Sagami, Japan’s leading condom company, conducted a survey on sex in Japan in 2013. Their results are highly interesting, and I always refer to them. However, there doesn’t seem to be enough information in English, so I decided to write about it.
The survey was conducted in January 2013 with 14,100 respondents with an equal distribution of age (20s through to 60s), sex, and location (prefecture). The respondents completed the survey online.
By the way, Sagami makes fantastic condoms. Even though I tend to go for Okamoto, another top-notch condom company in Japan, both companies are great. I’ve never come across condoms as good as theirs. If you know any better ones, please let me know!
Marriage and Relationships: Japanese people don’t date much but they get married nonetheless
Question: Are you married? If you are not, are you in a relationship?
Results: 22.6% of the twenty-something men are married as opposed to 60.7% of the thirty-something men. As for women, the percentages are 47.2% for twenty-something and 74.8% for thirty-something.
56.4% of Japanese unmarried men in their 20s are single, while 67% of Japanese men in their 30s are single. As for women, the numbers are 40.9% (20s) and 54.4% (30s).
Now, consider this: while 43% of the men in their 20s are single, the number of singles goes down to 26.3% of the men in their 30s. I think this is partly because marriage is generally more important than dating in Japan.
‘Dating’ is a fairly new concept in Japan. For example, we don’t have a proper Japanese word for ‘to date’. (We just use deto, which is just the Japanese pronunciation of ‘date’.)
I remember that in my Japanese high school, not many people were dating. Even if they were, they didn’t talk about it a lot, and couples were not visible in school. I never felt any pressure that I had to date somebody. I did date somebody, but I hardly ever discussed it with my classmates.
But, when it comes to marriage, it’s a different question. When you are in your late 20s or in your 30s, people start asking you questions: When are you going to get married?Why aren’t you married? People start introducing you to your future husband or wife. My boss did that
to me once.
The Japanese tend to have very different attitudes towards dating and marriage.
Sex Frequency: Yes, Japanese people have sex infrequently
Question: If you have a sexual partner, how many times do you have sex per month?
Results: On average, when they are married or in a relationship, men in their 20s have sex 4.4 times, in their 30s, 3 times, and in their 40s, 1.9 times a month. Women in their 20s have sex 3.9 times, in their 30s, 2.4 times, and in their 40s, 1.6 times a month.
As for the differences between relationship statuses, married people have sex 1.7 times a month on average, unmarried couples 4.1 times, and sex friends 2.9 times. The overall average is 2.8 times a month.
Do you remember the Durex sex survey in 2005? According to their survey, Japanese people have sex 45 times a year on average, which translates to 3.75 times a month. But Durex didn’t seem to limit the respondents to the ones who had sexual partners, while Sagami did. So if Sagami did the survey with the same conditions as Durex, the average sex frequency would be much lower than 2.8 times.
Japan’s number, 45, is 28 points less than the second least sexually active nation, Singapore, and 93 points less than the most active nation, Greece. Japan is a complete outlier.
These are self-reported surveys online, so we don’t know how accurate the results are. But considering the information we have so far, the most logical conclusion is that Japanese people have significantly less sex than people in most developed countries.
Sexless: 55.2% of the married couples are sexless
Question: Do you think you are sexless?
Results: 55.2% of the married couples and 29% of the unmarried couples think they are sexless.
In my opinion, being sexless is a problem only when you are not happy with it, so let’s look at the next statistic.
Sexless: 69.7% of the people in a sexless marriage or relationship want to have sex
Question: If you are sexless, do you want to have sex?
Results: 75.2% of the sexless men and 64.2% of the women still want sex.
In other words, 30.35% of the sexless people don’t really want to have sex. Nonetheless, more than two-thirds of the people are in an unhappy sexless marriage or relationship. This is quite unfortunate.
Sexless: The biggest reason that they are sexless is that their partners don’t want to have sex
Question: If you are sexless but want to have sex, why don’t you have sex?
Results: About 40% of the sexless people say their partners don’t want to have sex. About 30% of them say they are too busy or tired. About 23% say having children or family members in their house makes it difficult. (Japanese apartments and houses tend to be small.) About 18% of them say they don’t desire their partner anymore.
Sexless: Many people who don’t want to have sex think sex is too troublesome
Question: If you don’t want to have sex, what is the reason?
Results: About 40% of men and 50% of women say having sex is too much trouble. About 25% of men and 40% of women say they have very low libido. About 30%
of men and women say they are too tired to have sex.
‘Too troublesome’ or mendoukusai is a very Japanese expression; they don’t necessarily dislike sex, but they think it’s probably not worth it considering the effort they need to make.
Sexual Desire: More than 80% of the single men want to have sex
Question: If you are single, do you want to have sex?
Results: About 83% of the single men and 58% of the single women in their 20s and 30s want to have sex.
In recent years, Japanese men seem to be gaining a reputation of having a low sex drive. However, the survey shows that more than 80% of single men want to have sex. Of course, you can say 80% is not a lot, but to me, it doesn’t seem too weird that 10 to 20% of them have a low sex drive.
Also, the survey says that 36.9% of the people with a low sex drive still want to be in a relationship even though they don’t really want to have sex.
Sexual Partners: Japanese men have 10+ and women have 5+ sexual partners
Question: How many sexual partners have you ever had?
Results: On Average, Japanese men in their 20s had 7.4 sexual partners, and the men in their 30s had 11 partners. The averages for the women were 5.5 (20s) and 6.8 (30s).
These numbers don’t seem particularly small to me.
We have seen various stats so far, but the only area where Japan is clearly an outlier is the frequency of sex. But otherwise, Japanese people want to have sex and sleep around like everyone else.
Infidelity: About 20% of the people cheat
Question: Do you have sexual partners outside your marriage or relationships?
Results: 78.8% of the respondents say they don’t have any extra-marital or extra-relational partner. 15.8% say their have one partner, and 2.2% say they have more than one partner. Also, 3.4% say they don’t have fixed partners.
The question didn’t ask if their main partners know about their extra-marital or extra-relational affairs. But, assuming that most cases are not consensual, we can say that about 20% of the people are cheating.
Infidelity: Japanese people have fun with co-workers
Question: Where did you meet your extra-marital or extra-relational partner?
Results: 21.4% of the respondents met their sexual partner at work, 16.4% of them met through common friends, and 10.3% met in school. Relatively few people were total strangers and only 0.7% of them met in bars and clubs.
If you are a western person and hang out in bars and clubs in Tokyo, you might meet potential sexual partners there. But be aware that the Japanese people who frequent those places are in the minority.
There is another survey that asked where Japanese people meet their spouses. The results are quite similar: at work, in school, and through friends.
Virginity: Less than 10% of the thirty-something people are virgins
Question: Have you ever had sex?
Results: 40.6% of men in their 20s are virgins, but the number goes down to 9.5% for thirty-something men. 25.5% of the women in their 20s and 5.1% of the thirty- something women are virgins.
These numbers seem to be in line with the relationship/marriage results: Japanese people don’t date a lot when they are in their 20s, and many of them get married when they reach 30.
Also, Japanese kids don’t have much privacy. Japanese houses and flats tend to be small, and even if they have their own rooms, they often don’t have locks, and walls are very thin. So when they live with their parents, having sex is difficult. Of course, you can always go to love hotels and rent a room by the hour. But love hotels are quite expensive for high school students.
Virginity: Japanese people lose their virginity in their late teens
Question: At what age did you have sex for the first time?
Results: On average, the men in their 20s lost their virginity at 18.9, and the men in their 30s lost it at 20.2. As for women, the average ages are 18.5 (20s) and 19.6 (30s).
I think these numbers mean that Japanese people tend to lose virginity when they start going to university when they are 18 or 19.
Masturbation: Japanese men in their 20s masturbate 11.1 times a month
Question: How many times did you masturbate last month?
Results: On average, the men in their 20s masturbate 11.1 times a month, and the men in their 30s masturbate 9 times a month. The averages for women are 2.2 times (20s) and 1.1 times (30s).
I don’t really know what to make of these numbers, but, nonetheless, I find them interesting. One thing that is sure is that Japanese men will never run out of porn to watch, given the huge quantity available…
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This is a story of an Eastern European girl who ventured into Japanese hostess bars. Let’s call her Anna. She was very curious about Japanese hostess bars and wanted to know why guys pay so much money. So she decided to try it out herself.
What’s special about Anna is that she ended up working for a very high-class hostess bar. Usually hostess bars cost a couple of hundred dollars per night, but she says that in a high-class bar, it’s not unusual to spend $30,000 a night.
‘These guys are billionaires,’ she tells us in a business networking event. Girls are told not to press customers to order drinks. They are too rich for that.
‘Top girls earn $100,000 a month,’ she says. The minimum salary is about $2,000, but the customers spend so much money that some girls end up earning much more.
Despite the extremely high salaries, the girls don’t seem to offer much. It’s a legal hostess bar and there’s no sexual service involved. Normally, Japanese hostess bars have an option for clients to go out with hostesses before or after shifts, but according to Anna, her place doesn’t offer that service either. In fact, a lot of customers don’t even talk to the girls; they just socialise among themselves.
‘Girls are more like regular waitresses,’ she says.
Then, why would men pay tens of thousands of dollars?
That was what she set out to find out. She didn’t find the high-class job at first. On the contrary, her first place was a very seedy bar. Consider that she found her first job on craigslist. You can easily imagine the nature of the kind of hostess bar that posts an anonymous ad on craigslist.
‘How much do you think those girls get paid per night?’ she asks. She is talking about a strip club she knew. Being a stripper is not an easy job and girls have to entertain many customers a night. Yet, according to her, they only get paid about $100 a day. That’s extremely low pay for sexual work considering Tokyo’s standard.
She didn’t work at the seedy bar for long. Eventually, one of her customers introduced her to a different bar, a very high-class one. Working conditions were completely different.
‘I wasn’t even a hostess,’ she says. She was just helping the management. All she had to do was work on her laptop, except she was expected to use a table inside the bar that was filled with men. But she didn’t have to talk to anybody; just sitting there and working was enough. She was paid about $300 a night.
She was confused. Why were they willing to pay her that much money for minimal work? She asked the owner, a middle-aged South American woman. She didn’t get a clear answer. She asked another question:
‘Why do men pay that much money to see the girls even though the girls don’t seem to do much and some men don’t even talk to them?’ The answer was very revealing:
‘These men don’t come to talk to the girls. They come to see me,’ the owner said.
They come to see a middle-aged woman instead of young girls? Why?
