book with an unclear notion of why such a serious condition as sex-aversion disorder has so severely attacked Japan's young.

Young people the world over are glued to screens, and yet most nations' statistics for sex aversion are nowhere near as dire as Japan's. In addition, Japanese people in former times worked just as hard, if not harder, than they do now; and few of them had cars or apartments of their own. Yet they managed to produce large families while, if what Kitamura says is correct, enjoying more frequent sex.

Apart from a person's physical condition or disability that may diminish their sexual urges, the problem, to my mind, is one of motivation.

The real reason lies in the lack of vitality that pervades Japanese society today. The behavioral elements that characterized the generation of baby boomers who forged Japan's postwar success — get up and go, a fighting spirit, a feeling of hope in the future for one's children — are certainly in short supply here now.

I do believe that the aversion to sex among today's Japanese youth, and the low birth rate that is one consequence of it, can be reversed if Japanese people of all ages can reinvent hope for themselves and their offspring, born and as yet unborn.

It may only take two to tango, but it takes an entire nation to find its pathway toward rebirth.



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