“The Douzo Effect”: One case study of a sexless marriage in Japan, by SexyLass


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Hi Blog. In line with the current thread on sexuality in Japan, what follows is a testimony by a NJ female, Sexylass, about how she got into (and got out of) a sexless marriage. She also talks about “The Douzo Effect” — the chilling effect that forced sexuality has on a relationship. Have a read. Arudou Debito


The Douzo Effect
By SexyLass
September 7, 2011

I have always had a penchant for the exotic or the different. It is not the ordinary Australian girl that marries a Japanese man. There are a few of us but the most commonly-held scenario is Western men marrying Asian women (even if more Japanese men in fact marry foreign women). I love Asian faces and even though I am separated now from my Japanese husband something inside me still gets very excited when I see a good looking Asian man.

I studied Japanese at university as a mature age student and then I moved to Japan when I was thirty so I could really immerse myself into the Japanese language. I was a very lonely Western woman shagging the local temple’s Japanese monk whenever he could ‘come over and see me’ type of thing.

I met my (future) husband on a Japanese dating website for other lonely types. He spoke to me in Japanese. This was refreshing as the sexy monk who knew English never spoke to me in Japanese. This new man, lets call him Ken, charmed me by speaking to me slowly in Japanese, the way that every person in Japan expected me to speak to them in English so I could surreptitiously teach them English. Instead Ken did this for me in Japanese. Though we could probably have very well conversed in English as he had lived in America for a year of his life.

I stopped shagging the local monk and Ken and I spoke on the phone every night for several months in Japanese. We developed a long distance relationship over the phone. We had a lot of phone sex. I really believed that he was into it and his libido seemed quite similar to mine, that is, that he needed to have sex a lot. I had more long distance phone sex with Ken than I could count. Things looked very promising though we hadn’t yet met.

Ken began sending me gifts. It started with boxes of English versions of Japanese comic books. He sent me the English version of The Parasite and a few others because he wanted me to read what he read. He also sent me an orange wallet and said he had bought two so we could be like a ‘real Japanese couple’ with matching wallets. The gifts got bigger and more extravagant as time went on. There was an ice cream maker, boxes of chocolates and cartons of Lotte and Meiji chocolates, about as much as a convenience store would sell in a week perhaps. He also used to send me lots of chilled packages of meat. There was a lot of lamb, as Ken wanted me to experience the taste of his region. There were also a lot of sausages and beef and potatoes.

After a few weeks Ken convinced me to delete my profile from the dating website where we had met. I wasn’t keen to do it, but I felt obliged to with all the gifts I was getting and accepting from him. The gifts seemed never ending. I deleted my profile from the dating website.

I decided that I didn’t want to live in the same town as the monk anymore and that the only way to really emotionally leave the monk was to also physically leave the town where we both lived. So I got a better job in another prefecture. No longer was I going to be the English Conversation school slave catching trains all over Matsuyama all day from 6 in the morning till 10 at night with classes interspersed throughout train trips each day. I was going to be a different kind of English slave, an 8am to 4pm English slave. I had got a job as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) for a dispatching company. I was happy as I was going to be in Japanese schools hearing Japanese all day and although I was employed to teach English, at least I was going to be immersed in a more Japanese atmosphere. I had not come all the way to Japan to be told I could only speak English all day every day. I had studied Japanese as my university major so I wanted some kind of cultural immersion. I was happy to be going to work as an ALT.

When I arrived in the new town there was one more phone call from the monk but I sent him an angry text saying not to contact me anymore as I could no longer provide him with the emotional support he needed. That is to talk to him on the phone every night when he would call me after he had drunk a bottle of whiskey. The monk had alcohol issues. He had drained me spiritually for too long.

In the new town, the phone relationship and the phone sex continued with Ken. And so did the presents, as Ken sent me presents to settle in. These presents were too extravagant and really should have been a warning bell about Ken’s personality. I should have had them returned but I was poor and lonely and I was in love with him.

So I accepted the brand new fridge, washing machine, TV, couch, bed, vacuum cleaner, and microwave. It was over the top but the presents kept arriving. I emailed my mum and my best friend in Australia and they suggested to me that it was a dubious situation and that I should suspect something was wrong with Ken. Really I should have, someone who I had never even met in person was furnishing my flat with brand new appliances. I had heard lots of outrageous stories of generosity in Japan from other non-Japanese and I thought it was just that, Japanese generosity. I didn’t have much money at the time and I welcomed the gifts.

I enjoyed my new job as an ALT in Nagoya, I was hearing Japanese every day and some teachers in some staff rooms would speak to me in Japanese. Six months went by and Ken came down south to meet me. He was everything I hoped for, tall, dark and handsome and he took me out and he kissed me passionately on the first day. That night we slept together but that should have been a warning sign too. Although we had kissed lots of times that day I had to seduce him to sleep with me. He had got me excited through the day with lots of kissing and I thought he wanted the same thing as I did, wild hot sex. I thought he was really into me like I was into him. Though it seemed I did all the work and it was over within a minute. Oh well I thought, must have been the ‘first time excitement’ for Ken and he will probably take more time as he becomes more relaxed with me.

The next day Ken surprised me with tickets to his hometown. I stayed a week in with him and also met his parents. The meeting with the parents went well. They were kind and accepting of me in the first instance. The rest of the time we drove around his prefecture exploring and staying in various Japanese inns. There was enough sex in that week of our meeting for me to be satisfied. Once per night, and though it was at my initiation it didn’t phase me as he seemed to enjoy it. I was so happy to have met such a lovely man like Ken. I felt I had found true love.

Another thing that really makes sense to me now in hindsight is that I didn’t mind the lack of sex so much then, or lack of initiation by Ken as I had had some Australian boyfriends that wanted it all night every night. At that time I was relieved to have found someone that didn’t need sex three or four times a night. Though at the time Ken was probably wondering about this woman that had him ‘working’ every night. He was probably just being too polite and Japanese to talk about the fact that he didn’t want to do it so much.

