The first beta-male society

Something is happening to Japan’s young men. Compared with the generation that came before, they are less optimistic, less ambitious and less willing to take risks. They are less likely to own a car, want a car, or drive fast if they get a car. They are less likely to pursue sex on the first date – or the third. They are, in general, less likely to spend money. They are more likely to spend money on cosmetics…

To hear the analysts who study them tell it, Japanese men ages 20 to 34 are staging the most curious of rebellions, rejecting the 70-hour workweeks and purchase-for-status ethos that typified the 1980s economic boom. As the latest class of college graduates struggles to find jobs, a growing number of experts are detecting a problem even broader than unemployment: They see a generation of men who don’t know what they want…

This isn’t about sexual orientation. According to a 2009 survey from market research firm M1 F1 Soken, almost half of Japanese men ages 20 to 34 identify themselves as herbivores. No matter their sexual preferences, herbivores tend to be less overtly sexual. Many say they do not prioritize physical relationships. They’re more likely to buy gifts for their mothers than for their significant others.