Why Young Americans are Having Less Sex

You don’t hear too many people write about the good old days, since the good old days coincided with the era in which women and minorities didn’t have equal rights.

But since we are all intelligent adults here, I feel like we can cheer for the progress we’ve made, while still lamenting some of the side-effects of that progress – namely, that technology is hurting people’s social lives in ways both big and small.

Let us count the ways:

People go out to bars and parties and stare at their phones instead of talking to strangers.

Social media has turned everyone into a “brand” to be carefully curated for public consumption.

Texting is both the primary form of communication and the laziest form of communication – one that creates anxiety and leaves out voice, tone and body language.

Tinder has taken the quaint shallowness of online dating to a new level. Profiles and emails mean nothing and you are no more valuable than your primary photo.

People feel more frustrated, disconnected, powerless and hopeless than ever before.

People feel more frustrated, disconnected, powerless and hopeless than ever before.

Believe me, like anybody, I found dating frustrating, but the despair I hear these days seems only to mirror the polarization of our electorate. People are angry and looking for answers. What they ignore is how they are partially complicit in their own problems – including the lack of sex they’re having.

The linked article breaks down a number of reasons that American adults (but notably millennials from 18-30) are having less sex.

  1. Millennials are more cautious and fearful of sex, including risks of pregnancy and disease.
  2. Millennials are more sensitive regarding sexual harrassment and assault, which will have a chilling effect on sexual behavior.
  3. More millennials are living at home, which can kind of put a damper on your sex life.

It’s pretty hard to have intercourse if you’re at your parents’ house, watching Netflix and texting.

On top of this, says Jean Twenge, author of iGen, technology is taking the place of real life interaction and it’s pretty hard to have intercourse if you’re at your parents’ house, watching Netflix and texting. Factor in a decrease in dating and an increase in porn consumption, and, well, there are a number of reasons I feel like I’m going to be in business for a long, long time.

Click here to read this thoughtful piece on the rise of technology and the fall of sex.

Your thoughts, as always, are greatly appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Eugenie

    Seems consistent with a generation that is generally more risk-averse than their forbears – partially a product of helicopter parenting too? Who knows?

    In fact, how much of the social malaise today – including the political correctness taken to ridiculous extremes- is just pathological fear of discomfort, confrontation, and conflict?

     

    1. 1.1
      Emily, the original

      Eugenie,

      Seems consistent with a generation that is generally more risk-averse than their forbears – partially a product of helicopter parenting too? 

      I was going to say something along those lines, too. They don’t have a sense of rebellion. They’re very nice and polite and hard working, but are the juices flowing? (I work with a fair number of millennials.)

  2. 2
    Alex

    As a millennial, I also think she missed one of the components. Our closest friends often live in far away cities, so the people most likely to set us up on a date aren’t around.

    1. 2.1
      Eugenie

      That is true! That the lack of friendships more generally – or at least, ones in our immediate area – also means no setups with friends of friends, due to the dearth thereof. And friends of friends are probably the best source of dates – are-vetted and in your social group.

      1. 2.1.1
        Emily, the original

        Alex and Eugenie,

        That the lack of friendships more generally – or at least, ones in our immediate area – also means no setups with friends of friends, due to the dearth thereof.

        I don’t know where either of you live, but are there not meet-up groups or other social groups you can join to make friends who live near you? It takes work and some trial and error to find the right group but it beats sitting at home or restricting your interactions to out-of-town friends you may see once a year.

        1. Eugenie

          Maybe it’s just where I live, but I haven’t found people willing to make a more meaningful connection than meet up groups. I don’t think anyone is saying Millennials are shut-ins (though many seem irrationally uncomfortable with phone conversations….).

          My closest friends are all from high school and college, and are now repairing back to our home town as they start families – after a decade or so of fairly rootless living and maybe a career to show for it.

        2. Emily, the original

          Eugenie,

          My closest friends are all from high school and college, and are now repairing back to our home town as they start families – after a decade or so of fairly rootless living and maybe a career to show for it.

          I don’t know how old you are, but the nature of friendship changes a lot once you hit your late 20s and people start getting married and having families. You may not see your old friends as often or you may not see them at all. It’s possible to have real, lifelong friendships, but they are rare. Most friendships are “hobby friendships” or “proximity friendships” or “stage of life friendships.”

  3. 3
    Rampiance

    Perhaps as the authors say, less sex correlates with mindlessness on electonics.

    But I offer an alternative theory because when I look at the raw data, I can correlate the pattern with mindfulness. Thinking about the complications of sex, living in contentment without sex ~~~ these relate to mindfulness about the sacred act.

  4. 4
    Mrs Happy

    I’m in my 40’s, and when I socialise with others around my age, there are some  people who are glued to their phones, and other people who don’t frequently look at their device while we are catching up, who make eye contact, speak, connect.  Thus fortunately what I get to do is choose to not continue to socialise with the glued-to-their-phones group, and instead mix with people who prioritise the real live humans at the table or in the room. Repeat this again and again and I basically have no friends who stay on devices when we socialise in person, because I’ve culled such people from my friendship circles.  Win for me.  I get to interact in my preferred way.

    I’ve read that younger people bewail their social groups’ behavioural patterns, because they go out, and everyone is on their phones/screens, rather than talking with one another.  The younger people who don’t like this, (the 20 years-ago me), eventually just don’t go out so often; they stay home.  It seems the younger crowd don’t have enough of a critical mass of non-screen people, to continue to socialise with.  I wonder if that extrapolates to all sorts of other, including intimate, relationships.  It’s almost just a numbers game at basics.

  5. 5
    Gala

    Why is having less sex a problem? In my book not sleeping around is a good thing.

    1. 5.1
      Kenley

      Totally agree — especially for teens.

    2. 5.2
      Stacy

      Gala, I agree…having less sex/sleeping around is awesome for young people (well, everyone in general).  However, building relationships (whether it be frienships or more) for millennials suck because of all the technology.

      1. 5.2.1
        Chris

        Having less sex is awesome? Doesn’t that depend on the context? Less casual sex may be good, but sex inside committed relationships is supposed to be a good thing.

        1. Stacy

          Chris,I got the impression that this article focused on the new dating environment of millennials as opposed to those in a committed relationship.

          The article states that the reasons are;
          1. Millenials are more cautious about sex and pregnancy (I assumed this applied mostly to people were casually dating hence the overcautiousness)
          2. They are more acutely aware of sexual assault, etc. (again, this is a fear that is usually applicable while getting to know someone, not when you are in  a trusting relationship)
          3. Live with parents (that can go either way)The article also stated that less sex could be attributed to people just dating less because of technology. So that would lead me to believe that less dating is directly correlated to less relationships.

          So yeah, in my head, less sex will mean less casual sex for the most part (at least with this article).However, I work with a bunch of millennials (analysts) and the hook up culture is real and I see millennials having wayyyyyyyy more sex than generations before.  Shucks, there is no longer much stigma to casual sex and getting pregnant without marriage. In fact, I think we are kinda oversexed really. I hear millennials talking all the time about ‘hooking up’ with (seemingly) no attachments. Add to that facebook and apps like Tinder and ‘everyone’ under 35 seems to be getting it on casually.So I don’t really see what data the article is using to prove less sex.

  6. 6
    Stacy

    Not sure why my post has no paragraphs when I put them in there originally.

    1. 6.1
      cindyp

      Stacy and Lynx, we are looking into why paragraph breaks are not appearing.

      1. 6.1.1
        Lynx

        Thank you! 

  7. 7
    Lynx

    Maybe some Milennials are wiser and more discriminating about relationships? My 18 year-old daughter and I are very close and have had many frank conversations about relationships — we have discussed so many topics I would never have been able to talk about with my own mom.She has not had a serious relationship yet, but has come close. One time she ended a budding relationship because she realized she’d been attracted for the wrong reasons. The other was with a person who was being emotionally manipulative, and my daughter identified the behavior immediately and called it out. In both cases, she told me about it after the fact, so it’s not like I was coaching her.One anecdote certainly doesn’t explain the trend, but I feel my daughter (and many of her friends) are so much savvier about relationships than I was at that age. 

  8. 8
    No Name To Give

    Well sexbots are a thing now.

  9. 9
    Ames

    I’d echo Evan’s 3rd point in addition to saying it’s not a matter of simply being at home but WHY. Employers are making record profits yet use every excuse to pay below living wage and suppress increases. My friends earned degrees and are now saddled with loans and entry level earnings. Their problem is “not having enough work experience.” I worked my way up in retail management supplementing shift work along the way. Im dinged as I have experience but not degree. Can’t be both ways. Whether it’s living with parents and being broke or working 70 hours a week and scratching to the top, there isn’t much physical or emotional energy left for relationships. Aches and sleep deprivation or constant financial worry kill the mood.  In my circle it’s been a fight to survive. I’m likely less educated and lower economic class than Evan’s typical client, however. Your milage may vary. 

  10. 10
    Fi

    I guess Im at the edge of Millenial (early 30’s counts, right?).

    In the comments here somebody notes how the younger people she works with seem in fact more promiscuous than ever. Yet the stats here DO show people are having less sex.

    I think its both.

    There is a trend, especially among younger millenials (say below 25) towards a somewhat puritanical view of life. And not just in terms of sex. Of my younger colleagues its noticeable how few of them drink. None of them smoke. They have a sombre way about them. Coming of age after the crash in 07/08 has changed people. I know I’m only a few years older, but I feel we grew up in very different philosophical mores. The idea that if you work hard you can do anything is now very difficult to sell. So, life is more serious. Relationships and sex are more serious.

    Regarding the paradoxical increase in Tinder hook ups and such. Economic life is mirrored in social life. In the last 10 years that 1% of 1% get richer and richer, and theres likely a similar sexual elite, especially among men of course.

     

     

    1. 10.1
      Emily, the original

      Fi,

      None of them smoke. They have a sombre way about them. Coming of age after the crash in 07/08 has changed people. I know I’m only a few years older, but I feel we grew up in very different philosophical mores. .

      I wonder if you notice this, but the 20-somethings I work with don’t even flirt with each other. There’s absolutely no sexual energy coming from any of them.

  11. 11
    SSJ4Gogeta

    Yep, I am 21 and I agree that millennials are having less sex but who really cares? Most of the guys I know (myself included) who don’t have sex can’t be bothered to go and get it and would much rather stay in our university rooms and play video games all day. Even the ones who can easily get obtain sex. We are all too lazy and we are too content with lives to care. I don’t see many people complaining about their lack of sex and we encourage those who want to “get lucky”.

    Maybe this is different in America but I can see how people can be concerned about younger people having less sex than their predecessors.

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