October 20, 2013

What if young people stopped having sex?

Case study: Japan.

The term is sekkusu shinai shokogun — "celibacy syndrome."

Think it won't happen here or that if it did, it would be good?
Japan's under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren't even dating, and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex. For their government, "celibacy syndrome" is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world's lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060....
[A relationships counselor has clients] who have taken social withdrawal to a pathological extreme. They are recovering hikikomori ("shut-ins" or recluses) taking the first steps to rejoining the outside world, otaku (geeks), and long-term parasaito shingurus (parasite singles) who have reached their mid-30s without managing to move out of home. (Of the estimated 13 million unmarried people in Japan who currently live with their parents, around three million are over the age of 35.) "A few people can't relate to the opposite sex physically or in any other way. They flinch if I touch them," she says. "Most are men, but I'm starting to see more women."
And these are the people who are seeking counseling. There must be far more who are not going to admit they have a problem.

Well, in fact, is it a problem to live the solitary life? The government — and society — may want you to pair up and form a family unit for the sake of the whole, but for the individual? Perhaps many people are discovering a great truth in living the life of solitude and simplicity.

(Consider: "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.")

Those who portray solitude as a problem may say the individual isn't having a fully dimensional, deeply satisfying life. But that might be the propaganda, and the truth could be that we need to exploit the individual to generate wealth and new human beings so that the group can thrive. If it is not actually a problem for the individual, then those who see and fear the disastrous dysfunction of the group are tasked not only to cure a nonproblem but also to convince individuals to perceive a nonproblem as a problem and to submit to the cure.

54 comments:

mccullough said...

Only give government benefits in old age to people who had kids.

betamax3000 said...

Must. Not. Reference. Japanese Schoolgirls. Knee-High Socks. Pillow Fights. Sparrow-Face.

betamax3000 said...

I Blame Japan's Dwindling Population on Bukkake. Like Pouring Gas on the Car's Passenger Seat.

rehajm said...

It's difficult to maintain the traditions of a rigid and oppressive social structure without descendants willing to maintain the rigid and oppressive traditions.

SABR Matt said...

Ann...

Respectfully, I disagree with your speculation here. Japan also has an exploding suicide rate. These trends are not unconnected. The singles aren't asexual and joyful about it - they're porn-addicted shut-ins who are completely miserable with their way of life (by in large). Procreation for the good of the state is hardly the only virtue that comes from marriage. We are deeply social animals...our brains NEED connections with other human beings, especially those connections that give us a reason to live.

Gahrie said...

I am 48 years old, male, and never married. I looked at marriage law, family law and the state of society and made a rational decision not to take the risk.

The Crack Emcee said...

There must be far more who are not going to admit they have a problem.

Yeah, like those who compose a society that's making it's members recoil, probably in disgust.

Betcha that's a MUCH BIGGER NUMBER in denial,...

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

If Japanese men are not making good use of Japanese land and women, then another group will come in and take control. Think of it like creative destruction.

betamax3000 said...

Perhaps MicroAgressions Lead To MicroSex?

surfed said...

The real question per the demographic meltdown of Japan is who will fund Nippon's social security safety net if there are no young people. It's all well and good to have a lower population footprint but at what expense to your society under the rules already governing it. Demographic change will lead to revolution of one sort or another. And sooner rather than later at that.

LarsPorsena said...

A society that uses more Depends than Pampers.

Michael K said...

True solitary living is not good. You need a basett hound.

kurt9 said...

Only give government benefits in old age to people who had kids.

Then those of us who don't have kids should not have to pay the taxes or withholding for these benefits.

Perhaps MicroAgressions Lead To MicroSex?

One gets a little closer to the truth here.

Speaking of demographics being an issue, has it ever occurred to anyone who obsesses over the issue that maybe the solution is already being developed - by Google and others? That solution being SENS and the other biotechnologies to enable biological immortality within the next 20-30 years.

It seems to me this is going to be the real solution to the problem.

Skeptical Voter said...

Having had a basset hound, I can't agree. Dog was not smarter than me--just more stubborn. When he chose not to go along with the program, he just didn't go along.

But Japan is just one of many Western (and Asian)societies that are committing suicide through failure to sustain population.

Meade said...

"Perhaps MicroAgressions Lead To MicroSex?"

Or is it the other way around? Vicious MicroCircleJerk?

Paddy O said...

Celibacy in religious approaches tends to be based on hope, a hope for a better, more enlightened reality. It couples celibacy with devotion to contemplative practices.

That's not what's happening here. It sounds like this is celibacy from despair, a lack of hope, coupled with devotion to distractions to stave off the wave of nothingness.

