|The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (http://mdn.mainichi.jp).|
|They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.|
|In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.|
"When," inquires Asahi Geino (9/23), straight-faced and earnest, "did you start scavenging for men?"
"About a year ago," replies Yuri.
Thus launched, her story proceeds: her shocked discovery that while she was home alone with the baby her husband was out cavorting with someone he'd met on the Net; her angry resolution that two could - and, by God, would - play at that game; her liaison with a man 10 years her senior who won her heart with soft S&M and softer reassurances that childbirth had not ruined her figure; her growing, spreading, swelling love that could no longer be absorbed by just one man, or by just two.
At 25, Yuri is one of Asahi Geino's case histories, a victim of an alarming new menace seeping up from underground: "sex dependency syndrome."
It's a seven-page spread the magazine lays before us, complete with half a dozen profiles, a chorus of comments from sufferers not profiled, and a medical opinion.
How general is this restlessness among the population at large?
That's hard to say, but Dr. Fumihiko Umezawa, for one, feels compulsive sex is taking over where compulsive drinking, compulsive gambling and compulsive shopping left off.
It's the defining compulsion of the late '90s.
And rightly so.
Sex is the only obsession that can - not always, but potentially - be indulged for free.
That's no small consideration in a recession-stymied economy.
Behind this obsession, as behind most, lies the demon stress, and here too recession is a factor.
But stress cuts both ways.
It is as likely to extinguish the libido as to fire it.
When it exercises its dual nature within one couple, extinguishing his and firing hers, the consequences are bound to lead us outside the prim realm of good social behavior.
Actually Mrs. Aihara, as we'll call her, was coping moderately well with her husband's chilliness - until recently, when a pair of weekend guests metaphorically set the house ablaze with their nighttime antics.
That was too much for Mrs. Aihara, who made her very first teleclub contact the next day.
She's been insatiable ever since.
Then there's the story of the young woman who entertains her gentleman callers during her 2-year-old's afternoon nap.
How can she be sure the little fellow won't wake up in mid-rut?
A little imagination scales big obstacles.
Mom simply mixes some plum wine into the baby's pre-nap milk, and he sleeps like an angel.
Never before has sex been so close, so easy, so handy, so ubiquitous.
The latest conveniences - "teleclubs," cybersex - play to biological and psychological traits that are uniquely human, Dr. Umezawa explains.
Human beings can have sex anytime, anywhere, with anyone.
Animal sex, aimed purely at reproduction, is for the most part rather perfunctory.
But we, thanks to the highly developed cerebral cortex that makes us human, are blessed with an almost bottomless capacity (and cursed with an almost bottomless need) to experience pleasure.
"Sexual activity is genital," Umezawa tells Asahi Geino, "but sexual pleasure is cerebral."
Since the cerebrum is the center of human intelligence, Umezawa's equation is inescapable: Sexual inclination is a mark of heightened intelligence.
So far so good.
But when sex distorts the personality to the extent of causing mothers to neglect their babies, fathers to rape their daughters, ordinary peaceable citizens to grope strangers on trains and plant cameras in public toilets, the fine line separating beauty from pathology would seem to have been crossed.
This is the foundation of Umezawa's research, and the source of his clientele.
What's the matter with men today? Umezawa demands.
If married women are restless beyond endurance, he says, it's at least partly their husbands' fault.
Why aren't they more attentive, and more vigorous?
Why should the average man in his 20s go four days - as he does - without marital sex, when his wife wants action every night?
Could it be the profusion of extramarital (and extracoital) options?
The rift widens with age.
In the 30s, it's once every nine days for husbands and once every two days for wives; in the forties, once every 16 days vs. once a week.
That's too bad, but ultimately, one suspects, somewhat beside the point.
Consider another of Asahi Geino's case histories, 24-year-old Kanae - and ask yourself whether lifelong monogamous marriage is likely to survive the coming millennium.
Kanae has been married for a year.
She knows what her husband does - he's in real estate - but he doesn't know what she does (though he doesn't know that he doesn't know).
He thinks she works in a coffee shop.
Actually she's on day shifts at an Ikebukuro image club.
She started six months ago.
No, she wasn't unhappy with her husband, who is as virile and considerate a man as Umezawa could wish.
What was the problem, then?
"When I was single," she explains, "I could sleep with whoever I liked.
Then I get married, and all of a sudden I'm only allowed to play with one man.
I couldn't live with that."
Nor, however, could she live with cheating on him - she loves the guy.
On the horns of a dilemma, she appealed to her cerebrum, which obligingly sent her an idea.
"As long as it's work, it's not cheating, right?"
Right, she decided - and found an "image club" job.
Now she lives single and married at the same time.
She's happy, and her husband, seeing her happy (though not knowing why), is also happy.
That's about as good as life gets.
An image club is supposed to feature sex play, not actual sex, but if a customer asks her nicely, she'll go all the way.
But no dates outside, she stipulates. After all, she's a married woman.
(Michael Hoffman, contributing writer)