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Why Generation Y Is Having Less Sex

Stop reading this sex-drenched article and go get some!

Photo Credit: Tony Bowler/


Sex is pretty good, isn't it? Not just because it is useful for making babies, but also recreationally. It makes you happy. In a lot of ways, it keeps you sane, makes you feel excellent about yourself and reinforces your love of others.

So, it might come as a bit of a shock that, statistically,  young people are doing a lot less of it. Various studies have shown that we're having less sex than previous generations. The results of  University College London's recent National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles suggested that the frequency with which 16- to 44-year-olds are "mingling limbs" has been steadily decreasing over the past two decades.  It found that women were having sex an average of 4.8 times a month and men, 4.9. Ten years ago this was 6.3 and 6.2, and 10 years before that, 6.1 and 6.4.

Where have these lust-filled liaisons disappeared to? It doesn't make sense if you think about the cultural attitudes of our time. After the  Motion Picture Association of America introduced its new content rating system in 1990, producers went down the "sex sells" route and included more and more sex scenes in their films to bump up the rating. We've been inundated with footage of actors writhing around, baring buttocks and moaning with abandon ever since.

However, in the last five years, things have drastically changed; films such as Nymphomaniac and Shame and television shows like Girls and This Is England have endeavoured to tell certain (often ugly) truths about sexual behaviour. No longer are we subject to the gentle facial caressing and "barely any movement and yet explosive orgasm" sex of the 1990s (9½ Weeks – I'm looking at you). Instead we're faced with open discussions of sexuality, LGBT relationships, intimacy issues, fantasies, fetishes and role reversals – all portrayed without judgment.

If we're surrounded by sex in the media, and the overwhelming message is one of acceptance and "anything goes", why are we eschewing it in real life? Cath Mercer, a senior lecturer in UCL's Centre for Sexual Health & HIV, and lead author of the study,  suggested that technology might have something to do with it, explaining that increased portable online connectivity could be behind the platonic patterns. It's not as simple as getting into bed, turning the lights out, and getting it on. These days, there's  always something better to do – checking your emails, going through your sister's holiday photo album on Facebook or even reading a sex feature on the Guardian's website …

Put two people who are attracted to each other in an empty room for an extended period and they will probably end up rolling around on the floor in an amorous embrace. Add a couple of iPhones and Wi-Fi, and you're more likely to witness them comparing their Instagram accounts. It's easier, more comfortable, and – socially, emotionally and literally – less messy. Technology is simultaneously bringing people together, and forcing them apart: the ultimate cleaver.

One of my ex-boyfriends would, as standard, roll over and check his BlackBerry as his first post-coital act. After a while, I started to do the same. There was an unanswered question: what have I missed? It became a serious issue, something we subconsciously asked beforehand – what would we miss if we had sex now? Is there time for this? Would it be more convenient later?

Surely it's this analytical, overthought and overwrought sexual attitude that is to blame for our loss of libido. Tech is a significant part of that, but you can also see it in newspaper articles, on television, on the front covers of magazines and running through the veins of our culture. Sex is an animalistic and primal activity. Our brain may be the biggest erogenous zone, but the basic ins and outs of the process just come down to our body wanting something.

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