Here’s Why Nearly Half of Japanese Women Under 24 Aren’t Interested in Sex

If things don’t change, one official fears that Japan “might eventually perish into extinction”

A women’s only train in Tokyo
A women’s only train in Tokyo Juan Salmoral

In Japan, men and women are declaring, “Mendokusai!”—”It’s too troublesome!”—about relationships, reports the Guardian. Women are avoiding relationships of any kind, because there’s no support for them to skip getting married or to balance a family with a career. Men, on the other hand, are feeling pressure to fit into a model of the perfect breadwinner. The local media has its own name for these choices, according to the Guardian: “celibacy syndrome.”

The Guardian reports a few statistics that back these assertions up:

The World Economic Forum consistently ranks Japan as one of the world’s worst nations for gender equality at work.

Japan’s Institute of Population and Social Security reports an astonishing 90% of young women believe that staying single is “preferable to what they imagine marriage to be like”.

A survey in 2011 found that 61% 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. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships.)

According to the government’s population institute, women in their early 20s today have a one-in-four chance of never marrying. Their chances of remaining childless are even higher: almost 40%.

These problems have come to a head over the past couple decades. Women are increasingly earning college degrees and pursuing careers, but the country’s policies and company cultures have not kept up. Few employees provide adequate maternity leave or daycare. Women in some companies say it’s impossible to earn a promotion after getting married because bosses assume the woman will soon get pregnant and quit the job.

Married men, on the other hand, are supposed to slave away for up to 20 hours per day, often in the stereotypical “salary man” office job, in order to earn enough to support an entire family. Japan, however, is no exception to rising costs of living, and supporting children on a one-person salary is often impossible.

So, what does this all have to do with sex?

A survey earlier this year 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.

Some women and men told the Guardian that they steer away from sex in order to avoid developing long-term feelings that may lead to a serious relationship. For women especially, casual flings or one-night stands aren’t an alternative, as they fear being harshly judged. Men, on the other hand, say they don’t have enough money to play the dating game. As a result, many people simply chose to go without.

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