People are buzzing about a recent article in The Atlantic entitled, “Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?” in which author Kate Julian mentions that teens and young adults are having sex less often.
Despite the fact that we live in sexually progressive times where media has helped relax social attitudes towards sexting, hooking up, porn, BDSM, polyamory and even anal intercourse, Americans — and people in countries around the world, she adds — are experiencing a “sex recession.”
Looking at data from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior and the non-sex specific General Social Survey of Americans, Julian found that men and women are pleasuring themselves more, long-term couples are having intercourse less often, and young people are leaving high school without having dated anyone.
But if you’re LGBTQ, don’t panic. Julian’s research didn’t really account for us. And young folks having less sex isn’t necessarily a bad thing anyway.
Looking for a reason behind the so-called sex recession, Julian mentions a slew of possible causes from “crushing economic pressures… surging anxiety rates… widespread antidepressant use… and dropping testosterone levels…” to “streaming television… digital porn… dating apps… helicopter parents… careerism … sleep deprivation [and] obesity.”
If you don’t feel like reading Julian’s very long article, here’s a video that breaks down many of its biggest points.
Julian doesn’t land on a single cause for declining libidos. More so, she wonders if people might have a dysfunctional relationship with intimacy.
In short, she thinks an over-reliance on smartphones to fulfill people’s intimate needs might’ve made people feel increasingly awkward about sexually engaging others in public spaces. She also thinks the abysmal state of U.S. sex education might play a role.
In his most recent Savage Lovecast, longtime sex columnist Dan Savage made two important points about Julian’s article.
First, our increasingly permissive sex culture also gives permission for individuals to decide when to have sex. Just because people aren’t having sex at young ages doesn’t mean they’re not having lots of great sex later on in their lives. If anything, it’s proof that people feel empowered to choose when it’s right for them, and that’s a positive thing.
Second, it’s actually very common for LGBTQ kids to get through high school without ever having experienced any serious dating or sexual activity, especially if they live in communities and families where it’s not safe to be out.
In this way, straight youngsters are merely experiencing now what LGBTQ kids have faced all along.
Julian also says that the sex recession may be “a mostly heterosexual phenomenon.”
She writes, “Un-partnered gay men and un-partnered lesbians seem to have substantially more active dating lives than do heterosexuals,” possibly due to their successful use of apps and side-stepping of pregnancy fears and traditional heterosexual gender roles.
Either way, the sex recession could be a positive thing or a particularly modern phenomenon. We’d definitely need more research on LGBTQ sex lives for a clearer overall picture.