‘Because they are my friends,’ the owner said. So that was the trick. The girls at the bar simply didn’t matter much because it was the relationship between the owner and the customer that was crucial to the business. Japanese society is very relationship-oriented. Often, Japanese people choose to do business with somebody they know well instead of somebody who has the best track record. The owner knew how to do business in Japan.
In fact, the owner had been a hostess herself. Her current customers were her long-term customers when she was a hostess. During the decades when she was a hostess, she was slowing building business relationships. When she retired as a hostess, she started her own business. From day one, she had loyal customers.
‘The customer service is very impressive,’ Anna says. There are numerous notebooks in the bar and each customer has many pages of entries recording details of his birthday, personal history, relationship status, business trip schedule, children’s profile etc. All the important information is there. When a customer comes back from a business trip, the owner asks him about the trip. When it’s his birthday, she celebrates it with him. She is almost like his family.
Still, spending tens of thousands per night is a lot. Why would they choose that expensive bar instead of more affordable ones? Why doesn’t she lose customers because of the high prices?
‘It doesn’t really matter to them. These guys are true billionaires,’ she tells me. Does this mean that they spend money because they can? ‘Yes, because they can!’ she says.
Indeed, the customers are very high profile. Amongst the examples she gives, there is the CEO of an internationally known Japanese company, executives of a very famous global American company, and a few celebrities (even though most are business people). They have more money than they can spend.
‘So, is it more like a normal bar except that it’s extremely expensive and there are some beautiful girls to look at? They don’t care that they won’t get anything from the girls?’ I ask.
‘Yes,’ she says. If they wanted something sexual, they could get it somewhere else. Money isn’t an issue. They just go there after work for a few drinks with their co-workers just like normal people do. They happen to choose that place because they are regulars.
‘So, what kinds of girls work there?’ I ask. I am curious. Surely, there’s something special about them for it’s a very well-paid job.
‘Well, they are actually not that special,’ she says. They are just normal Eastern European girls like her. But if there’s something special about them, it’s their ability to connect with people. These girls are very good at making connections. When they go to parties, they always get new customers.
‘But there’s one thing many guys don’t know,’ she says importantly. ‘In order to work in a legal bar, the girls need to have a legal status in Japan. Unless it’s a very seedy bar, nobody wants to hire them without a working visa. Do you know what this means? It means that they are always married, and their husbands know what they do.’
‘One thing I learned there was that guys like quiet girls who don’t challenge them,’ she continues. ‘The best girls don’t talk too much, and in the end, guys like them.’ I’m not sure if it applies to all men.
‘Do you think it’s universal though? Don’t you think that’s something cultural?’ I ask.
‘No,’ she says, ‘every guy likes quiet girls even if they claim otherwise.’
‘Well, I prefer someone I can have a good discussion with. Quiet girls are not very interesting to me,’ I say.
‘You are just saying that! You secretly like the quiet ones like all the other guys,’ she says. She is very firm about it. The thing is, she seems to be a very outspoken person who is not afraid to contradict people; she is the opposite of a quiet, docile girl. Is there resentment in her voice? I’m not sure. But, it makes me think about what kind of life experience had made her believe in that idea.
I was in my second year at my Japanese high school. I was walking along a hot, summer street to school. There was something different that day. I was thinking about the previous night I had spent with the girl I was in love with. The sun, the sky, the asphalt road, the green trees, the station, and old restaurant buildings ̶ everything was shining so brightly. My heart was so full of happiness that I wanted to hug everyone. I was in love.
When I was a teenager I fell in love a lot – so many times that I don’t even remember many of them. A typical a teenage boy, you might say. In a way, my stories were far from being original. But if I was slightly different from others, it would be because I was immensely curious about the feelings of being in love.
I recorded the intensity of my feelings on a schedule note so that I could analyse the lifecycle. I was generally interested in what was going on inside of me, so those strong feelings got my attention. I was also troubled. As much as they gave me euphoric pleasure, they preoccupied my mind so much that I couldn’t be as productive as I usually was in daily life. I needed to figure them out so that I could regain the control.
One day, I came across a short article in a newspaper. It talked about a book focusing on the experience of being in love. ‘This is the book I’ve been looking for’, I thought, and I bought the book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love by Dorothy Tennov. As expected, the book was very closely related to what I was trying to figure out.
The state of being in love
Tennov calls the feeling of being in love limerence. The term love is too broad and ambiguous and she needed a new word. It didn’t seem to gain much popularly, but later researchers refer to the same feelings using terms like romantic love or infatuation. I will use these terms interchangeably in this article. Essentially the focus is on a very particular aspect of being in love (feelings).
Here’s what it’s like to have those feelings. Remember the time when you were in love and see if you can relate to them.
You can’t stop thinking about the person you are in love with even if you try to. When you want to focus on something else, you soon find yourself thinking of him/her again.
I remember being in an office trying to work on my computer programming, only to find myself thinking of a girl I’d met a few weeks earlier in school (ironically, I don’t remember who it was). My productivity was marking an all-time low. It took the whole day to finish a task that would have normally taken an hour.
Tennov gives plenty of examples:
All during the following day, Larry found himself reviewing the events of the night before. Margaret’s face was almost as clear to him in his daydreams as it had been in the reality of her presence. He could smell her perfume. But above all, he recalled that final moment, that wonderful touch of her arm in his ribs, and the way she looked at him when she found the key… To others, his behaviour that next day appeared quite normal, but in fact Larry’s mind was so totally occupied with thoughts of Margaret, with reviewing and analysing the events of the previous evening, and with anticipating events that might occur in the future, that only his external actions could in any sense be considered ordinary.
Intrusive thinking is a very important indicator of limerence. Other researchers too use it to measure the intensity of the feelings.
This state of euphoria is also an important characteristic.
My delight in simply existing eclipsed everything else, and I literally could scarcely feel the ground as I walked. In some ways, my perceptions grew stronger. Colours seemed more brilliant. The warmth of the sunlight on my arm as I drove to work was so acutely pleasurable that I marvelled at never before appreciating it. I relived our moments of intimacy as I drove—the loving pressure of Rick’s arms around me, the softness of his lips, and, most of all, his eyes. His look was an embrace. (Tennov 1998)
While the feelings can be highly pleasurable, they are not without side effect. When the feelings are not returned, your mood plunges from heaven to hell. The effect can be devastating.
I don’t remember how I made it upstairs except that I was in a state of true shock. I don’t mean surprise. I had more or less expected it. I mean real, physical shock. It was as if I had been struck on the head with a hammer. I lay down on the bed and for a long time I didn’t move. I hardly breathed. It was as if, if I remained absolutely motionless, it would in some magical way not be true. (Tennov 1998)
Many psychologists point out that passionate love is similar to drugs. Helen Fisher, a popular researcher on romantic love, writes in her book entitled Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love, ‘if the beloved breaks off the relationship, the lover shows all the common signs of drug withdrawal, including depression, crying spells, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite (or binge eating), irritability, and chronic loneliness.’
Yearning for reciprocation
When you are in love, what you long for is not a sexual relationship even though that’s part of it. A man in love may emphasise that sex is not his primary interest, but something nobler. The thing you want is reciprocation: you want her/him to feel the same way you feel about her/him. The ultimate goal is a state of fusion. You want to feel that you become one with her/him.
One interesting aspect of reciprocation is that when you are uncertain of reciprocation, it intensifies the feelings. On the other hand, if your feelings are reciprocated too easily, you will lose interest. Popular dating advice has it that you should not reveal your feelings too easily.
Mixed messages will drive her/him crazy. Tennov found out that uncertainty prolongs the state of limerence.
I found out that other people had similar fantasies to mine. It felt strange because it was a very specific kind of fantasy. ‘A classic limerent fantasy involves an unusual, often tragic, event,’ Tennov writes. Indeed, when I was in high school, I day-dreamed that a girl died of an accident and I would be at her funeral. I pictured the scene where I saw myself crying. My devastating reaction was the way to show how much I cared about her.
Before I reach Vera, I step into a snake’s nest and am fatally injured. With Nancy still in my arms, I limp toward Vera. I put Nancy on the ground with care and then collapse at Vera’s feet… Although I am in great pain, and know it is hopeless to try to save me because doctors have told me that any snake bite would kill me because of an allergy, I manage just one sentence: ‘Vera, I love you.’ As I breathe my last breath, I hear her answer, ‘I love you, too, Jim. I always have.'(Tennov 1998)
A snake’s nest. It’s amazing how detailed and specific those fantasies can be.
Lack of appetite, sleep, and other characteristics
The effect of romantic love is physical. I noticed that when I was in love, I ate and slept less. Old stories often talk about people being ‘love sick’ which involves a lack of appetite and sleep. Apparently it’s not just a myth: a study shows that adolescents in early-stage romantic love sleep less than those who are not in love. (Brand et al. 2007)
Here’s a list of some other characteristics:
Being blind to flaws – they say that love is blind. You overlook flaws the person has even though you are intellectually capable of seeing them. You even think that these negative qualities are desirable. It is not until you fall out of love that you start seeing the flaws as they are.
Increasing the chances of encounter – you deliberately take a longer route to get home just to see the person you are in love with. You might hang around her house hoping that you accidentally bump into her. You buy new clothes that she might like so that she will notice you.
Extreme nervousness – you get incredibly shy around her. You get shaky in front of her. Your palms are so sweaty that you fear she would notice if she held your hand.
Fear of rejection – the idea of getting rejected is horrifying. You pay attention to every single detail of her. You review her words over and over again to find out the real meaning of them.
Is this teenage love?
In popular culture, infatuation is often associated with teenage love. However, age is actually irrelevant. ‘People over age forty-five reported being just as passionate about their loved one as those under age twenty-five,’ Helen Fisher, aforementioned author writes.
It’s not clear how long the state will last as it depends on your disposition as well as the situation. Tennov concludes that the average length is two years, although it can be very short ̶ a couple of days ̶ to a lifetime (although that’s rare). As for me, my feelings last from a few days up to three months. Yes, it’s rather short-lived and that was one of the reasons I had to learn how not to rely on my feelings.
It is embarrassing to think about all the letters (I mean, e-mails) I wrote in my teenage years. I would write long messages every day, carefully editing over and over again to perfect my subtle expressions of romantic love. When I got the reply, I would reread it several times to figure out the hidden intension of her words.
Then gradually, my excitement would die down. When I noticed that the feelings were slowly fading, I would pray that they wouldn’t go away. There was something very poignant about losing these feelings even though they weren’t always pleasant. They had become part of me, and it felt as if I was losing someone important.