It was a gorgeous week spent in his part of Japan and I went back down south with love in my heart for Ken. Six months later I quit my ALT job and moved prefectures to be with Ken.

I remember the day I arrived in Ken’s town; it was cold, wet, slushy and snowy. There was another warning sign when I turned up at the family noodle shop where Ken worked. I turned up and he didn’t seem too phased, he just kind of said “hi” and gave me the keys to his LDK (one room flat). His dad was in the shop and he wasn’t overly friendly either, though I had met him before. Perhaps Ken hadn’t even told his parents I was moving there. I mean it could be possible they had been quite shocked to see me actually turn up to live with their son.

I got a job as an ALT on the JET Program and life began as a live-in couple. We weren’t even living together a few months and the affection from him began to noticeably diminish. I remember one occasion when he came home after work and took my pants off. Ken went down on me, but only for about a minute, it didn’t last long, and that was the only time Ken ever went down on me in the whole 10 years we stayed together. Just once for a minute. Could you imagine just having intimate oral sex only once in your defacto or married life?

You might wonder why I stayed with him. I loved him and didn’t pay too much attention to the lack of sex at the beginning. Though I thought it was unusual I didn’t realise it was going to be a very serious problem in our marriage. But as he started to refuse my affections it became an enormous source of angst for me. It was a puzzle that I couldn’t solve, something he refused to talk about and something that I just hoped would get better and not worse as time went by. He wanted to be together all the time, just never sexually. I persisted to try and talk to him about the sexlessness but every time I would try to discuss it he refused to talk about it coming back each time with the same answer “nan no hanashi o shiteiru?” (what are you going on about?). We were both in denial that the marriage was not a normal marriage. I even suggested divorce back then but he refused to talk about that too.

Despite the pain of continuous sexual rejection I believed he truly loved me and I loved him and wanted to marry him. He never agreed or proposed though I suggested it. One day he completely surprised me by taking me to his parents’ house and announced that we were going to get married. I was shocked. And his mother must have been too as she burst into tears and hugged me hard for ages. Such a great show of emotion from Ken’s Japanese parents was quite phenomenal. Twelve months later we went to Australia and got married in my hometown.

The night before I flew out to Australia to get married I met a friend downtown for a coffee. I told her I didn’t really want to get married but my mother and his parents had gone to great expense and that I felt I had to go through with it. Really I shouldn’t have been so stupid, and so dishonest. I should have been assertive enough to cancel the wedding and at least pay my mum back for any money she had spent. I should have been a runaway bride but I was delusional. There is no excuse really, obviously I just needed to learn a very hard lesson.

So we were married. After a short honeymoon in Australia we went back to Japan and we never had sex again unless I insisted on it or initiated it. It was demoralising. It was shameful. Even in the first week of marriage I found strange messages on his phone of meeting rendezvous arrangements between him and various people. I thought they were potential girlfriends but in hindsight I think they must have been prostitutes. I confronted him and said I wanted an annulment. I didn’t care anymore and even told his parents about it, his parents screamed at him and he never did it again. Looking back I should have relied on my instinct. If you feel something is wrong in your relationship, well it is. If you think your partner is playing up, they generally are, what you feel is not imaginary.

It was like a prison sentence, not a marriage. I felt like I was in a sexual prison. The life sentence was that I would never have sex again with my husband but not with anyone else either because in the hope that things could get better I chose to be faithful to this man. I would get angry about it, then I would argue with him, then he would do something nice for me, take me out or buy me a present or tell me that he loved me. Each time he convinced me to stay in the marriage with him for love. This pattern continued for years. I would get angry and confront him and he’d convince me to stay, then I would calm down for a while always hoping for the best, thinking that one day our marriage might become slightly sexually normal. By normal I mean possibly we might have sex once a year or once every six months. I know now that if things don’t start out as you’d like they are not going to change into what you would like. I really seem to need to learn the hard way.


After five years I was tired of teaching English in Japan. And there weren’t many employment opportunities for non-Japanese where we lived. I wanted to broaden my employment prospects. Ultimately I planned to return to Australia and I hoped to get a job as a Japanese translator or interpreter. I thought I would try and get into an Australian university that offered the best course in translation and interpreting. I had to pay an invigilator and that person needed to be a lecturer working at a university in Japan. I didn’t know anyone so I took a chance and emailed a fairly well known teacher and writer. I will call him John. I emailed him and asked him to come over to my place and proctor me for a fee. John agreed.

And so John came over and invigilated me. I didn’t pass. My Japanese still wasn’t as good as I had hoped it was. Though John stayed for a cup of tea and a biscuit and we chatted. It was great to get to know John. He was divorced from a Japanese woman and as a matter of course we got talking about our Japanese marriages. I spilled over that I was in a sexless marriage with a great guy. How is that for an oxymoron, sexless marriage but great guy? “He doesn’t satisfy me or give me much affection, but he is a top guy, a good husband.” John identified too that his ex-wife had also given him years of sexless marriage. We made jokes about the ridiculousness of sexless marriages, and shared demoralising stories. Most importantly though I was given some comic relief to laugh at such a sad situation, being in a marriage when clearly one person didn’t want to be intimate with the other anymore. And possibly never had really wanted to.

One of John’s stories really stood out. He coined it the ‘Douzo Effect’. John recalled to me that similarly to me he had hounded his wife a fair bit as to when they would have sex again. To appease him, he told me that one night she got in the shower, dried herself off, then with a towel around her laid on their bed and said ‘douzo’. John was horrified and completely turned off. It was as though she was offering herself, her body but she was not actually interested in any of the sex that would take place. Literally offering herself for him to do with what he wanted to do with her, but she wouldn’t be there emotionally, just physically. As demoralising as it was we still laughed a lot about this story. And so the Douzo Effect was born. I never thought I would experience the Douzo Effect. John said another thing to me that day that really made sense too, “if you don’t like who you yourself are when you are with a person, it is time to get out of the relationship”. I listened and understood those words but didn’t act on them. I just kept hoping things would get better.

