Japan has a reputation as one of the sex capitals of the world.
As BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes puts it, “Whatever your taste or fantasy, it’s catered for somewhere here. This is the country that invented the love hotel.”
That reputation, though, has recently been put into stark contrast against the reality: Japanese millennials aren’t having sex. Government studies show that around 43% of people between 18 and 34 are virgins, and 64% aren’t in a sexual relationship.
Watch: The BBC’s Report on Young, Sexless People in Japan.
The alleged reasons are almost as diverse as Japan’s famed sex industry—some men say they find women “scary,” some women say that men just “can’t be bothered,” young people claim to be focused on careers, and men find it easier to find satisfaction by watching porn or reading hentai comics. Unsurprisingly, the birthrate in Japan has cratered, and it’s predicted that the country of 127 million will shrink by more than 40 million in the next 50 years.
All of this will create serious economic problems, but the social problems that the lack of intimate relationships points at is maybe even more worrying—people aren’t looking to connect with each other anymore.
The importance of connection
Hear us out, for a minute: While sex is important, we aren’t fighting for sex just for sex’s sake. Physical connection is important, but not for itself—it’s important as a part of connecting deeply and intimately with another person, and that’s the major reason why this story of sexless Japanese Millennials is so worrying. Why aren’t they taking the time and energy to build connections with each other?
Biologically speaking, humans are social creatures—to be happy and healthy people, we need to have personal relationships with others, and sex can be a big part of that. In this way, skipping out on building an intimate relationship because it’s “scary” or “difficult” or “complicated” can deprive a person of personal connection and leave them unhappy and unhealthy.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Japan has a high suicide rate and high rate of depression, problems that research has directly related to a lack of connection with others. There’s even a word, hikkomori, which describes people (primarily young people) who choose never to live their house, or even a single room. Some people have “relationships” with virtual “girlfriends,” preferring that unrealistic fantasy to real-life interaction with the opposite sex.
Clearly, people are hard-wired to connect with other people, face to face.
Of course, saying that everybody should have intimate relationships that involve physical connection when both partners are ready is also ignoring the intense work that goes into a healthy connection. It’s true that having a healthy relationship isn’t always easy. It requires time, effort, sacrifice, vulnerability, intentionality, and work. These are all things that can’t be found through online porn sites, or in magazines, or from virtual relationships, and don’t require that kind of effort or weathering any sort of rejection.
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And while maintaining a strong and healthy relationship is by no means easy, it’s one of the most rewarding things that we as people can do, and it’s a way better choice than turning to internet porn or other types of relationship substitutes.
A look into the future
A world where men and women are afraid of or uninterested in each other, for whatever reason, would be a scary place, and we don’t want the problems troubling modern Japan to be a window into that future. Even if this seems like an issue that’s far away from home and not super relevant to us, it’s not that hard to see similar things creeping in if you look around you.
Consider the fact that most people spend way more time on our phones and less time making personal connections across all aspects of life. Think about how in 2017, the equivalent of over 524,640 years of porn was watched—and that was just on one popular website. Japan is not the only country facing declining birth rates, either, which can be a sign of decreasing interest in relationships and sex. Among others countries facing similar declines in birth rates each year are the U.S., Denmark, and Singapore. Yikes.
The good news, though, is that each and every one of us has the power and tools to help change this. Making personal connections and building relationships is a choice. If we make the effort, there’s no need to settle for digital substitutes. If we see synthetic sexuality for the relationship roadblock that it really is, we might not be as inclined to invest our time.
Let’s all commit to love and connection, and the world will be a better, healthier place because of it. Fight for your love, and choose to connect with a person instead of a device.
Help bring people together. SHARE this article to let people know that connecting with others isn’t so hard, and that a little bit of effort can be seriously rewarding.
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