When the media talks about the Millennials, they often refer to them as ‘The Hookup Generation’, a name which might not actually fit. According to a report published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, on average, Millennials actually have less sexual partners than Gen Xers or the Baby Boomers.
The biggest shocker, though, is that fifteen percent of Millennials born in the 1990s and over the age of eighteen haven’t had any sexual partners. The Boomers, notorious for the “Free Love Movement”, had an average of eleven sexual partners, while Gen Xers topped out at ten. The Millennials, on the other hand, look to average at about eight, a substantial drop if you ask experts on the subject.
So what gives? Why does the generation with a reputation for casual sex and carousal seem to be getting down less often than their parents were?
Some experts are blaming the supposed Millennial dry spell on today’s extremely competitive work culture. From a young age, Millennials were taught to focus on schooling and building their careers, leaving them with much less time for courtship than their parents. For them, sex falls a lot lower on their hierarchy of priorities than, say, finding a suitable career arc. Millennials, it seems, are investing far less time on relationships.
Sure, I’ll concede that Millennials are proving to be less… committed than older generations. The same study by the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior also noted that Millennial attitudes to infidelity were much more relaxed than previous cohorts. That said, just because you’re not in a committed relationship doesn’t mean you’re not having sex.
Others think technology is to blame.
As the first generation brought up with smartphones, Millennials are building relationships in isolation instead of in person. Less contact, means less sex. Applications like Tinder, a hallmark of the modern age, might work for those who are superficially attractive, but experts contend that such apps aren’t democratic in their ability to facilitate more sex for the average person. In other words, dating sites and hookup apps are making it easier for hot people to have more sex.
Catching the ‘feels’
Finally, Millennials might be slightly more wary about building relationships. This aversion to “catching the feels” sounds like a bad thing, but it could actually lead to stronger first marriages in the Millennial Generation. Millennials watched their Boomer predecessors spike divorce rates to unprecedented highs, saw the turmoil and financial ruin that befell older cohorts who entered into relationships with reckless abandon, instead of cautiously, with a little more life experience under their belts.
Millennials, it seems, are investing far less time on relationships, and more into personal lives, careers, and experiences.
Potential for errors in the study
Admittedly, the methodology of the study, conducted by Jean Twenge, might be flawed. For example, what constitutes “sex” in the minds of these studies’ respondents? The older generations might have counted oral sex or intimate petting as sex. Millennials have a more nuanced understanding of sexual acts and because of that, they might have only numbered partners who they had penetrative sex with, which would account for their lower overall average—assuming this is true, of course.
While this possibly skewed the numbers, it’s unlikely to fully explain why Millennials are exhibiting such dramatically different sexual behaviors than other cohorts, and why younger Millennials seem to be trending down in relation to older members of their generation.
One interesting thing to note about the study is the disproportionately high amount of people over eighteen who are still virgins (15%), a number that is larger than previous groups. Perhaps they’re skewing averages a bit lower than normal? Whatever the case, with a bit more time, the Millennials will probably live up to their nickname as ‘The Hookup Generation.’ Since the group is still so young, there’s plenty of time to get busy!
However you look at it, there are certainly some advantages to being a late bloomer. Millennials might not be getting plenty of notches on their belts, but they also seem to put a lower priority on courtship rituals. Who knows, by not focusing on the number’s game so much, Millennials might be able to form stronger, more committed relationships than their parents.