What do you remember about sex in the ‘90s? On one hand, pop culture was all about pushing the boundaries of sexuality. You had the Spice Girls, Christina, and of course, Baby One More Time Britney. On the other, women had “The Rules.” — you know, the ones that say a hetero woman shouldn’t talk to man she’s interested in first or else he’ll get the crazy idea that she actually likes him or something. I think we can all agree that 20 years later, it’s a very different kind of world. There are so many ways sex has changed since the ’90s.
"I see the way sex has changed and is continuing to change in so many ways,” sex educator and founder and CEO of sexual pleasure product company, Vibrant, INC. Rebecca Engel, tells Bustle. According to Engel, while there are many changes, there are two in particular that seem to stand out among the rest. The first is talking about pleasure for women.
“I taught sex ed for years and know that it’s so common to talk about it in terms of ‘reproduction for women’ and ‘pleasure for men,’” Engel says. “I think we’re finally moving out of that space and recognizing that everyone deserves to feel good.” Along those lines, Engel says sex toys are finally being designed and manufactured by women, for women, so they’re actually being created with women’s bodies in mind for the first time.
“Society is also becoming much more accepting of gender and sexual fluidity, which in turn is making us more accepting of toy use for pleasure, for everyone,” Engel says. So, it’s finally taken us about 20 years to realize that women’s sexuality exists and matters too. But that’s definitely not all. Here are other ways sex has changed since the ‘90s:
1. People Are Becoming More Conscious Of Their Sexual Health
“We’re continually moving to a health-conscious space of what we put in our bodies and sexual health is going in that direction as well,” Engel says. But we still have more work to do, from protecting ourselves better to choosing safer sex products. According to Engel, sex toys are still not regulated. That means we need to continue or even start having the conversation about what materials toys are made out of as well as what ingredients are in lube.
“There are so many great products out there that won’t cause infection, don’t have cancer-causing agents, won’t burn or deteriorate over time, but people don’t know what to look for,” Engel says. “This is a conversation that we’re trying to push at Vibrant because we know how important it is and believe that as soon as others know that it’s something to be aware of, they’ll think it’s important, too.”
2. Anal Sex Has Become Less Taboo
AJanuary 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a significant increase in the number of people who’ve had anal sex. In the 1990s, only 25 percent of men and 20 percent of women had said they've done it. Today, 42 percent of men and 36 percent of women say they’ve tried anal at least once. Could the introduction of internet porn have anything to do with it? Maybe. After all, a 2015 Pornhub Insights report did see a 120 percent increase for anal sex searches between 2009 and 2015. So anal is definitely getting more popular over the years — or at least more people are admitting they're into it.
3. Women Are Masturbating More
Or at least, admitting it now. According to a report by Oprah.com, only 7.6 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 59 said they masturbated once a week in the early ’90s. A recent TENGA survey conducted this year found 81 percent of women say they’ve masturbated in their lifetime and a majority of women also do it an average of eight times a month, or twice a week.
4. A Wider Range Of Birth Control Methods Are Being Used Today
According to a 2012 report from the CDC, the number of women using IUDs increased from 0.8 percent in 1995 to 5.6 percent in 2010. With the recent spike in interest over long-acting birth control options, that number could go up. Currently, female sterilization and the pill are still the most commonly used forms of birth control for women, and the report also found a decrease in condom usage between the mid-90s and 2010.
5. There’s Now An FDA-Approved Pill For Women Suffering From Sexual Dysfunction
In 1998, Viagra was accidentally discovered and has been used to help men suffering from erectile dysfunction. After years of trying to get people to recognize that yes, women suffer from sexual dysfunction issues too, in August 2015 the FDA finally approved flibanserin, a first of its kind drug made to boost low sexual desire in women.
6. Technology Has Made Getting Sex A Lot Easier
The late '90s in particular were all about AOL chat rooms (A/S/L, anyone?). Now we have dating apps and hookup to help you find a hookup buddy nearby with a swipe of a thumb. And Rule 34 of the internet states, “if it exists, there is porn of it.”
7. Virtual Reality Porn Will Continue To Bring Us Into The Future
We’ve seen that people have changed a lot from the 1990s to today, and technology has definitely changed the way we live. It's safe to say we’re definitely moving forward since virtual reality porn is now becoming a thing. “Interest continues to grow quicker than anything before, people are trying all kinds of things, and partners can even [have sex] while being in different cities,” Daniel Peterson, founder and CEO of VRPorn.com tells Bustle. “Virtual reality opens up the possibility for anything you can imagine. Your wildest sexual fantasies will literally come true, and it will be glorious.”
What does the future of sex look like? More VR porn? Sex with robots? Male birth control? I’m thinking all of the above and more. Who knows what the next 20 years is going to bring us. But judging by how far we’ve come in the past couple of decades, we definitely have a lot to look forward to.
Images: Ashley Batz for Bustle; Andrew Zaeh for Bustle (1-3, 5, 6), Bustle (6) Fotolia (7)