What's interesting is that this is essentially a nationwide ennui. One that seems a lot closer to the emptiness of wealth/privilege than the despair of oppression.

It's still very susceptible to being turned towards radicalism. Something, someone, will bring hope to these youth. Good or evil, that's the question.

William said...

I blame the Hitachi wand........The Shakers left behind some spare, elegant furniture. The Japanese have invented lots of awesome gadgets. Their time on planet Earth has not been wasted in my book.

Ann Althouse said...

If you are stressing the differentness of the Japanese, recognize that you are self-comforting.

(Unless you're Japanese.)

rhhardin said...

Maybe the Japanese have all taken up math or physics.

Jane said...

So yesterday I wrote about Germany's intentionally dense cities and the fact that apartment-living is the norm for German families, which I think is at least part of the reason for Germans to have small, or no, families.

( link here)

For comparison, Germany's TFR (fertility rate as children per women) is 1.42, only slightly higher than Japan's 1.39. (I think it's ticked up, surprisingly -- it was even lower, at 1.29, in 2003.) But for the Germans, the adult relationships are still there, so far as I can tell -- it's just that couples, whether married or in a long-term relationship, choose to have one, or no, kids.

So I am curious as to whether the culture in Japan means that, for whatever reason, the only way to opt out of parenthood is to opt out of relationships altogether? (Presumably as a cultural pressure for a couple to have kids, since if I understand correctly, there's little in the way of moral hesitation to get an abortion in their culture, so that there wouldn't be a feeling of, the only way to truly prevent pregnancy is celibacy.)

But I suspect that this is a deeper issue than simply avoiding the inconvenience of kids, and an indicator of a deeper problem in the society, some kind of "sickness" in the culture/society.

And to think, in the 80s, we in Detroit thought Japan was going to dominate us!

Careless said...

This seems like a fairly short term, self-correcting problem.

Balfegor said...

Re: SABR Matt:

Respectfully, I disagree with your speculation here. Japan also has an exploding suicide rate.

I think it's been largely stable, actually -- has it been increasing? Also, it's worth noting that Japan is about average for East Asia, at 21.7 suicides / 100K, and while I don't know the demographics, I think a lot of those suicides are old people who have had to leave work and feel they have lost their purpose in life, or whose children don't visit them, etc. South Korea, in contrast, is 31.7 suicides / 100K, and my impression is that it's a lot more pathological than in Japan (there have been a lot of high-profile celebrity/socialite suicides, up to and including ex-President No Moo-hyun). China, at 22.23, is slightly higher than Japan. Taiwan, at 15.1, is significantly lower.

These trends are not unconnected. The singles aren't asexual and joyful about it - they're porn-addicted shut-ins who are completely miserable with their way of life (by in large).

That might be true, but it is not really my impression.

rhhardin said...

Get Smart (2008) dismissive feminist 99 and rookie agent Max fly to Russia

00:23:35 MAX: Since we are going to be portraying husband and wife...

00:23:38 MAX: ...maybe we should get our story set.

00:23:41 99: Okay, good idea.

00:23:44 99: We met at a marketing convention in Vegas. Married a year later. No kids.

00:23:49 99: I like your parents, but you hate mine.

00:23:51 MAX: Do we want kids?

00:23:52 99: Well, you do, but I'm concentrating on my career.

00:23:56 MAX: I don't know if that's fair. I mean, I'm older than you are.

00:23:58 - 99: Well, not by much. - MAX: Really?

00:24:03 99: When they gave me a new face, I had them...

00:24:07 99: ...take a couple years off.

00:24:09 99: You know, why not?

00:24:12 MAX: Well, if that's the case, then you are at an advanced age, and you should be...

00:24:17 99: Well, no. I was never...

00:24:19 MAX: I'm just saying that your eggs could dry up and fall out of your uterus.

00:24:23 MAX: So time is of the essence.

00:24:26 - 99: That's your opinion. - MAX: No, that is a medical fact.

00:24:30 99: There is a lot of time for me to make this decision.

00:24:33 99: I will not be rushed into it by you or my mother.

00:24:35 - MAX: You don't have much time. - 99: Where is the drink cart?

Balfegor said...

Re: Jane:

So I am curious as to whether the culture in Japan means that, for whatever reason, the only way to opt out of parenthood is to opt out of relationships altogether?

No, I know lots of childless Japanese couples. I think there's some pressure, but my impression is that children are increasingly independent from/beyond the control of their parents, and that parental pressure isn't really doing all that much. My guess is that unlike parental pressure over grades or getting a job, pressure for grandchildren would typically be coming after the point where the children are already financially independent, after all. It's not like Korea where submission to the will of your elders is still expected of you all your life.

kurt9 said...