The end of the feelings was the end of the relationship, and I would walk away. Falling out of love was like waking up from a long dream. Suddenly I wasn’t sure why I had been so interested in her.
When I wasn’t in love, I wasn’t interested in girls in a romantic way. I even sort of hated talking about dating and listening to other people’s stories. I don’t really know why. Maybe it was because I wasn’t very comfortable with the dating culture in Japan, or I didn’t like seeing teenagers (which I was myself) making a big deal out of seemingly primitive feelings I thought I had demystified. But, all in all, I spent many years without dating anyone.
In my 20s, I realised that I wasn’t happy with my dating life. I felt like I was missing out on something. I would review my past experiences to figure out what I did right and wrong. I eventually came up with a realisation: I had been focusing too much on my own euphoric feelings and had got overly excited. I would be better off if I paid more attention to the girl’s personality, overall attractiveness, things we had in common, our compatibility, and the way she treated me. In other words, I should find someone I naturally feel attracted to and enjoy her company without the presence of infatuation.
The change didn’t come immediately, but over time my dating life improved greatly.
What if somebody’s madly in love with you?
Dealing with your own feelings is one thing, but dealing with other people’s feelings is another. If you are in a relationship where the other person is infatuated, your experience won’t always be pleasant, especially when the person is not good at controlling his emotional urges. You’ll even feel that he is being selfish: he demands your attention, presence and the same intense feelings.
You may feel that he overreacts to your seemingly innocuous remarks, movements and non-existent ‘intentions’. Tennov writes, ‘The word ‘suffocation’ was used repeatedly in the reports by interviewees fitting the nonlimerent [the one who isn’t in love] pattern.’
They are always being ‘hurt,’ and it’s impossible to predict what will hurt them. I’ll have a good time at a party only to be hit on the way home with something like, ‘Why did you ignore me all evening?’ Really, it’s exasperating! (Tennov 1998)
It is thus important to recognise the signs of infatuated love. He might try to hide them or deny them, but if you successfully identify the feelings, you’ll know where his puzzling behaviours come from. He can’t help himself. He’s not his usual self anymore. You can even compare it to psychological disorders. Some researchers found similar brain activity patterns to those of obsessive, compulsive disorder (OCD). It is literally biological.
Whether you are willing to endure being in the uncomfortable position of being the object of infatuation obviously depends on a lot of things, but I believe that learning about the nature of intense feelings helps.
There are people who never experience the intense romantic feelings I have described. Are they incapable of forming romantic relationships? Absolutely not.
I have never felt the way you describe about anyone, and from what you say, as well as what I have seen with my own eyes, I would not want to. My feelings for Marion are, well, as strong, as the feelings I have ever had for anyone, and as far as I am concerned, I can see no reason to look elsewhere. She and I are friends, companions, and sexual partners. (Tennov 1998)
As opposed to infatuation which is short-lived, people in long-term relationships or marriage tend to have another kind of feelings. ‘Love changes over time. It becomes deeper, calmer. No longer do couples talk all day, or the longing, the obsessive thinking, the heightened energy all dissolve. But if you are fortunate, this magic transforms itself into new feelings of security, comfort, calm, and union with your partner,’ Fisher writes.
Fisher calls this attachment as opposed to romantic love. Tennov calls it affectional bonding as opposed to limerence. Whatever terms they use, they seem to agree that these are separate feelings from obsessive love and they need to be considered separately.
A study in 2012 calls them infatuation and attachment, and confirms some of our assumptions. They studied over 550 Dutch speaking and English speaking people based on a questionnaire to measure the levels of their infatuation and attachment. As you might have guessed, the intensity of infatuation subsides as time goes by. On the other hand, the level of attachment increases over time although not as much as the decrease in infatuation.
One thing to note is that many people stay in their relationships even if infatuation almost disappears eventually. But the attachment is always present. The study didn’t take into account their happiness levels, but if they chose to stay, some of them must be happy. In a relationship, infatuation is not always vital.
(In an aside, English speaking people in relationships had higher infatuation levels in that study. I wonder if it’s something cultural. As a Japanese, I can guess that infatuation levels will be much lower for Japanese people.)
Your choice, my choice
My dating life has improved after I shifted the focus from the euphoria of being in love to the compatibility factors, and I believe many people have a similar transition as they get older. However, I don’t think this is the only ‘correct’ way of dealing with romantic relationships. My choice is based on my unique situation and needs ̶ short-lived intense feelings and a desire to be in control—but other people may have other needs.
In fact, it is quite possible that some people can maintain the intensity of romantic love. A study in 2012 shows that 40% of the US couples in the experiment reported being intently in love. They were people who had been married over 10 years. When they narrow down the location to New York, the number goes down to 29% but it is still quite high.
It is exciting being in love and there’s no reason why you can’t cherish it however transient it is. In the end, it all comes down to what you want. People have different tastes in life. When I talked about this article with my girlfriend, she said she didn’t want to rationalise her feelings because it would make life less enjoyable. I agree that being very rational could diminish some excitement although for me, making good, rational choices is very pleasurable in itself.
But the thing is this: if everyone started acting rationally, the world would be a much less interesting place. Things like Vitaly’s epic prank wouldn’t be possible.
It is commonly believed that dating in Japan is easy for non-Asian (particularly white) men and hard for women. I came across a blog post by zoomingjapn, a German girl living in Japan, writing about dating in Japan as a foreigner. She expresses this view.
She writes, ‘It is comparably easy for a western foreign man to find a Japanese woman or to have a nice relationship here in Japan’, but ‘it is extremely tough to find a date as a foreign woman here in Japan.’
Her story is interesting in itself but the most interesting part of the article is the huge number of comments gets – 162 comments (or about 30,000 words!) at the time I am writing this article.
A lot of people who commented actually disagree with her. In particular, non-Japanese guys tend to disagree because they don’t think it’s easy to date Japanese girls. On the other hand, girls tend to agree with her.
Overall, does it mean that it’s hard to date Japanese people regardless of your gender? It seems so. If you are in a foreign country with a completely different culture, it is logical that you might have a hard time dating. Dating often involves a lot of hidden rules and non-verbal cues. These are not the kind of thing you learn in your language textbooks.
However, there are many people who are successful at dating in Japan. Many people provided counter-examples in the comments. My personal experience also tells me that dating in Japan is completely feasible and a lot of my friends seem to be doing OK with dating here. Then the real question is this: what is the difference between successful and unsuccessful people?
Fortunately, thanks to zoomingjapan, I have a good sample of comments on this.
A guy says that it’s very hard for him to have good relationships with Japanese women. ‘My biggest problem is that most girls my age (~25) are very childish’, he points out.
He might be right, but the word ‘childish’ makes me think that his culture might have a different concept of maturity. Being ‘mature’ in Japan can be seen as ‘childish’ elsewhere and vice versa. He might be judging Japanese women based on his cultural values without taking into account the Japanese context.
Since he didn’t specify what made him think that girls of his age were childish I can only speculate, but if he doesn’t make effort to unlearn his cultural values and learn new sets of values, he is likely to continue having difficulty.
I’m not saying he should adapt himself completely; it’s ultimately his choice. He might just not be compatible with the majority of Japanese girls. To be fair, I used to feel that most kids of my age weren’t mature enough. I am less judgemental now because I realise that I might simply have had a differently way of measuring maturity.
Helpless cute girl
I have noticed that cute girls tend to be quite bad at approaching guys. They always get approached by guys and don’t have to make the first step themselves. In short, they lack practice. It’s always interesting to hear all the boring questions they ask when they try to hit on guys: ‘What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you do?’ etc.
Isabel, a German girl who has been living in Japan for about half a year, is a good example. She is studying computer science and surrounded by a lot of guys. Despite that, she is having difficulties with dating. ‘In Germany I never been single for longer than a few months, I had never had problems about dating a guy. I’ve been living here since 6 months now and I didn’t have a serious date yet. I’m currently the only Western female student here, so I get quite some attention, even from other foreign students. But Japanese guys are still a big mystery to me’, she writes.
She seems to be clueless in situations where her charisma doesn’t work as expected. ‘I fell in love with one Japanese boy in my research team. I wrote him many cute love letters in Japanese and English but he didn’t reply for many months. After some time I finally asked him in person and he told me that he can’t date me because we work in the same team.’
Clearly, he was not interested but she wasn’t giving up. ‘I basically tried everything to convince him. I made him a Bento, baked a cake for him and organized a super-fun birthday party for him a few weeks ago. Because it was his birthday I decided to go for a final attack and made a personal present for him.’ Her strategy was ‘push, push and push’, which was obviously not working.
But she didn’t stop there. ‘I bought an empty book and filled it with the story of my love for him. How I fell in love with him and about all the things I like about him. Every page had about 2 or 3 sentences in English and Japanese and a drawing. I’m horribly bad at drawing but I put lots of effort and I got honest praise from the people around me whom I showed the book. There was also one page with a drawing of his face. The book ended with telling him that I was still willing to date him even though he turned me down with this obvious excuse of working in the same team. On my last page, I told him that it’s his story now and that there are still many white pages that can be filled.’
It might be obvious to many people but doing all this to a guy who is not interested (and possibly not used to dealing with girls) is not only ineffective but also counterproductive. It scared the hell out of him. I can easily guess what was going on in his mind. ‘Oh my God, is this girl crazy? Why doesn’t she understand that I’m not interested? I want her to stop doing embarrassing things in front of people but I don’t know how. I don’t understand girls. Hopefully it will stop as time goes by.’
She was giving emotional gifts he couldn’t reciprocate, and that put him under a lot of pressure and made him uneasy. If he was experienced in dating, he could have said something like, ‘I know that you are interested in me but I just don’t see you that way. I appreciate that you are making an effort but I don’t think it’s going to work. Maybe we can just be friends?’ But there’s only so much you can expect from a Japanese computer science major boy.
The ending was sad but predictable. ‘Over three weeks later that he completely ignored the whole thing’, she writes. Her friends weren’t any help. ‘All of my friends told me that this is just such a wonderful present that he has to fall in love with me’, she writes. But such an emotionally loaded gift would only work if he was already madly in love with her.
I’m not saying that ignoring her was the right thing to do; it was terrible. But, as someone who has supposedly more experience in dating, she should have realised that she was doing everything wrong. She reminds me of the film ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’: she did do everything she wasn’t supposed to do. Well, she’s still young and I think she will eventually learn better ways to approach guys.
