Japan’s sex problem
Japan has a well-known birthrate problem. The birthrate is so low, and immigration is practically non-existent, that the annual number of deaths far exceeds the number of births, and the population is falling - fast. The Cabinet wants to stabilize the population from the current 125 million to 100 million. This entails accepting a loss of over 20 percent, a fate normally visited only on lands plagued by terrible wars or pandemics. Robotics may replace humans. Science could make 90 the new 60, keeping seniors on the job into their 80s. But unless these deus ex machina drop down on the state now, the future is grim. With the probably impossible aim of 1.8 births/woman fertility rate, 100 million is but a waypoint on the road to oblivion. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to empower women to better utilize half of the labor force but in fact his government has done very little to make this a reality. The Cabinet is not seriously thinking about Japans need for massive immigration.
But Japan also has a sex problem. First of all, the number of “sexless” marriages is phenomenal. (The government defines a “sexless” marriage as one in which the partners have gone 60 consecutive days without sex - what “sex” means exactly is a little vague). Second, the number of young people who say they are not interested in sex, but are more interested in their hobbies, like shopping or online gaming, is frightening because it makes a grim forecast for future marriage and birth prospects. Sex drives have plunged so low that young, libido-challenged men are sometimes referred to as soshokukei danshi, or “herbivore men.” Third, the number of single middle aged people - people who have secure jobs, good incomes, etc. - who are resigned to their bachelorhood is discouraging. Finally, sex education in the junior and senior high schools overwhelmingly casts sex as a negative thing, stressing the dangers of disease and the risks of early parenthood. The schools are scaring kids off sex from an early age, contributing to points one and two.
Sex drives have plunged so low that young, libido-challenged men are sometimes referred to as soshokukei danshi, or herbivore men.
Undoubtedly there may be some who look favorably on the “sex is dangerous” approach of Japanese sex education, on the grounds that only abstinence and the encouragement of abstinence, are sure protection from disease and social burdens like unwanted, unprepared single parenthood. But abstinence is no guarantee of good health or “total safety.” It may be called irresponsibly (and therefore immorally) unrealistic. First, sex is good. God gave us bodies to reproduce and made sex both fun and good. So we have to teach youngsters that it is good while cautioning them about the possible consequences. Sex is physically and mentally healthy. Abstinence may contribute to public mental health issues. (So does pornography.) Human beings are sexual creatures. We are going to have sex one way or another, regardless of moral teaching or good sense, so it's best to deal with it. Dealing with it means providing empowering information. With information individuals can decide for themselves what to do. Having sex is normal, and 'normal' sex covers a wide spectrum of behaviors: total abstinence; premarital; extramarital; group; homosexual; bisexual; multiple partners; fetish, etc. Second, abstinence has never been 'normal.' With modern diseases like AIDS we might say this is a good time to start making it so, but once again that is not realistic. Sex might be described as a skill, like playing an instrument. To be good at it requires practice, and mistakes are inevitable. Some would say that to be fully human means being sexual. Maybe even requires it. Others, that to be fully human requires maximum leeway to err because only then are we capable of bearing responsibility for our decisions, good or bad. We have to make decisions first, and making decisions means having information and the freedom to act on it. But I could be wrong.