It’s almost impossible to write about this story without referencing The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the successful 2006 movie that did so much for Steve Carell’s career. In Japan, it seems, the proliferation of Andy Stitzers (Carell’s character in that movie) has become something of an active social problem. According to the Japan Times, “A 2010 survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that around a quarter of unmarried Japanese men in their 30s were still virgins — even leading to the coining of a specific term, yaramiso, to describe them.”
For anyone who is not in that position, the heartache of being in such a situation, a fully grown adult with little experience to draw on and few prospects to look forward to, can be a devastating psychological toll of failure. One 49-year-old whose name was withheld in the Japan Times article felt romantic and sexual feelings for a woman only twice in his life, and both times the woman in question rejected him. “It was devastating,” he said. “It seemed to invalidate my life and take away my reason to live.”
Shingo Sakatsume and his Virgin Academia textbook.
Statistics for a straightforward comparison across international boundaries are scarce, but a superficial look at the numbers suggests that the Japanese do have less sex than most western countries. For instance, a poll conducted by Durex found that 68 percent of Japanese respondents of the ages of 18 and 19 were virgins, whereas the typical figure for Germany was closer to 20 percent, in Turkey 37 percent.
To help alleviate this problem, Shingo Sakatsume, whose company White Hands specializes in finding ways for “people with severe disabilities find an outlet for their sexual needs,” has turned his attention to what he can do for those who are sexually frustrated for more parochial reasons. His motto is “Sexual maturity means social maturity. ... Even if the person has disabilities, one who recognizes and accepts his own sexuality tends to be able to build balanced relations with others. ... People who are not sexually mature tend to get timid socially.”
Sakatsume’s program for adult virgins has been dubbed “Virgin Academia.” One of the main tools for helping such men has been art classes, pictured here, with live models—without clothes on—in order to help them get more familiar with the female body. As Takashi Sakai, a 41-year-old virgin, commented, “The first time I did this, in autumn last year, oh . . . I was so amazed. Their bodies are incredibly beautiful. ... One thing I learned is that there are many different shapes of breasts and even genitals.”
As Sarah Cascone of Artnet reports, “The correspondence course comes with a 100-page textbook, Virgin Breaker!, and runs for a full year, with participants keeping a counselor apprised of their progress in their efforts to meet women.” Cascone continues: “The figure drawing sessions, which take place every other month in Tokyo, allows the yaramiso to encounter a naked woman in a neutral environment, free of romance and pressure to perform sexually.”
Here’s a report from AFP News Agency about the yaramiso phenomenon: