The Happy Trail

Curing “celibacy syndrome”: Japanese youth aren’t having sex and experts know why

Japan has had its fair share of crises over the last couple of years. In 2001, they saw an earthquake, a tsunami and a radioactive meltdown. But experts are warning of a new, slower crisis that we need to be on the lookout for in Japan.

Young people aren’t having sex.

Journalists, economists and psychologists have been looking for an explanation of the country’s population decline for some time.

According to The Guardian, 2012 saw fewer babies born in Japan than any other year on record! (It was also the year adult diapers outsold children’s diapers.)

Japan’s population is aging, and many have come to the conclusion that it is due to a social climate that discourages sex and relationships, let alone marriage and children.

One of the biggest reasons people in Japan aren’t dating as much (a recent study by the Meiji-Yasuda Life and Welfare Research Institute showed that 30 percent of people under 30 had never dated) can be attributed to its economic climate. Japan’s economy has been stagnant over the last twenty years, skyrocketing the cost of living.

In order to raise children, most married couples both need to be working and earning a decent salary, and due to some very persistent gender roles (which we will get to later) the man usually takes on the role of primary breadwinner.

The fact is, people are focused on their careers. They can’t be troubled to find time for dating.

According to Eri Tomita, a 32-year-old employee for a French bank, “A boyfriend proposed to me three years ago. I turned him down when I realized I cared more about my job. After that, I lost interest in dating. It became awkward when the question of the future came up.”

This leads to the second big reason that people aren’t having families in Japan. According to Tomita, a woman’s chances of promotion go down the drain if she gets pregnant.

“The bosses assume you will get pregnant.  You have to resign. You end up being a housewife with no independent income. It’s not an option for women like me.”

Obviously these rigid gender roles in the workplace are harmful; especially considering Japan is consistently ranked as one of the worst developed nations when it comes to gender equality at work.

Gender roles in Japan also effect how women are spending their free time. According to another young professional in Japan, Eri Asada, casual sex isn’t really an option because “girls can’t have flings without being judged.”

Although Japan is fairly liberal when it comes to sexual expression, there is a huge double standard when it comes to men and women.

The Guardian article reports that “the current fantasy ideal for women under 25 is impossibly cute and virginal.”

This double standard was made painfully clear this year when Kunio Kitamura, the head of the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA), explained the reason for their lack of interest in female sexuality: “Sexual drive comes from males. Females do not experience the same levels of desire.”

Despite the horrifying double standards and discouraging economy, many experts think that the biggest contributing factor is Japan’s ever-increasing “shut-in” culture.

Young people are opting out of sex and love altogether, preferring online porn, virtual-reality girlfriends and anime cartoons.

This year the JFPA published a study which found that 45 percent of women aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact.” More than a quarter of men felt the same way.

Japan is changing rapidly, and many believe that the world will follow. The population is aging, shrinking and shutting-in.

Kitamura claims the crisis is so serious that Japan “might eventually perish into extinction.”

But all is not lost! Some brave few are fighting for Japan’s youth. Ai Aoyama is a sex and relationship counselor (as well as an ex-professional dominatrix). She recognizes Japan’s problem, and is working everyday to solve it.

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