The liberal-left is known for coming up with some "problem" such as global warming, and then using it as justification to create all kinds of regulations from an unaccountable bureaucracy to reduce individual liberty (mainly, but not always, economic liberty). Now we have the social-conservatives also kicking up a problem and using it as justification to reduce personal liberty and freedom of choice.

Maybe I reject both of these and have decided that the social conservatives are as full of it as the liberal-left.

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that religion and leftist ideologies are conceptually identical. They are both collectivist ideologies that postulate the hierarchical pyramid. The only difference between them is the entity that sits atop the pyramid. They are identical in every other respect.

Jason said...

Land and housing is too expensive in Japan. Raising a child on 20 or 30 something incomes is prohibitively expensive. It's prohibitively expensive for young people to move away from home.

And Jobs! Japan's manufacturing sector was hit as hard as ours or harder. Not much left for blue collar men. Furthermore, Japan was nuked into pacifism and metrosexuality. After WWII, men had an outlet for their virility, still: they rebuilt a great nation ( with lots of American cash). Then they built a great manufacturing base for peaceful purposes. And you could do that as a real man, too.

But what's left? There is no war to hone manhood. No manufacturing to support it. The virility is gone, because there are no opportunities for it off of the baseball field anymore.

And with virility gone, why would a young Japanese woman be interested? Japanese female geeks are still attractive and desirable. Not the male otaku.

Akiva said...

Much of the Western World is facing the same problem, albeit at slight higher numbers. Russia, Greece, Italy, all under 1.6 children per family (2.2 is necessary to maintain a static population).

The Euro countries with this problem make up for the (currently native) population loss with immigrants. This may mean a slow death of their local culture, but not the collapse of the functioning of the country. BUT Japan is highly xenophobic and basically does not permit immigration.

BTW, the U.S. is in the same situation, with immigration (including illegal) pulling the birth rate up to the magic 2.2 number - but it's among the immigrants. The ethnic makeup of the U.S. is changing quickly, as that interesting statistic of more salsa now being sold than ketchup shows - while the population is somewhat static.

Jason said...

Land and housing is too expensive in Japan. Raising a child on 20 or 30 something incomes is prohibitively expensive. It's prohibitively expensive for young people to move away from home.

And Jobs! Japan's manufacturing sector was hit as hard as ours or harder. Not much left for blue collar men. Furthermore, Japan was nuked into pacifism and metrosexuality. After WWII, men had an outlet for their virility, still: they rebuilt a great nation ( with lots of American cash). Then they built a great manufacturing base for peaceful purposes. And you could do that as a real man, too.

But what's left? There is no war to hone manhood. No manufacturing to support it. The virility is gone, because there are no opportunities for it off of the baseball field anymore.

And with virility gone, why would a young Japanese woman be interested? Japanese female geeks are still attractive and desirable. Not the male otaku.

n.n said...

Behaviors which are antithetical to evolutionary fitness can be tolerated when exhibited by a minority of the population, but for objective, or perhaps subjective, reasons can never be normalized.

It seems that many women and men have either been sabotaged or elected generational suicide. Just do what feels food, I suppose. This is their religion or moral standard.

Inga said...

Germans and Japanese perhaps aren't buying into the American evangelical Quiver Full ideology. Does anyone ever think that American culture doesn't impress non Americans? If Americans are so concerned about the world's population we should get busy and produce offspring ourselves.

As for Japanese suicide rates and antisocial proclivities, perhaps the shame factor plays into it. If they aren't as succesful as the average Japanese, are they so ashamed that it overtakes their entire life?

richard mcenroe said...

This is truly an academic point of discussion, Ann.

Cultures where the individual does not see the need to a) reproduce and b)recognize the inherit value of a stable and thriving cultural surround go away and quickly become something that need not be discussed at all. A textbook self-answering question.

Biff said...

By choice, albeit not always a conscious one, I'm in my forties, professionally successful, never married, and childless. Had some circumstances been different, I think I would have enjoyed having a spouse and a family, but the path I have taken feels like the right one for me. (I grew up in a family that was extremely pathological, and it took me a while to figure out how that has affected the life choices I've made.)

Should I consider all the times when people try to make small talk about spouses and children to be "microaggressions?" (Just kidding.)

Michael K said...

Blogger Skeptical Voter said...

" Having had a basset hound, I can't agree. Dog was not smarter than me--just more stubborn. When he chose not to go along with the program, he just didn't go along."

