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Oh, It’s Tuesday: Sex Sells … Except When It Doesn’t

I wasn’t surprised when I read this Jezebel post about Japanese people becoming increasingly uninterested in sex. One of the things that I noticed while I was living in Osaka, was well … a lot of sex. There was porn manga readily available at bookstores, porn anime readily available at video stores, topless European game shows broadcast on non-cable channels late at night. Let’s not even talk about the picture of a naked girl, which was featured every weekday in one of the local papers — which men felt free to read on the subway. I knew I had grown used to Japan, when I knocked on the window of an idling cab, and didn’t even blink when the driver put down his porn manga and asked me where I was going. I just called to the girl I had stayed out late partying with that I had found a cab.

I happened to live in a red light district, our apartment building being one of the few residential ones on a street lined with love hotels (really nice hotel rooms that you could rent out by the hour). I waved at the street hookers on my late night walks home from the local gaijin bar. They smiled and waved back. These, I had been told, by another one of my roommates (I had six), were the sex-workers who were too old to make it in a more formal indoor situation. Indeed, if one wanted it Japan, you could buy a woman to keep you company, a woman to give you a bath, a woman to give you a massage, a school girl to fondle, and yes, any manner of hooker to have physical sex with.

Which is why, even I began to notice, after just a few months, that Japan wasn’t all that sexy. In fact, the longer one stays in Japan, the less sex one wants to have.

A lot of being sexy has to do with taboo, I think. And in many ways, removing taboo is the same as removing sexiness. My husband and I just watched the entire first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand on Starz OnDemand in less than two weeks. At first we were like, “Oh, this is sexy!” But by the end of the series, it was kind of like, “Oh, are they having rough, slow motion sex again? Boring. We want to find out what happens next in the real plot line.” We had a similar reaction to True Blood, during which we’d used the many gratuitous sex scenes to discuss what had happened so far, and what we thought might happen next. It’s hard to stay titillated by something if it’s always happening.

In many ways, America might just be a hornier country because we are so puritanical about sex. Sex is embarrassing here. We don’t allow it on broadcast or most cable channels. We don’t smile at and exchange goodnight pleasantries with hookers on our way home. We order our manga porn online as opposed to risking exposure at a store. When I open the LA Times, I don’t have to worry about finding a buck naked girl staring back at me.

Perhaps there’s something to be said for keeping sex taboo. Perhaps by doing so, we keep it sexy.

featured image credit: Fotographia Guerilla