In light of Japan's plummeting sexual activity among millennials, our Go Fuck Yourself columnist Cordelia Huxtable talks sex in a Neoliberal world.
According to a bunch of recent stats, we (people born after 1981, sometimes referred to as ‘millennials’) are having less sex than our parents. Particularly for those of us living in Japan, where 45% of women aged 16-24 are not interested in sexual contact and a third of people in their 20s have never dated. Younger people are supposedly shagging less here too, with a (not so recent) 2012 study by the University of Auckland showing that one in four high school students are sexually active, down from one in three in 2007, and teen pregnancies have dropped by 20% since 2001.
The internet is awash with articles and think-pieces on the topic (try Googling “young people not having sex”), but here’s my two cents on the research:
Neoliberalism kills libido
Thanks to Neoliberalism, millennials are living far more precarious lives than the previous generation. Am I really going to start blaming the neoliberal agenda for the downturn in the amount of sex that’s being had? Yes, yes I am.
Here’s my argument: Neoliberalism embraces individualism, privatization, ‘the market’ and capitalism; Neoliberalism leads to increased competition, less collectivism, less money, less time, less security, increased social anxiety and ego-casting; We’re working more, earning less, and feeling pretty insecure about the future; We’re competing more with each other, in a fight to the top, to gain access to limited resources; Things are finite: money, time, space, opportunities.
Writers have linked this to the downturn of sex in Japan for young women in particular, who see their options as, a) embarking on a career, or b) marriage and sex. In a country that holds conservative opinions towards casual sex – traditionally valuing men as breadwinners and women as stay-at-home parents – it’s near impossible to have both.
Neoliberalism doesn’t mesh well with sex. Sex takes time, presence, connection and relaxation. Good sex requires being attuned to your body, and the ability to slow down. Sex is collaborative – the opposite of creating a personal brand.
Sex usually requires having to leave the house
It takes me less than 10 seconds to open an internet tab and access free, high-quality porn that satisfies my erotic niche. Thanks to the internet and its evolving technology, our generation can get ourselves off without leaving the house (which, let’s face it, is probably our parents’ house anyway) #millennialproblems
There’s also some serious new technology – sex robots, for example – which is raising concerns that people will head home to their robots, instead of with each other (if you’re interested in wading into the fascinating world of sex robots and ethics, www.responsiblerobotics.org is a good place to start). Commentators in Japan are questioning if the rise in virtual reality porn is the result of young people looking for an escape, a way to find personal space in overcrowded cities. Personally, I don’t believe porn or sex technology will replace the flesh connection of person-to-person sex, but I do think this will contribute to lower numbers of people seeking out sexual partners IRL.
We decide what sex is
What is sex anyway? In the Japanese studies, sex is still classified as the heteronormative act of inserting a penis into a vagina (queer sex was totally ignored). But, in my opinion, sex is so much more than that, and means many different things to many different people. Trying to classify “sex” outside of heterosexual, cisgendered relationships becomes totally redundant with so many wonderful variations on what sex is to people whose gender may not be fixed, and whose coupling may not involve a penis (or a vagina for that matter). I love this. I love that we can decide what sex is and is not, and frame that for ourselves.
WHY is this an issue? Have as much (or as little) sex as you want!
We’re obsessed with sex quantity, which has long been associated with relationship success and happiness, e.g. lots of sex in a monogamous long-term relationship equals highest pinnacle of relationship success. I remember reading in Cosmopolitan years ago that three times a week was a good number to aim for. This is so arbitrary! There are people who have little to no sex, and people who identify as asexual or gray-sexual, who have wonderfully happy relationships. In Japan, the identity soshoku danshi refers to men who have little interest in sexual or romantic relationships. I say embrace the sexual (or non-sexual) identities that feel good to you.
Essentially, I write from a position of sex positivity: “A sex positive attitude towards human sexuality regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, encouraging sexual pleasure and experimentation”. Sex positive does not mean sex mandatory. Fuck, or don’t. It’s no-one else’s business what you consider to be sex and how much of it you’re having.