Some girls figure out Japanese guys
Some girls seem to figure out Japanese guys well. ‘If you are a western girl living in Japan and interested in dating a Japanese guy, my advice would be GENTLY make the first move. Don’t be overly assertive’, writes a 25-year-old American girl who has been married to a Japanese man for five years.
She mentions some interesting things. ‘Accept that Japanese men are not going to be like the guys back home. They are generally not affectionate (at least in public), they are typically shy, and they work a lot. But, there are plenty out there that are interested. After several drinks, several of my husband’s friends openly congratulated on him “getting a beautiful white girl”, told him they respected him more now, and asked me to set them up with some friends of mine. They would have NEVER said this if they hadn’t been loosened up by alcohol, but it definitely left me wondering if I should be offended or flattered! ;)’
I don’t quite appreciate these guys who think ‘getting a beautiful white girl’ is some kind of trophy, but the point is that she seems to understand how Japanese people loosen up when they are drunk. This is a minor detail but I believe paying attention to details eventually makes you very good at understanding a given culture. Apparently, that was what she did.
Figuring out subtle cultural cues is, of course, not always easy. Some people overlook important details and don’t notice what’s really happening around them. A German guy talks about his German female friend who failed to understand signs from a Japanese guy. ‘She didn’t notice anything although he kept asking her out all the time’, he writes. Some girls who think that guys are not interested in them simply fail to detect the signs coming from guys.
A girl who is in a serious relationship with a Japanese guy says, ‘I have found that what “helped” me to be easily approached by several Japanese good looking guys is my behaviour.’ She seemed to know how she could slightly modify her behaviour so as to facilitate interaction with local people. It’s also about manners. I would advise girls to be gentle and not necessarily pursue the man of their interest, but make him do the first step. It worked out for me.’
Coincidentally, a lot of Japanese women’s magazines and dating advice books focus on how girls can be approachable and make guys ask them out. I don’t necessarily agree with this approach, but I can totally see it can be effective.
Are Japanese people ‘cold’?
A lot of people – often Japanese themselves – say that Japanese people are ‘cold’. For example, this girl says, ‘My Japanese boyfriend told me something similar about Japanese women: they are passive, cold, lacking passion, don’t touch/hug/kiss randomly, even at home.’
I don’t think ‘cold’ is the right word. It’d be more correct to say ‘not expressive’. Contrary to what people believe, Japanese people do express their feelings. It’s just very subtle and indirect. This inexpressiveness can be seen as ‘cold’ in other countries but in Japanese context where indirectness is the norm, it’s not necessarily a negative trait. Japanese TV drama, films, novels and manga often depict silent expressions of love and gratitude. Needless to say, people have no problem understanding these subtle ways.
Some Japanese people do prefer a more expressive communication style, and they tend to date non-Asian people. A Mexican guy who is dating a Japanese girl says, ‘From what my girlfriend told me, she did mention that Japanese men are cold. She does admit that she likes how Latino and Mediterranean men are warm, passionate, romantic and affectionate type of men, even more than other Westerners such as Americans or Nordic people.’ Her choice of dating a Mexican guy makes perfect sense. She is getting what she believes is hard to get from Japanese guys from her Mexican boyfriend.
I know a lot of people who are successfully dating Japanese guys and girls. There’s one tendency among them: they are multicultural or multilingual. Many of them have mixed parents or speak more than two languages. I found a similar tendency in the blog comments.
A Mexican-American girl who met her boyfriend in a hip-hop club in Shiubuya – She says that dating was not something she had in mind when she came to Japan. She speaks English and Spanish perfectly even though she doesn’t speak Japanese very well.
Another Mexican-American girl who has a Japanese boyfriend. – She seems to have a well balanced view regarding different cultures. She writes, ‘I don’t believe that Japanese men or women are in general ‘cold’! Their behaviour is just, of course, influenced by their culture, where it is considered inappropriate or embarrassing to show your feelings for another person so directly.’
A non-Asian girl married to a Japanese guy – I don’t know where she’s from but, judging from the way she writes, I think she’s from a non-English speaking country. I also assume she speaks good Japanese because she says, ‘All my friends are Japanese girls.’
I’m not 100% sure if this is a general tendency. I might just be cherry-picking examples. My personal experience is quite biased since I tend to make friends with culturally open people; most of the friends I have in Japan are very open-minded as opposed to ethnocentric which, I believe, most of the people on earth are. Let me know what you think.
They myths of easy Japanese girls
In the comments, a lot of guys point out that it’s not easy to date Japanese girls. ‘Japan’s a terrible place to meet chicks. If you’re a good-looking guy with a reasonable amount of game, your odds are better back home’, says Ken Seeroi, ‘a handsome foreign guy’ as he puts it.
I have a similar impression. While there might be a few girls who lower their guard for white guys, they remain a small percentage of the whole Japanese female population. There are certain places where you find a lot of these girls but if you go anywhere else, thing’s won’t be as easy. Most importantly, they are not necessarily the kind of girls you want to have a relationship with.
Sure, I hear war stories: ‘I went to Japan and I got a lot of chicks’, ‘These Japanese girls are being too easy for white guys’ etc. But a lot of western guys I know are not having a particularly easy time in Japan. They are normal guys with decent social skills and not ‘losers’ back home. If you are a highly educated, cool guy looking for a cool girl, Japan won’t necessarily make it easy for you.
So, is dating hard in Japan?
Dating in Japan can be a bit harder, compared to a more socially open country, because Japanese people tend to be reserved and cautious with strangers. Every time I go to North America or Europe, I notice how easy it is to talk to random people. If it feels harder to date in Japan, maybe it really is.
From my experience, simplified workflows of dating western and Japanese women would be like this. (Mind you, there are many exceptions so this is by no means definite.)
A western girl:
Meet her -> Get to know her a bit -> Ask her out
A Japanese girl:
Meet her -> Get to know her a bit -> Get to know her some more -> Ask her out
(Edit: I updated the workflow because the previous one seemed to have given the wrong impression of how I think one should approach women.)
This ‘getting to know her some more’ phase can be quite long so you often need to be patient. Dating Japanese people requires a few extra steps.
For example, some girls prefer hanging out in a group before going on a real date with you. I don’t like it when this happens. I remember this girl I met at a party. She was nice and rather cute so I asked her out a few days after. She replied by saying that she would prefer hanging out in a group with her friends first to get to know me. I didn’t like the idea, so I made it clear that I wanted to meet her alone. She wasn’t up for it.
Fortunately, not all Japanese girls are like that, but I definitely feel that Japanese girls generally need more time. People can be quite cautious of strangers here. (This might be the reason why western-style online dating has never been really huge in Japan.) Older women seem to be more laid back but I don’t have a lot of experience with them. Overall, you have a much better chance of meeting someone through your friends or acquaintances than hitting on random people in public.
In fact, there are many ways to meet people in Japan and it gets easier once you learn how. Sure, dating in Japan can still be harder but ‘harder’ doesn’t mean ‘nearly impossible’. I know plenty of westerners and other foreigners in Japan who have good relationships with Japanese people. Your origin shouldn’t be a definite obstacle. I can easily think of white, black, South Asian, Latin American, European and African people who date Japanese guys and girls. In the end, what random people say online doesn’t matter as much as how open you are and what you make of Japan.
Honestly, I wasn’t planning to make the article this long. I just thought I could point out some obvious statistics many journalists seem to be oblivious of. But as I looked into publicly available statistical data, I noticed that some of their inaccurate assumptions were potentially fatal.
It all started with an article by the Guardian. It was entitled ‘Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?’ and began with a story of a Japanese woman who used to be a professional dominatrix and now is a sex and relationship counsellor.
With the help of catchy content, the article took off immediately and got more than 70,000 shares and likes on Facebook (which is a lot). Many other journalists followed by writing their own articles – most of them critical of the original article – to get a piece of the action.
A friend of mine shared a lot of these articles. As I read through them, I started asking myself questions: Are Japanese people really sexless? Is sexlessness Japan’s unique problem? Is it related to the low birth rate?
Then I realised something: while individual stories and interviews were interesting, some of their comments on Japan’s social situation were rather dubious.
‘One reason for the lack of babies is the emergence of a new breed of Japanese men, the otaku, who love manga, anime and computers – and sometimes show little interest in sex’, writes Anita Rani from the BBC.
As represented by this sentence, the article is based on a seemingly innocent assumption that the apparent lack of interest in sex is a major cause of the low birth rate, which turned out to be wrong, according to my research. (It also talks about immigrants, without showing the connection to the article’s main issue.)
I came up with one hypothesis: many married people I know have had less education than the ones who are still unmarried. Maybe the education level has something to do with the birth rate?
I did some quick research and found out that there was a strong correlation between countries’ educational attainment and their fertility rates; it was a well-known fact. ‘This is interesting,’ I said to myself.
I started digging various publicly available statistics to see whether other things that journalists were writing were statistically sound. One question led to another and, before I knew it, I had 20 sets of statistical data ranging from literacy rates to frequency of sex.
Here are some of the things I found out:
1: Sexless Means a Low Fertility Rate
This association repeatedly comes up. In the aforementioned Guardian article, Haworth writes: ‘increasing numbers (of Japanese people) can’t be bothered with sex. For their government, “celibacy syndrome” is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world’s lowest birth rates’, assuming that the lack of interest in sex is highly related to the country’s low birth rate.
But the truth is this: frequency of sex doesn’t correlate to the fertility rate.
The x axis shows how many times people have sex per year on average, and the y axis shows countries’ fertility rates.
As you can see, the plots are completely scattered and there is no apparent trend. The correlation between the frequency of sex and the fertility rate is virtually non-existent. (0.01 out of 1.00. If you want to know more about this number, look here: Pearson Product-Moment Correlation)
People in countries like Greece, Croatia, and Bulgaria have sex many times a year, but their fertility rate is as low as Japan’s. In fact, the fertility rate varies widely between the countries where people have sex 80-120 times a year. Most of the countries are within this range.
It may seem counter-intuitive but it is completely possible. For example, you can have sex as many times as you want without having a baby if you practise correctly protected sex. On the other hand, you can still have a baby even if you have sex only once in your lifetime. People have control over having children regardless of how frequently they have sex.
This also tells us the existence of other factors that really affects birth rates. But a lot of people (including professional researchers) have already discussed this and that’s not the main theme of this article.
Are you suspicious about this number? I also calculated the correlation using different statistics by Durex from a different year: the percentage of respondents who have sex weekly. This time, the number was -0.2 out of -1.0, which means a very weak reverse correlation. The more regularly people have sex, the slightly lower the birth rate.
