Current Life Relationships

No sex in Japan

“Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?”

The Guardian’s Abigail Haworth asked something this week I didn’t think you could ask of a modernized country: “Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?

It’s called the “celibacy syndrome;” millions of young people aren’t dating, getting married, having kids, or even having sex.

Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. In 2012 adult diapers outsold baby diapers for the first time. By 2060, its population (currently 126 million) is expected to decrease by one-third.

There are many reasons for this “celibacy syndrome.” Some include social media and technology and the rigid gender roles that are still in place in Japan, but the reason that rings loudest is that young people in Japan simply cannot be bothered to have sex. Many of the people quoted in the article said that sex was simply “too troublesome” or “too complicated.” Instead of dealing with the emotional baggage that comes with sex, many have chosen to focus on things they have a greater measure of control over, like their careers.

Are those of us who don’t live in Japan headed down a similar road? For us in the West, we’re living at home longer, marrying later, and having fewer kids. We’re also increasingly dependent on technology for our social and sexual relationships.

But despite these similarities, most western countries are not about to slip into a “celibacy syndrome” in the immediate future. Japan’s culture, history, and geography all play an important role in the development of this phenomenon.

I think what is particularly significant in Japan is the lack of religious moral authority in the country. With no religious authority there appears to be no substantial body or institution in the culture to emphasize, prioritize, and ordain marriages and families as something to be valued.

The “celibacy syndrome” is after all more than just a lack of young people engaging in sex. It’s a lack of young people engaging in human intimacy.

Human intimacy requires more than just physical desire; it requires shared values. And where is the primary place that individuals and cultures find shared values? You guessed it. Religion.

Although superficial religious observation is still somewhat common, Japan is, by many measures, a functionally atheistic country. Thirty-one percent of the population professes to be atheist (compared to less than 10 percent in the U.S.), and Japan is considered by many to be one of the most materialistic countries in the world.

Does anyone else see the irony here? Even though we’re often told sex is merely a physical or material act, here we see one of the most materialistic countries in the world losing interest in it.

Perhaps sex is more than just about the physical, after all.

Flickr photo by istolethetv