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How Much Sex Are Millennials Actually Having?
The Debrief: What is the 'right' amount of sex, anyway?
Developed in partnership with HRA Pharma, manufacturer of ellaOne® (ulipristal acetate).
We’re always being told that Millennials are having far too much sex. Or nowhere near enough sex. Or the wrong kind of sex [insert latest scaremongering Millennials Are Doing Sex Wrong headline here.]
So we decided to find out whether that’s actually true - how much sex are you actually having, and how does that compare with how much you think your friends are having?
We questioned 1000 Debrief readers on how much sex they were having. We also asked them to estimate how much sex they thought their friends and other people in their peer group were having, to see how their expectations matched reality.
Here are the results for the number of times people have had sex in the last month, and it's pretty great news so far. The 18-24 year olds we asked said they had sex 7.6 times on average in the past month. They estimated that the number of times their friends had sex in the last month was about 7.3 times. So broadly the same - hurrah! No sex FOMO for you guys.
The older portion of our audience - 25-29 said they were having sex 6.6 times on average in the last month and estimated that their friends were also having sex 7.3 times a month. Again - that’s pretty good sex guesswork there guys, well done.
So what’s going on? Where does the idea that we’re not having the ‘right’ amount of sex come from? Well the fact that we’re all so good at guesstimating how much sex our friends are having says something about how much more empowered we are to talk about our sex lives than ever before. Whether that’s a post one-night stand Snapchat to your mates, a booze-fuelled reminiscence of everyone you’ve ever slept with your girl friends in a pub, or a three-hour heart-to-heart with your best friend. We’re not necessarily having more sex than before, but we’re more empowered to talk about our sex lives and be honest about them.
But, BUT if there’s one thing we can learn from the handwringing around the recent report that Millennials are having less sex than ever, it’s that we’re still preoccupied with what the right amount of sex is.
The main concern in the press after that research came out was with the sheer number of people who reported having no sexual partners post-18. The study found that 15% of 20-24 year olds had not had sex since they were 18, compared to 6% for the previous generation. Handwringing and woe ensued, with lots of people blaming The Big Bad Internet for the wave of celibacy that was sweeping the nation.
Well, as you can tell I'm less concerned. I think before we start panicking about the death of the human race, we need to ask one key question:
- What is the right amount of sex?
The answer is impossible, of course: the right amount of sex for you might be different to that for me, and although Debrief readers seem to settle on around 6-7 times per month, that doesn't mean that you're abnormal if you have much more than that, or much less, or even none at all.
There are lots of different factors that could be contributing to millennials having less sex than their parents' generation. Housing, for instance: far more people are living with their parents, and those who aren't are likely living in overpriced shared housing which is so bad you don't want to invite your beau back.
One of the researchers involved in the study, Professor Jean Twenge, suggested that “Online dating apps should, in theory, help Millennials find sexual partners more easily. However, technology may have the opposite effect if young people are spending so much time online that they interact less in person, and thus don’t have sex.”
And crucially, we also have better access to sex education than our parents had. It’s by no means perfect or universal, of course, but it's certainly more than our parents had, and it's likely that most millennials will be aware that there's more than one option (porn, masturbation, celibacy, platonic relationships) than simply the 'snog, shag, marry' model that my mum was taught at school.
So maybe rather than wringing our hands at the fact that no-one is having the ‘right’ amount of sex, we need to rejoice in the fact that, broadly speaking, we have more options for what our sexuality should look like in our 20s than ever before. Sex education in schools and beyond needs improving hugely, but it’s getting better - as is our access to contraception. This all means we’re increasingly able to make smart, informed choices about who we have sex with, how and when.
And the more we talk about it, share our experiences (the good bits, and the bad bits) with our friends, the more empowered we become - which has got to be a good thing.
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ellaOne® (ulipristal acetate) is an emergency contraceptive pill. Take one tablet as soon as possible after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Always read the label.
Professor Jean Twenge does not endorse any brands or medicines.
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