So life went on and I continued to check Ken’s phone. There was no sign of anything clandestine and in my denial I convinced myself Ken just wasn’t a sexual person. Ken got a spouse visa and came back to Australia with me and we moved in with my mother for 12 months. Later we moved into my townhouse which I had bought ten years previously. He got various jobs. He became mentally unstable. Countless times I tried to hug him and he would physically push me away. On the few occasions when I did initiate sex and we did it, his forehead would be all tight and frowning when we were in the act. It looked like he was physically repulsed by me. It was always with me on top and him on the bottom. He was too lazy to even make an effort to try any other positions. As long as he didn’t have to do anything and could just lay there he would ‘participate’.

It was a couple of years later when it happened to me. After years of very little sex and fruitless discussions (initiated by me) with Ken about the marriage the Douzo Effect became reality. I had all but given up trying to resolve the problem of our sexless marriage with Ken but I still mentioned it as a joke sometimes. I think I had already forgotten about it by the time he got back from his shower and laid on his bed (as we were sleeping in separate beds by then). I went into his room to say goodnight and he said to me ‘douzo’ as he lay there naked on a towel on his single bed. I couldn’t believe it, years later exactly the same thing that John had shared with me was happening to me. Needless to say I was completely turned off and didn’t take up the offer.

That was the last time I even talked about sex with him again. The Douzo Effect had turned me off so much I stopped even mentioning anything about our sexlessness. I began to completely give up on the marriage. I gave up trying to communicate with him about it and in my mind wondered how I could continue in a marriage with a man that never wanted to have sex with me ever again. I often wondered if I would experience mutual affection or sex again in this lifetime, before I died. I knew that my marriage was not a real marriage. By then I had even talked about my sexless situation with my family. My mother, my brothers and my sister-in-law knew about my sexless marriage. It was all so shameful for me. Before I had met Ken I had never spoken to my family about my sex life, that kind of thing did not feel right. But I had become so desperate and my self image was so distorted I couldn’t help sharing the details of my stupid situation with family and even workmates. In hindsight I think the sharing about it was the beginning of me emotionally leaving the marriage. By verbalising the situation I was beginning to clear a pathway out of the marriage. Though getting out was a long process.

Eventually there was no sex at all and by this point I no longer tried to have sex with him. After years of trying I no longer WANTED to have sex with him. We had not kissed for years. If he held my hand or sat next to me I would push him away, the same way he had physically pushed me off him for years. He had hurt me so much that I would not let him back in. I got fatter and ate more and more.

Despite Ken not wanting to have sex with me he desperately wanted a child and wanted me to go through the IVF process. He wanted an incubator. Thank goodness I was barren. I entertained this stupid thought and to cure my infertility I had an operation to get fibroids removed from my uterus. At the time I thought it would be my last chance at having a child. Funnily enough Ken’s grandmother had had the same operation. Her operation was so successful that she had produced four children after, one being Ken’s father.

After my operation when I was full of stitches and could barely walk Ken became mentally unstable and was in the end committed to a mental hospital for a few weeks. His family rang me and abused me and said that it was my fault that he had had his breakdown. That was interspersed with phone calls asking me to call the mental hospital and to interpret for them. After one too many abusive phone calls, I said to his mother that they would need to come to Australia to get him out and that they would need to do it through the Japanese consulate. They did, I didn’t hear from them much after that. They came and picked up Ken and took him back to Japan for lots of promised therapy.

Ken phoned me and mailed me from Japan as though nothing was wrong. In no uncertain terms I told him to stop calling me and in the emails I said I definitely didn’t want him in my life anymore. Ken was either angry or depressed before he finally broke down. He exhibited behaviours that didn’t correspond with friendship let alone marriage. He needed professional help. I did not like the person I had become in the marriage either. I had to begin to look after myself.

Unannounced, Ken turned up on my doorstep three months later. He said he was sleeping in his car. I felt sorry for him and took him back. He lived with me again for another twelve months. We never had sex again. We continued to sleep in separate rooms for those 12 months. I had become a mother figure to him. He wanted to stay in this mother-son marriage but again I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt that he was just using me for a place to live by then. He was also planning to set up a business despite being mentally unstable and having severe health problems related to his diabetes.

I suggested he find a share-house and so instead of calmly looking for a place online or in the paper he left in a wild rage. I did not throw him out, he chose to leave the way he did.

I heard from my sister-in-law who he had gone to visit and complain about me to, that he was sleeping in his car again. I was worried about him so I checked his mail. I know that is wrong but I was genuinely worried about him. I learnt that he had been sleeping in his car and emailing prostitutes and arranging meetings.

He had emailed a woman and arranged to buy her used knickers for the sum of $60 in a car park at night. Strangely though he had been coming back to my house during the day when I was at work and doing the dishes and putting the rubbish out. Buying used knickers at night and house chores by day.

After I discovered what he was up to, the proof that Ken still had sexual desires just not with me, I sent him a text asking for my key back. I also let him know that he wasn’t welcome in my house anymore. He returned my key and took the last of his things. I didn’t tell him I knew about the prostitutes, knickers or other strange mails. It was not going to resolve anything by this stage.

I have not seen him since and I don’t wish to. I still miss him, but I realise I am probably missing the Ken that I want him to be and not the Ken that he really is. I would rather be single and a bit lonely than to live in that lonely prison of a marriage. A marriage where I couldn’t have sex with my partner but I couldn’t have sex with anyone else either. I plan to have sex again with someone who mutually wants to have sex with me before I die at least. Now I have the freedom I should have granted myself long ago. I should have ended the relationship and not married but hindsight is only valuable if we treat it as a learning experience.

Basically Ken is a good person and despite everything that happened between us I wish him all the best. I hope he is ok but we don’t need to be married anymore, that is for sure. I think we are just two people that were getting older and got married for all the wrong reasons. We certainly aren’t the first and wont be the last.


