Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Japanese "herbivore men" hold a mirror to our culture

Herbivore men briefly explained

The Japanese subculture of "herbivore men" seems to hit the news every so often.  Here is a recent example in the Guardian: Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?  What exactly is going on over there?

I'm no expert in Japanese culture, but my coblogger on The Asexual Agenda, Queenie, is an expert.*  I will defer to what she's written about herbivore men.  My summary: In Japan, men are expected to be "carnivores", aggressively pursuing relationships with women.  But many men in metropolitan areas have become "herbivores", being less assertive in relationships, more sensitive, and even willing to be friends with women (in Japan this is a big deal).  And there's probably other stuff as well, like their attitude towards money, jobs, and fashion.  Women of course are expected to be herbivores to begin with, although there is also talk of carnivore women.

*She's actually an expert in Japanese religion, but close enough.

In Japan, herbivore men are sometimes the subject of moral panic because they're not forming relationships, are defying Japanese gender roles, and may be contributing to the declining birth rate.  Cry me a river I say.  People aren't obligated to make babies just to uphold the national birth rate, and if Japanese people really wanted population growth so badly they could try being less racist and accept more immigrants.

In the English speaking world, the reaction to herbivore men is... different.  Sometimes, the reactions really say more about our own culture than about Japanese culture.

Here I will briefly show the reactions coming from three different groups: mainstream news, asexuals, and men's rights activists.

Mainstream news reactions

In Japan, the moral panic over herbivore men isn't really about sex.  It's about relationships.  If herbivore men formed sexless relationships, that would be entirely ordinary in Japanese culture (although I think it's assumed that once a couple gets married, they will immediately start producing children).  But these men aren't forming relationships at all!

Of course, in English news sources, it's all about the sex.  You can see from the titles of the stories:*

Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?
Japan's 'herbivore men' -- less interested in sex, money
The Herbivore's Dilemma: Japan panics about the rise of "grass-eating men," who shun sex, don't spend money, and like taking walks.
No Sex, Please, We're Young Japanese Men
Japanese leads the way in sexless love

*There are also a few counterexamples.  Notably, NPR focuses on their rebellion against gender roles.
Ironically, if you look closely at what the Japanese correspondents actually say, rather than what the news source says, you can see some of the truth leaks through.  In The Guardian, a correspondent says:
...many are turning to what she terms "Pot Noodle love" – easy or instant gratification, in the form of casual sex, short-term trysts and the usual technological suspects: online porn, virtual-reality "girlfriends", anime cartoons.
Wait, if it's about the sex, what's the problem with casual sex and short-term trysts?  Answer: it's not really about the sex, but English news sources seem to think it is.

Asexual reactions

Generally speaking, asexuals aren't likely to confuse disinterest in sex with disinterest in relationships, because we talk about that distinction all the time.  But news sources say herbivore men are rejecting sex, so you can hardly blame asexuals for taking this at face value.

If you think herbivore men are avoiding sex, then the parallels with asexuality are obvious.  A few people think it might be related:
"I've been thinking that asexuals are probably not the tiny minority that we think we are.  Perhaps Japan is simply the first country to come to terms with these feelings. "
But this really strains credulity.  Asexuality obviously cannot account for the 60% of urban young men who are not in romantic relationships.  There are clearly lots of other better explanations.  Many asexuals feel compelled to point this out:
"I don't think they're asexual, they're just choosing to focus their priorities elsewhere."

"We really need to keep in mind here, that not showing an interest in sex does not necessarily equal asexuality."
But even though herbivore men are not identified with asexuality, the moral panic over herbivore men is identified as being similar to the moral panic over asexuals.
"That little part of me that secretly wants everyone else to be asexual, too, makes me root for those Japanese guys, though, and get annoyed when everyone always calls this trend a "problem." "

"If it makes a lot of practical sense to choose that lifestyle and those people who do so feel happy and fulfilled, why the hell is everyone freaking out?! Oh, that's right, because having sex is a Basic Human Need and those people who have little interest in sex are clearly unhealthy and need help. "
All these comments come from threads on AVEN's world watch forum.

Men's Rights Activist reactions

When my Queenie wrote for The Asexual Agenda on herbivore men, I was surprised to see an influx of wayward googlers with MRA (Men's Rights Activist) inclinations.  In particular, I remember there was someone who writes for A Voice For Men who seemed to think that we were accusing herbivore men of being misogynistic, even though Queenie's piece was obviously sympathetic to herbivore men.  But perhaps I shouldn't make too much of people being confused on the internet.  At least MRAs seem to understand that herbivore men aren't about rejecting sex.

If you're unfamiliar with MRAs, there was a recent article in The Beast about them.  MRAs are one of the most malicious groups on the internet, and basic human decency compels me to abhor them.  However, this doesn't mean that every particular thing they ever say or advocate is wrong, and for the purposes of this post, I will consider what MRAs say about herbivore men in isolation from other things they say.

In the MRA world, herbivore men draw obvious comparisons to Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).  MGTOW are "going on strike" on marriage and fatherhood, because they realize the deck is stacked against them:
Men are beginning to recognise their appalling vulnerability when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex, and they are individually waking up to the ridiculous risks they face. Almost 70 per cent of divorces are now initiated by women, and typically it is the man who stands to lose everything — his children, his home, his future income and his reputation. With suicide being the biggest killer of young men in the UK, and with those experiencing relationship breakdown being at the highest risk, he also stands to lose his life.
If we want a glimpse of what the future may hold, we only need to look to Japan where those who reject their traditional masculine role are referred to as "grass eaters" or "herbivore men".
-Why are men going their own way when it comes to relationships?
Another vlogger suggests that herbivore men might be caused by Japan's change to the Western family court system after WWII.

MRAs also seem to draw herbivore men in opposition to feminism:
...apparently, the feminist situation got so bad that Japanese men actually get more pleasure from anime and video game characters than from real women.
The women aren't happy, and some have labelled the behaviour "misogyny"
-The situation of men in Japan
But this opposition appears not to reflect reality.  Searches for herbivore men and feminism mostly turn up MRA sites talking about how they're opposed.  I found very few feminists even talking about herbivore men.   There's one Jezebel piece titled Japan's "Herbivore Men" Refuse To Adhere To Stereotypes which vaguely implies approval of the trend.  I think because feminists often criticize MGTOWs (and it's not hard to see why given the above quotes), and because MGTOWs sympathize with herbivore men, they assume too quickly that feminists would also criticize herbivore men.


Herbivore men are an interesting generational trend in Japan.  In English mainstream media, what really grabs attention is the idea that they are not having sex (even though this is not the part that is considered shocking in Japan).  In asexual spaces, asexuals see the panic over herbivore men as being similar to panic over asexuality.  In MRA spaces, herbivore men are associated with MGTOWs, and are thought to have similar motivations.


Valkyrie said...

There was also an article on this 'herbivore' trend in my news. It seems to be written from a Western point of view as I remembered a great deal of focus on many Japanese university undergraduates still being virgins at their age. I was quite annoyed by that point.

Anonymous said...

This stuff is already happening everywhere else around the world. Even here in America. Porn is the culprit. This ties similarity with the creation of processed food which started in the mid 1900‘s and how the percentage of overweight people jumped from 10 to 70 percent in only a few recent decades. Same with this new epidimic of not wanting real partners. Society will recognize this after its too late and when the majority gets hooked to virtual sex than the real thing.
It all comes down to addiction. Are brains have not yet evolved fast enough to todays technology. We might be intelligent but we are still driven by impulses from our ancestors. The need to feed and mate are wired into our primitive brain and internet porn and cheap food have given us the urge to go on a constant binge and have no control.

miller said...

I'm not convinced you read the article, Ralph.

Unknown said...


OP you say you don't like MRA and you don't state why and yet you admit they have good points. So what is it? Does this movement that have good points need to go away just because you don't like it? Seems like you just don't like the realization that Feminism has gone too far.


Immigration is a disaster. Japan is right to be homogeneous. Everything is currently 'ok'. Sure there's a few muslims chopping soldiers heads off and self imposed racial segregation. I wonder if this ok-ness will last? Israel only exists today because immigrants came to Palestein legally and then chucked the natives out. It's a risk nations take every day.


Japans population decline is a problem because the West has a problem and that is it has to pay for Feminisms socialism and to do so it needs a huge tax paying population. It has to pay for the 220% gdp of debt. The US has to pay 20 trillion. Good luck with men disenfranchised.

You see the problem with Japan is that not only are these guys not having children, they aren't working as hard as their parents. They refuse to be womens horses and only produce for themselves.

The guy who said porn is correct. Japanese culture is full of hentai and anime girls. There are also brothels.

As for the misogyny claims, it may not be an endemic that the M HUMAN (yes we men are human) RM. However, I have seen a number of patronizing comments from the media.

The Guardian said it was a backlash against womens independence. An intimidation of womens increased status.

The BBC did a doc and showed the grass eaters as a bunch of neurotics.

miller said...

Lots of terrible people make good points on occasion; a stopped clock is right twice a day.

I didn't mention my disagreements with MRAs because I basically have no interest in arguing with MRAs. Seems like we share a disinterest in arguing; you didn't make any arguments, you just made a bunch of assertions.

Unknown said...

So long as feminists continue to pit women against men, leaving both men and women frustrated, Herbivores in the U.S. are inevitable. There's already a massive influx of men resorting to porn. God forbid the technology to produce more realistic means of sexual gratification for men comes to play.. Men everywhere will desert women, & the end of society will soon follow. sad but true

miller said...

Thanks for being an example of what I describe in the post. I would love to hear you or other commenters further develop the mgtow view on herbivore men.

For instance, are herbivore men a good or bad thing? Is porn a good or bad thing? Where do you get the idea that feminists dislike herbivore men? What do you think of the fact that women in Japan are considered herbivore by default? In what sense can herbivores spread to the US when it seems like a reaction to specifically Japanese culture?

Hannah said...

Wow, your insights are really ... bizarre. You accuse MRA of being the malicious group online and offer no evidence - sounds like anti-male bigotry to me! And you say feminists disagree with MGTOW? I mean, really? What would feminists possibly have to say about MGTOW? MGTOW is just human beings (in this case men) asserting the right to self-ownership. Anyone who believes in individual rights (and that's what Western civilization is all about) could hardly criticize some group for supporting individualism. If anything, MGTOW ARE male feminists.

You also claim you have no interest in arguing with MGTOW. Personally, I find this assertion to be disingenuous. Perhaps, in the past, you tried to argue with MRA/MGTOW bloggers and realized that you couldn't actually refute their arguments on any level because what they say is painfully painfully true. This hardly enhances your credibility. You can't just refuse to argue because you know you'll always lose.

Why so uncomfortable with truth? It seems you're not interested in the truth or in exploring your own complicity in marginalizing other human beings. A little more frankness would be nice. I'm not MRA/MGTOW, but I do respect their arguments as flawless. You can't deny fact and logic. As a feminist, even I admit MGTOW are much fairer than their opponents and fairness I can respect.

miller said...

I don't argue with MRAs for the same reason I don't argue with religious fundamentalists: I'm not against it on principle, I just know that there are already plenty of people to do it, and it doesn't particularly interest me. You're welome to search the blog archives to see how rarely I talk about MRAs.

The fact that mgtows and feminists don't get along is no mystery. You can tell at a glance at any of the mgtow links in the OP. Many mgtows say that their motivation for "going their own way" is because feminists have made relationships too dangerous for men to enter. What would feminists say about this? Men have a right to do what they want, but the idea that feminists have ruined everything is ludicrous.

The fact that you're unaware that feminists and mgtows don't get along is interesting. Does that mean you've never looked at a mgtow forum, and are just talking out your ass? Or does it mean that you've had encounter(s) with a particular set of mgtows who are not as anti-feminist? It wouldn't surprise me if there were different strains of mgtow, some being more anti-feminist than others.

miller said...

Are MRA's the most malicious groups on the internet? That statement in itself has removed any credibility from this article. How ridiculous, utter tripe. No self respecting guy would take an ounce of this as anything more than feminist claptrap. Let me guess, written by a woman, telling men how it is. Mum knows best and all that guff. Get over yourselves, the backlash to feminism started long ago. MGTOW numbers are rising fast in the west. Won't be long until the tv adverts are telling all those guys, BECAUSE YOUR WORTH IT.

miller said...

Hmmm... in North America we have a massive increase in the number of unmotivated young men. They prefer video games, porn, male bonding and just *doing what they enjoy* and are not interested in jumping through all of the "new hoops" and playing by all of the "new rules" the girls have made. Funny thing, women have a contemptuous attitude towards men, and then wonder why they are not being proposed to when they are "done with career time" and want husbands and babies at age 40. Hmmm.... maybe we have our own kind of grass men here. Maybe not as disciplined or as passive aggressive... but not buying into the bullcrap woman trap in any case...

miller said...

What if a MGTOW had no interest in arguing with YOU, or even what your opinion was? I know I don't. That's the beauty of being a MGTOW. You really *do not give a crap* what anyone else thinks - you pursue your own truth. I aspire to be as courageous and spiritual and disciplined as a Soshoku Danshi "grass man" from Japan. Investing in a relationships with a North American woman is not something I wish to call my "truth" anymore.

miller said...

How do you know these generalizations are true? They do not sound true.

miller said...

Well it's pretty clear that most MGTOWs/MRAs who have left comments here are indeed not interested in arguing with me. Instead, they only offer unsupported opinions. Fine with me. What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

miller said...

MRAs are the worst group in the internet? By what standards? Another phony phemenist.

miller said...

I said "one of most malicious groups on the internet", not "the worst". I think I can safely add to that "having some of the worst reading comprehension on the internet".

miller said...

Guess we've been watching different Cialis ads.

miller said...

Virtual reality sex and sex robots are inevitable. Combine those with the male birth control pill and we'll see a dive in birth rates that shock the world.
Fatherhood, as we knew it, is history. A father is now just a sperm donor and wallet, there to be in service to the mother/child until the money runs out, then he's iced out and branded a deadbeat dad. If anything, I'm surprised the birth rate is as high as it is.
Women will be made redundant by technology (sex and the artificial womb). Technology is in exponential growth, while women are still of their ancient mindset. They feel they can treat men with contempt, and men will still chase after them (and protect and provide for them) because of their golden vaginas. These days are numbered ladies. The question should be asked, "What will women do once their purpose has been made redundant?"

miller said...

I think its a ridiculous statement that women will become redundant once sex and artificial wombs will exist. That would imply that the only purposes of women are breeding and fucking. I dont think there are many women that will be sad if the men that consider their only purposes to be breeding and fucking will be out of the market. except maybe for those that do feel their vagina is their golden asset, and that sex is an exchange tool, in order to suck money out of a man. (I do agree with you that women like that are horrible.. but when you claim that women like that are the only kind around, then I digress. )

I think a lot of the problems nowadays in relationship have to do with the standards we nowadays pick partners for. "hotness" and "sexyness" and "popularity" nowadays are considered to be much more important by so many young people nowadays than they used to. people nowadays expect to be romantically attracted to their partner all their lives. the media play a big role in the creation of these ideals.

