I’d like to begin with a personal story.
When I transferred to Northeastern, I became friends with a bunch of girls on my floor. We got together one night in our common room where we spent hours gossiping about all the juicy things we’d seen around campus, anything interesting we’d heard of, done, and/or wanted to do.
Sex and relationships were of a topic of discussion a number of times, along with traveling, work and whatever else college girls talk about. I could tell relatively quickly that a few of the girls seemed uncomfortable when details of sexual experiences would come up. One of those girls, let’s call her Emma, ended up telling us about a few experiences she had, so I assumed she was just shy and was still getting to know us.
It made a lot more sense a few weeks later when I found out those girls were still virgins. As it turned out, Emma had confessed she lied about what she said, that she was still a virgin up to that point.
A semester later I found out two of the girls had lost their virginity, including Emma, both for the same reason. They told me there was no right time or right guy, that their main purpose was just to get their first time out of the way.
I couldn’t stop thinking about their logic for weeks. Even though it wasn’t intentional, the girls and I were creating a norm that sexual experience was expected of young women our age and experimenting was “the thing to do.”
After sitting on this for a while, I remembered how, back in high school on the after-school bus, some of the kids sitting in the back were talking about how far they’ve gone and then turned to me and asked if I’d “done it.” Naturally I lied and told them I had so the seniors would think I was cool.
These experiences got me wondering about our generation and sex, and if I was right about the Millennial culture of sex.
The “Hook-Up” Culture
One of my close friends, Jessica, brought up a really interesting point during one of our conversations about sex in college. She said, “It’s funny because in high school relationships you spend some time talking about how long you should date before you have sex, and once you get to college, it’s a complete shift to how long you should have sex before you start dating.”
Paul Hudson of Elite Daily, a Millennial centered media publication in New York, argued that Generation-Y is the first generation to, as a whole, be cool with openly sleeping around with one another and not being judged for doing so. The so-called inventors of the “hook-up” culture have become much more sex-driven than relationship-driven, looking more for pleasure than intimacy and instant gratification.
The Bigger Picture
It would make sense that if most Millennials are not particularly looking for love themselves, they wouldn’t stand in others’ way of searching for it.
The percentage of generations in support of same-sex marriage in 2015 by the Pew Research Center.
Because most Millennials have openly accepted and embraced the culture of sex, naturally they are also much more open to alternative relationships. The above graph illustrates that Millennials are the most accepting of same-sex relations. Nearly three out of four (73 percent) favored same-sex marriage in 2015, compared to 59 percent of Generation X’ers and 45 percent of Boomers.
The Peak of Experimentation
Although my high school bus encounter may seem a bit too early to ask about my level of sexual experience, it seems true to my point earlier that the peak of sexual experimentation falls among young adults around their college years.
The frequency of sexual activity by age range for men and women, married and unmarried by the Audacious Epigone, a blog dedicated to collecting data relative to stereotypes.
This data above illustrates that among unmarried men and women, the height of sexual activity and frequency is near early to mid-twenties.
Following the Footsteps
Now don’t get me wrong, casual, intimate-less sex was not first created by Millennials. Certified sex therapist Shirley Zussman of New York, who is still practicing at now 100 years old, noticed a similarity in couples’ sex lives in the 60s and today. She noticed there was a common disconnect between attentiveness to the intimate, emotional and physical needs of each individual versus just being present doing the deed, to put it lightly.
A common problem for women in the 60s, according to Zussman, was that they were not orgasmic, but they wanted to get there. Zussman emphasized the importance of learning about your body, listening to what it tells you, and understanding how to get you to where you want to be. It was more about quality than quantity.
Now, there doesn’t seem to be any inconsistency regarding the quantity of sex. Where there is dramatic improvement in numbers, however, is the number of orgasms among women. It seems over the years Millennials have cracked the code on that one. (See SKYN Condoms’ breakdown of Millennial Sex in 2015.)
What Zussman noticed about generation Y’s sex life is a sheer lack of desire; a lack of connection. There is less talking, less holding and less looking. We may be able assume that technology has a thing or two to do with it and lack of face-to-face communication. This has therefore led to the loss of interpersonal connection.
Keep the Conversation Going
I believe a lot of the reason why Millennials are so comfortable with sex is because they talk about it. Just like how my friends and I shared our experiences with one another, many college campuses are taking initiative to continue making students aware that sex is happening. Like for instance, creating the Great American Condom Campaign, a project which advocates to help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.
My friend, Jessica, who I had mentioned earlier, is part of Strong Women Strong Girls at Northeastern. She put together an event for everyone called ‘Cerealsly Sexy’ where the girls ate cereal and talked about all things sex. Her motive behind the event was that, “well, we know most kids are doing it, might as well provide a safe, comfortable space to talk about it and ask questions.”
Favianna Rodriguez, an American artist and social activist for Human Rights from Oakland, CA, came to speak at our university in October 2015, encouraging and empowering students to talking about sex. She emphasized the importance of learning about both ones inner and outer self, and to find out through experimentation what we desire, as Zussman found to be an issue among sexually active couples and individualizes today.
Unlike the 50s and 60s, sex is no longer taboo, and Millennials certainly don’t treat it as such. The more people talk about sex, the more people will continue to learn and improve their relationships and overall quality of life.