“As a person with over 30 years of ongoing experience in sex therapy, the low awareness of Japanese males concerning sexual problems is beginning to set off warning bells.”
Delving into the causes of sexless marriages in an issue of Sapio (Dec. 16) devoted to “Psychoanalyzing Japanese,” clinical psychiatrist Teruo Abe notes that the term “sexless” first began appearing in medical circles in 1991. Now nearly 20 years later, there is little argument that Japanese sexual behavior has undergone major changes.
One of the primary factors in sexlessness is sei ken’aku sho, or Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), colloquially referred to as sexual aversion — a condition that borders on outright phobia. It may occur in conjunction with other conditions, including organic causes.
Abe has treated 546 patients diagnosed with the aforesaid condition, outnumbering those with other complaints, including erectile dysfunction (332 cases); diminished sex drive (305); pain during sex (138); sexual avoidance (78); spousal estrangement (48); and premature ejaculation (24).
The condition was long viewed as gender-specific, affecting mainly females. But from around 1997, the number of male patients began to show a rapid increase, and from 2004 males outnumbered females.
It is difficult to generalize concerning the reasons for this increase, but Abe notes that the condition is particularly prevalent among the so-called elite, including doctors, bankers, government officials and salarymen at first-tier companies. Their rejection of sex may be due to the stress from the demands of work.
Another factor that Dr. Abe suggests may be driving the increase among males is the change in women’s sexual awareness. It was from the 1980s that Japanese women became increasingly sexually liberated, and more outspoken on matters related to their own sexuality. Males, on the other hand, have become more reluctant to raise the subject, and social pressures have further worsened the matter. If a wife were to complain on a night when a husband is unwilling or unable to perform, he might suffer loss of self confidence, and take an increasingly negative view toward sex.
But the above views are speculative at best, and because the condition occurs among individuals with diverse backgrounds, no simple explanation is forthcoming.
What Abe finds interesting is that patients in different age segments do demonstrate distinctive characteristics.
In any event, changing one’s awareness is no easy thing. In the U.S., writes Abe, people view sexually related problems as something akin to dental cavities, and have little resistance to seeking therapy. But Japanese males tend to be hazuhashii (ashamed) to consult with a physician, and often the first person they discuss it with is their own spouse. Due to Japanese societal norms, the problem of sexlessness is all too often belittled. But if the situation is allowed to continue, Japan’s low birth rate and aging will become aggravated, with possibly devastating consequences for the economy. (K.S.)
Source: “Sei Kenakusho: Nijudai wa jikochushinteki, sanjudai wa joseijoi,” Sapio (Dec. 16, page 22)