You might wonder why I stayed for so long, ten years with this man. I took my marriage vows seriously and tried to make the best of the marriage. I continuously hoped for the best, that things would get better. I even convinced myself at times that things could be worse and that I would be able to stay in a sexless marriage. Clearly the truth is that Ken didn’t desire me, he wanted a wife who played his mother. He is still interested in sex, just not with me.

It is really important that a couple agree about sex before they get married. No one is going to change and it is really important that your idea of marriage is the same idea of your partner’s idea of marriage, before you sign up. People get married for the wrong reasons. I did. I was lonely and I was worried about my age and finding someone. I also thought I had met the most wonderful man. He was kind, hardworking, funny, cooked well and always wanted to be with me. I ignorantly thought everything would work out for the best.

Being single now is great. I don’t plan on getting married again. I have a pretty good job and have interesting hobbies. I wouldn’t mind a sex friend or two but that’s all. I don’t want to live with anyone again. I am not holding out for Mr Right or even Mr Fantastic. I am not even searching for anyone. I am enjoying my life, my friends, my work and my hobbies. I like who I am and I will not stay in a relationship again because I think I have to.


Recently I took a risk and asked an acquaintance on a date. I didn’t expect anything to come of it but since I wrote my story I have had sex with this lovely man. He worships my body with his. Sleeping with him in the last few weeks has boosted my self-image and self-esteem more than thousands of dollars worth of therapy ever could. I don’t know where this relationship will go and am not worried either. I am enjoying the intimacy. The new man never directly or indirectly criticises my body. He accepts me and loves me for who I am. I did not realise how much the sexless marriage had damaged my self esteem until I finally had mutually desired sex again. The sex I am having now has done more for me than any therapy would ever do. I cannot emphasise that enough for anyone who is coming out of a sexless marriage. Hallelujah I am a woman again, a desirable beautiful woman.


26 comments on ““The Douzo Effect”: One case study of a sexless marriage in Japan, by SexyLass

  • It is really hard to draw many conclusions from one or two isolated situations.

    There does seem to be evidence that Japanese are the least sexually active major nation.

    Interesting questions to pursue would be:

    Are Japanese who are attracted to marriage with foreigners somehow different sexually?

    Are non-Japanese who are attracted to marriage with Japanese somehow different sexually?

    It could be that Japanese who want to marry a foreigner do so for the exoticism of publicly having a spouse who is obviously different, even if those Japanese are also sexually repulsed by such non-Japanese, for example as one theory.

    It could also be that non-Japanese who marry a Japanese have very limited marital choices (we hear and read that most Japanese try to dissuade their children from marriage with a non-Japanese) and that such a restricted pool of Japanese are more likely to have sexual pathologies.

    There are many other interesting theories that merit study as well.

    But, again, one or two examples really only titillate the mind as to potential reasons, while offering no real ability to satisfy that set of inquiries.

  • This another one of those situations where a demonstrated pattern of behavior in ones potential marriage partner can easily be extrapolated forward to the obvious conclusion where you’re just not getting any, and your ego becomes shattered in the process. Kudos to the author for sharing HER story, and for having the courage to just GET OUT of a psychologically destructive relationship for the sake of ones personal fulfillment.

    I had a Japanese partner who was mentally ill, and the experience shattered my ego, and I probably didn’t really recover from the experience for three years to a point where I recovered my sense of self worth.

    Boys and girls, if you see the warning signs, don’t fool yourself that if you try harder your partner will change. They are who they are. Just RUN. You’ll find a worthwhile partner like the author and I have recently through patience, trial and error. Just don’t make the error your life’s work.

  • James in Nara says:

    The squeaky wheel gets heard. While there are obviously relationships and marriages with problems, and there is obviously a problem with young people just not getting married (because more women want to continue their careers) and having children, the people who are in satisfying cross-cultural marriages/relationships aren’t the ones writing in to get their stories posted on Debito’s site. You can already see from Debito’s poll that over 50% of respondents are having sex once or more a week…

  • Interesting questions chazuru but by no means is this just a problem for kokusai kekkons, though maybe they are more vocal about it than japanese only couples

  • First, I’d like to congratulate you for the strenght to share such sad story with everyone, and to offer my honest condolence for your 10 years in hell, and your broken marriage, shattered dreams and huge trauma.

    You mentioned that your husband suffers from diabetes. Was this from the very beginning of your marriage? I had a relative who divorced her previous husband because he was diabetic and they couldn’t have children. I looked about the relation between diabetes and sexuality , and the result came that men usually tend to experience impotence, erectile disorder and decrease in their libido
    Another thing that got my attention was that your husband’s mental health deteriorated to the extent that he had to be admitted to a hospital. Given the lack of proper mental care in Japan, probably the mental issues have existed from the very beginning, but thanks to his family’s support and your support too, he had managed to handle them somehow. Once away from his family, he just couldn’t copy with his mental issues. These issues could have (and very likely had) affected his sexuality, but neither him, nor his family would admit them and look for help.Although I don’t have some written proof or link about it, but it seems to me that Japanese people are still very reluctant about admitting mental issues and looking for specialized help.
    I, like you, have tried dating sites in Japan. First time was when I had just come to Japan, but was very fluent in Japanese for a newcommer.The site was entirely in Japanese , and it seemed all its members were Japanese. I could divide the men who contacted me into two groups (BTW, none of them suspected I’M foreigner before I told them so)-one was looking for a one night stand, and the other had some issues, obviously-physically not so attractive, to put it mildly, overly nervous, complexed, or unusual sexual preferences.Neither of these groups was option for me, but from the way you’re describing your husband, he seems like belonging to the last category of the second group.5 years later I enrolled in a dating site in English for J and NJ, just for entertainment, and the types who contacted me, seemed more from the second group. Of course, since I wasn’t for serious there, I left them hanging.
    As a bottom line, while I think that ignoring mental health might be cultural issue in Japan, your case seems to me more like personal issue. Still it is very sad story and I wish you happiness with your new beloved.

