Here’s this week’s Media Mix about sex education in Japan. One point I neglected to mention that is central to the issue is the current administration’s emphasis on empowering women and getting more to enter the workforce. To me, preparing young people for sexual lives should be an essential aspect of this scheme, if it is to be taken seriously at all. The government is still stuck in 1970, thinking that if it can recapture the social and cultural environment of that time, when couples married at an “appropriate” age and went on to have two or three kids in quick succession, then everything will be great, but like the proverbial genie and the bottle, it’s not going to happen in our post-bubble economic world. This is not news and hasn’t been for more than two decades, but the Liberal Democratic Party’s piecemeal approach to “female power” still incorporates a belief that the old social order can be reclaimed.
If women are to be truly empowered they have to have control over their biology first, and that means safe, effective birth control even before they are married. Asuka Someya, the head of the NPO Pilcon I mentioned in the column, became involved in sex education because of her own experience. She became pregnant during her junior year of college and underwent an abortion “reluctantly.” She realized that her knowledge about sex, even at that age, was insufficient. She actually believed, based on what she had been taught at school, that her chances of becoming pregnant after one sexual encounter was “almost nil.” She also thought that the only girls who contracted STDs were those who had sex “all the time,” that if you lived “normally” you didn’t have to worry.
Most significantly, she and other women her age, because they didn’t learn anything about contraception, left such matters to their male partners, who, as anyone who has been in a relationship knows, is hardly a guarantee. After she terminated her pregnancy, Someya became obsessed with teaching herself about sex and everything related to sex, and as a result is now convinced that adolescents, especially girls, should be taught what she taught herself as early as possible.
The media makes a big thing out of how passive young people are today about sex, saying that they aren’t interested, that they’d rather hang out on social media and not connect with anyone on a personal level any more. This is generally a media-made crisis, but it does point up one important problem that has escaped the media: Just because young people aren’t talking about sex so much any more and not getting married doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in sex. They’re just going about it in an irresponsible and sometimes dangerous way. According to Pilcon’s statistics, while the number of abortions for all women is going down, the number among teenage girls is going up. Everyday, 53 girls under the age of 20 undergo abortions in Japan. Given their rhetoric, the LDP would like nothing better than that these girls keep their babies and marry the men who knocked them up, but that’s hardly a policy.