Sexuality in Japan — from Air Sex to the Hikikomori

Sexuality in Japan — from Air Sex to the Hikikomori
Sara Martínez 2/22/2021

We all had that friend back in the day who never tired of boasting about his sexual exploits. Yes, we're talking about the mate who would claim to have pulled '10 birds' on a lads holiday in Magaluf despite never having been seen within 10 metres of anyone of the opposite sex. Inventing your conquests is a tradition as old as the '5 o'clock cuppa' — but much more frowned upon. Now picture this, you ask your friend to tell you how their night's been. Suddenly, that friend jumps out of his seat and begins thrusting, writhing, 'self-cuddling' and 'self-kissing' in the middle of an empty dance floor. We might be somewhat pertubed by this odd behaviour, but my friends, this is more than just a hobby — it's almost an artform in certain contexts. Called Air Sex, and invented in Japan (we imagine by four bored, sake-fuelled buddies), it has already been exported halfway around the world. For some unknown reason, it's also caught on in the United States — where the Air Sex World Championships are held.

If you have stage fright we don't recommend it as a hobby, but if acting is your thing — Air Sex could launch you to stardom faster than Simon Cowell. In order for you get a clearer idea of what such a performance entails, think of 'Air Guitar'’, but without the guitar. Come on, admit it — we've all done it; OK, maybe not at competition level, but certainly as mere amateurs! I mean, who hasn't pretended to be Keith Richards while bopping along to 'I can't get no satisfaction'? And, don’t tell us you've never done your best Noel Gallagher impression during the solo in ‘Don't Look Back In Anger’. Well, in the case of Air Sex, instead of clutching a guitar, you must pretend to be embracing a real-life person. The rules are strict — you get on stage fully clothed and simulate a steamy encounter. You have two minutes to get it done and, yes — your orgasm must be acted out with sufficient enthusiasm too! The more realistic, the better. However, don't get too carried away — any indecent exposure will lead to immediate disqualification!

It's true that most people see it as a bit of lighthearted, silly fun that you might partake in after having one too many shandies on a night out (ourselves included!). Nevertheless, it's still somewhat of a curiosity that Air Sex originated in the land of the rising sun. Japan is country that's abound with contradictions when it comes to the issue of sexuality. It's a culture in which the erotic imagery of the Shunga (explicit sexual prints from the 16th and 17th centuries) coexists with manga and anime porn. But at the same time, a specific vocabulary has developed to describe people, particularly men — who voluntarily lead sexless lives. As journalist Roland Kelts explains in The Guardian, the sexless Japan that the media have been talking about for years is full of soshoku danshi (grass-eating/herbivore men), otaku (anti-social weirdos) or hikikomori (young people who, quite literally, never leave their parents’ basement).

We are not here to examine the reasons for this loss of sexual desire among young people, but it is peculiar that people from a place which rejects real sex, should go to such great lengths to invent a game that simulates it.

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