Many articles and think pieces have been written about the outbreak of promiscuity among the generation born in the 1990s. Dating aps and “hook-up culture” are supposedly exposing young people to a tide of sexually transmitted infections and a lack of true romance. Just one problem: It’s completely untrue.
Complaining about corrupted youth is an age-old pastime, but the idea of a more sexually active generation is plausible. "Online dating apps should, in theory, help Millennials find sexual partners more easily," said Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University in a statement.
This is sufficient to spur petrified speculation about the damage all this sex is allegedly doing. Scientists, on the other hand, prefer evidence. Twenge is first author of a paper in Archives of Sexual Behavior providing some actual data.
Whether an increase in sex would actually be a bad thing is more a matter for philosophers than scientists, but Twenge has shown that, at least for Americans, the trend is the other way.
Twenge used the General Social Survey of 26,707 geographically and racially representative Americans, which includes a question on sexual partners since turning 18. Unsurprisingly, those born in the late 1980s and early 1990s (referred to in the paper as Millennials) were more likely to report having had no sexual partners in that time than older peers – after all, the period since turning 18 was much shorter for them.
However, when Twenge looked at what people had done in the early years after coming of age, she found substantially more Millennials reported no sexual partners than Generation X'ers did 20 to 30 years before them.