Japan's Population is Declining With Rise of Herbivore Men

Moment / Dear Blue

Moment / Dear Blue

Mass Media is consumed with images that portray sexuality in a rather casual light and at this point, you cannot pick up a pop culture magazine without flipping through sexualized images. It is prevalent in every aspect of society from the risqué fashion world to the masculine sports arena. Many people connect sexualized imagery to females, but men are also objectified in multimedia forums. The underlying message implies that a heterosexual relationship is always desired among males in order to preserve the idea of masculinity. This notion guides advertising campaigns that are directed toward a male audience and it has certainly set standards for relationship expectations. 

Sex sells and it's been an integral part of advertising for decades, making it a potent cultural norm. With that foundation, it might be odd to make the following statement: there are actually men who have no desire for sex at all and are disengaged with the topic as a whole. This new wave of people are characterized as "Herbivore men," a term developed by Maki Fukasawa, who studied the rise of men who do not believe in sex. She shared the notion with CNN back in 2009: "In Japan, sex is translated as 'relationship in flesh', so I named those boys 'herbivorous boys' since they are not interested in flesh." She said that the men are heterosexual, but not interested in having sex for multiple reasons. Many of these guys have long work hours and are simply too tired when they get home, while others prefer simpler lives with family/friends and are not motivated to seek a committed relationship. Some men said that they have no desire to live up to the cultural expectations of dating and rather avert away from the pressure of relationships.

The reaction from the opposite sex is concerning. While women in the United States are worried that men might only be in the relationship for sex, Japanese women feel the opposite. They are taken aback by the sudden change of attitude and are pursuing men more aggressively as a result. Many of these women tend to describe the men as weak and are upset with their lack of interest in sexual activity. The pool of viable bachelors is slim, as there are growing numbers of men who fit this demographic. It is estimated that about 60 percent of Japanese men in their 20s and 30s identify themselves as Herbivore men.

The drastic birth rate decline in Japan has heavily impacted the country's economy. According to the Washington Post, the declining population is a problem because of a less productive work force and the affect it has on the imbalance of generations. "For any economy to stay healthy, there needs to be enough taxpayers to support all the retirees. But Japan's population is shrinking and aging simultaneously, which means that the number of old people is skyrocketing just as the base of taxpayers shrinks." The government is aware of the concern and is working to help resolve it by reducing work hours and promoting a co ed work environment. According to the rising numbers, these efforts must be sustained for a long time in order to help a community desperately struggling to revive its shrinking population. Many people believe that the herbivore effect is already happening in the United States as a failing economy has caused low birth rates in the country. Younger men are in a situation where they feel the pressure to succeed and now, a college degree is not as valuable as it once was. Years of education after college set people back in terms of starting a life and a family. With the traditional idea that the man will earn and provide for their family, men may begin to focus on individual lives because they do not deem that additional pressure necessary. Although it may seem that this ideal can become prevalent in the United States, it is important to not overlook the significant differences of two countries that have different norms related to relationships and culture. In Japan, husbands work long hours and are expected to give their wives their entire salary. The wife will give the husband an allowance, but she is the primary decision maker for the house. Relationship norms are extremely different in Japan and because of this, the United States has yet to see a major wave of young people identifying as herbivore men. The topic is relatively underresearched, but perhaps in light of the growing numbers overseas, the media in the United States will begin to focus on the idea.