The millennial generation. They all just want to swipe right, hook up and move on to the next one. Marriage is dead because everyone just wants to be causal.
You have probably heard that spiel. If not from your parents, you have seen it in the media. Well, you have been lied to.
In reality, the so-called “hook up generation” is reporting much lower rates of sexual activity as young adults compared to generation X and the baby boomers.
A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that millennials as a whole, ranging from those born in the early 1980s to those born in the 2000s, have fewer lifetime sexual partners than gen X and boomers.
Furthermore, among millennials born in the 1990s the amount of sexually inactive young adults is more than double than the amount Gen X reported at their age.
Could it be that online dating apps such as Tinder and okCupid, which contribute to the millennial generation’s promiscuous reputation, are actually killing their sex lives?
Jean Twenge, the lead researcher of the study and author of the book Generation Me, says it is a possibility.
“It ends up putting a lot of importance on physical appearance, and that, I think, is leaving out a large section of the population,” she told the Washington Post.
Meeting in person allows one to use their charm and personality. But on Tinder, no matter how funny your bio is, if someone does not like your photos they are likely to swipe left. So while one part of the population may be using these apps to connect with multiple partners, another section of the population is left out completely.
Twenge believes this theory lines up with the study finding a more dramatic drop in sexual activity among millennials born in the 90s:
This was the group that really started to communicate by screens more and by talking to their friends in person less.
But as much as we love to blame smart phones for every problem plaguing the millennial generation, it is not that simple. There are several factors that could be contributing to this phenomenon.
Changing Roles For Women
The study noted a more dramatic rise in rates of sexual inactivity among millennial women. This conflicts with the perception that modern women engage in more casual premarital sex. So where does that perception come from if it is not actually the case?
Some young adult women said they believe the social stigma surrounding sexually active, unmarried women has decreased significantly for their generation. But that does not necessarily mean more women are engaging in it.
“I think there’s more access nowadays to information, and less pressure, and people are able to talk more openly about it because hooking up is losing its stigma,” Shriya, 20, from Santa Clara, California said. “Which is good, because girls can have sex a little more easily without being called sluts,” she added.
Hayley-Louise, 24, from Carlisle, Cumbria agreed. While she personally has never had a one night stand, she sees nothing wrong with it.
In all honesty, as long as people are practicing safe sex, I don’t have any issues with people shagging around, if that’s what they want to do – we are much more educated about sex compared to previous generations, and perhaps that’s why they look down on us (quite wrongly), and assume that our generation isn’t interested in relationships.
The rise of educated and working women in the West may also contribute to the declining marriage rates. In the 1950s and 1960s, marriage was often seen as a necessary arrangement between a male breadwinner and housewife.
But as women began entering the workforce and traditional housewife chores were made significantly easier with technology, the social views on marriage began to change. It became less of a financial necessity for women, and more of an equal partnership between two compatible people.
This allows people, particularly women, to take more time deciding what kind of partner they want. This coincides with the rising average marriage ages. In 1971, about 60 percent of 20-24 aged women in the U.K. had been married. In 2011, only 26 percent have.
Rebecca from Lexington, Kentucky shared, “I just turned 27 and I’m still a virgin. Because I don’t feel pressure to settle down, I feel free to wait longer for ‘the right person.’ I don’t feel like I have to sow my wild oats while I’m young.”
Anxiety and Instability
While the decline in sexual activity among young adults could be attributed to a positive shift in social norms, it could also be the result of millennial’s well-documented anxiety over their futures compared to gen x and boomers.
One possible factor: in many parts of the world affected by second wave feminism, divorce rates spiked during the 1970s and 1980s. They have been declining ever since, due to marriages occurring later in life, improved access to birth control, the rise of women in the workforce, and lessening social stigma around single parents – particularly single mothers.
However, millennials born in the 80s and 90s are more likely to have divorced parents. This may contribute to their attitudes surrounding marriage and cause them to be very cautious and wary of relationships in general. More young adults chose to live together before marriage – avoiding a divorce if things do not work out.
Plus, there is a greater number of young adults still living at home than previous generations. Living with your parents is bound to affect one’s sex life.
“I kind of feel like I am missing out on the traditional college experience,” said Caleb, 18, from New York, who commutes to school from home to save money. “I can’t just bring random girls home when my parents are right upstairs. That’d be weird.”
This is just one part of the financial anxiety millennials face.
This generation enters a world in which college admissions are increasingly competitive, good jobs are hard to find and harder to keep, and basic necessities like housing and health care have skyrocketed in price.
This forces millennials to focus on their careers and push family life, and indirectly their dating and sex lives, to the back burner. In Japan, which is facing a major population decline, a 2011 population report found that among those ages 18 to 34, 61 percent of men and 49 percent of women aren’t involved in a relationship.
In the same age group, 36 percent of men and 39 percent of women have never had sex, citing reasons such as fatigue from work, lack of interest, or finding it bothersome.
In this country, it is still very difficult for a women to work and have a family – and most young women are choosing the former over the latter.
So is this a positive or a negative trait of the millennial generation? It depends on who you ask. But only time will tell how this trend will play out as the generation grows older.