  • Thanks for sharing your story, SexyLass. It’s one that is sadly familiar to me. My good friend (also an Australian, married to a Japanese man) was devastated when she found herself in a sexless marriage. However, in her case, the sex was reasonably regular and satisfying at the beginning of their marriage, and simply dried up after their son was born. Her husband refused to have sex with her, or show her any kind of affection, even when she begged him. It was as if he no longer viewed her as a woman, and more as a mother. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) she quickly decided to leave her marriage and return to Australia. She’s now newly divorced and happily involved with a new man, just as you are.

    I think that many Japanese people really do have messed-up attitudes towards sex. I had a Japanese boyfriend who liked sex and was good at it – but only on his terms. One day I tried to intitiate sex with him for a change, and he angrily pushed me away and snapped “is that all you think about? Why don’t you become a porn actress, or something?” I’ll never forget my shock at his words. It was as if he’d punched me. After thinking about it, I decided that this was a social norm in Japan (that women are supposed to regard sex as something unwholesome, or distasteful) and went along with it only when he wanted it.

    And when that relationship ended, I made the decision never, ever to get involved with another Japanese man. I’m sure that there are some good ones out there, but why take the chance?

  • I think this is more of the “real” than the unusual in Japan. I experienced the same, and after dealing with allot of mental issues I just got burned out on the sex issue as well. I think allot of Japanese have the mothers complex, you see it in porn etc. Japan is not really conductive for long term sexual relationships (marriages). Short term is ok but when someone just lays there and squeals like a manga character and treats you like a doll or something, well the fizzle factor kicks in, things begin to fizzle out, but by then you have become attached. Its not something unique amoung Japan/Japan marriages, its also in the NJ/Japan community as well. Other nationalities are much more passoniate in the bedroom, but they are also prone to go shopping if they are feeling selfish or not getting satisfied, whereas in Japan I see more commmitment, even if its done out of obligation/gaman. Outward emotion in Japan is something that is not promoted, just watch people riding the train, hiding behind the cell phones with emotionaless faces. Japanese women have told me, “you foriegners can never understand Japanese heart” but actually I think we can, but its something that isnt always agreeable and you know what happens when you voice that.

  • Coming from a NJ mans perspective, I guess some of us arent always receptive to sex with the J partner because of the negativity in this society. First you have the sterotyping, racist attitudes towards “halfu” children. I for one, dont want to deal with that in Japan. Then there is the long term prospect of life here, vs. somewhere else. What initially starts out with lots of affection can get you burned out latter, but this is coming from a male perspective. I can only imagine coming from a NJ female side…lol…with the mother in law etc. wow.

  • I agree with the comments that we must be wary of jumping to conclusions. However, there is just too much anecdotal evidence for me to believe this is an isolated incident. Too many couples who say the same things, and too many that end their relationships for the reason they are reduced to being little more than roommates on less than spectacular terms. I have been with a Japanese woman for the past 14 years (the last 8 as a married couple) The sex does seem to have more or less dissappeared in the past two or three. When I met her, she already had two teenage daughters from her first marriage, but for a while the sex was good and regular, so ours must be regarded as an atypical case study in some ways. Reality check: we are both around fifty years old, if that is significant or not, I don’t know. We will be moving back to the UK next year, I remember that we had more sex during the two years we lived there before. There again, we were younger then, so that might also be significant.

    The Japanese seem to be very rigid about their roles. They use titles rather than names more often than not even amongst family members. That might play a part. Once you have had one or two children, there is no reason for sex, it could be said. I’m reminded of the old Japanese saying “You don’t feed a fish once you have caught it!” which may tangentially apply here. I do also think there is a lot of untreated mental illness in Japan. Counselling and therapy are in their infancy here, and I see men (more often men than women seem to exhibit these symptoms) who appear to be suffering from various problems. They talk to themselves on the trains, they act as if they are only vaguely aware of their surroundings, barging into people and so forth. I used to dismiss this as ill mannered burnouts, now I am not so judgmental. Since I have to some extent recovered after having suffering from depression for a few years I am more able to recognise the symptoms in others. Depression certainly kills sex drive as dead as the proverbial nail. Scuzzy above mentioned the woman who said we foreigners can never understand the Japanese heart. Perhaps the woman was voicing an opinion hoping we wouldn’t speak aloud of what she was only too painfully aware of herself. I think I can a little, after all, I have spent in total 25 years of my life in this country. From our Western perspective, it is an emotional desert, and too often, a stoicially sad, proud, and terribly lonely place.

  • Two points resonate:

    “I do also think there is a lot of untreated mental illness in Japan.”


    [Japan] “is an emotional desert, and too often, a stoicially sad, proud, and terribly lonely place.”

    An emotional desert will create and exacerbate mental illness.

    And, if such illness is routinely untreated, that can create a situation in which mentally ill behaviours and views are accepted as within the normal range.

    So, potentially, sexless behaviour could be accepted as normative.

    If that is true, it is all the more reason why sexlessness should be viewed as a serious public health issue that merits serious approaches.

    Japanese should be taught from early ages that healthy sexuality is important and pleasurable.

    It could, as a hypothesis, also play a role in other issues within Japan, such as immigration, economic growth, etc.

    A society with a major public health issue that is essentially untreated might have public policies in areas other than public health that are impacted. I admit that the hypothesis is rather tenuous.

    Interestingly, Japan has not apparently even acknowledged this public health issue in sexuality.

    That lack of candour is also a feature of other issues in Japan (like the Fukushima mess, etc.)

  • I don’t think anyone has brought up the flip side of this: from my observations of people around me, extra-marital affairs seem to be more common and more tolerated here than in the UK, at least. Cause or effect?

    — I say more effect.

  • “extra-marital affairs seem to be more common and more tolerated here”

    Interesting point.

    So, a question is:

    Since sexlessness and couplehood are linked, then what about sexual affairs?

    In such affairs, are they essentially couple relationships (in which durable bonds exist beyond sexuality), or are they essentially purely sexual relationships?

