At first glance, 46-year-old Mayumi Futamatsu looks like a regular housewife. But as someone who’s “seen both heaven and hell” in her two marriages, she’s a woman with a mission to help all women to be happy — through having better sex lives.

When she got married in 1988 at age 28, Futamatsu had no doubt she would be happy. After all, her husband was a hospital doctor who squarely satisfied the so-called san-ko (three highs) criteria for a “good catch” — being tall, highly educated and a high earner.

But after they settled in Yokohama, Futamatsu soon found that, because of his hospital duties, he only came home a few days each month. Then, even though they had a baby daughter, he rented an apartment near work so he could get more sleep.

“The relationship was less than sexless. It was like hell, and I felt really, really lonely,” she said.

To overcome her loneliness, in 1991 Futamatsu launched a circle with other mothers, getting together regularly for events such as concerts and cookery classes with baby-sitting services provided. In Japan, as men are often overworked and left with little time or energy, she found many women were living virtually mother-child lives without sex. Soon her circle numbered some 1,500 members in 29 nationwide branches.

It wasn’t long before Futamatsu’s network attracted the attention of large companies, who saw it as a valuable source of market-research information about anything from electrical appliances to diapers.

“They sometimes needed a dozen extremely beautiful housewives, or some 3-year olds who didn’t like celery. I looked for such people among our members and introduced them,” she said.

Then a member who used to work in advertising told her that agencies offering the same service charged millions. So, in 1995, Futamatsu set up a marketing company and registered all the members who wished to sign up.

It was a good move at the right time, as Internet use was expanding rapidly and many housewives found that kind of side-job appealing. Soon, her company had 40,000 women registered, and was turning over about 140 million yen a year.

At that time, her economic independence encouraged Futamatsu to end her collapsed marriage. Meanwhile, through the group’s activities, she met many women who were also distressed about not getting any attention from their husbands and complaining about their sexless lives.

“But all couples must have been happy when they got married,” she recalled thinking. “I thought there must be something to be done.”

So, in 2003, Futamatsu started a free Internet consultation service, mainly responding to women’s sex and marriage problems. The next year, she handed her marketing company over to an acquaintance so she could concentrate on her consulting. Then, she quickly realized that many of women’s problems varied with their ages.

“Those in their 20s often worried about their husbands having affairs while they were pregnant. Those in their 30s were mainly concerned about being sexless, while boredom was often the problem for those in their 40s. Then, in their 50s, they mostly worried about their declining sex drive as a couple,” she said.

Futamatsu found that most problems could be solved by couples being a bit more creative in enhancing sexual excitement, or trying harder to care for each other.

To help more people, Futamatsu also launched a home page with an e-mail magazine that soon attracted more than 10,000 subscribers. Called “Tonari no shinshitsu jijou, uchi no shinshitsu jijou (The neighbor’s bedroom situation, our bedroom situation),” the magazine enables her to give free counseling to more than 100 people every month.

Never one to underwork, while running the magazine and a business to coordinate sensual bedrooms, Futamatsu has also written three books.

The first of those, “Tonarino Shinshitsu (The Neighbor’s Bedroom),” is intended for couples to read together to overcome their sexual dissatisfaction. There, she writes about men who come to see their wives as “just mothers,” rather than sexual beings — and then often start looking for other women.

“Of course men should also correct themselves. There are too few of them who compliment their wives, or try to please them after a few years of marriage. But women should also make efforts to stay attractive,” she said, pointing out that some men asked her in consultation sessions, “How can I do it with something that looks like a boneless ham?”

On the other hand, her second book, “Motto Fuufu wa Koidekiru (Married Couples Can Love More),” has tips she wants wives to read secretly. There, for the typical problem of sexlessness after a child comes along, Futamatsu advises women to take on a “totally different personality” after the baby goes to sleep, changing from supermarket cotton to silky underwear, for instance. Also, she reminds her readers that getting dressed up and going out together does help to trigger romantic feelings.

Similarly, a home party with other couples can also help to reveal a fresh side of one’s partner and ignite sexy feelings, she says.

“As he talks, your husband may surprise you with his knowledge of world politics. He might also rediscover your beauty in a party dress.”

More to the point, if your party guests are “close friends,” Futamatsu suggests “it’s fun to watch a soft-porn movie together as a ‘joke’ after a few drinks” — adding that when the guests have left, the wife can put on a more racy one she had hidden away to watch with him.

Finally, if all that fails (but the urge remains), Futamatsu recommends that similarly suffering women should cloister themselves in a room and meditate, thinking about the initial, dreamy stages of their relationship with their husbands. This will give them energy to try more tactics, she claims.

Meanwhile, in her most recent book, “Last Love,” Futamatsu focuses on how to keep couples in their 50s and 60s feeling fresh and frisky toward each other.

“Unfortunately, there is a culture in Japan to value new things, with many husbands believing that ‘the newer the wives and tatami mats are, the better,’ she said.”

In contrast, Futamatsu said a minority of couples start having more sex after their children leave home, because they have more privacy and there’s less pregnancy risk.

As evidence of this, she said she dreams of her experience in the Bahamas, when she visited a resort famous for its mature guests.

“Old men were fondling their aged wives who wore bikinis,” she said, expressing her wish that Japanese couples will one day be like that.

However, she said she was astonished that a survey of 1,609 married women she conducted in 2003 showed that — in line with other major surveys — more than 40 percent were sexless, according to the definition in Japan of forgoing sexual contact or intercourse for a month or more. In addition, an annual survey of 41 countries by condom-maker Durex last October placed Japan at the bottom of the world intercourse league — at just 45 events a year compared with the global average of 103.

But Futamatsu said that 30 percent of the women she polled who said they were sexless, also said they didn’t mind staying that way.

“Some who said that were still in their 30s! It’s ridiculous,” she said.

“The better sex a couple has, the better the relationship. Sex is important for health, mental stability and a happy family,” she said.

With success, Futamatsu has also become famous, and she is constantly sought after by the media. However, she laughed as she explained that “the funny thing about interviews is that most interviewers end up consulting me about their own sex lives.”

Certainly that’s not a problem that seems to bother her personally any more. In fact she beams as she tells how four years ago she married a man seven years younger . . . who “does everything” for her.

Nowadays she is living proof, she says, of the theory that younger men are better for women due to the biological clock. This is because, she says, many women become “hot” after their mid-30s as their pregnancy deadline approaches — while most older husbands are losing their sex drive at that time.

“We are very labu labu [in love], and always chuchuchuchuchu [kissing],” she said. But to avert the danger of complacency, she said that she and her husband are careful to tend the flames of passion. So, on their once- or twice-yearly trips to a tropical island, they take along their wedding outfits and walk around the resort’s chapel wearing them.

“The applause and warm blessings of the people who see us help us to regain our excitement,” she said.


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