Millennials are actually having better sex than you06/11/2019
Over the past few years, a slew of headlines have proclaimed that millennials aren’t having all that much sex. One 2018 story in the Atlantic put a name to the head-scratching phenomenon.
They dubbed it a “sex recession.”
But the sexperts at Cosmopolitan magazine say the generation has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to “doing it.”
In the July issue, out now, they’re throwing a stick of dynamite into the now-pervasive theory that millennials aren’t getting down and dirty as much as previous generations with a new report titled “The Sex Recession Is Bulls–t.”
“We were reading these stories for years, and they have always felt very alarmist to us,” says Cosmo Editor-in-Chief Jessica Pels, who at 32 is very much a representative of the maligned generation. “We write about millennials every day. We are millennials. What we were reading was so far from our lived experience and what we know about our audience.”
The magazine launched its own investigation between the sheets, and what they found is that millennials aren’t necessarily having less sex — they’re redefining and expanding what counts as the act. They’re more interested in emotional connections, more adventurous in the bedroom and less burdened by pearl-clutching taboos.
In fact, 68 percent of respondents denied the very existence of a “sex recession.”
The magazine surveyed more than 1,000 people nationwide, both men and women ages 18 to 34, about their sex lives — and 71 percent said they are personally satisfied with the amount of sex they’re having. Of those surveyed, 35 percent have tried anal sex, 20 percent have done BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and/or masochism), 44 percent have used a sex toy with a partner, 9 percent have had group sex and 49 percent have had rough sex.
And 92 percent were more concerned with quality over quantity.
“The truth is that millennials define sex more broadly than anyone who has come before us, which isn’t reflected in the numbers. We are having sex in more ways than previous generations. We’re more exploratory, less limited by taboo and stigma. We care more about quality versus quantity,” Pels says.
“It’s almost like the question needs to be ‘How many orgasms did you have last year?’ — not ‘How many times did you have sex?’ or ‘How many sex partners did you have?’ ”
According to Pels, there were far too many problems with the narrative, which is mostly based on data from the 2014 General Social Survey, which is a study of political and cultural attitudes conducted by the University of Chicago. The survey, administered face to face, sprinkles in a few questions about the deed in between ones about religion and wealth inequality. That data was crunched by Jean Twenge, a Ph.D. and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, and her analysis found that young people from 2010 to 2014 had sex 78.5 times a year — 2.79 fewer times annually than folks did in the early ’90s.
“The whole premise is built around the idea that millennials are having three fewer romps a year,” says Pels. She adds that the data didn’t show a dip in sex for single people, only for married or coupled-up folks.
“The survey doesn’t define sex at all. Do they only count vaginal penetration as sex? Do they count oral sex? We don’t know. We wanted to do our own digging. We uncovered a very different story,” says Pels.
The magazine also sought to acknowledge that 8.2 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ. A lot of surveys ask questions through the lens of straight people, she says, so “sex culture needs to be updated.”
She says they would also be remiss not to explore how the #MeToo movement has affected our society’s sexual habits.
“Women are having the kind of sex we want to have and not the kind of sex we feel pressured to have. This is a story about empowerment. It’s about sex satisfaction,” says Pels.
Speaking of satisfaction, the sex-toy market is “exploding,” according to the editrix. “It’s never been better and it’s never been more female-focused.”
And the proliferation of online porn isn’t necessarily keeping people from doing it in real life, Pels says, noting that the research is “far from settled.”
Twenge’s study on the supposed decrease in sexual frequency didn’t find any links to increased pornography use, and one of the experts Cosmo interviewed argues that porn is “additive” to a healthy sex life, not subtractive.
As for the idea that cellphones have ruined interpersonal relationships, Pels argues the inverse — she says phones and apps actually enhance the sexual experience.
“The digital landscape helps us tailor our sex lives to everything you’d want. You can define your gender however you want on a [dating] app, or find the exact niche thing that you’re into, so we’re able to get exactly what we want in a way that puts us in charge,” says Pels. “We’re having the kind of sex that we want to have.”
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