News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Community News Network

October 22, 2013

In Japan, what's sex got to do with it?

WASHINGTON — A bizarre demographic chill has stolen over the Land of the Rising Sun. According to a fascinating and bewildering investigation in the Guardian by Abigail Haworth, Japanese young people are losing interest not just in marriage, but in romantic relationships. Some have even given up on sex. The national press is calling it sekkusu shinai shokogun, or celibacy syndrome.

The evidence: Japan's population is declining, and is projected to dive a further third by 2060, with fewer babies born in 2012 than in any year on record (and a corollary: adult diapers outselling baby diapers). Haworth cites a survey that found that "61 percent of unmarried men and 49 percent of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship," and a study showing that 30 percent of people under 30 have never dated. Women in their 20s have a 1 in 4 chance of never marrying, according to the Japanese Population Institute, and a 40 percent chance of remaining childfree. Another study indicates that 45 percent of women and more than 25 percent of men "were not interested in or despised sexual contact."

The non-statistical details are in a way even more suggestive. A panicked government official warns that Japan "might eventually perish into extinction." Meanwhile, a 32-year-old career woman declares relationships "too troublesome" and a 31-year-old "herbivore" (slang for a straight man who isn't looking for sex or a girlfriend) explains that "emotional entanglements are too complicated." Behind these examples are evocative bits of scenery: stand-up noodle bars for one, convenience stores selling "individually wrapped rice balls and disposable underwear," an entire culture geared toward singles who want to focus on their friends and careers.

The trend seems to rise out of a complex brew of physical estrangement and disassociation (perhaps related to technology?), unattractive prospects for married women, economic malaise and the collapse of institutions — like organized religion — that might encourage coupling up. (Also, it's possible that a scourge of 29-foot tapeworms in glass jars is killing the national mood.)

A sex and relationship counselor — her dominatrix name translates to "Queen Love" — tells Haworth that Japan is experiencing "a flight from human intimacy" as "the sexes spiral away from each other." She works with clients who cannot relate to other people: "recovering hikikomori ('shut-ins' or recluses)" who "flinch" when she touches them, 30-year-old virgins who live with their parents, men who can only get aroused by watching "female robots on a game similar to Power Rangers." For them and for others in their generation, the "usual technological suspects" step forward as sexual alternatives: virtual-reality girlfriends, online porn, anime cartoons. (No doubt Japan's incredibly advanced and imaginative online play-worlds deserve some credit here.) But what is lost, the sex therapist says, is a sense of "skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart" connection.

How do people get so alienated from their bodies and the bodies of others? It's easier to see how young people in Japan might come to shrug off traditional marriage and courtship. Haworth writes convincingly about the factors dissuading young women from seeking out romantic partners. "Japan's punishing corporate world makes it almost impossible for women to combine a career and family, while children are unaffordable unless both parents work," she says. Women hardly ever get promoted once they marry: Bosses just assume they will become pregnant and leave. Indeed, almost 70 percent of Japanese women quit their jobs after their first child, forced out by inflexible hours and a disapproving corporate culture. The survivors, ladies who insist on balancing marriage and a career, sometimes get tarred as oniyome, or devil wives. For aspiring professional women, Haworth suggests, it is simpler just to stay single.

Men, too, resent the expectation that they will provide for a family in a time of thin pocketbooks and scarce jobs. "I don't earn a huge salary to go on dates and I don't want the responsibility of a woman hoping it might lead to marriage," explains one. But rather than merely rebelling against traditional gender roles — the breadwinning husband, the stay-at-home wife — people like him are choosing to reject love and relationships as a whole. They "don't see the point," reports Haworth. Intimacy "has become too hard."

The article tries to put Japan in a larger context: "Across urban Asia, Europe and America," Haworth writes, "people are marrying later or not at all, birth rates are falling, single-occupant households are on the rise." But the sense of romantic futility and disillusionment in Japan feels distinct. Trapped by outdated gender roles and crunched for both time and money, the young people in the story seem to be throwing up their hands in surrender. It would be one thing — new, but not tragic — if all the virtual wonderlands and stimulating careers and electric urban pastimes were diverting attention away from couplehood and even sex. But, at least in this article, the ebbing of human intimacy seems to come from a place of disenchantment and frustration. I can't make this historical husband-wife arrangement thing work, so I'm giving up altogether.

But perhaps that's just how we are predisposed to see it and write about it? Maybe Japanese young people are pioneering a deeply satisfying lifestyle in which love and sex have receded into the background — and the tradeoff makes them perfectly happy. (Also, as Doug Barry at Jezebel points out, the minute sex grows so rare that having it becomes a statement, it will inevitably turn cool again.) Rates of psychological illness in Japan and the United States are comparable: 24 percent of Japanese adults and 25 percent of American adults have suffered some sort of mental health problem. So could a collective bias against singlehood be warping the way we see celibacy syndrome? Is it really a syndrome, or just an alternate (convenient, culturally exigent) mode of being? I find the notion of an intimacy-starved society as depressing as anyone, but maybe those are my reactionary, Jane Austen-informed values talking. At the very least, Japan's new status quo might remove some of the stigma from living alone.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140729-AMX-GIVHAN292.jpg Spanx stretches into new territory with jeans, but promised magic is elusive

    The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Medical marijuana opponents' most powerful argument is at odds with a mountain of research

    Opponents of marijuana legalization are rapidly losing the battle for hearts and minds. Simply put, the public understands that however you measure the consequences of marijuana use, the drug is significantly less harmful to users and society than tobacco or alcohol.

    July 29, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

  • Police Brutality screen shot. Technology plays key part in battling police brutality (VIDEO)

    Allegations of police brutality are nothing new -- as long as there has been law enforcement, citizens have registered claims that some officers cross the line. But in the last few years, the claims of excessive force are being corroborated with new technology from cell phone cameras, police dash-cams and surveillance videos. 

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • Has the ipad lost its swag?

    July 24, 2014

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 21, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Rodents Rampant in Gardens Around Louvre Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Girl Struck by Plane on Florida Beach Dies Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Boater Rescued From Edge of Kentucky Dam Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Kerry: Not Worried About Israeli Criticism US Ready to Slap New Sanctions on Russia In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast House to Vote on Slimmed-down Bill for Border Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Earthquake Rocks Mexico's Gulf Coast Raw: NH Man Held on $1M in Teen's Kidnapping Crayola Announces Family Attraction in Orlando Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
NDN Video
Weird 'Wakudoki' Dance Launches Promotional Competition Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Broken Water Main Floods UCLA "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH)
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity