Why Millennials Are Having Less Sex Than Previous Generations

Although Millennials have been nicknamed the "hookup generation" and Vanity Fair declared Tinder the reason for the “Dating Apocalypse” last year, when it comes down to studies and research, Millennials aren't having as much as sex as we might think. While those in their 20s and 30s are far more open to premarital sex than generations before, they’re not as likely to get it on as their parents’ generation or even the Gen X crowd (those born in the 60s and 70s). In other words, Tinder and dating apps may be leading to more people talking and meeting up, but it's not necessarily all leading to sex.

A new study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior and a combined effort from researchers at Florida Atlantic University, San Diego State University, and Widener University found that Americans ages 20 to 24 are so sexually inactive that it practically boggles the mind. According to the study, the amount of sexually inactive people in this age bracket has doubled in the past 30 years, with 15 percent of those 20 to 24 years of age having not had sex since they were 18. In contrast, only six percent of the Gen X crowd could say the same. In fact, the last generation that was this sexually inactive were those born in the 1920s. Yes, our generation is having the same amount of sex as our grandparents’ generation. But why is this?

“Millennials and iGen are growing up more slowly,” the study’s co-author and author of Generation Me , Dr. Jean Twenge, tells Bustle. “With more going to college and a still-challenging job market, it's taking longer for young people to become economically stable enough to support a family.”

But while there’s no denying that this generation is growing up more slowly, said the girl whose mom just made her a grilled cheese sandwich (with extra cheese!), there are other reasons as to why sexual activity has been on the decline. Here are some other factors according to Dr. Twenge and the study.

1. More Young People Live At Home

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According to the study, young people living with mom and dad is more popular than any other living arrangement. While there are those who do live with roommates or a romantic partner, living at home is the most common living situation for those ages 20 to 24. It’s hard to have an active sex life when mom and dad are in the bedroom across the hall.

2. Young People Are Opting To Live Life

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“There's a new attitude that your 20s are a time for self-exploration and that you shouldn't settle down with one partner too early, part of a larger trend toward individualism (more focus on the self and less on social rules),” says Twenge. While earlier generations found young people looking for love so they could settle down and start a family, that’s no longer the case for many young people. This also has created the shift in sexual activity.

3. Having Babies Has Been Put On The Backburner

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the amount of women without kids is the highest isn’t been since the census first started keeping track of this particular statistic — it’s also a statistic that’s on the rise. This, too, plays a factor in the lowered amount of sexual activity and sexual partners. “[Individualism trends] were there for Gen X, too, but Gen X'ers had sex earlier and got married and had children later than Boomers, lengthening the stage of dating and premarital sex Millennials and iGen are now putting off sex until later as well — the entire course of reproductive events is now delayed.”

4. Cultural Change Is Stronger Than Biology

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Twenge tells Bustle, puberty is happening earlier than in generations past. What this means is that while young people are growing up more slowly, they’re physically maturing earlier, but still putting off the whole sex and “grown-up” stuff until later on down the road. “It shows the power of cultural change, because the cultural shift is stronger than the influence of earlier biological maturation,” says Twenge. In other words, despite our physical truths, we’re letting culture have a stronger hold over our decisions.

5. Society Is More Open-Minded

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Earlier generations did not allow for the diversity of gender and sexual preferences that we have today. Because of that, no matter how someone felt inside, they just followed the path that everyone else did by getting married and having kids. These days young people are embracing their true identity and society is more accepting of it. To be asexual or a person who is simply not sexual in any way, isn’t seen as something strange. It also contributes, in a small way, to the decline in sexual activity.

Takeaway? Sex isn’t going anywhere, but its importance in people’s lives is changing.

Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (6)