Togame and her husband have been married for a year and want to have a child. There’s just one problem: he’s not interested in sex. Togame’s blandly handsome husband claims he loves her, but despite her best efforts, he ends up falling asleep and snoring while she tries to put the moves on him. Of course, the manga’s rated for teens, so if he did say yes it couldn’t show anything.
Why doesn’t he want to? Togame asks him, but his answer isn’t helpful: “Hmm, well … maybe it’d help if you looked a little prettier.” His second response is even worse: “Did you put on some more weight? Now I feel even less in the mood.” Or how about his third answer: “You look like a teensy fairy! You’re like a pet or mascot!” Desperate to get his attention, Togame tries everything: crash dieting, changing her hairstyle, dosing him up with energy boosters. Nothing works. Neither of them has ever had another partner, but soon Togame finds herself fantasizing about strangers. Her self-esteem plummets: “If it’s not my looks, what is it? Is my very existence no good?! Have I done something wrong?!”
The first thing to know about Secretly, I’ve Been Suffering About Being Sexless is that, despite what the title suggests, it’s not about asexuality. Togame is in a state of constant sexual frustration, and her husband is so uncommunicative it’s impossible to gauge his sexuality. The second is that, though it’s apparently autobiographical and the cover mimics the popular diary comic My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, the inoffensive, commercial style of Sexless has little in common with Loneliness’s personal cry from the heart.
The art is cute but slapdash, with goofy faces and catgirl cosplay sitting awkwardly alongside the despair. Maybe the humor is necessary to keep things from getting too depressing, but what certainly isn’t necessary is the manga’s indulgent attitude toward Togame’s rotten husband, who comes off as part unknowable blank, part selfish child. The treatment of Togame’s body issues is also terrible; presumably it’s an accurate portrayal of the artist’s feelings, but it’s no fun to watch her beat herself up over her looks and weight.
In the end, the manga comes off as a glibly cheerful look at a serious topic, like a 1980s afterschool special. Readers who share Togame’s problems deserve a more honest look at the subject matter, or at least an 18+ rating so the manga can talk frankly about sex.
publisher: Yen Press
story and art: Togame