The conclusions of this study may be connected to the fact that millennials are adulting later than previous generations.
Recent reports have surfaced that millennials are having less sex than previous generations.
According to Archives of Sexual Behavior, less people born in the 80’s and 90’s are having sex than previous generations, and twice as likely to be virgins than those born in the 60’s and 70’s. Recent research from the CDC and other sources all points in this direction: millennials generally have fewer sexual partners and are starting to have sex later. But why?
Young Americans are loving (and having sex) outside of the gender binary more openly than previous generations, experiencing homoromantic relationships outside of sexual relationships, too. The same study shows this as well as the decline of frequency between all couples, analyzing data of over 30k people from 1973 to 2014.
Study author Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book Generation Me, found that those having sex with same-sex partners did not necessarily identify as gay or bisexual, either. The percentage of people who have had sex with both men and women shot up from 3.1 % in 1990 to 7.7%. People in the South and Midwest have shown the largest increases in same-sex experiences, but the Northeast and West coast are just as queer as ever.
Twenge links the prolonged virginity and lack of sex to extended adolescence. With more millennials living with their parents, getting married later in life, settling into careers, not buying houses, and unsure of children, “adult” milestones in life have gotten nudged down the line a bit, including having sex for the first time.
“There’s been a general pattern over the last few generations for people to become adults or cross adult milestones later: things like getting married, having a child, settling into a stable career, buying a house,” she says. “Now, it seems Millennials and iGen are putting off everything—including sex,” she said.
Safety turns out to be another factor. Growing up in the AIDS generation, millennials are well-aware of the repercussions of unprotected sex such as STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Today’s adults are just a bit wiser and more cautious than previous generations – they have seen what the worst case scenario looks like and have gotten the message. Underage drinking is at an all-time low across college campuses as many more millennials opt for Netflix and kombucha on a weekend night rather than sleeping with the closest-seeming match at a kegger.
“That may potentially impact their sexual behavior, if they’ve gotten the message that you can get sick or even die from sex,” Twenge said.
Despite less sex, millennials are more sexually open-minded. More traditional ideas and rigid expectations regarding gender identity, sexuality, and timing have also become more fluid with less expectations.
“Overall, it suggests that our sexuality has become much more free and open, that Americans feel much more freedom to express themselves sexually in a way that they see fit,” Twenge says to Time magazine. “That’s why it comes down to this individualistic viewpoint: do what’s right for you. These more traditional rules around same-sex behavior have faded away.”