Experts say that your sexual peak hits before 30 years old, but increasingly it seems that millennials are having worse—and less—sex than the generations before them.
According to recent reports, “the share of US adults reporting no sex in the past year reached an all-time high in 2018, underscoring a three-decade trend line marked by an aging population and higher numbers of unattached people.”
So between men and women, who is more likely to have fewer sexual encounters?
Among the nearly 1 in 4 adults—or 23%—who spent the year in a celibate state, a much larger than expected number of them were 20-something men, according to the latest data from the General Social Survey.
According to another study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, millennials born in the ‘90s are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive as the previous generation, and are generally placing less emphasis on sex and relationships.
What is causing the Great American Sex Drought? It probably won’t surprise you to learn that online pornography is playing a huge role, though it’s definitely not the only reason. Experts also cite increased career focus, more screen time, less frequent personal connection, living with parents at an older age, being in a committed partnership later in life, and a host of other factors—but the availability of online porn lets people, in the words of the New York Post, “get their jollies” without having to resort to, you know, actually being with other people and building relationships.
Sex is Awesome, Porn is Not
Now, let’s be clear about one thing: Fight the New Drug is actively fighting to raise awareness on the proven harms of porn, but we’re also totally pro-healthy sex. In fact, one of the major reasons that we fight against porn is because porn can be a major roadblock in building and/or maintaining real, meaningful, and life-changing relationships that we can have with other people, and having a healthy sex life can be an amazing part of that, when partners are both ready.
In other words, by joining the fight against porn, we hope that people will have more loving, caring, respectful, intimate, and consensual sex—not less.
It’s also important to remember that not all sexual encounters are the same in meaning. Rather than sex being a physical expression of intimacy, commitment, and love, mainstream porn would have consumers believe that it’s a place to practice dominance, aggression, or violence. Not okay.
One horrifying recent trend that’s been highlighted is “stealthing,” where a male sex partner will remove his condom in the middle of intercourse without consulting the other partner. Given that, in one survey done by UCLA, 69% of porn performers say they haven’t used a condom on set in the past 30 days, and there are entire categories dedicated to “stealthing” on mainstream porn tube sites, it isn’t far-fetched to say that porn has a major role, here. And that’s just the latest disturbing sex trend of our generation—if this is what sex can become, it’s no wonder that fewer people are wanting to engage with it. And if that’s what’s happening with millennials, who’s to say what the next generations will experience unless something changes?
Porn is the Opposite of Sex
“There’s a certain way of experiencing sexual arousal that is the opposite of closeness,” says Dr. Gary Brooks, a psychologist who has worked with porn addicts for the last 30 years. “At best, it can be managed somewhat by some people, but most of the time it creates a barrier that poisons relationships.”
Relationship experts, Drs John and Julie Gottman explain, “When watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control… the relationship goal of intimate connection is confounded and ultimately lost.”
Sex can be an important part of a committed and successful relationship, and as it turns out, more sex (had in a healthy context) can make the world a happier place. What does having a “healthy context” mean, though? We don’t think sex is something to rush into or be careless about, but there are a few things that can help make millennial sex less terrible.
Make Sure it’s Consensual
This one goes without saying, but things like stealthing and porn-inspired abuse don’t have any place in a healthy, consensual relationship that’s built on a foundation of mutuality, respect, and equality. Even though some people have claimed that the increased emphasis on consent is one of the reasons young people are having less sex, but that misses the critical point—rape isn’t sex, assault isn’t sex, and force isn’t sex.
More open discussion and consent is a healthy thing, and doing it the right way doesn’t make sex worse, it makes it better.
Don’t Get Your Information About Sex From Porn
Porn can seem like an easy place to learn about sex, but it’s really, really not.
A disturbing amount of porn emphasizes dominance and violence, things that don’t have a place in a safe, consensual, and mutually satisfying relationship where sex is involved. There’s a lot more to sex than just the act of intercourse itself—things like trust, sharing, cuddling, intimacy, and love. Things that porn can never duplicate. Porn only shows the shallowest and most inaccurate versions of sex, and taking cues from that isn’t the way to build a healthy relationship with good expectations.
Make Time For Real Relationships
One of the reasons cited for the decrease in sex among young people is that there’s just too much screen time. This means that people aren’t actually taking the time to build real relationships, but also that dating apps, where physical appearance is the only criteria, is making it harder to actually meet people, because it’s so easy to dismiss potential partners with a single swipe.
Taking the time to get to know someone provides the opportunity to fall for their intellect or sense of humor, and not just their appearance, which is more likely to lead to a lasting and fulfilling relationship anyway.
Why This Matters
These are just a few things that can help build a lasting, loving, consensual, and fulfilling relationship. Sex can be a big part of that, and taking the time to do it the healthy way (not the porn way) is way sexier than the alternative.