You would think that at the height of the hookup culture and the absolute peak of the popularity of dating apps, millennials would be getting it on pretty frequently. And, you know, I'm not just talking about single millennials. I'm talking about any millennials. You'd think that from the singles dating casually to the cuffed people in serious relationships, we'd all be doing it all the time. But compared to other generations, the amount of sex we have is pretty dang low. Yes, we may be having sex occasionally, but millennials are having less sex than older generations did. But why? Why are we having so little sex? A new piece in The Atlantic entitled, "Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?" explored that question.
For starters, teenagers are having sex later than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, teenagers are starting their sex lives later. In fact, the survey found that percentage of high schoolers who have been sexually active dropped from 54 percent to 40 percent between 1991 and 2017.
In her book iGen, Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State, reports that she found that millennials are predicted to have fewer sexual partners than either Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Furthermore, she found sexually active adults went from having sex 62 times a year in the late 1990s to only 54 times in 2014.
For starters, Dr. Helen Fisher, who studies love and sex and co-directs Match.com’s annual Singles in America survey of more than 5,000 unpartnered Americans, told the publication that she believes a likely cause could be the fact that not as many of us are in relationships. In fact, The Atlantic reports that about 60 percent of adults under 35 are currently living without a spouse or partner.
Next, there's the fact that between easily accessible porn and more innovative vibrators, it's now easier to masturbate than ever. The Atlantic reports that, from 1992 to 2014, the number of men who reported masturbating in a given week doubled to 54 percent. Similarly, the amount of women tripled to 26 percent. As a result, people may be less likely to seek out sex with a partner. Ian Kerner, a well-known New York sex therapist and the author of several popular books about sex, explained to The Atlantic that men's affinity towards porn is "taking the edge off their desire."
Another reason for declining rates of sex may stem from people avoiding bad sex. Debby Herbenick, a sex educator and researcher at Indiana University, told The Atlantic that the popularity of porn has also emboldened men to try more daring sexual behaviors, like anal sex or choking, without asking upon the first sexual encounter with a new partner.
“If you are a young woman and you’re having sex and somebody tries to choke you, I just don’t know if you’d want to go back for more right away,” she explained to The Atlantic.
Another potential reason for our increasingly inactive sex lives? We're just too busy. Affluent teens are pressured now more than ever to load themselves up with extracurricular activities in order to get themselves into college and set them up for a lifetime of success. “It’s hard to work in sex when the baseball team practices at 6:30, school starts at 8:15, drama club meets at 4:15, the soup kitchen starts serving at 6, and, oh yeah, your screenplay needs completion,” one man who was a couple of years out of college, told The Atlantic of his high school years. The author of piece noted that many other 20-somethings she interviewed told her that same pressure "extends right on through college."
What's more? Despite all of the movements towards body acceptance, millennials still seem to be insecure in their own skin. “Millennials don’t like to get naked — if you go to the gym now, everyone under 30 will put their underwear on under the towel, which is a massive cultural shift,” Jonah Disend, the founder of the branding consultancy Redscout, told Bloomberg last year.
This discomfort in our own skin is so prevalent that it's actually impeding our sex lives. According to the 2017 Match.com Singles in America survey, single millennials were 66 percent less likely than members of generations before them to enjoy receiving oral sex.
But what about dating apps and hookup culture?! Shouldn't those two things be making it easier than ever to get laid? Maybe not so much.
First of all, The Atlantic reports that the hookup culture isn't quite as bumping as people make it out to be. In fact, Lisa Wade, a sociology professor at Occidental College who wrote American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus, told The Atlantic that, of the students she studied, only less than a quarter of them were actually regular "enthusiasts" of hookup culture. The rest of the single population either totally abstained from it or occasionally dabbled.
When it comes to getting some action, dating apps may not be quite as fruitful as they seem. “Dating apps make it easy for hot people — who already have the easiest time," one 26-year-old virgin lamented to The Atlantic. Another 28-year-old woman added how their rise has impeded her IRL dating life: “The dating landscape has changed. People are less likely to ask you out in real life now, or even talk to begin with."
If you're comfortable with the frequency with which you're having sex, that's great. Keep doing your thing. But if sex is something you wish was happening more often, understand that you're not alone. There are plenty of people who feel the same way you do.