    An idea is:

    Perhaps Japanese simply compartmentalise relationships into couple relationships (which are often sexless), and sexual relationships (which are generally couplehood-less)?

    So, a sense of the tenor of affair relationships would be useful to pursue.

    Are affairs in Japan essentially sexual in nature, or are they essentially marriageless couplehood?

    If the former, then that suggests that Japanese are essentially incapable of simultaneously being in a couple relationship and sexual.

    If the latter, it suggests that Japanese may simply be giving up on formal marriage, like many in the Netherlands have, but not on couplehood with sexuality.

  • Charuzu mentions extra-marital affairs. I know one couple, they are both Japanese. The wife is a friend of my wife and she has a lover. It seems this is because now her children are both independent, she wants to have a sexual relationship to satisfy her desires, her husband is pleasant but totally boring and too tired to be interested in sex, same old story! She has no intention of divorcing him, indeed I get the impression from the handful of times I have met them together that she likes him but he is more like a friend to her while her lover (who is a married man of a similar age to her) fills other needs. She is able to compartmentalise her life in that way, and to some extent, presumably finds a kind of happiness.

    I have heard it said repeatedly that even traditionally, the Japanese sought affection outside of their marriages. Marriage was a formal contract to continue the family line, to ensure stability. It is similar across many cultures. One thing we Westerners are perhaps forgetting here is that our notion of romantic love is by no means a universal concept.

    I have no idea how widespread infidelity is in Japan. I saw a poll conducted in the UK recently suggesting about 15-20% of couples cheat at least once in their marriage. Assuming the rest are giving honest responses to the pollsters that is!

  • A sexless marriage eventually becomes a waste of time. It will also make you miserable and miss all the other fantastic opportunities out in the world. Sex isn`t everything but it seems to be worth a lot of points. Just think, if your husband or wife didn`t cook or do your laundry for you, would you care so much? Probably not divorce worthy or affair worthy is it? You live once. Make sure you are happy with your situation. If not, it`ll eat you from the inside out.

    — Marriage legally binds one to have sex with the other (divorces don’t happen due to lack of washing the dishes, but they do happen for infidelity; it’s grounds). If that need isn’t fulfilled, then what’s the point? But as I said, sleeping around is a national pastime in Japan, and it’s no wonder. A culture encouraging sexlessness after marriage is too strong in Japan.

  • I wonder what effect pornography and the “toys” industry has on sexlessness in marriages? Even without infidelity, there are many instances where a man becomes so obsessed with self-pleasure that they have nothing left for actual sex. (source: message boards. Not a scientific survey, but there are many documented anecdotes. No offense intended to men in general. Just data.). I also wonder about the workloads? A stressful workweek can drain one of lots of energy, and it seems that sexual energy is the first to go.

    I certainly agree that with the drastically declining birthrates, it seems like it should be of national interest to promote love and sex within marriage for procreation.

    Also of interest, I read an article a few weeks ago about a superbug strain of gonorrhea that was determined to have originated in Kyoto. (It has since traveled all over the world). This gonorrhea strain is resistant to antibiotics, meaning that it is harder to get rid of. If “sleeping around” is so prolific, there is a huge potential public health risk. Bacterial STD infections statistically increase the risk of infertility in women. When the reproductive tract is suffering inflammation, it can cause damage to the tissues and make it difficult for embryos to pass through the Fallopian tubes and make it difficult for implantation in the uterine wall. Antibiotic-resistant STDs are scary stuff. (I speak with the authority of having a Ph.D in molecular and developmental biology). 🙂 It follows then that this could further reduce birthrates if women are waiting until later to have children, if they are at higher risk for infertility on top of that.

  • I think that this:

    “I certainly agree that with the drastically declining birthrates, it seems like it should be of national interest to promote love and sex within marriage for procreation. ”

    is a bit over-stated.

    It would seem like “it seems like it should be of national interest to promote love and sex within committed couplehood for procreation”

    Is marriage necessary in contrast to committed couplehood?

    For example, Japanese gays cannot marry.

    Similarly, in many places in Europe couples form without marriage.

    — The question is weird. This ain’t Europe. Marriage is MADE necessary in Japan, and the legal/koseki system backs that up. If you want to have any legal rights to your children (or for that matter many legal rights for your children), inheritance, joint health coverage, etc., you MUST marry in Japan. “Committed couplehood”, including Common Law and Civil Unions (let alone separate last names for married people) as a topic is moot, as they are not permitted in Japan. Are you not aware of that by now? Or am I missing your point?

    My point: When sex is also something established as a trapping of marriage (as in, one acknowledged grounds for divorce in Japan is infidelity), the institution of marriage is a very strong one in Japan. So if sexual relations are in fact culturally stifled by marriage in Japan, this IS a social problem and a deterrent to getting married in the first place.

  • I will say that depression is absolutely destructive to libido. If it was a depression-based mental illness in the post, then that could have a huge effect on his behavior.

    Furthermore, some people are simply not all that sexual. Some women (of any nationality) are insatiable, and some men (again, of any nationality) are essentially asexual. If there is a potential for a genetic component to libido (I have no idea if there is, I’m just hypothesizing), it could be concentrated in certain gene pools.

  • “Are you not aware of that by now? Or am I missing your point?”

    I guess that the point I was attempting to make was more along the aspirational or theoretical side.

    The current Japanese system denies human rights to gay couples who cannot marry but have or wish to have a child.

    I also was trying (inartfully) to deal with the issue your raise:

    “if sexual relations are in fact culturally stifled by marriage in Japan, this IS a social problem and a deterrent to getting married in the first place.”

    There are two solutions to this social problem:

    1) improve sexuality within marriage.

    2) change the marriage legal system in Japan.

    The first in some ways appears easier, because it does not require dealing with the government.

    However, it does require cultural changes at the individual level. And, in a society in which mental health problems are rather widespread, and in which there are many barriers to such improvement, that will be quite hard.

