Sex and poverty don’t mix, says Spa! (June 10). That’s a grim fact of life for the growing ranks of the “working poor.” The spreading “income gap,” itself a relatively new phenomenon in a country that has long prided itself on rising prosperity equally shared, is producing a “sex gap.”
Surveying 300 men aged 25-39 earning 2 million yen a year or less, Spa! finds 65% of them dissatisfied with their sex lives, and 15.7% satisfied. What of the rest? Nearly one in five -- 19.3% -- has simply given up on sex, claiming to have no interest in it.
That helps explain why more than 20% of the respondents are still virgins. It’s a problem with implications beyond their individual fates. Japan’s population is aging and shrinking; its birthrate is among the lowest in the world. “Men who give up on love,” says Spa!, “put the human race at risk.” Hyperbole? Perhaps, but gynecologist Tsuneo Akaeda, director of the Akaeda Roppongi Clinic, seems on the same wavelength when he exclaims to the magazine, “The low birthrate problem is a freeter problem.”
Freeters are the estimated 3 million people who found themselves locked out of normal full-time employment by the hiring freeze of the recession-bound 1990s. Many are now into their 30s, still struggling to survive on part-time or temporary employment. It’s a hand-to-mouth existence, stripped of luxuries. For them, sex is a luxury.
“Give these young people stable employment,” says Akaeda, “and you’d solve the birthrate problem.”
One amenity a steady job affords is a place of one’s own. Some 78.7% of Spa!’s respondents live with their parents. Sex is hard with mom and dad in the next room. There are love hotels, of course, but who can afford them on 2 million yen a year? Even ordinary dating becomes difficult at that economic level. Nowadays working women don’t mind paying their share but, says Spa!, it takes a certain polished masculine swagger to propose this arrangement without losing face, and the men in question aren’t socially experienced enough to pull it off. “I can’t ask a woman to pay,” is a typical comment. So they stay home instead.
There’s a tragicomic misunderstanding at work here. “Lately,” the magazine explains, “career women actually tend to favor freeters. Unlike male full-time company employees, freeters are not too overwhelmed with work to be available when they’re wanted. And with men who don’t make much money, there’s not the constant worry that they may be playing around when your back is turned.”
No, their “playing around” is largely confined to solitary relief. What with Internet porn sites and a proliferating “adult video” output, a man can comfortably (and economically) finesse the hormonal promptings that in normal circumstances drive him to seek female company. This masturbatory surge has Dr Akaeda worried. “An increasing number of men who indulge in immoderate and continual masturbation,” he says, “suffer a diminished ability to ejaculate with a live sexual partner.”
Economist Takashi Kadokura has an interesting if cynical suggestion: “sex volunteers.” “There are sex volunteers for the elderly and for the handicapped,” he says. “Why not for the working poor as well?”© Japan Today