Sexlessness and fertility rates are two separate things. Many articles I’ve read confused these two and, as a consequence, drew inaccurate assumptions about Japanese social issues.
This is a very important fact because, if the link between sexlessness and the low fertility rate is non-existent, many ‘arguments’ based on Japan’s lack of interest in sex are invalid as the premise is false.
I actually thought that frequency of sex correlated to birth rates before I did this research. So the result was somewhat unexpected to me too.
The causes of low fatality rate is complex. Saying that the low libido is the cause may be be catchy and gets attention, but it’s overly simplistic and untruthful.
2: A Low Birth Rate is Japan’s Unique Problem
To be fair, many journalists understand this one; the low birth rate is far from a Japan-only problem. In an article entitled ‘No, Japanese People Haven’t Given Up on Sex’, Joshua Keating from Slate writes: ‘Japan is a leading indicator of a trend rather than an outlier. Birth rates are falling almost everywhere in the world except for sub-Saharan Africa.’
However, many people continue to imply that Japan’s low birth rate is something exceptional. Justin McCurry from the Guardian, in his article about Japanese women seeking instant sexual partners though an agency, opens the article by writing that ‘in 2003 Japan’s birth rate hit a record low of 1.29 – the average number of times a woman gives birth during her lifetime – one of the lowest rates in the world.’ He seems to be oblivious to the fact that a low fertility rate is a strong trend amongst highly educated nations.
This figure shows the strong reverse correlation (-0.8 out of -1.0) between countries’ IQ scores and their fertility rates. The x axis represents the IQ scores and the y axis represents the fertility rate. As you can see, if you go to the right side of the figure (high IQ score), the fertility rate gets lower. This is a typical linear correlation.
Mind you, I know that the IQ is a highly problematic concept. So let’s say it about educational attainment.
Japan’s birth rate is not particularly low considering that the higher the educational attainment, the lower the birth rate.
Japan is merely following this global trend. If there are true outliers, they are countries like Singapore or Cuba.
IQ is highly correlated to various educational indexes. I also used educational indexes, percentage of secondary education enrolment and literacy rate, and calculated the correlation between them and the fertility rates and got similar results.
While this correlation alone doesn’t necessarily imply that the educational attainment is the direct cause of the low birth rate, you can assume there’s some relationship (whether direct, indirect, or through another variable like different lifestyles) between them. The correlation is very strong.
3: Long Working Hours Cause Sexlessness.
Some people blame Japan’s infamous working hours for sexlessness. William Pesek from Bloomberg says, ‘. . . the exclusion of more and more Japanese from the lifetime employment system that’s long been the cornerstone of Japan Inc., forcing many to work additional jobs. If you leave for work at 6 a.m. and get home close to midnight, including weekends, where is there time for dating?’
He doesn’t explicitly say that long hours cause sexlessness: he says ‘dating’, which may or may not involve sex. So it might not be fair to quote him here. To make my point, I quote someone from Facebook: ‘the problem I had with the Guardian article is that the lack of sex here was positioned as a racial/cultural problem. It’s really a problem of overwork.’
But long work hours almost don’t correlate at all to sexual infrequency.
The x axis shows the average annual hours actually worked per worker, and the y axis shows how many times people have sex a year.
The distribution is quite flat, except for Japan where people have much less sex than any other country. Spain and Greece are also far away from the other countries as people apparently have much more sex. Otherwise, there’s only a weak positive correlation (0.18 out of 1) between working hours and frequency of sex: the longer you work, the more you have sex. But this correlation is very weak and not definitive at all.
Longer work hours don’t imply less sex, if anything they might imply more sex.
(*Edit: A few people pointed out that this comparison is highly questionable due to many factors. I have to admit that I was quite hasty on this one. Check out the excellent comment by Christopher Magor in the comment section below.)
4: Slow Economic Growth Causes Sexlessness
William Pesek is very clear on this point: ‘the root of Japan’s supposed sex drought isn’t culture, but economics,’ he writes. He seems to be quite convinced by this. A few paragraphs later, he also writes that ‘the real issue is that many avoid traditional, committed relationships out of doubts about the future that are based on economics rather than culture.’
He also says that ‘if low libido were strictly societal, why do the Czech Republic, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan have fertility rates as low as Japan’s?’ But we already know the answer: frequency of sex has very little to do with fertility rates. So it’s totally possible that other countries have lower fertility rates while they have more sex.
Anyway, the economy (economic growth, to be more precise) doesn’t correlate much to sexual frequency.
The x axis is the real growth rate and the y axis is the frequency of sex per year. The correlation is -0.185 out of -1.000, which is a very, very weak reverse correlation: the more the economic growth, the slightly less likely the sex.
The assumption that slow economic growth is the cause of sexlessness is very likely to be false.
Of course you can still argue that Japanese people are particularly sensitive to economic mood. But in this case, you would need to provide a convincing reason why Japanese people can be so ‘different’.
5: Women’s Social Advancement is the Cause of Sexlessness
Japan’s gender gap is notoriously bad. But some people think that women are relatively stronger than before and that makes men scared of them, which causes low sexual drive.
Roland Kelts from the Guardian presents one of the ‘theories’, ‘that Japanese women have become stronger socially and economically at the very same time that Japanese men have become more mole-ish and fully absorbed in virtual worlds, satiated by the very technological wizardry their forebears foisted upon them, and even preferring it to reality.’
However, the gender gap doesn’t correlate to the frequency of sex.
The x axis represents The Global Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum (the higher the better). The y axis represents the frequency of sex.
There’s almost no correlation between the gender gap and the frequency of sex. The number is 0.13 out of 1, which means there’s only a very weak correlation: the lower the gender gap, the more the sex.
Gender gap is not a good indicator of sexlessness.
This relationship is not obvious at all. Some people think that men are intimidated by strong, independent women. Other people think that modern women are freer to express their sexuality. Both can be true, or false. But the link to the frequency of sex is not apparent in these data.
I know this article is lengthy. So if you just skip to this part, no worries: you can just read these bullet points to get the main idea.
Sexlessness has nothing to do with low birth rates. They should be discussed separately.
The low fertility rate is not Japan’s unique problem. It’s a very strong trend among the highly educated nations.
Sexlessness has nothing to do with a low marriage rate either. They should also be discussed separately.
Many people mix sexlessness and fertility rates all together and try to come up with something. They are two possibly independent variables.
Working long hours doesn’t make you sexless.
Slow economic growth doesn’t make you sexless.
Narrowing the gender gap won’t make people have more sex.
The statements above are statistically not very accurate in favour of simplicity. They should be something like, ‘based on the correlation, it is likely that…’ Before you say something about correlation and causation, read the main article and the footnote.
I’m also aware of the possibility that my conclusions are false as my research is far from thorough. Read the footnote to learn more about this.
So, What Was the Real Problem?
If sexlessness doesn’t relate to any real social problem, what is really wrong with having less sex? I mean, as long as people are happy they should be OK, right?
Interestingly, the frequency of sex doesn’t correlate with a country’s suicide rate, which can be a good indicator of happiness. And, ironically, Durex’s own study shows that the frequency only has a very weak correlation (0.27 out of 1) with sexual satisfaction. Quantity doesn’t mean quality. (But, for the record, Japanese people are also extremely low – 15% – on sexual satisfaction.)
Sexual choice is really a personal matter. Talking about it as if it has a real impact on other social issues is potentially misleading.
I tried to keep the main article short. I didn’t exactly succeed, but there is just so much to talk about.
This article’s weakness
Most of the statistics in this article heavily rely on Durex’s sexual survey, and one can still question the validity of such a survey. They conducted the survey online in most countries. Also, all the numbers are obviously self-reported.
Also, I am aware that in order to measure the possible impact of sexlessness on Japanese society in particular, you have to examine the historical sexlessness within Japan. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get any statistics on this. It is quite possible that frequency of sex has unique meanings in some countries.
If you know other good statistics available on this subject, please let me know. I think we need to validate the results with other statistics.
About the article by Abigail Haworth
Actually, I quite enjoyed reading the Guardian article by Abigail Haworth. She tells an interesting story about the sex counsellor and her clients. She also interviewed quite a few people and I think their stories represent quite well the feeling of certain young Japanese people.
The way journalists (at least the ones I examined here) write stories is to come up with catchy stories, write them and connect them with seemingly related numbers. The problem is that when they try to connect their stories to social issues, they sometimes make logical leaps, and some people buy their ‘arguments’.
Wait, correlation doesn’t imply causation and causation can exist without correlation!
…you may scream. Well, I think it’s easy to understand that correlation doesn’t imply causation, right? (But we still make this mistake because it can be confusing.)
But when it comes to the fact that the absence of correlation doesn’t imply the absence of causation, it’s much harder to explain. I should be aware of this because most of this article is related to this.
Let’s think about sexlessness and fertility rates. I said that there’s virtually no correlation between the frequency of sex and the birth rate. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s not causation: there obviously is! You have to have sex in order to make a baby. In other words, sex causes babies, albeit not always.
You can also think that if the frequency of sex is 0, the fertility rate will also be 0 (assuming of course there’s no sperm donation).
But the data show that there’s no correlation. What does it mean?
When correlations are absent despite the existence of causation, it possibly means that there are other external factors that neutralise the results, which is exactly the case in this instance: birth control. In this case, it is highly likely that the high sex frequency doesn’t produce more children because people use condoms and possibly abortion when that fails. (Theoretically, you can also think of other factors like epidemics.)
How about non-linear correlation?
The numbers that indicates the correlation is called ‘he Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient’, also known as Pearson’s r. One of the pitfalls of using it is that it can only capture linear correlation. That’s why you always have to make plot charts to see if there’s any apparent non-linear correlation, which I did.
It’s still possible that meaningful correlation exits
In this article, I threw in every country with available data. But there’s still a possibility that we can find meaningful correlation by filtering out countries by other variables. I can think of a few possibly relevant variables: religion, region, race, language family, immigration rate, GDP per capita etc. Those elements seem to be relevant to sex and marriage.
It’s also possible that a particular variable is meaningful despite the global trend, if there are unique factors that are only present in Japan
For example, if there’s a very unique cultural element in Japan, it will be possible that a particular variable still correlates to some other variables, only in Japan.
For example, suppose that, for some reason, Japanese people don’t use condoms (which, by the way, would be very ironic since Japan produces extremely high quality condoms). If this happened, more sex would obviously mean more babies.
When something unique like this exists, global trends don’t mean much in that particular case.
