Millennials even want safe spaces from sex, study finds
A study by Florida Atlantic University reveals that Millennials are significantly less sexually active than previous generations, despite a widespread perception that they are a “hookup generation.”
According to an FAU study released on Monday in the academic journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, more and more Millennials, particularly those born in the 1990s, are waiting to engage in sex while in young adulthood.
Although statistics show that young Americans today are more accepting of premarital sex than preceding generations, a larger number of Millennials than expected are choosing not to participate in the practice for a range of reasons, The Washington Post reports.
“This study really contradicts the widespread notion that Millennials are the ‘hookup’ generation,’” Dr. Ryne Sherman, an associate professor of psychology at FAU who helped conduct the survey, told EurekAlert, blaming the surging popularity of dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge for distorting popular perceptions of the generation.
“Our data show that this doesn't seem to be the case at all and that Millennials are not more promiscuous than their predecessors,” he said.
In fact, the percentage of young college-aged Americans engaging in sex is at its lowest rate since the 1920s. According to the FAU study, 15 percent of Millennials born in the 1990s have had no sexual partners—more than twice the percentage of those who were born in the 1960s, or Generation X, when the rate was 6 percent, and significantly fewer than either of the two generations between X-ers and Millennials.
Sherman and his co-authors assert that less-frequent sexual activity among Millennials correlates more with the generation itself rather than the time period in which it lives, which they deem an especially important conclusion.
“This has very little to do with changing norms about sexual behavior,” Sherman explained. “This is really about this generation of young American adults and not the time period in which they are living.”
The authors of the study speculated on Millennials’ reasons for avoiding sex, citing possibilities such as increased awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and the growing prevalence of sex education in schools.
Sherman also speculated that a rise in individualism among Americans has enabled today’s young adults to cultivate “permissive attitudes without feeling the pressure to conform in their own behavior.”
According to Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University biological anthropologist, Millennials are “a highly motivated, ambitious generation.” She believes that factors such as the pressure to succeed, general busyness, the rise of social media, and unrealistic expectations of potential partners contribute to the decline in sexual activity.
On the other hand, professor of psychology Dr. Jean Twenge, another of the study’s co-authors, believes that the sense of caution that characterized Millennials’ childhoods is another factor in the decline, opining that “emotional safety” is an important part of the generational worldview shaped by the age of bike helmets and cyberbullying, and that “safe spaces” on college campuses are manifestations of that caution.
Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research at the Council on Contemporary Families, hints that fear of non-consensual sex drives some Millennials to avoid engaging in sex altogether. College-age Millennials have become more aware of rape in the alleged “college rape culture,” and Coontz notes that they are “far less accepting of pressured sex,” especially in light of a crackdown on rape on college campuses.
Fisher, however, predicted that the current trend will not continue indefinitely, pointing out that “sex is a powerful drive, and so is romantic love,” leading her to state confidently that “they’ll get to the sex. I’m positive of that.”
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