Wasn't it nice to have someone, even a hound, that refused to go along with your dumber ideas ? I've been married twice and have five kids, three of whom voted for Obama.

I prefer basset hounds.

Inga said...



"Wasn't it nice to have someone, even a hound, that refused to go along with your dumber ideas ? I've been married twice and have five kids, three of whom voted for Obama.

I prefer basset hounds."

10/20/13, 1:17 PM

Chuckle....snicker.... Ah Michael K, don't feel so bad, even I have one kid out of four who voted for Romney.

Michael K said...

"Chuckle....snicker.... Ah Michael K, don't feel so bad, even I have one kid out of four who voted for Romney."

My two older ones, who are unreachable, are both lawyers.

quelle surprise.

Levi Starks said...

It seems that people who refuse to have relationships and bear no children are taking advantage of society in the same way healthy young people who don't find a compelling reason for needing health insurance are.
We must set up a relationship exchange, and force them to pair up. Or face a tax penalty as the IRS sees fit.

Tarrou said...

Too many people looking at it as a problem. It is entirely possible this is both rational and desirable from the standpoint of the individual. Think of it as the first stirrings of the revolution that will be the mechanization and computerization of sexuality. Women, as some would like to be (which is really just men) are not attractive to actual men. Why jump through the hoops, play the games, drop the cash? Porn is free, entertainment is endless, friendship is global if superficial on the web. Orgasms are cheap. And women are losing market share. All the moralizing is nothing more than people whinging about a changing economy. Feminists said women "need a man like a fish needs a bicycle". In the end it may be that all men needed from women was the hole, and once that can be manufactured, women will be as passe as horses. Sure you need a few around to keep the bloodlines up, but are they worth building a life around? Will we now see stories of how women should change their lives to better accommodate male needs, or shrewish jeremiads about how men need to "man up" and marry hectoring slags for the good of all mankind?

gregq said...

Ask the Byzantines what happens when a large chunk of your population gets interested in the celibate life. Oh wait, you can't they don't exist any more.

The Byzantines near the end had a significant part of their population join religious orders / go off in the desert to live the single contemplative life. It didn't work out too well for their society.

I can see lots of Americans deciding to have abortions, not children. I don't see American males giving up on having sex.

gregq said...

kurt9 said...

Only give government benefits in old age to people who had kids.

Then those of us who don't have kids should not have to pay the taxes or withholding for these benefits.

Nope. Right now you're paying for your parents. No kids? Then there's no one to pay for YOU. Out you go!

Michael said...

Both Japanese men and women seem trapped into unbearable social roles. I would no more marry a salaryman working or getting hammered 80 hours a week than I would a giggling girly-woman. Apparently neither would they. But they seem to make it impossible to do or be anything else as a grownup, so everyone stays 14 forever.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Someone who flinches at the touch of another human being doesn't have a problem?

Are you freaking insane or do you just play a raving lunatic on your blog?

JonRobert said...

mccullough has one side of the coin.
The other side is my letter to the editor which Barron’s graciously published some years ago. Social Security lottery. When worker/retiree ratio hits 1, simply assign a retiree to each worker. Saves admin. PLUS you get a deduction for retaining a relative. Starts to re-knit the traditional family.

Ann Althouse said...

"Someone who flinches at the touch of another human being doesn't have a problem?"

This is a therapist reporting that someone flinches at HER touch, and she -- with a service to sell -- is the reporter of the incident, the one choosing the description.

Let's be more scientific about absorbing information. What do we know? Who has an interest in portraying it one way or the other?

Calling other people insane for asking the hard questions is a bullshit way to stop inquiry.

K T Cat said...

The person who posted about porn addiction is probably closest to the truth. It's one thing to avoid marriage, it's another thing entirely to recoil from the touch of a real woman. That's the key to the thing, not government policies or freedom.

thule222 said...

It's happening here. The evangelicals are producing these hysterical 'man up and get married' articles. They're starting to panic.

wildswan said...

My take on the birth crash/ sex revolution is that it is a birth strike by women who have rejected being mistreated world-wide and will never go back to building families until they are treated as human beings by the whole social-cultural complex they belong to. In places like Japan the men were particularly disregardful - think of those geishas, nice for the men but what about the women? So now the Japanese men watch pornography (probably about geishas) and the Japanese women think that at least they aren't coerced into that.

You can't rebuild the birth rate till women are free persons who chose to have families. The whole abortion/ contraception industry is riding on this fact - that wherever women aren't free today they won't chose to have families. But the alternate would be to guarantee true freedom - not abortions - by which I mean these five things - 1. Freedom to be educated 2. Freedom to work at a job 3. Freedom to choose who to marry and to choose a separation 4. Equality in the courts before the law 5. Murder and physical abuse punished by the law, not supported by the law.

