Global Blue Balls, Mapping Sexual Frustration

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It’s official: the most sexually frustrated people on earth are the Japanese.  In a global survey on sexual well-being by condom maker, Durex, only 15% of the Japanese reported feeling sexually satisfied in life. Nigeria led the way for highest sex life satisfaction with 67% of respondents reporting positively and Mexico came second with 63%.

A little bit of healthy skepticism about these results would not be out of place., takes on the Durex research in an article titled “LET’S (NOT) TALK ABOUT SEX, BABY.”  In the article a Chinese sexologist disputes Durex findings in China saying that they mainly surveyed people in economically developed, coastal areas that could afford internet access.  He argues that because of this, Durex’s survey is not representational of the overall Chinese population. Despite this caveat however, the article seems to think there is truth to the survey: “..the Chinese have sex much more often than the global average but are still too shy to talk about it with their partners… That may explain why only about 24 percent said they often experience orgasm, half the global level.”

Is this Chinese reserve reflected by other Asian countries?  In a study headed by University of Chicago academic, Edward O. Laumann, the idea of sexual dissatisfaction in Asia is reinforced, again with Japanese sexual dissatisfaction leading the pack.

An NPR article commenting on Laumann’s findings summarized them by stating that “couples in Western countries are the most sexually satisfied, while countries in the East appear to be less satisfied.”  Also: “Asian countries all reported low levels of sexual satisfaction and moderate to low levels of satisfaction with their relationships and the importance of sex.”

Sound like Western libido imperialism?  Maybe I’m just being defensive because I grew up in Asia but I really feel uncomfortable with these findings.  What do you conclude from them?  It’s easy to pontificate on possible reasons for low Asian libido.  Some would go the route of and say that cultural reserve in communication is responsible.  Cultural taboos about discussing sex and individual needs and preferences may be blamed.  Others may claim that the sex score cards are lowered by lopsided gender relations in these countries, that male dominance negatively affects sexual satisfaction.

It looks like nothing conclusive can be said right now.  Laumann’s original article states “Given the substantial, and observed differences in sexual attitudes, practices, and sexual well-being between “East” and “West”, we suggest that future research could fruitfully investigate cultural and structural causes of this variation.” Until then, an extended Nigerian trip and a stint in Mexico may be advisable.

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41 thoughts on “Global Blue Balls, Mapping Sexual Frustration”

  1. I have to be honest with you – I never thought I’d see the words ‘Bjorn Karlman’ and ‘cock-block’ in the same sentence…

  2. I am wondering if there is any connection to work ethic. High pressure and constantly feeling like you cannot do enough to be successful (Ganbaru/Jaiyo) can probably have a devastating effect on one’s genitals. This attitude may also have had an effect on how Asian’s responded to the question. I also feel that westerners, mainly americans, with our super inflated egos may have said yes just because we didn’t want the questioner to think we give lack-luster performances.

  3. I think that it has to do with the place that these societies delegate for women. Coincidentally, the rate of sexual slavery (women, are of course, the main commodity in this disgusting trade) is quite high in the countries you listed as having low sexual satisfaction. When women claim the power that is rightfully theirs, everyone is happier! On another note, a shameless plug for an organization that is giving women back the dignity and safety that they deserve after they’ve been stripped of their humanity by trafficking :

  4. First off, yeah Nigeria!! I don’t know how accurate this study is as far as the Asian countries.. I hate to be obvious but there are A LOT of people in China. I really don’t think they came from mass immaculate conception! I’m hoping that good times were had in direct proportion to number of births.

  5. Not many people talk about sex in Asia since it’s culturally taboo and looked down upon – so perhaps even enjoying the actual deed in itself is locked up in pandora’s box because it’s not even proper to scream – thus the many unsatisfied.

    I thought Australia would be one of the top countries satisfied. I guess I was wrong. Nigeria – they wear nothing there. Mexico – they get away with wearing as little as possible. lol.

  6. What do you mean nobody talks about sex in asia? Japan has a long history of sexuality in literature and in its culture. Taoism, which originated in China, has its own set of sexual fulfillment guidelines to promote longevity and spiritual development. I think that the issue here is the information being gathered and how reliable it is.
    First of all, I think that in an open-ended study about sexual satisfaction, someone from an asian culture would be less open to give information about the topic. A culture like Mexico, on the other hand, has less of a problem divulging that kind of information.

    but here’s some food for thought:
    in Japan, oral contraceptives weren’t allowed until a few years ago, to ensure that people used condoms so as to contain the spread of HIV) Studies say (got this of of wikipedia) that 80% of the sexually active population use condoms. so if only 20% are reproducing and the population is not declining, I’d say they are having plenty of sex and liking it ;)

  7. Unfortunately, I don’t know a whole lot about asian cultures :( I only developed my mexican side and I guess that’s good news for me according to the research. I do have to say, Mexicans do like to embellish on things of this nature therefore I wouldn’t be surprised if half the subjects lied a little. :)

  8. Actually, in Laumann’s findings he specifically points out that sexual satisfaction is negatively affected by lopsided gender relations…

  9. Improper to scream? My girlfriend Jammie is in Korea right now and apparently there were some noises from a nearby apartment that may have… ahem… been improper…

  10. Thanks for the input Flora! And you are right, any international study of this kind will have its issues in accurate data collection… by culturally accepted means.. Excellent input on Japanese lit and approach to oral contraceptives… I’d love to have you guest post on CultureMutt sometime soon…

  11. Ugh — sometimes I think these surveys are so West biased… I definitely agree with you about the fact that it’s more a taboo topic in the east. I think plenty of people in Asia are “sexually satisfied,” just probably less likely to gloat about it in a survey!

