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Herbivores, Drive-ins and Sex

WHO WOULD have thought that I would someday use the words herbivore, drive-in and sex in one sentence? Reading the recent lifestyle news from Asia and Europe has made this possible. There is a subculture in Japan composed mostly of technically-inclined young men who have come out of their shells to flaunt their unusual sexual preferences, earning them the name ‘herbivores’ or ‘grass-eaters’; meanwhile across the Atlantic, the sexually liberated Swiss have confirmed their image with the introduction of public sex drive-ins. There, I have joined the dots between three seemingly unconnected words and in one sentence too. The common denominator being the changing culture of sex in our times.

We all know that the Japanese people are very  singular in their ways. They shocked and amazed the wholeworld in the Second World War when Japanese kamikazes jumped from planes with bombs attached to their bodies. This was before Muslim extremist terrorists took the idea to a more horrifying height. The Japanese were also responsible for showing the world the dignity in suicide – the hara-kiri. These are just two examples of the uniqueness of Japanese national character. There are more but there is no point in trying to list them all here. Suffice it to say that it is consistent with the idio-syncratic Japanese character when a new subculture as absurd as it is ridiculous has alppeared in that country. An article in The Age has reported on a subculture of men with a weird lifestyle who, when invited by a sponsoring resort to spend a weekend holiday with their virtual partners, thought it worthwhile to take up this offer. These Japanese men spent their love holiday with partners generated by technology. What is even more  surprising is that these men have all reported sexual satisfaction with their non-human dates.

Theories abound as to why asubculture of this nature appeared in this century in Japan. One plausible expla-nation is that the Japanese population has a lifestyle that is closely tied to technology. Japan has been in the forefront of scientific and technological advancement ever since it rose from the devastation of WWII. When I say “tied to techno-logy”, this means that indkivkidual Japanese not only utilise technology for their education, work and leisure, but in all aspects of their lives, including socialisation – perhaps because the games that Japanese children grew up with are so technically realistic that computer games have become more real to them than their real life. A particular demographic has even shunned real social interaction. Their social life is lived better in a virtual world.

Thus when the makers of a computer game sponsored a free holiday stay in a resort formen and their virtual dates, a number of Japanese men responded to the ad as if this kind of honeymoon is the most normal thing in the world. They brought with them a virtual partner who would “share their bed” in the holiday resort.

While this kind of peculiarity characterises some Japanese men, the Swiss men, on the other hand, are so brimming with libidos for a fleshly sexual partner that their government was left with no choice but to acknowledge the Swiss manhood and provide sex drive-ins for their satisfaction. According to the Swiss government, these drive-ins will make sex not only more accessible, but fast and safe for these men.  The drive-ins are offshoots of the of McDonalds culture, where the commodity is given in a more time-efficient and productive manner.

So do the rigorous Swiss get their sex right more than the Japanese herbivores? Honestly, I don’t know. Personally, I’d say neither of the two has got it right. I still cling to the old-fashioned notion that sex shouldinvolve love for another human being (not a virtual person as with the Japanese) and sex deserves to be given enough time to be special, not to be purchased and consumed in a few moments like a hamburger (not commercial as the Swiss).

On the other hand, the anthropologist in me tells me to view the changing culture of sex in a more detached manner. These cultural patterns have appeared as a response to people’s changing needs. The Japanese have become so technologically advanced that even sex can be treated as an independent pursuit. As a result men have no need for real partners. The Swiss meanwhile are still traditional in their attitude towards sex in the sense that they still get attracted to the opposite sex. What has changed is their acknowledge-ment of this need and their desire to have a more efficient supply of it.

Both developments are adaptation to the particular needs of the men in Japan and Switzerland. I’m unsure whether these developments will eventually become norms in these countries.

Let’s just wait and see.