While these factors are of importance for short term romantic flings, they are not the things which in the long term make stable relationships. Companionship, friendship and compatability, mutual respect and a willingness to give to eachother are things that are important in the long term, that can save a marriage when things get difficult. because every marriage will have difficult times.

what also seems to have changed is that the 'ego' plays a bigger and bigger role in western civilisation. A lot of emphasis is nowadays put on individuality instead of the benefit of the group, and materalism in the media is promoted like crazy, because advertisers know that he more greedy people are, the more they will spend on the useless things they sell. because lets face it, the majority of people in the west have been provided with the nessecities of life, and anything they want beyond that is unnessecary.

celebrities are the worst symptom of the ego-society, and lots of young people look up to people who have no real talent, except for drawing attention to themselves, sometimes in the most sleazy ways possible. (paris hilton who got famous stepping out of cars with no underwear on, kim kardashian whos main talent is that she has a nicely shaped butt)
the bigger peoples egos become, the more insecure they become, and the more they feel they need to "prove" themselves, but unfortunately people who strive to fix their egos tend only to grow more selfish instead of less.
there is something to say for the original eastern cultures where the elimination of the ego is/was the goal, instead of growing the ego, for they realize(d) that society tends to get happier as a whole when people look out for eachother instead of themselves, and that in the end doing good is what makes people feel good about themselves, not attempting to feel 'better' than others.

Both women using men as wallets, and men using women as wombs/vaginas are symptoms of an ego driven culture. people who are ego driven like that will never find happiness in relationships, because 'using' eachother does not make a relationship, it can be considered mutual parasitism at best.

miller said...

A lot of male right groups feel that men deserve -more- rights than women. They can be considered hate groups, not equal right groups. They feel threathened by the facts that when women get more equality, they will get less benefits. Because lets face it, when it comes to salary, jobs, issues like rape, domestic violence, media representation etc women still draw the shortest straws. Not men.

There are some valid male groups, which usually focus on the right of fathers to see the kids after divorce, but any male group claiming that men have it harder when getting jobs, equal salary, rape, domestic violence, media representation, are not backing it up by numbers, because they cant. And the MRAs that want to give abusive fathers the right to see their children, are downright insane. Kids should be protected from abusive parents.

Its important to keep in mind that feminism how its presented by the media, is not the same as actual feminism. The media makes it seem like feminist women want to control men and want to get more power than men, while in feminist forums those topics are pretty much non existant. popular topics amongst real feminists tend to be: rape, domestic violence, objectification of women in the media and how it affects womens self esteem, how it lowers mens respect of women, and how it sexualizes kids and younger and younger ages, annorexia, bulimia, the rights of black women.
But you will never hear the media speak about these topics, because a lot of these problems at least partially blamed on the media. And yes there are statistics that back up that the media at least partially is to blame for the growth of these problems, including domestic violence and rape. (and in the case of annorexia and bulima, the most contributing factor is the media)

miller said...

I hear that, I have 4 younger brothers. Only 1 is married, the rest wised up. Having only brothers, the network of guys I know is large (since we all have mostly male friends) and almost no one is married and most are actively against marriage and fatherhood.

Every one of us knows someone that has been through divorce hell. With women doing most of the divorcing and these guys lose everything.

miller said...


A quick Google search will more than validate this from anecdotal evidence into an actual trend. Just Google 'Why are there no good men' or some such variation. Men are checking out. I have a large network of male friends, and most, not all, simply don't care.

I'm one of the weird ones that has a stay at home wife and kids. So I became curious and started asking and reading on this. Even my college buddies, only 2 out of the 10 from my class I still talk too, have gotten married, and only 1 has children (though 2 have children with women they are no longer with). I only care now because my children have to live with the next generation. So I need to prepare them.

miller said...

"Most of them are gay, and/or grad students." My friends are far more diverse than that, and again most aren't married (also, oddly enough 4 out of 5 guys name 'Matt' are gay....).

I was backing up my point, that many men are 'opting out'. Either in work or marriage. Men are not getting trapped in marriage, at least not here where I live. Most of the men who aren't married, have no need to work hard. You can live off surprisingly little without a family. Also, child support is a percentage of you pay, its literally cheaper to make less (and most guys I know work extra jobs 'under the table' to supplement their income).

Look, I"m not saying I'm right and you're wrong. I am saying that the people I'm around everyday have basically given up on this system. Even if your right, whats it matter? If even 10% of people drop out, its big trouble. My fathers generation, not that long ago, most men worked. My generation, far less work. That's all I really know.

miller said...