    Furthermore, for the first one, I would argue that for women the current marriage system is so unfair that non-marriage would seem to be a rational response (and so apparently do many women). A society in which gender discrimination is rampant and in which that is only worsened by marriage, and then to top it off the marriage is likely to involve an element of sexlessness would all seem to be sound reasons for women not to marry.

    The second option, changing the legal system is also hard.

    However, is it harder than the first?

    Changes to Japanese culture and (as I would argue) to a reasoned response by many women to avoid marriage are extremely hard; Japanese culture has changes slowly in the last historical period.

    Changes to laws are also hard, but historically may be easier. One need but consider that the Japanese governmental system 100 years ago was rather different than the current system.

    But was its culture so different then regarding sexuality and marriage? [I ask; I do not know.]

    Moreover, I would argue that Japan really does violate fundamental rights of human dignity for gays.

    That alone should argue in favor of some important changes to the legal system, even given the strong legal role of the koseki system.

    Japanese who seem at certain times to prate to me about human rights issues outside Japan (and implicitly casting Japan as a paragon of virtue) should be made aware that Japan itself denies some of its own citizens the human right of being able to enter into a legally recognized and legally respected family relationship.

    Such fundamental denials of human dignity are too often viewed as insignificant in Japan.

    — Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying.

  • The Caucasian trophy wife, bought and paid for. Sorry, but thats what Sexylass was.

    Thoughts on the article, and things that resonated with me.

    First, the buying of gifts to build up obligation. “After a few weeks Ken convinced me to delete my profile from the dating website where we had met. I wasn’t keen to do it, but I felt obliged to with all the gifts I was getting and accepting from him. The gifts seemed never ending. I deleted my profile from the dating website.”

    I have seen Japanese salesman at our company use the same technique. They never actually are so rude to come and out and ask the potential client to sign on the dotted line. Instead what they do through endless aisatsu, meetings sounding out what the client might need, free evaluations, etc is try to build up a sense of obligation on the part of the client to enter a (business) relationship.

    I used to know a married non Japanese Asian girl who came to Japan to be a “dancer” who had her entire apartment, phone, rent etc paid for by her bar customer, a yakuza type. He was trying to ingratiate his way into her life through obligation, he had control of her phone and email, and sure enough, soon wanted to stop all her contact with other males- as Ken wanted her to delete her profile, etc.

    If you offer something to a Japanese, they will sometimes hesitate to accept it for fear of incurring “giri” or obligation- they have have said this to me outright. Sexylass, by accepting all the gifts, incurred that obligation and I think she was shallow and naive to begin with, and perhaps got the hard lesson she mentioned, and arguably asked for.

    Second, how Ken and his father didnt seem outwardly excited when sexylass turned up- because it was already obvious that she would come and live with them, and so was a “done deal”.

    This dovetails with the worldwide complaint that for men, it is the “hunt” that matters (and then they can settle back and act as boorishly normal, it was in fact mainly just a courtship display to get the female to comply), while the woman, naturally fooled into thinking the guy was really like the front he put up when he wooed her, wants the courtship to continue.

    So, this part is just a Japanese take on a universal phenomenon. Its just that the Japanese, through daily use of “tatemae” are arguably the masters (and mistresses) of this.

    Finally, I ll be honest and say something which might make me unpopular.I don`t really like Sexylass all that much. I think she is (or was) a shallow Asian fetishist to start out with. I myself get excited when I see a nice woman, regardless of race, but for her it is an Asian thing. And then when Ken, her mysterious benfactor turns up, he was

    ” everything I hoped for, tall, dark and handsome”

    Wow, lady. What if he had been short, white and handsome? That would have been AWKWARD. Not the stereotype you had ordered online? Would you have turned him down? Shallow gets shallow, I`m afraid!

  • I disagree with:

    “I think she is (or was) a shallow Asian fetishist to start out with. I myself get excited when I see a nice woman, regardless of race, but for her it is an Asian thing. ”

    People do have sexual preferences that matter.

    There are some physical traits that do affect individual sexual preferences.

    Some men like very curvaceous women, and would not feel stimulated by a thin, flat-chested woman.

    For many straight women, the scent of a man is important to sexuality.

    See, for example: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/13/the-power-of-smell-in-picking-sex-partners/

    While the notion that acknowledging such strong preferences may seem “shallow” I believe that it actually demonstrates self-knowledge.

    If one knows that some physical traits trigger reliably a sexual response, then I do not find it shallow to acknowledge that and to want a partner who reliably arouses feelings of sexuality.

    Sexuality is a crucial element in a couple relationship.

    So, while I recognize that it sounds fine in the very abstract to say that the only thing that should matter is the character of the person, in truth that is not so.

    For example, many heterosexuals or homosexuals could not transform to be the opposite orientation, even if a partner arose who had ideal personality traits.

    Sexuality is not well understood, but I do think that it is reductionist to believe that one’s sexuality preferences can be suppressed solely because of the character of a partner.

    Physical traits do matter.

    Indeed, there are evolutionary reasons why they may have mattered a great deal to our hominid ancestors.

    I agree that the woman, by accepting too many gifts, created a trap for herself.

    But here fixation for tall, dark and handsome East Asian men is neither positive nor negative.

    Indeed, by moving to Japan, she has ensured that she has access to a relatively large number of such men.

  • @Charuzu, but “sexylass”`s preference seems to be based on a racial preference at worst, or she was making her decisions purely based on sexual preference at best. In which case she pretty much got what she asked for- what was really a fling that peetered out, or should have but one that was arguably prolonged by the incurred “giri”, Ken`s fancy of a Caucasian Trophy Wife to put on the mantelpiece while having affairs on the side, and by Sexylass`s misreading of the entire relationship as finding “Mr Perfect”, ie. a guy who completed all the criteria on her Person Specification list (Asian? Check. Tall? Check. Generous? Check.)

    This is arguably cynical, but it is one reading of the story.