Sexlessness is quite independent from other variables
I tried to find correlations between frequency of sex and other variables (IQ, birth rates, education index, secondary school enrolment, suicide rates, life expectancy, GDP, percentage of people over 65, working hours, gender gap, marriage rate, divorce rates, sex satisfaction, and economic growth.) But the only apparent correlation I found is the literacy rate (and the education index, to some extent). So, highly educated people are somewhat likely to have sex more frequently. If this is true, Japan’s sexlessness is a complete outlier.
Well, maybe it’s just culture after all? Some of the articles I talked about deny this simple assumption, with varying reasoning which I refuted. In that case, the real question will be this: how do we know if this is something we call ‘culture’? And where did this ‘culture’ really come from?
It was during lunch when she told me the news. We were having lunch with two other colleagues in a casual French restaurant in Tokyo.
‘I am getting married,’ she said.
‘Umm, ok. To who?’ I asked.
‘It’s him.’ She told me the name of a colleague we both knew.
‘Hey, you might be the least surprised person so far.’
‘I don’t know. Yeah, that’s a bit unexpected but it sounds possible,’ I said.
I certainly was surprised. In fact, I didn’t have the slightest idea that they were together. They hid their relationship very well. They hardly ever talked in the office and when they did, they always used polite Japanese (keigo).
It turned out that they were already living together. Nobody knew that because they always came to the office and left separately. They didn’t give the slightest hint of their relationship. They had been playing perfect Japanese office love.
She was probably the first person I got to know in the first company I worked for. It was a small IT company and they would send software developers to other companies. There were about 30 of us, but there were only a handful of people in the office because most of us were working in other companies’ offices. She wasn’t a developer, so she always stayed in the office.
Her exact role was not very clear. She was one of those people who do almost everything. She would write letterheads, buy office supplies, collect receipts, manage customer data and stuff like that.
She was about 26 (and I was 23).
She studied teaching Japanese as a foreign language in university but she didn’t become a Japanese teacher as most people would have done which meant that she was a bit alternative. There was something about her that didn’t fit the norm.
She knew some Korean, but she wasn’t really conversant. Again, studying Korean is somewhat alternative in Japan.
She knew some weird things I didn’t know. For example, I didn’t know what ‘fallen angels’ were. I still have no idea how she learnt about that kind of thing.
I could tell that she didn’t have much experience in dating. It seemed like dating wasn’t something she was terribly interested in. But she wasn’t necessarily shy as she was very open in talking to me when I first met her.
She wasn’t bad looking, although I didn’t have any romantic interest in her. She seemed a bit uncomfortable with her femininity. It was maybe the way she blinked as she talked. It was hard to imagine her being flirty.
She was more rational than emotional (which is a very important trait I will talk about later). I’d never seen her getting upset or overjoyed.
Considering all that, it was quite unexpected that she was going to marry. Moreover, that she was going to marry that guy, the guy with a ‘reputation’.
I have only met a couple of people who I considered players. It’s not always easy to identify them. But if they had a common trait it would be this: they didn’t look like players.
In fact, they looked rather boring and uninterested in women. And that guy was a classic example.
The Player was the same age as I was, but he looked older because of his calm, soft-spoken nature. He was far from the image of the flirtatious, smooth-talking player. He didn’t talk much about his private life (or any other stuff unrelated to work for that matter). I actually thought he wasn’t that interested in dating generally until I heard the story:
He once dated five girls simultaneously.
Apparently, that was what he said. He also said that it was ‘too painful’ to date that many girls all at once which, by the way, is quite understandable. Dating one girl can take a lot of energy. How much emotional power and time do you need to actually date five girls?
This episode made me wonder why I couldn’t identify his ‘playerness’. I wondered how he was capable of doing that. And it came to my mind that it was precisely because he didn’t look like a player. He was able to do it because girls didn’t become suspicious.
He was also a smart guy. He was the best programmer in the company and much more experienced than I was, so I would ask his advice once in a while. He must have thought carefully about the way to handle multiple girls at the same time, and obviously it worked, at least for a while.
Because of this, I became very curious about him marrying the Not-So-Nerdy girl. I needed to find out more about this.
How everything started
The best way to ask private questions to Japanese co-workers is to get them drunk. To make things easier, Japanese people often organise after-work parties whenever they have a good excuse (welcome/farewell party, end-of-year party, start-of-year party etc.).
My company was no exception. The chance came soon after I learnt the news. They organised a farewell party for someone who was leaving. I had a chance to talk to the girl privately. It was easy. I was used to talking to her anyway. I just casually popped the question.
‘So, how did things get started?’ I asked her.
‘Well, a while ago we went for drinks with a group of people after work. When everybody was going home, he said to me that he wanted to drink a little bit more. We ended up in his house and one thing led to another…’ she didn’t finish the story, but that was enough information.
I also had a chance to talk to the Player when he was drunk. It was when we had another company party in a nearby Japanese-style bar. I remember talking to him in the street. He was very drunk and staggering as he walked.
‘So, if you are so popular, why did you choose that girl to marry then?’ I said to him.
‘It’s because she’s not the kind of girl who gets overly emotional when you need to have a rational conversation.’
He was definitely not a 17-year-old virgin.
That line stayed on my mind. In a way, everything made sense. He chose her based on her quality as a long-term partner. She could stay calm when discussing something important. I wasn’t sure how much they were into each other romantically. They didn’t talk about their relationship, nor did they show any affection in public (which is not uncommon in Japan). And, Japanese people tend to see marriage as an institution rather than a crystallisation of love. His reasoning was perfectly understandable.
In a way, they had something in common: their coolness about the whole thing. Maybe that was why I didn’t have any emotional reaction when I heard about them.
At least she wasn’t like the other girl, the hot one.
The Hot One
There were only two girls out of 20 to 30 people in that company. Both of them found their husbands there. Now that the first girl had got married, it was the second girl’s turn. And she was the Hot One.
She came to join the company after I started working there. She immediately attracted attention. It didn’t take long for the news to spread. By the time we had the next company get-together, everybody knew that there was a pretty, new girl in the office.
A lot of guys wanted to talk to her, which many of them did. One guy said to her, ‘Hey, I was looking forward to meeting you as they have been saying that the new girl is very cute.’ He couldn’t help letting her know that she was pretty.
But there was one particular guy who seemed to be especially fond of her. He was the Obvious Guy. Unlike the Player, who was good at hiding emotions, the Obvious Guy just couldn’t contain his infatuation.
The Obvious Guy
Even though I didn’t see him often, as his workplace was another company, it didn’t take me long to realise that he was into her. It was just obvious by the way he looked at her and talked to her. He didn’t have any sort of sophistication in his approach.
He was the awkward guy you see in a romantic comedy film. And he did cheesy, romantic stuff too.
It was at the end-of-year party (Japanese people love those parties). Everybody was drunk. Somebody had brought a fake rose, and when the party was nearly over, the Obvious Guy took a piece of fake rose, placing it between his lips, and walked up to the Hot One in front of everyone. He went down on his knees and said, half-jokingly:
‘Will you marry me?’
The girl got confused and didn’t know what to say. She just smiled uncomfortably, hoping that the moment would soon be over.
That was that kind of thing he would do and I thought he was joking.
But he wasn’t. They got engaged soon after.
Me and the Hot One
In fact, I got along very well with the Hot One. We talked a lot and she always laughed at my jokes. She laughed a lot, and she laughed loud.
We often went to lunch. There was another guy who got along with us too, so the three of us were often together. If it had been a school, we would have been the kind of friends who go out after school.
Once, we went out to a fancy French restaurant and ordered a lunch course. We only had one hour but the course took longer than we expected and our lunch time was almost over.
‘What shall we do?’ she asked.
‘It will probably be OK,’ I answered.
‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ she agreed.
So we stayed, and got back to the office late. As soon as we set foot in the office, the boss called us.
‘Hey, you three, come here right now,’ he said.
Then we got scolded. I was thinking that it looked just like we were misbehaving students in school. There was something comical about the situation. (I felt really bad afterwards and I worked late that day.)
She was the kind of person whom I shared those moments with. I felt that she liked me to some extent (whether it was romantically or not). And she was cute and nice. I would have asked her out if we hadn’t been co-workers. I just wasn’t happy with the idea of going out with someone from work. Also, I was not actually in love with her. But there were times that made me feel that we would make a good couple.
But she and the Obvious Guy didn’t seem to have the kind of compatibility that we had.
There was something puzzling about their relationship. Despite the apparent fact that the guy was in love with her, they didn’t seem to talk that much. I had never really seen them talking, except for a few awkward exchanges like the fake proposal.
Now, in Japan, couples tend not to show much affection in public, especially when they are among people they know. In fact, many of them prefer not to act like couples. It’s also perfectly normal not to take your partner to social events.
From this point of view, not talking to each other when they were with the rest of the company would have been perfectly normal. But I saw something more about their situation. The guy obviously wanted to be close to her in public too. The Hot One didn’t mind him being around either. Yet, there was always something awkward about them.
Before I left the company, they threw a farewell party for me on my last day.
I was talking to her in the street. We were saying something funny about watermelon (it’s funny how we remember this kind of trivial detail sometimes) and we were laughing together.
Suddenly, the Obvious Guy approached her from behind and placed his head on her shoulder. It was as if he was a child wanting his mother to sooth him.
She didn’t look at him, but tolerated his presence and physical closeness. She looked a bit embarrassed. Then she just continued talking with me.
I still remember the weirdness of the scene. On the one hand, we were having a very close conversation. It was one of those moments that make the outer world fade away. On the other hand, there was this grown guy (who was her fiancé by then) resting his head on her shoulder even though he was not involved in the conversation. I never really understood that couple.
In the end, they got married and she had a baby soon after.
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The nature of men’s conversation can be described as what they call a ‘dick measuring contest’. Every time there is more than one man, a conversation automatically turns into such a contest no matter how sophisticated they may appear.
As a human being of the male variant, I have had the privilege of getting involved in various highly sophisticated male conversations with no female presence.
It’s my pleasure to have this opportunity to share what I think are the most common male conversational topics. (Please note that this piece of the article mainly concerns heterosexual males as the other kinds of men might not be too keen to discuss themes concerning the opposite sex.)
How to pick up chicks (or mostly useless advice on how to initiate romantic encounters with women)
Regardless of whether they actually practise their ‘techniques’ or not, men love to talk about how to pick up chicks. The interesting thing is that what they discuss in their heated-up conversations is often (if not always) of little help (if not completely useless).
A man says gaily, ‘hey, I came up with this idea of how to pick up chicks in a bar.’ Then he goes on about how he can efficiently meet women who are willing to share a bed with him by walking up to a random attractive woman in a bar and saying, ‘hey listen, I don’t care what you think, I just want to have sex with you and nothing more. Come with me if you can handle it.’
