This article originally appeared on artnet News. 
by Sarah Cascone


There’s an unusual social problem in Japan: a growing group of middle-aged men who seem unable to lose their virginity. The efforts to help this population include a special course, with nude figure drawing sessions designed to familiarize them with the female form.

The classes are part of the Virgin Academia, run by Shingo Sakatsume. The correspondence course comes with a 100-page textbook, Virgin Breaker!, and runs for a full year, with participants keeping a counselor apprised of their progress in their efforts to meet women.

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AFP reports that a National Institute of Population and Social Security Research survey from 2010 found that one in four single Japanese men in their 30s had never had sex. This group has become known as yaramisos, and has seen an influx of growth over the past two decades, as the country’s economy has struggled.

“Many men seem to have lost confidence as they’ve lost their economic muscle,” matchmaker Yoko Itamoto told AFP. Another factor is the decline of arranged marriages—without them, some men, unprepared for the realities of adulthood, founder in their efforts to forge romantic relationships.

“I think that we should approach the growing number of ‘unwilling virgins’ (people who want to have sex but aren’t able to) as a social problem and one of the reasons that Japanese people avoid marriage or marry late,” wrote Sakatsume for Ignition. “The phenomenon also influences our country’s declining birth rate.”

Sakatsume sees Japan as a place of contradiction, where sexual imagery is widely found, but no one actually wants to talk about sex—and a woman can be arrested for making art based on her vagina.

The figure drawing sessions, which take place every other month in Tokyo, allows the yaramiso to encounter a naked woman in a neutral environment, free of romance and pressure to perform sexually.

“The first time I did this, in autumn last year, oh . . . I was so amazed. Their bodies are incredibly beautiful,” said 41-year-old Virgin Academia student Takashi Sakai to AFP. “One thing I learned is that there are many different shapes of breasts and even genitals.”

Should the participants suddenly find themselves in an intimate situation, the hope is that the classes will have prepared them for the sight of the naked female body.

The goal of the course, according to Sakatsume, is that “when they finally meet that special someone, they’ll be able to build a relationship of mutual trust and make their first time a joyful occasion.”

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