Last month, the New York Times Magazine ran a fascinating story by Lisa Katayama about the popularity of body-pillow girlfriends in Japan. Apparently, an unknown fraction of men – a subculture of a subculture – adopt “2-D” lovers as a substitute for the real thing. They take them out to restaurants, treat them tenderly, and bring them home to bed at night.
Unlike actual humans, body pillows can be purchased on internet auction sites and via discount retailers. They are emotionally uncomplicated, easy to replace and replicate, and make for cheap dates.
[T]he rise of 2-D love can be attributed in part to the difficulty many young Japanese have in navigating modern romantic life. According to a government survey, more than a quarter of unmarried men and women between the ages of 30 and 34 are virgins; 50 percent of men and women in Japan said they were not “going out with anybody.”
The funny thing is, it sounds quite reasonable, in a sad sort of way:
The guru of the 2-D love movement, Toru Honda… has written half a dozen books advocating the 2-D lifestyle. A few years ago, Honda, a college dropout who worked a succession of jobs at video-game companies, began to use the Internet to urge otaku to stand with pride against good-looking men and women. His site generated enough buzz to earn him a publishing contract, and in 2005 he released a book condemning what he calls “romantic capitalism.” Honda argues that romance was marketed so excessively through B-movies, soap operas and novels during Japan’s economic bubble of the ’80s that it has become a commodity and its true value has been lost; romance is so tainted with social constructs that it can be bought by only good looks and money. According to Honda, somewhere along the way, decent men like himself lost interest in the notion entirely and turned to 2-D…. Honda insists that he’s advocating not prurience but a whole new kind of romance. If, as some researchers suggest, romantic love can be broken down into electrical impulses in the brain, then why not train the mind to simulate those signals while looking at an inanimate character?
The entire article is very much worth reading. Then go rent Lars and the Real Girl and make it a twofer.
Love In 2-D [The New York Times Magazine]