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What happens to a society in which young people are not interested in sex?

What happens to a society in which young people are not interested in sex?

Japan may be about to find out.

As you might imagine, the “don’t want to have sex” crowd in Japan doesn’t include all the young people, not by a long shot. But it’s a worrisome percentage, especially considering that this is an age group where the blood usually runs hot. As you also might imagine, the phenomenon involves more women than men, although the number of guys is not insignificant:

A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships.) Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan – a country mostly free of religious morals – sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact”. More than a quarter of men felt the same way.

A sex and relationship counselor in Japan has this to say:

“Both men and women say to me they don’t see the point of love. They don’t believe it can lead anywhere,” says Aoyama. “Relationships have become too hard.”

I very much doubt they’re actually any harder than they used to be. But their rewards are a great deal less, especially in Japan, so the cost-benefit analysis is quite different.

The article goes on to describe the reasons: women in the workforce whose promotion chances end at marriage and who often quit after having children because Japanese firms demand such unusually long hours of its employees, hosts of young people living with parents, ease of single living, and immersion in the world of computers rather than entering the messy fray of human contact.

There are other possible reasons that the article doesn’t mention. I merely list the factors that come to mind; one could easily write a book on the subject:

(1) In a society with less differentiation between the sexes, where the roles and demeanor of men and women become more alike, some of the “otherness” that enhances and feeds sexual passion wanes.

(2) Marriage has been stripped of most of its usual purposes. We used to need it economically, and to have children or acceptance as a productive and full member of society. Now marriage has been cut loose from those moorings. No wonder young people are confused as to why they should do it at all. And since sex can lead to one or other of the members of the couple pushing marriage, it’s unsurprising that people would be less inclined to engage in sex as well. Best not to start down that particular slippery slope.

(3) When nearly all is permitted (sexually, that is), the prospect of sex loses its forbidden fruit aspect and becomes more ho-hum. Same for the postponement of sex that used to come when premarital sex was more frowned upon: it acted as an aphrodisiac.

(4) Computer sex is not only ubiquitous and easy, it’s habit-forming. One of the physiological truths about sex is that the things we get used to when young—the fantasies, the turn-on triggers—can become very difficult to change. If people grow up using computers for sex and find it satisfying and simple, why would they stop?

(5) The problem is merely a subset of a host of problems caused by changing mores regarding men and women, and of society as a whole and loss of purpose in life. Some of this is obviously related to the societal changes that come from feminism, but some may be related to the decline of religion (although I’m not at all sure that has too much of an effect in Japan) and of nationalism. More Japanese used to feel they had a special national destiny, and although that idea led to some very bad stuff—World War II comes to mind—it also helped give the society a cohesiveness and purpose. The idea of having sex and children for the good of the country and society would be laughed at by today’s youth, but it was a not-unimportant motivator in the past.

No wonder the result is more widespread ennui.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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“Japan – a country mostly free of religious morals”

Really? Cute.

    ThomasD in reply to Yukio Ngaby. | October 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

    That was bout the same as my reaction. I can tolerate ignorance to a certain degree, but what that statement really conveys is a shallow bigotry.

    To the author ‘religious morals’ is mainly, if not exclusively equivalent to ‘what people should or should not do with their fiddly bits.’

    A typical leftist/progressive level of insight and understanding.

    Not A Member of Any Organized Political in reply to Yukio Ngaby. | October 22, 2013 at 11:19 am

    “No sex is good sex!”

    As the Japanese might say, “Chigau you!” 🙂

Ummm, this is pretty much a no brainer. Most of those stories we see on the news about human-like robots being developed are from Japan. Why else would you make a human-like robot?

This past September, while waiting for a flight in Tokyo’s airport, a young man and I had a conversation about this. We didn’t say dex, but we talked about lack of marriages amongst the young and a falling population. His reply suggested to me that, if America elects another Communist Democrat, such as Hillary, we will have the same problem as Japan.

The guy said it was all about jobs and income. Apparently, nobody wants to get married or raise a family on a lousy income. The attitude seems to be, dude, I can barely support myself, I can’t even afford what’s needed for a family, so why bother?

I’ve heard (so don’t beat me up about this) that many Japanese have to work long long hours. Sex drive and desire may wane quickly under those conditions.

And, I think a loss of imagination strips sex of its desire.

When everything, and I mean everything, is media-ized (and often misogyny-ized, too) what’s left to the imagination?

A loss of imagination could be due to the depreciation of the romantic or non-rational. It is being replaced by a Darwinian rational materialism. In others words, sex is not practical toward a materialist end except to keep the species going, Comrades.

    Ironically, the Darwinist materialist paradigm is under attack from the quarter they least expected it from: Scientific Evidence!

    The Mind/Materialist duality of nature can be summed up with the question: What are the dimensions, quality and mass of your thoughts?

    Even Quantum physics denies the materialist view of the world.

