Opinion

Why millennials aren't having sex

Blame men. And technology.

Did you hear? Millennials aren't having any sex.

Well, that's not entirely true. But they're certainly having less sex than the generations that came before them. That's the takeaway from a recent study explored in a viral story from the The Washington Post.

According to the new report, 15 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds have not had sex since turning 18, up from 6 percent in the early 1990s. 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 1960s — an average of eight, compared with 11 for boomers and 10 for Generation X. [The Washington Post.]

As a conservative Catholic, my instinct is to say less sex among unmarried young people is probably a good thing. Then again, as a Frenchman, I have several centuries of cultural history telling me that if you can't get laid, there must be something wrong with you.

So, what's going on here?

The Post hypothesizes that millennials are too focused on their careers to do the deed. And, as the piece notes, this generation has "been called the most cautious generation — the first to grow up with car seats and bike helmets, the first not allowed to walk to school or go to the playground alone." Apparently millennials are afraid of what they call "catching feelings."

It's true. Relationships can get emotional. So better not to risk it.

But I think there's another force at work here: technology. Technology is giving people unrealistic expectations for a mate.

There is Tinder, which was quite possibly invented purely to destroy the fabric of society. This app has all but killed the art of an actual serendipitous in-person date. Don't believe me? Just read this terrifying Vanity Fair exposé.

Then there's Xbox. As the economist Erik Hurst notes, young men are spending a lot of their time playing video games. This is particularly prevalent among the growing demographic of young men without college degrees, who are frequently unemployed and unmarried. As Hurst explains, "The hours that they are not working have been replaced almost one-for-one with leisure time ... Seventy-five percent of this new leisure time falls into one category: video games. The average low-skilled, unemployed man in this group plays video games an average of 12, and sometimes upwards of 30 hours per week."

Thirty hours! How are you going to meet a partner when you're playing video games that much?

And, most importantly, there's porn. The Post interviews an 18-year-old virgin male who is not really interested in having sex, because he'd rather watch YouTube.

But isn't he curious about actual sex?

"Not really," he says. "I've seen so much of it ... There isn't really anything magical about it, right?"

Almost everything worthwhile in life requires a good education. Someone who's eaten junk food their entire life is probably unable to appreciate real good food because their taste buds and nerve responses have been so trained by sugar and saturated fats. So let me just say: Um, no, dude, there isn't anything magical about the kind of sex you see in porn. For that matter, there isn't anything magical about hookups. You know what's magical? "Catching feelings." It's astonishing that this has to be explained, but for a generation brought up saturated by porn and in a culture that devalues commitment, what else do we expect?

There's another consequence of porn use that too few people want to discuss: erectile dysfunction.

As the researcher Gary Wilson points out, regular porn consumption quite literally rewires the human brain. We become addicted to the very specific (and in many ways, very unrealistic) form of stimulation porn provides; meanwhile, other kinds of receptors atrophy. So sometimes, if a man doesn't don't get the kind of stimulation he gets from his computer screen, his brain (and therefore, his body), can't muster the proper arousal response.

So, when it comes to millennials' declining interest in sex, mostly, I blame men. I also blame technology, but mostly I blame men for letting technology do this to them. Men of a certain young and unexperienced age have never really been great at sex (he writes, three days before his 30th birthday), but it seems plausible to me that a generation of men who have been virtually emasculated by porn and video games, and shorn of intimacy by dating apps, might have led the women of their generation to conclude that making the beast with two backs is more of a chore than a fun-time activity.

There might be an opportunity in all of this. After all, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. So, if there's an 18-year-old male reading this, here's my advice: Give up porn, throw your Xbox and TV in the garbage, never look at your phone for more than three seconds when you're with other people, and do 50 push-ups per day. Good luck.

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