This is a really interesting and thought-provoking article about the generational trend researchers are noticing among millennials (especially younger millennials) who are having much less sex (fewer partners and less sex with the partners they have) than the most recent previous generations. “A study published Tuesday in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior finds that younger millennials — born in the 1990s — are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive in their early 20s as the previous generation was. Even older millennials are more sexually active than this younger group is.”
Of course, there are plenty of theories why this is: young women feel more empowered than ever to say no to pressured sex/ sex they aren’t ready for or don’t want; “difficulty forming deep romantic connections; pressure to succeed, social lives increasingly conducted on-screen; unrealistic expectations of physical perfection encouraged by dating apps and wariness over date rape.” Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University and chief scientific adviser to the dating site Match.com cites ambition as a reason many young millennials avoid sex and intimacy: “A lot of them are afraid that they’ll get into something they can’t get out of and they won’t be able to get back to their desk and keep studying.”
And then, of course, there are dating apps affecting young people’s romantic and sex lives:
“[Millennials are a] group that really started to communicate by screens more and by talking to their friends in person less,” said researcher Jean Twenge, lead author of the two studies. So has sex declined because people are not meeting in person? Perhaps in part. But online life can also affect offline life in more subtle ways, especially when potential mates can disappear forever with the swipe of a thumb.“It ends up putting a lot of importance on physical appearance, and that, I think, is leaving out a large section of the population,” said Twenge, who teaches psychology at San Diego State University. “For a lot of folks who are of average appearance, marriage and stable relationships was where they were having sex.” Unlike in face-to-face meetings where “you can seduce someone with your charm,” she said, dating apps are “leaving some people with fewer choices and they might be more reluctant to search for partners at all.”
Then there are the people who would rather be playing video games than interacting with people — even people who might want to have sex with them and vice versa:
Noah Patterson, 18, likes to sit in front of several screens simultaneously: a work project, a YouTube clip, a video game. To shut it all down for a date or even a one-night stand seems like a waste. “For an average date, you’re going to spend at least two hours, and in that two hours I won’t be doing something I enjoy,” he said.
It’s not that he doesn’t like women. “I enjoy their companionship, but it’s not a significant part of life,” said Patterson, a Web designer in Bellingham, Wash.
He has never had sex, although he likes porn. “I’d rather be watching YouTube videos and making money.” Sex, he said, is “not going to be something people ask you for on your résumé.”
Another theory about this sexless trend among millennials is that they’re overcautious. As the first generation “to grow up with car seats and bike helmets, the first not allowed to walk to school or go to the playground alone,” they are equally cautious about “catching feelings,” a result often of physical and emotional intimacy, as well as avoiding the grey area that may develop without a clear “yes” before sex (“in efforts to counteract hookup and drinking culture, some campuses have begun instigating “yes means yes” rules stipulating that each step of a sexual encounter requires verbal consent. For some, staying away altogether can feel less treacherous.”).
If all this sounds a little depressing, here’s some perspective that may help:
Fisher, the Rutgers anthropologist, is not worried. “It’s probably a good thing,” she said. Noting that baby boomers were known not only for free love but also for high divorce rates, she added, “I think [taking it slowly] is going to lead to better first marriages.”
In the end, she predicted, biology will prevail. “Sex is a powerful drive, and so is romantic love. . . . The sex system is way below the cortex. It’s way below the limbic system,” on a level with thirst and hunger.
“They’ll get to the sex,” she said. “I’m positive of that.”
Are you a millennial? Have you noticed a trend among your peers to avoid sex and emotional intimacy? Are you a parent or older sibling of a millennial or just someone who works and lives among and interacts with them regularly and has thoughts about this so-called trend and what may be behind it? Or is this simply one more another article/ opinion piece attempting to malign or categorize millennials as emotionally-stunted and intimacy-fearing people suffering from arrested development with little more “proof” to back up that argument than a couple of interviews with a few virgins in their late teens and early 20s, who don’t necessarily speak for a whole generation?