  12. Cara, I’m loving the shameless plug. I read through the entire website. Really great- I might want to apply there someday.

  13. Having lived in Japan, my reaction to the results of the Durex survey are similar. I bet there would be significant difference in results depending on how the questions were phrased. I’d be curious to see what the questions actually were.

    Are the Japanese sexually frustated? My first question would be which generation? There is a HUGE difference in people’s attitudes about sex depending on their age bracket. I would say they’re frustrated about a lot of things(work, work, work…), but if they are sexually frustrated, it’s probably because they create so much fantasy about it that when it comes down to it, it’s not all that.

    Whereas some cultures take pleasure from “gaining the prize”, others prefer to be kept in suspense and mystery thereby embracing the world of fantasy more. In Japan there is so much to feed your fantasies it’s not even right.

    Also, there is a lot of “allure” in Japan in being “not easily had”. So, as I said, I’d love to know how questions were phrased because what might be seen by a westerner as sexual frustration might be actually pleasurable to a Japanese person on some level. Both parties actually seem to like resistance both emotional and sometimes physical. If you watch any Japanese TV or movies, there is hardly ever any “giving in” to feelings. They LOVE to suspend the feeling of longing or rejection. Intrigue and mystery is much prefered to overt sexual activity right away. That’s too “in your face”. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

  14. Well said Steph, I remember when we tried to have an open-forum discussion on human sexuality in a village in the Philippines… quite a lot of silence… the most dramatic contributor to that particular discussion was an Ethiopian who divulged some details his wife did not appreciate being shared…

  15. Excellent reflections Karin! Here’s the link to Laumann’s research to answer questions as to methodology (very valid ones, I might add). Here’s the link to Durex’s methodology:, the thought process behind the questionnaire: and their defense of the study’s credibility: Obviously, Laumann takes a more thorough approach and Durex probably used the whole thing as more of a PR gimmick..

  16. Great! I would like to get people from different places to write a Seduce a _________ article. I started with Swedes since I am originally Swedish. What do you think about the same sort of article from a Brazilian or Romanian perspective?

  17. One major thing that came to mind while I read your article is our society’s obsession with sex: what is attractive, what makes sex good, and how often one has to have sex in order to be satisfied. Media has done a great job in influencing what we should be expecting to be sexually satisfied. For instance, many women don’t experience an orgasm when having sex every single time, because women having orgasm is so complex so much goes into it. There are in fact women out there who have never had an orgasm and claim to be sexually satisfied. This is right in the face of our media that shows if you don’t orgasm it can’t be good. Many women go to the doctor claiming there is something wrong and that they are sexually dissatisfied because they can’t have an orgasm. Place these women in a loving sexual relationship and without all the pressure to have orgasm and all of a sudden they have freedom to be sexually satisfied. Like many others have said, perhaps it is not that the Asian cultures are sexually dissatisfied but that not only are we asking the wrong questions, but assessing incorrectly what it means to be sexually satisfied for them. Not to mention, that they are probably buying into Western’s Society’s definition of what it means to be sexually satisfied.

    I think it is a sad statement that we are choosing another way of judging and comparing societies by ranking who is more sexually satisfied. Sexual satisfaction is only a tiny part of what makes a society healthy & “happy.” Just another way of how we Westerner’s try to put our ideas on other cultures and societies.

    In case anyone is interested, my comments about women, sex, & orgasm come from a well written and researched book: Sex Matters for Women: A Complete Guide to Taking Care of Your Sexual Self by Sallie Foley MSW

  18. I think it’s true. And truth hurts. But while we are having good sex here in the west, they are getting smarter and smarter in the east, expanding businesses and profits. So I guess it evens out. Given the global economic crisis, I wonder which will turn out to be more helpful over the next ten years.

  19. Point well taken Tania, I would agree that there is a disproportionate amount of media attention on sex, especially in the West. I would say, in defense of Western culture, that sex is a global obsession, I am sure it always has been. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a lighthearted ranking of countries according to reported sexual contentedness as long as these surveys are taken with a grain of salt. Foley’s book looks great…

  20. I find it interesting that the country in which they are allegedly most satisfied sexually also has the lowest HIV/AIDS rates in Africa. I don’t think this is a coincidence!

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