What is Taboo? Privacy and Sex in Japan

  • The idea of privacy has many different aspects in Japanese life. It is also important that individuals have the right to keep personal information private.
    With a recent census being conducted in 2015, many Japanese citizens felt their privacy has been invaded to a certain degree.

    Privacy and Publicity

    Some of the modern Japanese attitudes towards sex are examples of how, while moral attitudes have changed, the importance of privacy is still deeply ingrained. Japanese public life has a reputation for demanding perfect standards of behaviour. The exposure of extra-marital affairs has, in the past, been the ruin of many public figures. Though this might indicate a lack of respect for privacy, the Japanese do allow their politicians and other public figures a private life. However, appearances in this matter can be misleading.

    In certain instances, the public is not upset because of the sexual activity of the public figure in question. The offense the public may take is more to do with the fact that this certain activity was mixed up with another matter. For example, a matter of national security, breaking the law, or the abuse of a politician’s position. The scandal in these cases is that the public figure has not kept their private life and public role separate enough.

    Making Private Subjects Public

    Despite an increase in informality, it is still seen as rather rude to ask a Japanese person ‘personal questions’. For example, questions about how much money they earn and their sex life, unless you know them very well. Teenagers are usually not able to talk to their parents about sex. At school, there are only a small number of sex education classes each year (maybe because there are teachers who are too embarrassed to deal with it). Overall, it seems that sex is still treated as an absolutely private matter. Sex may no longer be considered ‘bad’, but it is still embarrassing to talk about it.

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