    “In quantum mechanics, the work of John Bell and Alan Aspect has demonstrated quite convincingly that there are no deterministic local hidden variables — that is, in bound two-particle states in which the particles move apart, characteristics of the particles such as spin or polarization are not determined locally at the moment of separation, but instead arise with subsequent collapse of the waveform at the time of measurement. Initially after separation, the state of the particles is indeterminate.

    Quantum mechanics is indeterminate. Physical systems exist as ensembles of possible states in superimposition, reduced to one of the states by an act of measurement. The states of bound particles are not determined by any local variable at the moment of separation. Thus, it is not true that everything in nature is determined, moment by moment, by that state that immediately precedes it. ”

I think there are other significant factors at work here.

The first is economic: babies are expensive. Just as Europe and the UK have learned for a long time, most young people cannot afford to raise a family. So they have 0 or 1 child. This problem is now appearing in the US. Unfortunately, the “cure” is also coming to the US, many of those with large families can afford it by getting subsidies from the State. Specifically, they go on welfare.

The second issue is that the law is constructed in such a way that marriage or even sex without marriage is becoming a high-risk proposition for men. The men are dropping out or avoiding relationships because they are literally putting their lives in the hands of female partners of child-bearing age. If the woman decides to have a child — with or without the male’s consent — the law requires that he provide for the child, and, of course, the woman benefits.

The final issue that is almost unique to the Japanese is the fixation on hygiene by many Japanese. Americans are bad, but many Japanese have phobias against any contact with germs or common chemicals. As an example, look at the large percentage of Japanese wearing masks and using gloves on airplanes and in public places. It’s a good idea to be careful, but you can’t let fear run your life.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to a society where more diapers are sold for the elderly than for babies.

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to kevino. | October 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Allow me to agree, and add a couple of points. The legal/cultural environment is actually worse here than in Japan. In addition to presumptive paternity and no-fault divorce [not that divorce is ever easy on the people involved, but it used to be sufficiently traumatic to the point where it was not a first resort]; our media and elite culture actively celebrates single life and single motherhood and denigrates males at every turn. Females, in addition to cultural support, get the legal boost of affirmative action, with all that implies.

    Marriage and the raising of a family is subject to an unconscious cost/benefit determination in each individual. I’ve raised my family. It is immensely rewarding, especially if it can be done successfully. But the breakup of a family is vastly traumatic and painful for ALL concerned.

    I think I have been successful. 4 grown kids, 3 degrees between them [one double degree], one in progress. The one without a degree has owned her own business for 20 years. All qualify for Mensa. We never were rich, but we never went hungry, and the hard times have been worth it.

    My children literally are the only ones of their peer groups whose parents are still married, and have been married throughout their lives. We modeled what we think is the right behavior, but everything that they see around them shows that marriage does not work. And none of them are married.

    I think the cost benefit ratio may be reaching a tipping point here. It has already in Japan. They have been in a recession/depression [the way we measure depressions changes and what we and much of the world are going through now would definitely be considered a depression if the same measures and definitions I was taught in college were used today] for a generation. We are 5-6 years into the same process, and we have a political leadership dedicated to making it worse.

    When family formation is a financial burden, there is less of it. When the culture abhors families, there is less of it. While cultures differ in how families are supported, if the male role is denigrated from birth; men will adjust their cost/benefit ratio.

    I agree that it is catastrophic for Japan. And it will be catastrophic for the US. For it is raising a family that focuses a culture on the future. Without such focus, there will be no future for the culture.

    Subotai Bahadur

They become a society of Dodos. If they are not first replaced by illegal or unmeasured immigration (e.g. invasion).

I don’t think the anime tentacle porn industry is helping things out over there either.

This whole “ZOMG BREAKING NEWS Japanese not interested in sex!!11!!” thing made the rounds in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 as well. Google it.

Is there one study that just keeps getting recycled whenever newspapers are having a slow news day and/or need some click bait, or is this an annual survey they do of Japanese youth and every time it comes out with more or less the same conclusions as the year before, we pretend to be surprised about it?

Love the music choice!
I don’t remember which parenting “expert” said that if a parenting”expert” mentions to an American parent that everyone in Japan does X with their children, American parents immediately adopt the trend. I have to mention this whenever I hear about some sort of an insidious problem in Japanese society.
More to the topic, admittedly I don’t know a first thing about Japan, but if I recall correctly, Freud was of the opinion that gambling is masturbatory (his essay on Dostoyevsky). Much of technology use is basically gambling. I think your point about technology can go deeper. It’s not that the young people have internet porn habits, but that the habit is probably caused by excessive use of technology, particularly when it starts in early age.

One has to be careful of “committing sociology” as George Will has warned. My years of living in Japan have convinced me that a stagnant economy has combined with technological innovation and sociological change to put Japan in a baby bust for at least the near future.

With 2.1 births per female regarded as the replacement level birthrate, Japan, when I wrote a grad paper on this subject some five years ago, had a birthrate of about 1.23 at the time, with the urban center Tokyo at about 0.9. I shudder to think what Tokyo’s rate is now.

There are tens of millions of intelligent, highly educated women in Japan destined not to give birth.