Another man would say, ‘what if I dressed as a giant mouse and go to a bar; would I get attentions from girls?’ Then he talks about all kinds of props he can use to get some female action.
Wingman is also something men talk about often. One might say, ‘I think the ultimate wingman is a gay dude. You know, he won’t be your competition, and he knows how to talk to girls.’ His theory is based on a very innocent assumption that gay men not only enjoy talking to women but that they are also good at it.
Pickup lines are invented for happy male conversations. Their purpose is to give men things to talk about more than to meet women successfully. Often, one has the impression that men enjoying talking about meeting women more than actually meeting them.
Dating stories (or how they successfully/unsuccessfully got into girls’ pants)
Some men, despite their inability to come up with a viable pickup strategy, manage to achieve some kind of female companionship. Now’s the time for them to talk about it.
‘Man, you don’t believe what happened last night,’ a man starts a conversation. ‘I was hanging out with a group of friends and there was this new girl in the group. We went to a bar but our party ended rather early and we went home. Now this new girl happened to be from somewhere not so far from where I live so we took the train together. She was kind of cute and, since we had some time, I suggested we go to another bar, to which she agreed. Eventually, the last train was gone and…’ so the story goes on.
Sometimes, a man seeks advice. ‘I’ve been going out with this girl for a while and I’ll be meeting her again on Saturday. It will be our third date. Now, the thing is, nothing really happened on the first two dates but I want some action this time. What do I do?’ he asks. Another man would say, ‘well, you just go for it. Just invite her over to your place and proceed from there.’ Another one, seeing the opportunity to show off what a player he is, would say, ‘if I were you, I would have gone all the way on the first date. You see, I don’t take no bullshit,’ and he feels tough.
It is important for men to get laid, and it is an implied goal in every dating story. When a man achieves such a goal, other men congratulate him for his deed while being mildly jealous. When someone is not successful, men are sorry but think that they could have done better.
Superpower (or which superpower is the best)
Every man wants to have a superpower. The question is: which one is the best?
This question is of very high importance; a man is allowed to have only one kind of superpower. You are expected to provide a valid argument supporting your primary choice.
Some like to have a mind-reading ability. Their hypothesis is that if they had it, they would be able to tell whether women were interested in them or not. This theory is not immune to refutation. Some believe knowing if a given woman has romantic desire towards a man is not particularly elusive, thus the superpower in question doesn’t have as much value as one may think.
Some would think that flying is something worth considering. If you would like to make such a statement, you would have to present a convincing argument in terms of sky safety. Providing countermeasures to possible collision with winged creatures might be advisable.
The discussion will heat up if you like to support the power of going back in time. In this particular case, the very feasibility of the power should be put into question. You will get into an extremely complex discussion on the possible fundamental contradiction of the concept of time travelling.
Drugs (or who has been in the toughest situation because of them)
Being dangerous means cool, at least to some extent. Talking about doing drugs is men’s favourite way of showing that they are able male beings.
Men can talk about almost any drugs with other men. Various substances like cannabis and mushrooms are usually safe to talk about. If it’s something that comes in powder or tablet, it’s also acceptable to be the conversational topic. However, if it is anything beyond, one might want to exercise caution. In addition, a distinguished man must tell his stories in a casual manner; coming across as an addict is to be avoided. Any man who cannot talk about recreational substances without having withdrawal symptoms is advised to seek professional help.
There are usually two types of conversations regarding such substances: experience using it and dealing it. As a perceptive reader may have guessed, dealing it will earn more of what is known as man points as it requires more business acumen. A man can still command respect by presenting a humorous episode of dealing a false drug, maybe an account where he successfully sold oregano by convincing people that it was something more exciting
Geek talk (or who has done the most useless stuff using the most convoluted technology)
If normal men show off their pricy vehicles, geeks show off their technical skills. Men who put a high importance on a working knowledge of manipulating machines want to prove themselves in their own way.
A man would say, ‘I was kind of bored yesterday, so I hacked my neighbour’s private Wi-Fi.’ What he is trying to establish is that he’s the kind of guy who would be involved in activities of questionable legality; hence he is a bad guy. Another man would respond to this by saying, ‘yeah, I sometimes code spyware for fun in some obscure programming language like Clojure.’ This guy is trying to say that he is not only a bad-ass, but also a savant who possesses deep knowledge that the other man is not aware of.
These men often indulge in ‘which is better’ conversations: iPhone vs Android if they are soft core; Emacs vs Vim if they are knowledgeable of software development. They will provide varying complex arguments so as to justify their beloved tools of choice.
Intense work life (or how Japanese guys use their misery to prove manhood)
If there’s something in which Japanese guys could top the average in terms of length, it will be working hours. Needless to say, this could easily be a favourite conversational topic that fits very well into the nature of male communication.
‘Do you know how many overtime hours I did last month? It was like 100 hours. How shitty is that!’ a man says, making sure that the tone is depressing. ‘Really?’ joins in another man, ‘that’s sad isn’t it? But you know, I was like constantly taking the last train last month. I am glad that there were last trains because it forces you to stop working. But I wish I didn’t have to work on weekends too. You know, all those hours were unpaid.’ So he wins.
Are they enjoying sacrificing their lives in the name of male virtue? The answer is yet to be found. But this is a dangerous path. Excessive working hours may lead to either voluntary or involuntary death. However, they are driven by inexplicable work ethics that real men must work as long as it takes; they are fighting with an invisible enemy.
How many men lost their lives on the way to prove themselves? Since the beginning of mankind, men have been trying to become real men. It has never been easy and many lives were lost. But men will continue walking the road to manhood as long as the earth endures.
Male conversations are men’s futile attempt to win imaginary glory.
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Sorry if the title was too explicit. But, by far, these are the most interesting (and controversial) statistics I’ve encountered lately. I was initially writing this text as part of the next article but it became so lengthy that I decided to make it a separate post.
All the data presented in this article are based on user behaviours and responses to questionnaires on OkCupid, a popular (but not the most popular) dating site in the US. So, before reading this, please keep in mind that the majority of the users of OkCupid are US based.
They analysed the message reply rate based on gender and race. The results they came out with were very interesting to say the least. The original article dates back to 2009 so it’s not exactly fresh, but I think it’s still valid.
How Race Affects Men in On-line Dating
The chart below shows how likely you will be to get replies from girls based on race.
As well as seeing that girls don’t reply to guys’ messages that often, you will notice a big disparity between different races.
White males get replies from 1 in 3.4 girls. They are the most popular group. They are particularly popular with Indian, Asian, Latin and white women.
Indian males get replies from only 1 in 4.8 girls on the other hand. They are the least popular group. Indian men have the lowest response rate from Indian girls.
You’ll find other interesting numbers by looking hard at this table. For example:
Asian men, while being quite unpopular, do rather well with Middle Eastern women who are the most popular group of women. If you are an Asian male, you have the least chance with Indian girls as the reply rate is a mere 18%, while white guys enjoy a 39% reply rate. However, the reply rate from Middle Eastern women to Asian men is 27%, which compares very well to the 28% reply rate of white guys, who are the champions of on-line dating.
Indian and other Asian girls are particularly selective. It’s especially interesting that their reply rate is very low to Indian and Asian men. On the other hand, they show a strong preference for white guys.
It’s also important to mention that black and native American women are very generous with their responses. It would seem black girls are almost colour-blind if they weren’t so harsh towards black men. I don’t know why they almost seem to avoid black guys.
One of the comments in the original article said that minority girls choose OkCupid because they want to date guys of other ethnic groups. According to that comment, they would go to other dating sites for specific races if they wanted to date guys of their own ethnicity. I wonder if this is true. But I don’t think this is necessarily the case because minority guys respond to minority girls equally well.
How Race Affects Women in On-line Dating
Here’s how likely you are to get replies from guys if you are a girl.
Now the situation is different here.
Middle Eastern women are the most popular. 1 in 2 men write back to them.
The least popular group is black women, to whom only 1 in 2.9 men reply. This is a big difference compared to Middle Eastern women. (I don’t know why guys don’t write back to black women. They are the ones most willing to write back. I think guys are missing a lot.)
White guys are exceptionally selective. Their reply rate is way below average. But when Middle Eastern women write to them, their reply rate will jump up to 47%. In fact, there’s no single category of men who can resist the charm of Middle Eastern girls.
Middle Eastern males are not picky at all. Their average reply rate is 49.7%. They are also doing rather well with girls too. Are all the women secretly dating Middle Eastern guys? One might argue that Middle Eastern are some of the hottest people on earth. Did you know that people got kicked out of the country for being too handsome in Saudi Arabia?
Also, white women are the second least popular of all. This is particularly interesting because their male equivalents are the most popular. Remember that white women are very selective too.
All the guys, except black guys, respond well to the girls of their own race. This is something very different from the previous chart. So minority guys are not on OkCupid to date different kinds of girls. They are definitely not there to date white girls (who are the majority) either.
What about gays and lesbians?
They also have same-sex statistics.
Middle Eastern are more popular than white guys. White guys are still popular, but Middle Eastern are even more so.
Indian and black guys are doing much better here even though they remain relatively unpopular.
Gay guys don’t avoid other guys of their own race. This is somewhat consistent with the girl-to-guy reply rate.
Lesbians are almost colour-blind. Out of all the charts we have seen, this one shows the weakest preference in terms of race. Please note the sample size of Indian women is very small so the numbers are not that reliable.
Lesbian girls don’t avoid women of their own race. This is very different from the men-to-women reply rate.
Apparently, gays and lesbians are more colour-blind than straight people.
People Have Strong Race Preferences When it Comes to Dating
We have seen that people tend to have strong race preferences in dating. You may argue that different races have different personalities, which result in the disparity in response rates.
Actually, OkCupid shows that there’s no significant difference between races in terms of match, which is based on answers that the users submit.
As you can see, race hardly affects how likely you are to be compatible with the other person.
So, is it really race itself that is in question?
You might still argue that the match rate doesn’t necessarily mean a high reply rate. This makes sense. People of different backgrounds might have different ways of writing messages which may or may not be well received by other people.
But there’s a correlation between match and reply rate. So a high match rate is supposed to mean a high reply rate.
It is very likely that race is the factor that affects the response rate. (It’s still possible that there are other hidden factors though.)
In fact, 45% of the white people (40% of men and 54% of women) on OkCupid explicitly say that they prefer dating exclusively other white people.
