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#SexInJapan: Less interest in sex and lower fertility rates? A talk with Dr. Kunio Kitamura

by Antón Castellanos Usigli, August 4, 2012

Antón Castellanos Usigli ( & Dr. Kunio Kitamura

My first contact with Dr. Kunio Kitamura was extremely unexpected. I was at the cocktail party of the 12th Asia-Oceania Congress of Sexology last Friday afternoon when Yuko Higashi, a colleague from the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS), asked me if I wanted to be introduced to someone else (I had already been chatting with some of the attendees). I told her: “Yes, please! I know very few people from here”. She then immediately introduced me Dr. Kunio Kitamura, Managing Director of the Japan Family Planning Association. Dr. Kitamura’s name sounded very familiar to me, so I remembered I had read an article about a research that he has conducted and in which he has found very interesting data concerning younger generations: It seems that in today’s Japan, less people and particularly, less younger people are interested in sex. One day after meeting Dr. Kitamura, I arranged an interview with him.

He told me that the latest study was done in 2010 with 3,000 people from 150 cities and towns in Japan, finding that the rate of young people that are not interested in sex doubled from 2008! Among 16 to 19 year old boys, 17% of them reported not being interested in sex or being averse to it, while in 2010, this percentage grew up to 36%. Among 20 to 24 year old men, 11% reported not being interested or being averse to sex in 2008, and in 2010, it was 21%. According to Dr. Kitamura, these percentages are higher among women because of the biological differences between men and women regarding levels of sexual desire.

“So…What is the reason behind this phenomena?”, I asked Dr. Kitamura. “It’s not caused by low sexual desire”, he answered. “They feel a pain in the neck to male-female relationships. Psychological hurdles are very high. Even if they (men) can make a pass and have sex with women, they feel anxiety about the fail of sex.”

Dr. Kunio Kitamura also pointed out that this is not a phenomena happening only in Japan. Recently, he said, a study made by Ohio State University presented similar results (we may want to have a look at it!).

I then I asked Dr. Kitamura if he thinks techonology is related to this situation. There was no specific answer. “The most important problem are lower communication skills between males and females”, he said and then he was one who asked me if I believed that mobile phones, personal computers and the internet have somehting to do with it. I didn’t know what to say, so I replied with another question: “Do you think that this data should worry sex education experts and government officials in Japan?”. “The purpose of (Japanese) sexuality education in the past was to decrease HIV, abortion, and so on, so we have always insisted to young people to delay sexual intercourse. The rate of abortions has decreased as well as the rate of sexually transmitted infections. The government now worries about low birth rates. The total fertility rate of our country is 1.39, so in the future our population will decrease year by year… Married couples have less sex and this means no sexual intercourse over one month. According to my last survey, 40% of married couples have less sex.”

“What can it be done to counter this phenomena?” I asked Dr. Kitamura. “It is very important to give sexuality education, to teach good communication. It is necessary to educate at a young age, to teach not only male-female relationships but happiness and pleasure brought by relationships with others. We need to teach and learn how great is to understand each other. The pleasure when we undertsand each other exceeds our imagination”.

At the end of the interview Dr. Kitmura said that the Japanese government supported the study with 10 million Yen. “Very expensive but very valuable research that I have already done 5 times in 10 years”. So the Japanese government is worried about fertility rates?  “Yeah, they are worried”, concluded Dr. Kitamura.