Almost half of Japanese marriages are sexless – study
The Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA), a public research institution, received responses about their private lives from 655 married men and women between the ages of 18 and 49 as part of a wider biennial survey about personal attitudes conducted in the fall of 2016.
According to the survey, 47.3 percent of the men and 47.1 percent of the women said that they had not had sex with their partner in the previous month, matching the official criteria for what researchers call a sexless marriage.
When the same question was asked in the first such survey in 2004, only 31.9 percent of couples said they were in sexless unions.
“The tendency of being in a sexless marriage has increased further,” JFPA president Kunio Kitamura told local media outlets, noting that the latest survey showed that sexless marriages increased by 2.6 percent even from the last study in 2014.
When asked to explain their reasons for the drought, 35.2 percent of men said that they were too tired after work – compared to 21.3 percent just two years earlier – and 12.8 percent said that they see their wife as more of a family member than a sexual partner.
“This is the first time over 30 percent of men answered that they were too tired from work to have sex. Apart from improving working hours, there is also a need to review how people work,” said Kitamura.
Among women 22.3 percent said that sex was “too much work” and 20.1 percent said that sexual activity had fallen off after childbirth, but did not specify further.
Outside marriage more than half of all people between 18 and 24 – 47.9 percent of unmarried men and 52.9 percent of single women – said that they were virgins. And for those who had never enjoyed intercourse, the prospects were also grim: a survey conducted by the same group last year said that about 43 percent of Japanese people between 18 and 34 were virgins.
Japan vies with Germany for one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, with women having 1.4 births, on average, in their lifetimes, and even couples who have been married for between 15 and 19 years only have 1.94 children – less than the replacement rate.
One in five Japanese 50-year-old men and one in 10 women have never been married. Even as late as the 1980s, the figure for both sexes was under 5 percent.
Current trends predict that the population of the country, which is reluctant to accept migrants, will fall from 127 million to just 86 million by 2060. The last time there were fewer than 90 million people living in the country was in the 1950s.
The nationalist government of Shinzo Abe has vowed to boost the fertility rate to an ambitious 1.8 by 2025. This is to be achieved by workplace reform – cutting the country’s onerous overtime culture – and better childcare provision, such as more nursery places that would allow mothers to continue working after giving birth.
But the problems lie deeper than workplace arrangements.
While Japanese society has advanced rapidly, marriage has remained a conservative institution. Local surveys estimate that over a third of the Japanese are still hitched through arranged marriages, many through a traditional matchmaking practice known as ‘omiai.’ Once married, women are expected to stay at home – last year was the first time that women who returned to work after giving birth to their first child were in the majority.
But the unattractiveness of marriage has not given way to a vibrant informal coupling culture. Only 1.6 percent of Japanese couples living together are unmarried, compared to over 12 percent in the US.
With casual dating still relatively rare compared to the West, several compensatory behavior types have emerged, such as ‘otaku’ – broadly, adult comic and game obsessives who eschew real-life romance – and ‘hikikomori,’ people who isolate themselves from social life altogether, by staying inside their homes. Despite being much-written about, it is not clear if these phenomena are causes or merely symptoms of Japan’s self-evident sexual malaise.