A few days ago I wrote about difficulties in maintaining celibacy in the modern world. Not so much celibacy per se but following “no illicit sex” rule which is practically the same thing.
This week articles about Japanese attitudes towards sex have made news around the world. Turns out it’s quite possible to have a modern society that is asexual and where people knowingly and willingly avoid sex altogether. Latest survey over there produced lots of interesting numbers but perhaps the most shocking is the fact that almost half of young Japanese women and a quarter of their men are “not interested or despise sexual contact”. That’s 16-24 year olds, prime age for fantasizing about it.
This is buttressed by the rising number of singles, and the rising number of singles who are not interested neither in marriage nor in having any kind of romantic relationships across all age groups, and that serves as a role model for teenagers.
There are many reasons for this, one is the workaholic culture that is geared towards single workers, with all their needs looked after by their companies practically on premises. They don’t need to go home to support themselves, they can get all their food and fresh underwear at the nearest 7-Eleven, and it all comes in single portions. And once at work they are not supposed to mingle with the opposite sex and so they don’t get opportunities to become romantically involved.
Another is the career pressure on the women. Once they get married they are expected and even pressured to drop out of the “rat race”, by the society, by their husbands, and by their employers. There’s a worldwide tendency to get married at a later age and so for Japanese women it comes to mean a complete overhaul of their lives. Just as they finish their education, settle in their work and get their lives together, they are asked to drop it all and start over. Doesn’t go down very well, I imagine.
On the male side the expectations of the traditional marriage are also quite high. They were formed in the age of life long employment and secure and profitable jobs which are becoming increasingly rare even in Japan. Young people there, just like everywhere else, do a lot of job hopping and soul-searching which does not mesh with committing yourselves to staying with one company and advancing towards the top. They aren’t automatically interested in that and maintaining families and complying with social norms is not enough of a reason for them to become “enslaved”.
They can maintain themselves very well without making such commitments and they see marriage as a threat to their care free lifestyles.
So when it comes to the choice of doing what they want and marriage they increasingly choose their own interests, and this means they have to protect their decisions and deal with their sexual urges.
While they still have outlets to satisfy their desires outside marriage they also realize that the best way is to structure their lives in such a way that sexual urges don’t even come. When the number of such people rises the society responds and it becomes a new social norm, and this is what their teenagers are graduating into.
For women it means refusing all kinds of dating as a principle. Nip it in the bud, once you fall in love it would become so much more difficult to say no to marriage proposals. Once the women are chaste, men have to adjust themselves, too. It becomes even more obvious that seeking sex leads only to frustration so they apply themselves in other areas, most notably in virtual reality and manga culture.
Is it an ideal situation by Vedic standards? Not really, but if you want to follow the fourth reg than Japan has the answer, and their lifestyles and cultural attitudes are slowly spreading around the world, too, beginning with Asia.
Too bad they speak Japanese and so it all has to be translated into English or it would have consumed the region like a wildfire already. Also their technology based ecosystem is quite difficult to replicate but Internet now is everywhere and Koreans, for example, are quite adept at selling their role-playing computer games worldwide. I mean the games that millions of people play at the same time and that create virtual societies through which people are conditioned to behave in a certain way.
Another example – the most popular messaging application worldwide is Whatsapp but in Asia it’s Japanese Line and it’s main allure is cute over-sized “stickers” to substitute people’s emotions in online conversations, and they are totally asexual, of course. Once you start communicating with other people through this asexual language it shapes your internal thinking, too, and this is how it spreads.
Anyway, what does it mean for us? As I said, it makes it easier to follow the forth reg but then the reg itself might need adjustments to fit with the times. If you substitute sexual gratification with watching robots doing it on your computer it’s still gratification and you are still being attached. The purpose of “no illicit sex” rule is not in having no illicit sex, it’s in engaging in legitimate sex for procreation and thus purifying our entire existence.
If people don’t get married and don’t procreate they don’t purify themselves, they express their sexual energy through different channels that are of no interest to Krishna. I suppose you could build a Second Life environment where you raise Krishna conscious children but that is just a poor substitute for the real thing.
So, on one hand Japanese set an example of a sex-free society which smashes our excuse that it’s impossible to avoid sexual temptations in this day and age, on the other hand they don’t offer any positive alternatives to regular, Vedic human dharma – procreating and maintaining Krishna conscious families.
I’m not sure that dropping out of family life altogether and following the fourth is better than trying to build a family and failing at it. Actually, when I put it this way it’s clear that having a family, however imperfect, is more in line with Krishna’s instructions, but if you decide to stay as a brahmachari then you might want to consider moving to Japan.
But then again, being a brahmachari is not only the question of celibacy, main purpose of brahmacharya is education, once that education is completed you must apply it, you can’t be a student all the way through to your fifties and sixties.
Once we have sex desire under control we have to deal with other kinds of attachments and aspirations in our lives and those are almost always better suited for grihastha life. If you have your sex desire under control then your duty is to procreate, unless you are one of those rare souls like Lord Chaitanya who can take sannyasa in their twenties.
Ultimately, our goal is to become Krishna conscious, which is not synonymous with asexual beings.