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Department: Family Briefing

Sex Fatigue

Is America Close Behind Japan?

by Nicole M. King

A Guardian story of late last year reported that in Japan, more and more young people are uninterested in sex. The Guardian reported that "60% 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." Furthermore, "a survey earlier this year [2013] 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." Instead, men and women were pursuing more platonic relationships, or even turning to video gaming, anime, or other online forums to satisfy any sexual desire they still had.

Article originally appeared in
Salvo 28

Most of the Japanese interviewed for the story offered rather simple reasons for choosing to stay single and avoid sex: They "can't be bothered." Relationships are messy, and things get sticky when the topic of the future arises. Women in Japan are more interested than ever before in pursuing careers, and they say that employers won't hire them if they are married, assuming they will soon get pregnant. Men are worn down under the pressures of the recession and a competitive economy, and prefer the single life to the economic stress of providing for a wife and children. Given such newfound priorities, sex isn't all that important after all.

The new trend, called "celibacy syndrome," spells catastrophe for a nation whose birthrate is already on a precipitous decline. Japan's already-shrinking population of 126 million is, according to the Guardian, "projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060." This fall portends a severe global economic shock: commentators speculate that Japan's economic insolvency will shake the world in much the same way that economic crises in Europe have done.

For Americans saturated in a sex-crazed culture, such views may seem alien. Not interested in sex? Who are these people, anyway? But we should look at what our own sexual libertinism is accomplishing. Many books of late (see Donna Freitas's The End of Sex) have commented on college students' increasing dissatisfaction with the sexual options before them. Likewise, in a classic 2005 piece for Touchstone, J. Budziszewski wrote of his own students' attitudes: "In the '80s, if I suggested in class that there might be any problem with sexual liberation, they said that everything was fine—what was I talking about? Now if I raise questions, many of them speak differently. Although they still live like libertines, it's getting old."

The consequences of the sexual revolution are obvious enough: physical disease, abortion, broken families, and a staggering divorce rate. We shouldn't be surprised—countless researchers have documented the catastrophic effects of extramarital sex. Cohabitants, we hear time and again, tend to divorce at higher rates when they do marry. And sexually active unmarried couples, whether they live together or not, tend to be less happy, on average, than married couples. But how do countries go from being sexually permissive to sexually dead, seemingly overnight?

For Japan and America alike, one part of the answer is sexual permissiveness. In America, students may still be living the "dream" of the hook-up culture, but the dream is fast becoming a nightmare for them, and they are increasingly unhappy with the bill they have been sold. Japan has had more sexually permissive attitudes for a longer time than the U.S., but it has also seen the rise of a much larger pornography industry. Japan's population is less than half that of the U.S., but its porn industry is twice, if not three times, the size.

The problem with taking one of God's gifts and using it outside of his purpose for it is that we soon lose the capacity to enjoy that gift at all, and we permanently damage our own souls in the process. Take sex outside of the context of marriage and family, as we have, and you soon lose both marriage and family—and all the blessings those institutions bring. •

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