Fewer young people in Japan are having sex, but what does it really mean?

We already know that young people and sexuality claims that they are becoming less interested in sex. A new book, though, attempts to get behind the sensational headlines and probe the real reasons and implications of this.

Drawing on data from the six-yearly surveys conducted by the Japanese Association for Sex Education since 1974 — in particular, the most recent survey in 2017 — the book notes that sexual experience among high schoolers and college students was active until 2005, when it peaked for both male and females with 26.2% male high school students having sexual experience, 30.3% of female high school students, 63% of male university students, and 62.2% of their female cohorts.

In the 2011 survey, both high school and college students declined, and it had dropped quite significantly by the 2017 survey: the percentages for the same four groups were now 13.6%, 19.3%, 47%, and 36.7%.

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However, it wasn’t just an issue of a decline in sexual experience. The 2017 survey also saw lower numbers for junior and high school students who had an interest in sex. Likewise, the number of students who said they were dating someone also dropped between 2005 and 2017.

One of the book’s authors, Yusuke Hayashi, clarified in an interview that it’s not the case that sexual experience has disappeared overall, but that it has polarized. For one set of (lucky) young people, sexual activity not only continues, but the age at which they are sexually active is even getting younger.

We shouldn’t, Hayashi explains, talk pessimistically about a sexless nation, but rather that the balance between having and not having sex has shifted.

The rate of young people who actively profess no interest in sex is growing (50.6% of male junior high school students, 68.4% of female students). Sex is developing a “dirty” or “dark” image.

The decline among high schoolers and college students having relationships is also linked, Hayashi believes, to a similar decline among people in their twenties, who are not dating as much as they used to.

There are many theories attempting to explain why fewer young people are having sex. One, of course, is the influence of smartphones, though this is hard to prove. More prosaically, Hayashi points out that students are busier than they used to be, because most courses have mandatory attendance to pass and get credit, while the job-hunting market is also competitive and requires a serious commitment of time. Do they even have time to think about dating (and, by extension, having sex)?

Moreover, Professor Hayashi notes that this issue is not at all limited to Japan: similar trends are apparent in the United States, South Korea, and more. We shouldn’t talk about this as a “sexless Japan” story.

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  • anon April 14, 2022

    This isn’t really limited to Japan anymore…

  • i love tokyokinky April 14, 2022

    i mean we love sex

    but without proper income, sex is useless

    so yeah career and family first, relationship later

  • Tonald Drump April 15, 2022

    I’m not sure if we should focusing on school kids when we’re talking about sex. College students, sure. People under 30 can still be considered young. Why don’t we focus on that?

  • Tadashi Anahori (Post author) April 15, 2022

    @Tonald Drump

    I think there are other surveys that attempt to do that, though this particular one seems to focus on students. As you say, the results are not necessarily conclusive but do provide a glimpse into the state of a generation’s attitude toward sex as it enters its prime (i.e., twenties and early thirties).

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