Taking a rain check on sex? You may be part of a broader cultural shift. According to a study recently published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, younger Millennials are more than twice as likely to report not having had sex since turning 18 (15%) compared to Baby Boomers and Gen X at the same age (6%). This is particularly true for women, people with college educations and Black Americans.
Millennials also tend to have fewer sexual partners than earlier generations, with an average of 8 compared to Baby Boomers’ 11 at the same age. We’re also seeing fewer people report that they have sex with multiple partners, down from 19% in the early 1990s to 12% today.
Although the changes in the statistics aren’t exactly cataclysmic, a Washington Post article speculates on some of the reasons why younger people seem to be a little more sexually conservative than their parents. As the article’s author Tara Bahrampour points out, Millennials have grown up awash in caution: we’ve grown up wearing our seat belts, eschewing and basically eradicating cigarette smoking, with “safe spaces” on our college campuses and trigger warnings aplenty. Increased risk aversion may be translating into an avoidance of the vulnerability of sex, lest we might “catch feelings.”
The media also love to suggest that Millennials struggle to form intimate in-person connections, having spent our entire young adult lives with a large chunk of socialization happening online. Perhaps this drives some part of the trend. But whatever the reasons for change, as anthropologist Helen Fisher points out, sex is as vital to life as water, and those who aren’t having sex now almost certainly will at some point. So if your friends are giving you a hard time about the cobwebs between your legs, know that you’re definitely not alone (and maybe get some new friends). After all, it’s really important to experience loneliness, and there’s no such thing as a perfect sex life, anyway.