Apparently some people are quite conscious about dating exclusively.
It’s too bad that they didn’t compare the results state by state. I think that there will be some differences between the states. Diverse states can be more colour-blind.
By the way, gay people are much less exclusive when it comes to dating. Check out this one.
How Do I See This Personally?
While I find this research very interesting, I don’t worry too much about it when it comes to my own dating life. There are several reasons:
The research subjects are mostly American – the majority of people on OkCupid are American. I would imagine that these results are not necessarily applicable to other countries. How about Brazil? France? Trinidad and Tobago? I bet the results would be quite different.
The results are nationwide – the numbers represent the whole nation, which includes urban and rural areas alike. I think that there would be weaker preferences in the areas where the population is more diverse.
17% of women still reply – The worst reply rate on the tables is 17%, for the percentage of Asian girls who write back to black men. This is as low as it can get. But wait, 17% of women still reply! 1 in 5.8 doesn’t sound too hopeless. Likewise, 46% of the white women are still happy dating men with different backgrounds, which is not bad at all.
They are just statistics – everyone is different. If your personal experience tells a different story from these data, it’s completely normal. Let’s face it: some people are just popular regardless of their skin colour. (I wish I was one of them though.) So don’t get agitated if you happen to ‘disagree’ with the data. They are just numbers and don’t factor in any other variables that might play a huge role in dating.
Not enough samples for minorities – the majority of OkCupid users are white. For example, black people represent only 4.6% of the total female members in the last example. According to the US Census Bureau, the total black population of the US was 13.6% in 2010. Also, there are non-Americans on OkCupid too. There are simply too many other factors that are not taken into account.
OkCupid doesn’t necessarily represent the physical world accurately – texting is a very limited form of communication. There’s a lot more you can do in real life. Obviously, your success in dating depends on your overall attractiveness including your personality and social skills rather than a single race factor.
So ladies and gentlemen, don’t be discouraged if you are not in the most popular category. (Neither am I.) You can date whoever you want. You just have to try a little bit harder sometimes.
(All the source of the information in this article is here, unless specified otherwise.)
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It seems like Latin guys are always asking for forgiveness. What do they want to be forgiven for? Cheating, obviously.
That’s the impression I get when I listen to Latin songs.
Latin guys cheating
First, check out this song:
You think I stopped loving you
You are wrong
I know why I failed. It’s because
I was unfaithful last night
If, sometimes, you felt something beautiful in me
Forgive me, forgive me
Perdóname by Eddy Lover & La Factoria
This song is a duet. The guy is singing about how he is sorry and the girl is saying how much pain he gave her. (The interesting thing is the girl is actually giving the guy a second chance.)
This song is quite popular as it has more than 43 million views on YouTube. It’s fairly recent and a lot of young people listen to it.
You might not be familiar with Eddy Lover and La Factoria (and I know that many of you are not. Reggeaton is not something that everybody’s into despite its popularity.) So let’s hear what Prince Royce says. He has a much bigger (non-Spanish speaking) international audience.
It’s already 2 in the morning but I’m still here
Writing a letter to you
Only thinking of all that happened
And the mistakes made in this love
My last letters I give you in oblivion
How is it possible that you don’t know to forgive?
I promise that I never wanted to hurt you
But even though you go, I will always love you
Mi Ultima Carta by Prince Royce
Here, Prince Royce is being more subtle; he didn’t specifically say that he cheated. But it’s not hard to figure out that he did and the girl is leaving him.
So, again, this is a song about a guy cheating on a girl.
Let me show you one more example. Since I have already picked a Reggeaton and a Bachata, I will pick a Salsa song next:
In the course of life I came to accept that I made a mistake
But one is only human and does wrong things
Forgive me. You are my truth
It’s hard living without you
It feels like you have my other half
Why fight? Why argue? I love you so much
And if I was… forgive me (perdóname)
Aquel Lugar by Adolescentes
Again, it’s a song about a guy who cheated on a girl and asks for forgiveness. The last phrase of the quote ‘perdóname’ is really emphasized in this song as it contains the highest and longest notes.
This theme appears over and over again in Latin music and I can easily think of many other examples. In fact, the phrase ‘Perdóname’ is one of the most popular titles for Latin songs. I just googled ‘Perdoname lyrics’ and came up with many different songs that had the same title.
If you are curious, here is the list of the artists who appeared on the first couple of search result pages:
That’s just the first couple of pages so there will be many more.
What American (and Bajan) girls sing about getting cheated on
I started with Latin music examples because the theme is so prevalent. But if you turn to the American popular music scene, you will find plenty of songs about cheating too.
While the theme of guys asking for forgiveness is not as popular in American music, there are many girls singing about getting cheated on.
So go ahead and get gone
Call up that chick, and see if she’s home
Oops I bet you thought that I didn’t know
What did you think
I was putting you out for?
Because you was untrue
Rolling her around in the car that I bought you
Irreplaceable by Beyonce
No need to explain right? This song was a huge hit in 2006. (And now it’s already 2013. How come time passes so fast?)
So this song is about a girl who got cheated on. Note that the girl is showing no compassion towards the guy. This, I think, is something quite characteristic in American music.
So, if even Beyonce gets cheated on, then who doesn’t?
You look so dumb right now
Standing outside my house
Trying to apologize
You’re so ugly when you cry
Please, just cut it out
Don’t tell me you’re sorry ’cause you’re not
Baby when I know you’re only sorry you got caught
Take A Bow by Rihanna
This song is quite popular too. I just checked it on YouTube and its official video has nearly 100 million views.
Again, the song is about a girl who got cheated on. The attitude of the girl is very cold and she is very clear that she has no intention of forgiving him. The tone of the song is extremely sarcastic and contemptuous.
Let me show you one more example:
Say you’re sorry
That face of an angel comes out just when you need it to
As I paced back and forth all this time
‘Cause I honestly believed in you
And there you are on your knees
Begging for forgiveness, begging for me
Just like I always wanted, but I’m so sorry
Now it’s too late for you and your white horse to catch me now
White Horse by Taylor Swift
Now the guy is on his knees and begging for forgiveness. Taylor Swift, being a sweet girl as she appears, is not as sarcastic as Rihanna, nor as outspoken as Beyonce, but her point is clear: there will be no forgiving.
Looks like you can’t get away with cheating with American (and Bajan) girls can you?
What about Japanese guys?
I have to admit that I’m not really up to date when it comes to the Japanese popular music scene, but, having grown up in Japan, I have listened to quite a few songs in my life.
Yet, when I tried to think of songs about cheating, I couldn’t come up with any. It’s kind of hard to think that Japanese guys would sing about asking for forgiveness. It’s also hard to think that girls singing about dumping guys who cheated on them would be successful in Japan.
Does this mean that Japanese guys don’t? Of course not! Obviously, they do. They just don’t seem to sing about it that much.
But, even if relatively scarce in number, there must be songs about cheating.
So I did a bit of research.
(Flash news: the world largest dating site for married people had a huge success in Japan after its first launch in Asia in 2013. Interestingly, this website has a similar, dubious price structure to so-called ‘dating sites’ that were prevalent back in the 90s in Japan.)
Japanese girls sing about cheating with guys
What I found was very interesting. Often, when Japanese girls sing about cheating, it’s not when they are getting cheated on. It’s when they are the ones who the guys are cheating with.
You don’t have to make me your number one
Please just let me be with you for a while
Love me, and even if it’s a lie
Tell me that you love me more than that girl
If I become too demanding
You will stop seeing me
I just can’t say anything about it
Because you are the only one
Aitai by Miliyah Kato
From what I understand, Miliyah Kato is the kind of artist the teenage girls are into so I think she makes good comparison with artists like Taylor Swift.
In this song, the girl is the one who the guy is cheating with. This is something different from my previous examples.
But there’s one more thing that should be noted: she tolerates the situation. The idea of blaming the cheating guy is completely absent in this song.
You can find similar characteristics in another song:
If you call me, I will be running to see you right away
Anything else won’t matter, I will come to see you as fast as I can
Even if you don’t love me back
Even if I can’t be with you
You are my one and only destiny
Yasashi Kisu Wo Shite by Dreams Come True
Dreams Come True was a popular Japanese band in the 90s. I can remember some Japanese girls saying that the band was their favourite.
As for this song, again, it’s about a girl who is sleeping with a guy who has a girlfriend (or a wife). And again, all she is saying is how she still wants to be with him. She doesn’t show any disapproving feelings about the guy.
Apparently, Japanese girls have very different ideas about cheating.
The next song talks about a different situation, but has a similar characteristic:
I saw him there
The garden was filled with laugher
He was playing with his kid
The sky was pure
I almost fainted from the shock
If I don’t say good-bye
I can still be with you
You are not the one who I’m not supposed to love
You are the one who doesn’t love me back
But I won’t give up
I will be brave to continue loving you
Hansode by Miki Imai
So I found a Japanese song about a girl who got cheated on. In this song, the girl accidentally discovers that the guy she is dating has a kid. Sounds familiar? But again, you will notice the absence of animosity. She continues dating him.
(I’ve been emphasising this point but I’m not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do when you find out that a guy is cheating on you. I just want to emphasise the differences between the examples.)
So, does this mean that Japanese girls are very tolerant when it comes to cheating?
Popular music does not (necessarily) represent reality
Of course, I’m not saying that popular music represents reality in an accurate manner. Popular music isn’t journalism (well journalists are not always accurate either though). But I think if there’s a theme that appears repeatedly, it reflects some aspects of the culture.
Many people say that popular music lyrics lack originality and everybody is saying the same thing over and over again. But if you compare popular music from different cultures, you will notice that some of the most unoriginal lyrics in one culture are in fact absent in other cultures.
Unoriginal lyrics are interesting precisely because they’re unoriginal. It’s what people think is normal. But something that is normal in one place is not necessarily normal in other places. That is why it’s so interesting to pay attention to song lyrics.
Having said this, I know that my examples are quite biased as they mostly come from my rather unreliable memories. So please let me know if you know any good counter-examples.
Bonus: what a Jamaican guy says about cheating
OK, I just can’t finish writing this post without mentioning this song:
Honey came in and she caught me red-handed
Creeping with the girl next door
Picture this, we were both butt naked, banging on the bathroom floor
But she caught me on the counter (It wasn’t me)
Saw me bangin’ on the sofa (It wasn’t me)
I even had her in the shower (It wasn’t me)
She even caught me on camera (It wasn’t me)
It Wasn’t Me by Shaggy
So that’s Shaggy’s answer: when you get caught, just say it wasn’t you.
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