In Brief

Why one in four Japanese millennials is a virgin

Japanese adults are increasingly eschewing sex in favour

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The proportion of young Japanese adults who have not lost their virginity well into adulthood has increased in the past two decades, according to a new study which found a quarter of men aged 18 to 39 had not had sex.

Public health experts from the University of Tokyo found that sexual inexperience was on the rise for heterosexual men and women. The percentage of women aged 18 to 39 who had not had sex in 2015 was 24%, up from 21.7% in 1992. Men of the same age saw an increase from 20% to 25.8%, according to the report, published in BMC Public Health.

In comparison, “surveys from the UK, US and Australia suggest that rates of heterosexual inexperience are between 1% to 5% of adults in or around their 30s,” CNN said.

Increasing sexual inexperience has long been a topic of national concern in Japan, but this report is the first to use nationally representative data that showed “the trend across different age groups and socio-economic backgrounds,” Peter Ueda, an author of the study published Monday, said.   

Researchers cited “unstable job and income conditions among men as potential reasons behind the trend”, The Mainichi reports.

Indeed, the analysis, found that men’s likelihood to have had sex depended largely on their careers. Those with full-time employment who lived in cities of over a million people were more likely to have had sex. 

“Men in the lowest income brackets were also 10 to 20 times more likely to be virgins than those that earned the most,” reported Forbes.

The same trend is not seen among women, which researchers believe can possibly be attributed to a higher proportion of “married women acting as full-time homemakers without a salary.”

Dr. Peter Ueda, the lead author of the study, told Newsweek that coverage of Japan’s flagging sex drive often focussed excessively on attention-grabbing phenomena like soshokukeidanshi - a subculture of so-called “herbivore men” who refrain from actively pursuing sexual relationships.

“While we cannot necessarily discount the effects of more exotic undercurrents, we can say that the not-nearly-as-provocative socioeconomic factors appear to be playing an important role in these trends,” he said.

The data used for this research defines heterosexual sexual experience as “vaginal intercourse between men and women” and did not account for LBGTQ individuals, because Japanese government surveys do not ask questions about same-sex experiences.

The survey also doesn’t include data for those who had some experience in the past but had become sexually inactive, an area researchers said they would like to investigate in future work.

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