There’s supposedly a whole lot of nothing going on in 20-somethings’ bedrooms these days, according to one recent research project. Go figure.
Millennials’ and iGeners’ parents may have been wringing their hands over sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll invading their school childrens’ lives way too early. But all this time, the kids have been alright all along.
While reports of extreme abuse of sex, drugs, and permissiveness pervade the media, a new rebirth of sexual empowerment, and even virginity, has occurred while we were otherwise occupied with Reality TV. Millennials have open, educated minds. They know what they want and what they don’t, and some want abstinence.
In fact, a record number are refraining from regular sexual encounters a lot more than their parents and grandparents did. I recently took an unofficial poll of some young men and women to find out why:
1. Social (Media) Judgment.
While their parents and grandparents (even those who went through the Booming 60s sexual revolution) worried about what the neighbors thought, the Millennials are living their lives on SnapChat and Instagram. I once sat in a car with a high school freshman who had taped and shared two female seniors kissing. The young women’s boyfriends found out about the hook up for the first time online, and chaos ensued in both relationships. The young man with the smart phone had little remorse; in fact, he thought it was funny. Judgment has taken on a new form in our global virtual village, but young people still don’t want to be stereotyped. What they want even less: visual, shared evidence with the click of a key.
2. Lasting Labels.
Technology may have changed, but human nature hasn’t. Recent college graduates are still grappling with who they are and where they’ll go in life. Millennials have come of age in an era of close scrutiny everywhere—even beyond the internet. They’re aware that one false move will produce a label that sticks to Instagram like glue, and that a tweet can echo for a lifetime. Maybe one of the reasons we haven’t heard their views on sexuality is just that—they don’t want the label “prude” or “perv.” Labels aren’t real, but they are prevalent in these superficial times. We females may no longer be marked with a Scarlet Letter, but young women in particular realize that prospective employers are watching their feeds as much as their resumes. They think twice before going to a party and getting sloshed—or worse.
3. Real Relationships.
Millennials crave authenticity. They want their friends and love interests to express who they truly are in their sexuality. They want to be able to express themselves in every way. They want a REAL partner, even if it’s only for a brief period. They’re not into sex for sex’s sake. Plenty of young women, and these days, young men crave the truth, and they’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t share their feelings. They may have jumped in and had sex early and realized a break-up hurt more because they’d had such intimacy. Or they may have gotten close to someone early on before sex even entered the picture and had the presence of mind to know that intimacy would have doubled their heartache at parting.
Either way, they want an equal. They want mutual respect. They want someone who truly cares about them. They want to know their feelings are reciprocated.
4. Getting Their Sexy On.
The New Media Age has brought choice. Millennials were exposed to sexuality and perhaps even to sex at an early age because of a natural curiosity or because a parent or sitter became careless flipping through channels. They are also an empowered generation, informed and creative about pleasure and self-pleasure. They’re also often very good at it. They’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t treat them right, in public, and in bed. They want to be wooed, seduced, and respected in the morning. Until they find that, they’re pretty self-sufficient.
STDs, campus harassment, and rape. The amount of violent, forced sex that has been happening on college campuses is shocking. It’s always been there lurking in alleys, frat houses, parties gone wild. It’s only now just getting its due diligence in the light of day. Its exposure has also created a reticence to hop into bed. Both genders may fear being sexually assaulted. They may fear being accused of it. I mean, how does one approach a person they have dated several times? Do they ask if they’ve had an HIV test before that first kiss? How do they know if the person they’re dating understands their motivations? And then there’s that all-important protection question.
“Do you want to do it?” doesn’t cut it anymore, and people are naturally embarrassed to have to spell out their desire in the middle of hooking up.
6. They Got a Life!
Come on, Life is MORE than S-e-x. Most young adults have concerns other than sexual pleasure, or even snaring “The One.” It might be argued by some, but getting a degree, searching for a job, pursuing another more fulfilling job, in a financial climate that is full of Boomers who won’t retire and houses that are out of reach financially may be taking precedence to “getting it on.” Especially if a 20-something still lives at home, s/he lacks opportunity around hovering, nagging parents whose focus is also on job apps and salaries. Oh, and while they’re at it, they’re saving the environment, feeding the homeless, and working to end wars through their volunteering—or if they’re truly lucky, on minimum wage.
One factoid this study of 27,000 people, published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, found: This new generation is less sexually active than any generation since the 1920s! Now,the Roaring 20s was a paradoxical decade of feminine desire that got stifled by the financial duress of the Great Depression. Plus women weren’t quite sure if they wanted motherhood AND career yet, and no one told them they could have both. Women wanted equality, and they wanted to dance! Yet they knew there was no structure for working wives and mothers, and they were still suckers for a man who wanted to tango or waltz. History returns in cycles, and the Roaring Twenties was a pretty romantic era. I say, “Viva l’amour!” Society is finally ready for a woman who’s broken the glass ceiling by day and dances in stilettos by night. Maybe we’ll start getting some real love stories instead of thrillers. People will start taking dancing lessons again. Couldn’t hurt.
Last but not least, Millennials’ forebears have taught and conditioned them to think for themselves, and to put themselves first. Most young adults simply will not associate with wimpy lines and moves, petty games and manipulation, or control-freak narcissists. They want to have the whole enchilada, and by golly, they are on the right track!
Empowered love partners equal an empowered world.
Of course, 85 percent of the Millennial generation still report they’re sexually active, and the next study may find out that this one had flaws, of course. Every generation changes with time. It will be interesting to see where they go with marriage, pregnancy, and work/life balance. Until then, though, we need to stop judging anyone’s sexual choices.