Watching TV Takes A Toll On Our Sex Lives, Study Finds

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Imagine: You have one free hour to kill this evening. How would you rather spend it, having sex with a partner or catching up on your stories? New data analysis suggests many of you may choose the latter, which isn't necessarily surprising because sex is cool but have you seen Insecure? According to researchers, however, the presence of a television in the home can hurt our sex lives. Streaming would seem to be a different story, though.

Notably, though, TV ownership only reduces sexual activity by five percent, at least according to this new analysis, which pulled its numbers from Demographic and Health Surveys covering 4 million people in 80 countries across five continents. That survey collected information on sexual practices, knowledge of reproductive rights, and the goods people buy, giving researchers insight into how these different factors might affect one another. The paper's authors were somewhat surprised that buying a television might translate to less frequent sex.

"Popular culture seems to have the view that television kills your sex life, so we thought we might find a larger effect," co-author Nicholas Wilson, associate professor of Economics at Reed College, tells Bustle.

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Wilson and Adrienne Lucas, an associate professor of economics at the Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware, approached this as a question of supply and demand. Sex and television both count as leisure activities, and if the price of a television decreases, then sexual frequency may slow too.

"In the case of demand for sexual activity and availability of alternative leisure activities, people may be willing to substitute television, or electronic companionship more broadly, for intimate human companionship," Wilson says. The fact that "Netflix and chill" has entrenched itself in popular consciousness points to potential for sex and shows complement one another, but this paper suggests that some people substitute hours in front of a TV set for time spent sexing a partner.

Interestingly, though, the authors write that their study may have missed the most likely vampire sucking the sex drive from your daily life. Other studies have suggested that ubiquitous attachment to smartphones might mean lower levels of relationship satisfaction, even less sex. (Indeed, about 10 percent of people reportedly check their phones during sex, which seems rude and/or an indicator that we're way too preoccupied with our pocket computers.) This study, however, looked at data from low- and middle-income countries before 2010. Recall that simpler time when far fewer people lived their lives on and through their phones?

If it's "electronic companionship" people look to swap in for a warm body, then " the smartphone might be the real sex life killer," Wilson says. At least in countries where the majority of the population walks around with their faces glued to their iPhones.

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In any case, previous research has pointed to television placement as a potential mood-killer. One 2006 study by an Italian sexologist found that the presence of a TV in the bedroom cut heterosexual couples' sexual activity in half. Watching TV in bed, if you're tuning in as a pre-sleep activity, can actually end up disrupting your REM cycle. Poor sleep quality, in turn, can impede sexual function, so perhaps that has something to do with it. Or perhaps people would rather watch the latest installment of the trendy new show than get weird with the person next to them.

In any case, millennials famously watch less television and have less sex (at least if the think pieces are to be believed) than the generations that came before them. Perhaps our problem comes from smartphone addiction, or perhaps when we say "Netflix and chill," we mean "Netflix and pass out on one another in front of the computer."