I think that women don't want to put up with these abuses anymore and that is worldwide. Having children pretty much forces women to put up with whatever abuses of women are current in their society So, to re-establish the family, fight for these freedoms - not abortion- as the basic women's freedoms and then try to re-establish the family

I guess it seems counter-intuitive to say that sex is wrecked where-ever the family is wrecked but isn't that the evidence from the last forty years worldwide? The family gets wrecked and then, as a follow-on a little later, sex becomes bizarre and then wrecked like the family? When women's rights are defined as abortion, men call them ho's and openly try to use them or else do without them in their lives. If women's rights were defined as those of persons-who can't-be-coerced looking for someone to share life, love and (where possible) babies wouldn't there be proud men who would join them?

Tarrou said...

@ wildswan,

You're off. It is not the women on a "birth strike", it is men on a dating strike. Japanese women, by and large are pissed that they aren't receiving offers, the men are tending their hobbies and jerking off to Hentai. You can call it porn addiction if you like, but it would only be the methadone to the dating addiction of most of the world. Look at it this way, sexual attraction is the glue that binds men to women. Without it, most women are just crazy people you would never associate with. If sex drives can be satisfied without women, there will be less pairing off. And Japan is at the forefront of the technological mechanization of sex. Which way the causation lies, who knows?

dave1941 said...

"Only give government benefits in old age to people who had kids."

In that case, cut out the middleman. Abolish all government benefits and payroll taxes, but allow the elderly to sue their children for neglect.

Unknown said...

As Japan depopulates, other nearby societies will re-populate Dai Nippon, mostly, I would think, the filipinos and other resident alien service workers. Japan resists Islam, so these people will either be Buddhists (Thailand) or Catholics (Philipenes). And life will go on, with fewer and fewer practicing the Japanese culture and traditions.

Balfegor said...

Re: Unknown:

As Japan depopulates, other nearby societies will re-populate Dai Nippon, mostly, I would think, the filipinos and other resident alien service workers. Japan resists Islam, so these people will either be Buddhists (Thailand) or Catholics (Philipenes). And life will go on, with fewer and fewer practicing the Japanese culture and traditions.

The Japanese aren't stupid -- they have made it very, very hard for people to immigrate to Japan. The Ministry of Justice has apparently set a ceiling of 3% foreigners in the population (I think they're at something like 2% right now), and they've found the experience of even limited immigration so unpleasant that they're paying immigrants to leave and never come back. Even the most pro-immigrant politicians are only targeting something like a 10% foreign population, still lower than the US. In terms of the composition of the foreign population, it's Chinese > Koreans > Filipinos, and many of the Koreans are from families who have been there since before WWII (and who in many cases have creepy connexions to North Korea).

Aquinas Dad said...

"The future belongs to those who show up for it."
Whenever I hear people explaining how 'rational' and 'positive' their decision to remain unmarried and childless, I hear the chirping of crickets. When someone explains how the 'individual' is oppressed by the 'collective' or the 'state' by pressure to have children and they refuse because they are going to 'maximize their own potential' by not having kids I hear the buzzing of the mayfly.
Both are here for a short time and then gone.
Like Kaufmann theorizes in 'Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?', it appears that individualistic ideologies are 'suicidal' in that they lead those who embrace them to not have children, causing the ideology to wither away, leaving only ideologies that are natalist. The Japanese, with their embrace of individualistic ideologies over the last 2 generations, are only the most visible evidence of this seeming truth.
So make your 'rational' choice to be childfree; maximize your personal potential and thwart the collective with your DINKhood.
I'm busy raising my five kids to be leaders of an emptier world.

scf said...

It's only considered a problem because government programs such as social security are ponzi schemes.

In reality, as you say, it's not a problem for the iindividuals, nor is it a problem for society, it's just preventing the government's ponzi schemes from continuing.

The Sanity Inspector said...

What SABR Matt said, upthread. If this trend is in fact real, the Japanese are not opting for the contemplative life. They are just getting debauched by their extravagantly surrealistic porn culture. When "normal" is just a setting on the clothes dryer, and "sinful" is just a word on the dessert menu, it's hard for young people in any culture to find their way to healthy upright adulthood.

Micha Elyi said...

"It's happening here. The evangelicals are producing these hysterical 'man up and get married' articles. They're starting to panic."--thule222

They're perturbed, not panicked. You'll know observant Christian and Jewish females are in a panic when you see a train of hysterical 'woman up and get marriageable, sister' articles.