45% of women aged 16 to 24 in Japan are "not interested in or despise" sexual contact. More than a quarter of men feel the same. The nation has one of the world's lowest birth rates, and by 2060, it's estimated that its population of 126 million will be cut by one-third. Sex counsellors say Japan is experiencing a "flight from human intimacy." Which is a nice way of saying the country might not-screw its way out of existence.
The Guardian had the (really fascinating) story this weekend. The cut of the Japanese problem is that both sexes are cynical about relationships, and now 61% of 18-34-year-old unmarried men and 49% of unmarried women are single. "Both men and women say to me they don't see the point of love. They don't believe it can lead anywhere," says a counsellor. "Relationships have become too hard."
Marriage has become a minefield of unattractive choices. Japanese men have become less career-driven, and less solvent, as lifetime job security has waned. Japanese women have become more independent and ambitious. Yet conservative attitudes in the home and workplace persist. 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. Cohabiting or unmarried parenthood is still unusual, dogged by bureaucratic disapproval.
Aoyama says the sexes, especially in Japan's giant cities, are "spiralling away from each other". Lacking long-term shared goals, many are turning to what she terms "Pot Noodle love" – easy or instant gratification, in the form of casual sex, short-term trysts and the usual technological suspects: online porn, virtual-reality "girlfriends", anime cartoons. Or else they're opting out altogether and replacing love and sex with other urban pastimes.
It all seems unthinkable—isn't this, judging at least by its unmatched pornographic output, a country obssessed with sex? But Japan may be looking at a future in which the bulk of its population remains unmarried and childless, a "pioneer society" that finds relationships "too troublesome." 90% of young women, according to the Guardian, believe that staying single is "preferable to what they imagine marriage to be like." So they don't get married, and many don't even date. And the loneliness is even crossing over to casual hookups, which is unthinkable for most.
This is some real Children of Men-type shit. This country is a science fiction.
[H/T: The Guardian]
[Asian business people image via Shutterstock]