More Millennials are delaying sex and some experts say that technology and porn are to blame.
“Millennials have been brought up in a culture of hypersexuality, which has bred a fear of intimacy,” psychoanalytic psychotherapist Susanna Abse of the Balint Consultancy told the Sunday Times.
Others suggest that young people are so engrossed in digital relationships that they don’t have the time or skills to develop real-life connections. They theorize that their commitment to their phones, friends and careers has made them fearful of relationship commitment.
What did this study find?
A study called The Next Steps project examined data of more than 16,000 young people born in 1989 and 1990 starting when they were 14 years old. They found that millennials are delaying intercourse and that 1 in 8 consider themselves virgins at age 26 — an increase from findings of 1 in 20 from previous generations.
If porn and technology aren’t to blame, why might young people be delaying sex?
There are many reasons why people opt to delay sex and I think it’s unfortunate that we insist on framing this trend in such a negative light. Poor young people — they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Does every generation really need to assert their superiority to the next by bashing them?
Perhaps people are delaying sex because they have more education. They realize that they have multiple options with regard to how they pursue relationships and how they express themselves sexually. They may be more focused on self-development, schooling, work or spirituality and may delay getting into a serious relationship which accordingly, means they’re less likely to have sex.
Perhaps the proliferation of sexual imagery and access to porn plays a role — but not necessarily in terms of stripping young people of the ability to be intimate. Perhaps in treating sex as more accessible, the drive to try it right away has dissipated.
You may see digital technology as a hindrance to relationships because that’s your experience, but for others (and younger folks in particular), digital technology may serve to bolster relationships and create new opportunities for connection. We need to stop projecting our feelings about technology onto others.
What about fear of intimacy – could this play a role?
There are many ways to express intimacy and cultivate intimate relationships without having sex. If sex is your final or ultimate form of intimacy then you might connect fear of intimacy with avoiding sex. But if you acknowledge we can cultivate intimate connections without having sex, I see no reason to attribute delaying sex to fearing intimacy.
If good things come to those who wait, could delaying sex mean that young people will have happier relationships in the long run?
Overall, I believe that relationships will continue to evolve and improve with time — young people may be opting out of relationships and marriage, but this may mean that the marriages that do form are more successful. Those who opt-in may realize that a lifelong monogamous relationship simply doesn’t work for them; opting out is better than opting in and hoping for the best.
Another study suggests that marital satisfaction declines with time, but once you reach 20 years (for those who make it), it begins to increase. I don’t think this will be the case of millennials and younger couples. I don’t think they’re willing to settle for unhappy, unhealthy relationships, so they’re not just opting out, but they’re custom-designing their relationships to suit their needs. They’re trying alternative approaches like sleeping in separate beds, separating their finances, co-parenting in unique ways, and waiting longer to commit in order to make relationships work. And they’re willing to talk about their feelings in ways that previous generations were not as well equipped to tackle.
I believe the future of marriage is bright.