College Sex in Tokyo

I am 53 years old. There are eight places in the world I have called home. I have said hello and goodbye to so many people, having worked for one company for 30 years, that they could populate a small Pacific atoll. Each new person changes you whether you know it or not. Your views are strengthened or altered but they don’t stay exactly as they were after you interact with someone intellectually.

My views on sex are profoundly shaped by my friends, my sex partners in the past, and my parents.

My dad was in the Navy, so I will spare you all the ‘off-color’ jokes my Dad used to have. Sex talks with my Dad always took place in a car on a “long drive” on our island of 32 miles by 7 miles—never when I was helping him with car maintenance. My mom, on the other hand, was more pragmatic in discussing sex. It happened in the kitchen when we were preparing meals. “What do you want to know?” she would say. There was no judgement. There was also never any eye contact—sex was an awkward topic.

On Guam, sex was ‘dirty.’ You suddenly noticed a girl was missing from class and rumors abounded that she was sent back to California or the Philippines to “take care of a sick aunt” for six months—our euphemism for having a child. The boys were held in awe for having fathered before they even graduated high school. I look back now and shake my head.

My friends in Tokyo during my college years were an assortment of nationalities—both archly conservative and rather bohemian in their outlooks on sex. We asked lots of questions which demonstrated our inherited prejudices from our home countries.

“You are from Thailand, how pervasive is the sex trade there? Do you know anyone in it?” a Canadian asked a girl from Bangkok.

“Are girls in California still the most promiscuous in the US?” asked a friend from Baghdad.

“Is it true that Japanese men are the best ‘technicians’ in sex?” the girls would ask a Japanese returnee from overseas.

Sex was curiosity. College was the turning point—if I had been left in the US/Guam, my turning point would have been in my early to mid teens, where sex was the underlying topic you couldn’t wait to talk about but had to hold back on until the coast was clear.

The guys were out for the ‘conquest’ and the need to have a female counterpart to legitimize their new-found adulthood. Talk among the boys in Tokyo was always snide comments about one name or another of a sex hotel in Meguro or Ogikubo or a brand of condoms that were in all sorts of colors. The students who came from conservative cultures were all well behaved in school, with the first whiff of alcohol making them ‘attentive’ towards the female population. Guys were always making the narrow ankle comments (the thinner the ankles, the tighter someone was, supposedly). I got tired of it and to stop it I would say, “Is that the same for gay men too? The ankles thing, I mean?” My humor was not appreciated. I got ignored and shoved off to the girls.

The female group of friends I had never spoke to me about sex in public but were curious to find out what men liked. I would be a sort of spy. The more straightforward ones would ask me to go into the bathroom and peek on a guy to see if he was big enough to bother getting undressed for. In the beginning, I was appalled at the task assigned to me. I would walk into the bathroom, wash my hands and come out and say to an enraptured group of women, “Too girthy, you are going to need sutures after.” Squeals and fanning erupted. I collapsed back in my seat and promptly ignored the guy who was now the steamy attention of every woman at our table. Sadly, sex had become a game of proxy for me.

I remember being utterly shocked on a Dutch train on my way back to my parents’ from visiting a friend one holiday and hearing the opinion, “Sex is like breathing, you do it because you must.” It seemed to me a very matter of fact opinion and very ‘European’. And that was not too far a stretch from the views I encountered in Germany and back in school in Tokyo.

There were rape issues, too. A good friend of mine was attacked. Suddenly, sex was all hushed conversations and awkward interruptions. Rape stopped being something that happened to other people and came to roost at home. The first attack only scratched the surface. Then we found out it had happened more than anyone would have thought. It didn’t stop those of us in the quest for sex/bed sport and unfortunately it made us none the wiser (read: cautious). It wasn’t limited to English speakers or to women. Even the men were targeted. And what was perhaps the hardest thing to understand was that women were often supported and pitied, while men who were attacked were shunned and told to “walk it off.” Being in a big city when you have been assaulted makes it one of the loneliest places on Earth.

Sometime in my thirties the concept of sex changed one more time. It wasn’t about the posturing, the performance or the obligation but for the quiet comfort after. I don’t have sex to procreate. Having children is not in my goals. Cribs do not give me a longing for having a future generation of little Kennedys.

My perceptions on sex have been hammered and scratched and polished. Although I still admit to catching myself admiring ankles from time to time.