University study says millennials are having less sex

Associate professor Ryne Sherman’s research says older generations engaged in more intercourse despite loose sexual stereotypes connected to current generations.


Illustration by Ivan Benavides | Creative Director

Joe Pye, News Editor

Carmina Santiago, a 23-year-old student at Florida Atlantic University, doesn’t have time for a boyfriend just now — and the intimate relations that follow.

“I am too busy… I work two jobs, one full time, one part time,  I took four classes last semester and this semester I’ll be taking two,” said Santiago.

The junior social work major isn’t alone, according to a recent study co-written by FAU associate professor of psychology Ryne Sherman.

The research by Sherman and colleagues Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University professor of psychology and Brooke E. Wells, a Human Sexuality Studies professor at Widener University, shows American millennials and I Gens, aged 18-24, are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive than Gen Xers, of the same ages born in the 1960s.

Their work, which was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, was based on the General Social Survey data from 1972 to 2014. The survey is a public, available data set and a national representative sample of 56,859 people.

For this study they used data from 26,707 individuals from the year 1989 through 2014, when the GSS first asked American adults questions of their sexual behaviour and partners since age 18.

Using an Age-Period-Cohort-Analysis — a state of the art statistical technique — allowed them to control for age and time period so they could focus on the cohort, better known as generational differences, Sherman said.

“And the GSS is the best available data for this research,” he said.

Santiago was surprised by the results of the study.

“I feel they [millennials/ I Gens] are more sexually active,” she said. “The media, music, movies and TV shows are teaching young people to have promiscuous sex.”

Santiago said she’s always known people around her, including friends, classmates and co-workers, who were having sex, and continue to do so.

“I have one friend who has had sex with six different guys in the past two to three months,” said Santiago.

One 20-year-old student feels that technology increases the chances to meet someone to have sex with.

“It’s easier to set something up these days, you can talk to anyone at anytime,” said Ryan Rodriguez, a public management major. “You can talk to multiple girls at one time. I can text one girl while I’m Snapchatting another.”

The study does not prove that all young people in these generations are avoiding sex. It reveals that 15 percent of millennials, more than twice the 6 percent of Gen Xers, are claiming to have not had sex between ages 18-24.

Another student agrees with the results of this study, saying that it makes sense given her current lifestyle.

“People are living with their parents, due to having little money,” said a 22-year-old FAU management information systems major who recently graduated.

“It’s harder to find relationships when you’re living at home,” she said. “Even if your parents are cool, there is an unsaid dynamic between you and your parents, even if you’re an adult.”

According to Sherman, the cause of the trend cannot be determined from the data collected.

He believes that financial factors, the rise of internet and social media use, and sexual education and AIDS awareness are contributing factors.

“Post-recession, young people can’t find a job, they have to live with parents longer. It has slowed adulthood,” said Sherman. “In 1996 the internet became commercialized, for this millennials and I Gens are more inclined to view pornography, and are able to connect socially with people through social media, without actually meeting in person.”

Sherman does not plan to immediately determine the underlying causes of the study’s results, but encourages other researchers to do so.

For information on sexual education and Sexual transmitted infections, Owls Care– located at room 222 on the second floor of the Breezeway above the food court–offers sexual health programs, HIV testing for free once per week and free condoms. Students can also request HIV testing from Student Health Services by appointment.

Joe Pye is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @Jpeg3189.