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The Hollywood trope of the 40-year-old virgin, lampooned in Steve Carrell’s 2005 film, isn’t a joke in Japan. About one in four Japanese men in their thirties haven’t had sex, making them so common that they enjoy their own label — yaramiso. Now, a Japanese nonprofit has come up with an unusual solution for the problem: free nude art classes.
“We organize the drawing sessions to allow participants to overcome their mental block by observing and sketching the naked female form in a safe, healthy environment,” Shingo Sakatsume, founder of White Hands (an organization that provides “sexual assistance” to the disabled), wrote on Ignition. “Naturally, almost none of the men who seek our help have ever seen a naked woman in the flesh; in fact, some say that the only woman they’ve ever seen naked was their mother.”
The classes are held every other month in Tokyo, and Sakatsume said most of its members are office workers and government employees — “men with perfectly ordinary jobs, looks and personalities.”
Takashi Sakai, a timid 41-year-old attendee, has never had a girlfriend. He told the AFP that he doesn’t know how to approach women, but that the classes — he also participates in a course called “Virgin Breaker” — have given him a little more confidence.
“When you are young, you are afraid of rejection. I think it’s true that many people now just pretend they have no feelings about sex instead of risking outright rejection,” he said. “The first time I [came to drawing class], in autumn last year, oh … I was so amazed. Their bodies are incredibly beautiful.”
Sakatsume believes stories like Sakai’s are symptomatic of Japanese society’s inability to talk about sex, which has led to bigger problems. The country’s marriage rate has declined in recent years, and last year it had only one million newborns — an all-time low. The trend parallels the economic slow-down, and Sakatsume said it has all led to men having low self-esteem and developing resentments toward women.
Despite his noble intentions, though, the drawing sessions still seem to encapsulate everything nude art classes shouldn’t be — creepy. But Sakatsume thinks such unorthodox methods are worth it. “Virginity shouldn’t be a punch line,” he said. “We have to start treating it as a social problem and something that can only be overcome with proper education and support from society.”