Herbivore men or grass-eater men (草食(系)男子, Sōshoku(-kei) danshi) is a term used in Japan to describe men who have no interest in getting married or finding a girlfriend. The term herbivore men was also a term that is described as young men who had lost their "manliness". The term was coined by the author Maki Fukasawa in an article published on 13 October 2006. The term also has close ties in meaning to "ohitorisama" which roughly translates to the act of living alone and performing tasks independently of other people.
Surveys of single Japanese men conducted in 2010 found that 61% of men in their 20s and 70% of men in their 30s considered themselves to be herbivores. Japan's government views the phenomenon as one possible cause of the nation's declining birth rate.
According to Fukasawa, herbivore men are "not without romantic relationships, but have a non-assertive, indifferent attitude toward desires of flesh". The philosopher Masahiro Morioka defines herbivore men as "kind and gentle men who, without being bound by manliness, do not pursue romantic relationships voraciously and have no aptitude for being hurt or hurting others."
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Indifference of men to marriage and committed relationships is an observable trend in many advanced societies. Various social and economic factors are cited as playing a role in this trend. In Japan, the decline of the Japanese economy is often said to contribute to the rise of herbivore men, the theory being that economic disillusionment from the bubble burst of the early 1990s, has caused Japanese men to turn their backs on typical "masculine" and corporate roles. As economic downturn showed the fragility of salarymen, permanent employment became less appealing, with over 2,500,000 freeters—young people working only part-time—and between 650,000 and 850,000 NEETs—young people who are "not in education, employment, or training"—between the ages of 19 and 35, living in Japan. This response might be deeply ingrained in Japanese culture.
Japanese women might be further discouraging men from entering into romantic relationships. The decision that many herbivore men make to stop working, because work and marriage in Japan are so inter-related, may have made it more difficult for these Japanese men to find marriage. Many women refuse men who do not have steady jobs (such as freeters and NEETs). Other women feel that self-proclaimed sōshoku-kei danshi (herbivore men) are weak and not masculine, while some men apparently are not attracted to "independent" women. In a 2011 poll of Japanese boys aged between 16 and 19, 36% described themselves as indifferent or averse towards having sex; the figure for girls in the same age group was at 59%. Masahiro Morioka argues that Japanese herbivore men are a result of Japan's post-war peace. Since the end of World War II, Japan has not directly participated in any war or conflict, either within its own borders or outside of them. Prior to this time of peace, many Japanese felt that becoming a soldier was the only approach to becoming manly. This social norm has slowly disappeared during the following period of post-war peace. Due to this, Japanese men are less aggressive and this could bleed over into their romantic lives.
Japan recorded only a 1.42 fertility rate in 2014, down from a high of 1.84 in the mid 1980s. Many blame this drastic fall on the rise of herbivore men in Japan. The decline in birth rate has been attributed to the herbivore men's reluctance to marry.
From 2008 to 2009, the term herbivore men became a widely used and trendy term in Japan. It even was voted into the top ten of Buzzwords of the Year in December 2009 by U-CAN. This term has become increasingly more popular as of late as herbivore men in Japan have become commonplace. Sōshoku-kei danshi (Herbivore Men) was a movie released in 2010 in which one of the main characters displays herbivore tendencies. Throughout the movie, he struggles to understand sexual situations, such as a woman inviting him to sleep with her. In the same year, singer-songwriter Gackt held a male-only rock concert in an attempt to bolster "men's spirit ... and sexuality" against the herbivore men masculinity in Japan's society. Herbivore men have become more prominent in Japanese culture recently and this phenomenon has been represented in their presence in media in Japan.
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