How would you know your friends are diverse, and how would I know? Most people have friends who are similar social class, similar education, and similar ethnicity. Not to mention living in similar urban/suburban/rural setting.

I don't see what declining participation in the work force has to do with women having a "contemptuous attitude towards men" (or did you even see that part of Insidious Sid's comment?). Honestly, this all about on the level of those vacuous news articles talking about how entitled millenial generation is. There's something going on sure, but I'm not going to take these guesses and over-arching narratives very seriously.

miller said...

Delusional feminists need to just shut the hell up!

miller said...

No no, let them speak! Let them produce more MGTOW's either directly or indirectly.

The more of them, the quicker feminism will destroy itself, because there's "no good men left" (aka slaves). The quicker government will be unable to afford an ageing population with fewer reliable non-thug employees to work for it, and be forced to choose between funding that or funding all the things feminism wants to make women artificially equal.

miller said...

Well, I think a successful species or culture is one that cooperates rather than starting a sexual civil war. But look what happens when someone starts a war...

miller said...

Brilliant analysis!
I wondered who else noticed this happening. I've been thinking about this subject alot recently. Did you notice there are fewer romantic heterosexual movies, and more "buddy" movies with a "hot" woman as the goal/target?
On Netflix, I'm looking at the selection of romantic films, and they all convey disfunctionality between men and women. Divorced, affairs - where is the building of friendship/connection?
I work with the Public, and noticed that Tinder is really mainstream now, with men in their 40's seeking out non-commital relationships with women in their 20's. They dump long term gf's when the pressure is on to settle down, and I really feel for those women who've spent up to 10years with the guy. But also women who use Tinder to have random sex to feel good about themselves.

I do meet those women you men hate, the ones that divorce your ass, take your kids, house and all your money. Do you know what I think? They are those "hot" ones that you make your target/goal! So what did you expect??? If men only choose a mate according to hottness, then expect to be burned!

In the future I believe that this will get worse. Women will be raising kids on their own, with the State, friends and family. Men will sell their seeds, hang out with their buddies and watch porn, enjoy no strings ego fuelling sex and be "free". I hear this word alot, "Free" but you know what? They are not happy.
One guy (40yrs) admitted that he'd only ever dated women with big boobs and who were really pale skinned. He only recently married because he wanted kids.

miller said...

Indeed, as feminism spreads MGTOW/grasseating/confirmed bachelor culture will spread. If a young man plans to be MGTOW from an early age he can retire by 50, or at least only have to work part time if he is good with his money does not gamble, smoke or drink much. Most, yes most western women are toxic, also the toxic women syndrome is spreading to Asian countries as well.

miller said...

Indeed MGTOW/Going Galt etc will continue to grow for many years, decades in fact. Any attempt to stop it could result in a civil war, yes a real civil war.

miller said...

People an interesting book by Dr Helen Smith.


miller said...

That would imply that the only purposes of women are breeding and fucking.

Many women are even to toxic for that, oxygen thieves many.

miller said...

Here I will briefly show the reactions coming from three different
groups: mainstream news, asexuals, and men's rights activists. No you will proceed to lie like ALL FEMINISTS DO.

I think people can do their own research cupcake.

miller said...

Most men are not like that you stupid bitch.

miller said...

trivialknot = liar

liar = trivialknot

miller said...


miller said...

Nobody has to justify their life decisions to you cupcake. That is the whole point of MGTOW/Going Galt/Confirmed bachelor/Going Ghost etc etc.

Perhaps you can go find your narcissistic supply somewhere else.


miller said...

"A lot of male right groups feel that men deserve -more- rights than women."

Can you provide evidence you lying bitch?

miller said...

More brain dead feminist lies....

miller said...

Yeah, I'm just going to leave this comment here and delete all other ten comments left by this person. Spam.

miller said...

Once again I ask, can you provide evidence you lying bitch?

miller said...

feminist = liar
liar = feminist

miller said...

Funny stuff! Better than an all-redneck version of America's Funniest Meth-Head Videos.