Why Americans Are Having Less Sex Than Ever, Because Porn Is Not To Blame

Ashley Batz/Bustle

You may have heard last year that Millennials are having less sex than previous generations, but according to a new study just published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, it looks like we're not alone in this. Researchers from Florida Atlantic University found that, across the board Americans are having less sex than ever — no matter what their gender, race, region, work status, and education level may be. Researchers discovered that American adults had sex about nine fewer times per year in the early 2010s compared to the late 1990s, according to data from the nationally representative General Social Survey. The most drastic decline? Among people in their 50s, people with a college degree, people with school-aged children, people in the South, and those who do not watch pornography. Overall, surprising news, right?

"We found that the decline in sexual frequency was due to two factors," Ryne A. Sherman, Ph. D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology at Florida Atlantic University and a co-author of the study, tells Bustle. "First, the increase in the number of people who are unpartnered has led to a decrease in sexual frequency. That is, partnered people have more sex on average than unpartnered people. Second, we also found that, among partnered people, sexual frequency is on the decline. Indeed, the so-called 'partnered advantage' in sexual frequency has been rapidly diminishing in recent years."

Here's Exactly How Much Sex Decreased

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For instance, among those who are married or living with partners, they went from having sex 73 times a year in 1990 to about 55 times in 2014 — which is even below the frequency of sexual activity for never-married people, who have sex an average of 59 times a year.

Nope, Don't Blame Porn

And the researchers found that this decrease was not associated with hours worked or pornography use. It was actually the opposite — people who worked more or watched X-rated movies had ~higher~ sexual frequency. "This is certainly novel and surprising to me," Dr. Sherman says.

Age Was A Factor, Too

Americans in their 20s had sex an average of about 80 times per year, compared to about 20 times per year for those in their 60s, the study found.

Why Are Couples Having Less Sex?

"Sexual frequency is linked to marital satisfaction and psychological well-being, so understanding this change in behavior could have important consequences"

There could be several reasons that people are having less sex, but I asked Dr. Sherman what he thinks. "It is easy to understand why those who are unpartnered have less sex," Dr. Sherman says. "It is less clear why those who are partnered are having less sex. Some possible causes include more options for entertainment (e.g., streaming videos, social media), declines in happiness, increases in depression, and changing gender roles. This latter possibility is fairly complex. Social psychologists have suggested that women own sex and men want it. In the past, men have been able to get (consensual) sex from women by achieving high status (e.g., breadwinning). However, as more women become breadwinners, it is possible that this changes the sexual dynamics in partnered relationships. For example, it is possible that women feel more empowered to turn down sexual interest from male suitors or partners." Interesting, right?!

But isn't having sex crucial to a relationship? "Sexual frequency is linked to marital satisfaction and psychological well-being, so understanding this change in behavior could have important consequences for understanding mental health and marital longevity," Dr. Sherman says.

So, Is The Whole "Hookup Culture" Thing BS?

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"One other thing, that no one has really mentioned yet, is that among unpartnered individuals, we have seen sexual frequency remain pretty steady," Dr. Sherman says. "One might think that the rise of Tinder and so-called 'hook-up culture' would lead to increases in sexual frequency for those without partners. However, the data simply shows that this is not the case."

What Researchers Think Of The Findings

"The results are consistent with some other papers we published over the past couple years indicating a decline in the total number of sexual partners and the increased likelihood of abstinence, especially among the youngest generations (Millennials and iGen)," Dr. Sherman says. "This paper shows that it is not just the number of partners that is down, but even the frequency of sex. At the same time, though, this paper also offers new insights."

I don't know about you, but I'm still digesting all the above. And Dr. Sherman's thoughts on why sex is down among those who are partnered up is interesting. Of course, it all comes down to you and your partner. If you're having less sex, but are fine with it, no problem. But if you're not fine with it, that's another story altogether, and a good therapist or couples counselor can probably help you figure it out.