By Tara Bahrampour August 2, Email the author Follow TaraBahrampour Sam Wei, a year-old financial analyst in Chicago, has not had sex since her last relationship ended 18 months ago. She makes out with guys sometimes, and she likes to cuddle. Even older millennials are more sexually active than this younger group is. Recent research also shows that, overall, millennials — people born between the early s and — have fewer sexual partners than baby boomers and those in Generation X, the group immediately preceding them.
Granted, the vast majority of young adults are still having sex, but an increasing number of them appear to be standing on the sidelines. Delaying sex is not necessarily bad, experts say: Being intentional about when to have sex can lead to stronger relationships in the long run.
The trend may also reflect that women feel more empowered to say no, said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families. They cite other reasons for putting off sex, including pressure to succeed, social lives increasingly conducted on-screen, unrealistic expectations of physical perfection encouraged by dating apps and wariness over date rape. To shut it all down for a date or even a one-night stand seems like a waste.
More and more young people avoid it. And a study published in the same journal last year found that although millennials are more accepting of extramarital sex than earlier generations, they reported fewer sexual partners than any group since the s — an average of eight, compared with 11 for boomers and 10 for Generation X. The portion who reported sleeping with multiple partners also declined, from about 19 percent in to about 12 percent last year. Among millennials, the effects are most dramatic among those born in the mids and later — the first cohort to come of age when smartphones were ubiquitous.
So has sex declined because people are not meeting in person? But online life can also affect offline life in more subtle ways, especially when potential mates can disappear forever with the swipe of a thumb.
In high school, she and her friends were so focused on schoolwork that they did not date. But as a freshman last year at George Washington University, she found that between meeting new friends, attending classes and participating in extracurricular activities, she still did not have time.
The sense of caution sometimes manifests itself as a heightened awareness of emotional pitfalls. In such an environment, young people have developed what some see as necessary defenses and others view as thin skin.
For some, staying away altogether can feel less treacherous. Noah Patterson, 18, has never had sex. But Fisher, the Rutgers anthropologist, is not worried. The sex system is way below the cortex.