The Reality of the Sex Recession

Man and woman sitting cross legged on a bed holding signs with SEX and LOVE displayed

We all seem to love discussing what Millennials do or don’t do, especially if it makes them seem entitled or lazy and like they are having too much smashed avocado.

The delight and fascination with which we greeted the news that they were having less sex than the rest of us was almost frenzied. Everyone and their dog was writing about the “Sex Recession for Millennials”. There are a lot of articles about millennial’s sex lives. Some by millennials saying they don’t want sex, some by experts saying that they are having more meaningful relationships, some that interviewed millennials and got varied responses and articles that say millennials are having sex, it just isn’t the sex their grandparents were having. Now here I am adding my opinion.  I hope a more balanced one.

When I first found out about this supposed ‘sex recession’, I admit my first reaction was pride that my generation had more sex. I know, but I am Gen Xer and we like any confirmation that we were the cool generation. But I was also surprised. Why? Millennials are the first generation for who sex is no longer taboo. Porn is accessible and ubiquitous to them. They are the ones that are comfortable with the idea that gender is a social construct and that kinks are no longer considered perversions but an expression of individuality.  Mostly I was surprised because according to all the click bait headlines I read before these ones, they were having too much sex because of technology and the hook-up culture it had created.

Once again, the newspapers got over-excited about the results in one research paper. Just like when they ran around telling us that rats got addicted to Oreo cookies. The results are as always much more nuanced than that. I read the research paper that spawned all the sex recession articles, Sexual inactivity during young adulthood is more common among US Millennials and iGen: age, period, and cohort effects on having no sexual partners after age 18.  Catchy title, right?  Firstly to be clear, the paper only looked at Americans aged 20-24. Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994 inclusive) and then comparing them with Gen X  (born between 1965 and 1979 inclusive), at the same age. It took its statistics from the GSS Data Explorer, from NORC at the University of Chicago. This is not a survey about sex and sexuality. The questions about sex are part of a much bigger set of questions about college, demographics, education and life in general. Therefore the survey is lacking in terms of detailed and nuanced information about sex lives and dating. I don’t feel the paper has good evidence for proposing that a reason millennials might not be getting as much sex is because they are not good looking enough to be able to hook up through dating apps. Are they concluding that no one can get laid without a dating app, but to get laid using a dating app you need to be good looking and that all millennials are ugly? Possible, but I need more evidence. 

In my further reading I found that there is evidence that millennials are the first generation to be better educated about sex and sexuality, the risks, the diseases. Their sexual awakening has been during discussions about consent and #metoo. They masturbate, buy sex toys, watch porn (a lot more porn than we did at that age) and sext each other. They have a range of options that weren’t understood by or accessible to older generations at the same age. Millennials are better informed and better educated than any previous generation and not just about sex but about the world and their choices in navigating it. Millennials may be having less traditional sex, but what seems to come through anecdotally in the articles by millennials refuting this paper is that they are having a lovely time and making informed choices. The sex they are having is excellent, thank you very much. 

Not only that, experts like Dr Helen Fisher, author of “Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray”, are suggesting that the way millennials are approaching relationships is actually a recipe for success. With their need to find out as much as they can about another person before investing time and energy on a ‘courtship’, they are ensuring a better success rate. ‘With slow love, maybe by the time people walk down the aisle they know who they have got.’ Knowing who you are marrying sounds like a pretty sensible idea. I should have done that the first time I did it.

Mind you a survey that factored in the variable of ‘are you still living with your parents’ might also yield a more accurate picture as to why some aren’t having as much physical sex as they might like.

What the articles rightly point out that this is the generation that can use technology to hook up and not just with some random at a party but with an individual who is also vegan/has a kink/is into Fellini. Whatever it is you are into, now you aren’t the only ‘Gay in the Village’ because the village is enormous. I also want to point out that some of us older generations have managed to take advantage of this technology to hook up with like-minded individuals too. 

The rate at which people have sex according to different surveys will always ebb and flow. One study does not give us the full picture.  Each individual has their own story just as we did when we were young. Sure us Gen Xer’s may have been statistically having more sex in our twenties but to the individual Gen Xer it doesn’t matter, it only matters what you are doing and to who. 

Like me you might find the results gathered by Singles In America (SIA) each year a more interesting snapshot of what is going on for American singles, their 2018 survey found that that 63% of millennials (and 70% of Gen Z) are looking for more than a fling and want to find love. Not only that they are optimistic about it, 75% of Gen Z and 69% of millennials believe they will find the kind of love they want. 

And as for actual sex, in this survey, specifically about sex and dating. ‘49% of Gen Z and millennials are motivated to find a sex partner, while most millennials, as well as Gen Z singles, reported being sexually active within the last week. Moreover, when asked how often they’d like to have sex, the majority of both Gen Z and nillennials said 2-3 times per week.’

And although this study is American, not Australian, I think we can presume that the little buggers are at it just as much here Down Under. That and eating smashed avocados with Vegemite.

1 comment

  • triXXXi66

    triXXXi66

    More than a month ago

    The reality of the sex recession in 2020 is Covid 19!

    Reply
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