In large parts of the world, men are seen as the go-getters when it comes to relationships. When you ask around, it often turns out that the guy in the relationship was the first one to make a move, or at least he was very receptive when his other half hit on him. Also, when it comes to casual flings, there will not be many men who would say ‘no’ to a beautiful woman propositioning them.
Not so with Japan’s ‘soshoku danshi’, often translated as ‘herbivores’ or ‘grass eaters’. This term refers to men who are not interested in marriage or even having a girlfriend (and are also not gay), and was introduced by writer Maki Fukasawa in 2006. Of course there are men like this all over the world, but in Japan this group seems to be a lot larger than average: research done in 2010 concluded that around 60% of men in their 20’s, and 70% of men in their 30’s see themselves as grass eaters. What would be the driving factor behind this number?
With a world population that is ever-growing without enough resources to give everyone a comfortable existence, it seems like it is not such a large problem when people decide not to procreate. In Japan, however, this is happening on such a large scale that it is going to cause major trouble for future generations to sustain their elders and themselves. As Japan is a bit wary of mass immigration, with immigration laws being some of the strictest ones in the world, the government sees ramping up the birth rate as one of their most important tasks.
This is one of the reasons why it is important to find out what puts so many people off getting into a stable relationship, and having children. Many research studies have been carried out on the subject, and very often the unstable Japanese economy is blamed for the unwillingness of (especially men) to start a family. It is harder than before to find a steady job with good income, and at the moment there are many so-called ‘freeters’, people who get by working part-time jobs with usually abysmal pay.
Japanese women often only want to get married to men with stable, full-time jobs and a good income, making it very difficult for freeters to find a marriage partners. This is easy to see on Japanese dating websites like match.com, where besides their age and picture, only their yearly salary is displayed in the introduction. The reaction of many men is to pull out of the dating game altogether, often in order not to get disappointed.
However, there are also men that call themselves grass eaters, but say that they are not completely opposed to the idea of dating rather, they just don’t feel like going out there and feeling vulnerable. They don’t like to get hurt, or hurt other people, which is something that unintentionally happens anyway when people join the dating game. They find it both emotionally and financially safer to stay (happily) single.
Some social scientists think that this is where many developed countries are headed as well, with dropping birth rates as a result. What do you think, is this happening all over the world? Is there any solution, or is it not such a problem after all?