Recently I have been seeing headlines that millennials, on the whole, are having less sex than Generation X. Depending on the publication, it is touted as either catastrophic or wonderful.
Socially conservative websites have tended to spin it in a positive way, citing it as a triumph of abstinence-only education or as people seeing the dark side of the sexual revolution. The idea of unmarried people having less sex is, on the surface, admirable. Delaying sex is generally beneficial, and casual sex does have real physical, emotional and spiritual consequences.
But looking at the reasons for the drop in sexual activity, it is more concerning than it is vindicating.
The gap where sexual intercourse once existed among young people is not being filled with healthy socializing and church youth groups. It is filling with a decreasing ability to navigate social relationships. This all has its roots in the great experiment known as the sexual revolution. The goal was to liberate sexual activity from its natural consequence — bearing children. The idea was that if sex and childrearing are separated, women and men would benefit from more free sex lives and no restrictions. The big evil was sexual repression, and ridding people of their hang-ups was the sure-fire way to make people happy. The chief weapon in the arsenal of the sexual revolution was “the pill.” Now people could have as much sex as they wanted without worrying about getting pregnant. But here we are, and people are having less sex than ever. Why?
The biggest reason is found just about everywhere on the Internet. Porn. Nine out of 10 boys have seen pornography before age 18, and generally see it first around age 12. Six out of 10 girls have seen pornography before age 18. Seventy percent of men and 30 percent of women report watching pornography. The Internet bandwidth for youporn.com is six times the size of the bandwidth for Hulu.
So what? Pornography is just a way for people to relieve their sexual urges in a safe way, right? The reality is far sadder. Pornography rewires the brain because our brain was not designed to process sex that way. The flood of chemicals to the brain works as it does in an addiction. Hardcore videos, barely legal, and every variety of erotic content is just a few clicks away. With a digital harem of partners who will agree to any sordid act you want, what is the point of an actual relationship that requires actual work? More people are leaning that direction, and it is leading to wider demographic consequences.
Japan has a rapidly aging population, so much so that concerns about overpopulation there are being replaced with concerns about the replacement rate. In Japan, people aren’t marrying, having children or having sex. Forty-five percent of millennial Japanese women said they were not interested in sexual contact, and 25 percent of men had similar feelings. It’s even uglier in China, because even if more men were inclined to marry, many cannot because there are so many fewer women.
Sex has become a commodity, and if you look around, you can find it everywhere. But the reality is far less sexy. The internet has allowed people to become far pickier, both in virtual partners and real ones. People can give someone a quick glance to determine their dating worthiness. Our pool of potential partners is seemingly infinite, causing people to assume there must be better options out there. The mere possibility of perfect sexual satisfaction has become more attractive than actual relationships with people who are as flawed as you are.