International sex standards.

According to a 2005 internet survey done by the Durex condom company—“Butch, I work for Mr. E. H. Harriman of the Union Pacific Railroad, and…”—the average respondent had sex 103 times a year and spent just under 20 minutes per time on foreplay. On the other hand, the mean is 109 times (twice a week) and 21 minutes on foreplay.

Who are the big losers in this international competition? Far and away, it’s the Japanese: they average 46 times a year. Less than four times a month. It must be like a subscription to a magazine: they call the January and July issues the January-February and July-August issues, but they aren’t any bigger. You’re just left wandering around the house looking at back issues of National Geographic.

The trajectory of Japan’s population has shifted from growth to decline. In 2007 Japan’s population reached its highest historical level at 128 million people, then it began to fall. If the country stays on this track there are projected to be only 87 million people by 2060. Of these, almost half will be aged 65 or over. Yikes! Projecting out to 2100, there might be no Japanese at all. That’s probably good news for the Council of the Learned Elders of Blue-Fin Tuna.

There are broad social and economic explanations for the change in Japanese demography. However, the issue has revealed several curious elements of Japanese culture as well. Social status and reputation are very important in Japanese society. Mess up in public on something and you can be tarred for life. So, lots of young men who have had some sort of embarrassment have become “shut-in” living with their parents and withdrawing from life. This is probably good for the on-line games and porn industries.

Interestingly, the Japanese are followed by Hong Kong (79 times a year), India (82), and China (90).   Why do Asians have less sex? A housing shortage that leads to a lack of privacy (self-conscious family limitation)? Government anti-natalism in societies threatened by over-population? Furthermore, if NPR finds out, will we have to listen to heart-rending stories about how people in western industrial countries are using up all the orgasms without concern for sex-starved Bangladeshis? Will environmentalists re-discover Wilhelm Reich and try to extend the Kyoto Protocol to cover an “orgone hole”?

Who are the winners? Inevitably, it’s the French (137 times a year). Two to three times a week, and almost 44 hours of foreplay. Americans and Israelis[1] clock in at 111 times a year and just under twenty minutes of foreplay per encounter. With stats like this to fall back on, American comedians and politicians (but I repeat myself) making fun of French military prowess just isn’t going to dent French national self-confidence.

Obviously, there’s a generational element here. It is young people who are most comfortable using the internet and least inhibited about answering questions on it, so the survey probably didn’t capture the experience of the middle aged. All the same, among the digerati, there is a big range of sexual practices. One suspects that the French are using the internet to access photos of Anna Kournikova falling out of her dress, while the Chinese are pirating industrial designs.


See: Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2005, p. 56; “Japan’s population crisis,” The Week, 17 January 2014, p. 11

[1] Apparently we have more in common than just a hatred of radical Muslims.


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