    And it is just that, one person`s story, or “blah blah”. Though there were some interesting and relevant sociological points raised which resonate with other peoples` experiences in Japan, I find other parts of it shallow and immature, not things we can learn from but can certainly laugh at as things we did early on too (though not at age thirty, I hope).

    Perhaps the monk shagging and then the case of “Mr Perfect” Ken just illustrate how lonely and desperate some people can get. How desperate they are to make a square peg fit into the round hole of their preconceived notions of what a perfect Japanese husband (or wife) should be. Thus, I cry “Asian Fetish” in this case.

    And in the epilogue, it sounds like (though it is unclear) she achieved happiness only after she seems to have let go and moved on beyond these self-imposed criteria (of race).

    As for the future of this discussion, I wonder if the inclusion of what was a very personal experience is not in fact lowering the whole tone of what was a serious discussion. I mean, her handle is “Sexylass”! Come on…. It was fun/sad to read, but hard to take seriously. It ventures into the realms of Cosmopolitan Magazine.

    What next, a blog on better Japanese love making techniques?
    Can we please return to the high standards of analytical debate and empirical evidence that Debito is known for. I think we should move on, as even “Sexylass” has.

    — For the record, I came up with the pseudonym “Sexylass”, which is a crib from the word “sexless”. It was not the author’s idea.

    Anyway, you can say that a person is misguided, but contributors to Debito.org are generally protected from “blaming the victim for their plight”, something that goes on too often here in Japan in the NJ community. You’ve made your point twice now: You’re not sympathetic to the author’s feelings, or even her sexual predilections (she has a “thing” for Asians, but I think many of us would plead similarly guilty, so tone it down). Now let’s move on, please.

  • I have seen some here that mention getting out of a sexless marriage is the best thing that can happen to you- and perhaps agreed- but what if the J partner starts with the jisatsu drama? I think many of us have experienced that one.

  • A brave woman says:

    *Finally, I ll be honest and say something which might make me unpopular.I don`t really like Sexylass all that much. I think she is (or was) a shallow Asian fetishist to start out with. I myself get excited when I see a nice woman, regardless of race, but for her it is an Asian thing. And then when Ken, her mysterious benfactor turns up, he was ” everything I hoped for, tall, dark and handsome” Wow, lady. What if he had been short, white and handsome? That would have been AWKWARD. Not the stereotype you had ordered online? Would you have turned him down? Shallow gets shallow, I`m afraid!*

    The OP (I can’t bring myself to call her Sexylass) is a good personal friend. She showed me story before she sent it in for publishing. The story is real and raw. I told her it read like a police report but that she had enormous courage to write it. In reality writing the story is part of her grieving process and at that point in time I don’t think it was possible to write it differently in a way that would convey the depth and complexity of emotions that she felt.

    In real life she is a wonderfully vivacious, funny, intelligent woman who has a heart of gold. It doesn’t come through in the story. I can see why she may seem unlikable, shallow, materialistic. But she’s not. Being a new foreigner in Japan, particularly female, can be indescribably hard. Most women I know here have been through and/or continue to go through dark episodes of depression. The OP is no exception.

    There is something wrong in Japan. I don’t know how many people I know who have complained of a sexless marriage. Sure there are exceptions, but when house “reform” shows typically show married couples in separate beds, it‘s obviously within the framework of “normal” to sleep apart. The soul destroying nature of constant rejection eats away at confidence like a cancer. And yet the stigma on it is such that many people are too ashamed to take action.

    “Why did your marriage fail?” ……”S/he wouldn’t have sex with me.” It sounds so narcissistic , self absorbed, shallow. But actually a person that refuses to have sex is choosing to never open themselves fully to giving and receiving love from his/her partner. It should be on the table. It should be being talked about.

    OP you are a very brave woman to put it out there for discussion. I wish you all the luck and happiness in the world. You are well along the path to recovery.

  • Regarding:

    ““Why did your marriage fail?” ……”S/he wouldn’t have sex with me.” It sounds so narcissistic , self absorbed, shallow.”

    I see nothing at all shallow or narcissistic here.

    Sexuality is at the very center and is the distinguishing feature of a couples relationship.

    One can have many friends simultaneously.

    One generally only has one high-quality sexual couples relationship at a time. (I recognize that polyamorous people will disagree with this.)

    If one does not demand that high quality sexuality exist within a marriage, then one has abandoned the marriage.

  • A brave woman says:

    If one does not demand that high quality sexuality exist within a marriage, then one has abandoned the marriage.

    I totally agree, unless there are extreme circumstances and even then…. But I am unsure that’s how the public in general sees it.

    There is a fair amount of feminist literature (ironically in the light of this story) that emphasises the right of women to say no to sex in marriage and that men should be uncomplaining about a woman that doesn’t want to have sex, because it’s her right not to. And that’s true, up to a point. Rape does exist in marriage but so does emotional abuse of neglect… and that gets scant attention.

    Who wants to have regular sex with someone that doesn’t want to?… only an extreme fringe I imagine. In Japan I think a big mystery question is why are there so many people who don’t want to have sex with their chosen partner?

    It’s nothing like Holland where people opt out of the institution of marriage. Here the institution remains the base of society with the tax system, the koseki etc. but within marriages, voluntarily entered into, people opt out of sex… for reason/s that merit much more serious study.

  • “In Japan I think a big mystery question is why are there so many people who don’t want to have sex with their chosen partner?”

    No big mystery; traditionally many have married for money or parental approval, not love. I knew a woman in such a marriage who said she had only married her husband because her parents liked him. They only had sex to procreate, she continued, and was a five minute experience with a specific purpose.

    I contend that in some international marriages the J partner has sometimes similarly married for financial security (expat deal) or because they want to ultimately leave Japan. Or because a “half” kid is cute.

    Its this whole “friends for a specific purpose” cultural trait that was discussed on the “friendship” thread. I m not saying it is everyone but there is a definite underlying tradition of thinking in this function based manner. If you can`t find love, find something else might be an apt description.


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