September 19, 2019 | 52° F

Rutgers anthropologist attributes youth’s decline in sex to ambition, value of love

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It was found that less millennials were involved in relationships, because they were more concerned about going to university and succeeding in their careers before settling down and getting married.

In a recent and extensive article from The Atlantic, experts in human behavior and sociology came to the conclusion that young people are having less sex compared to their baby boomer predecessors. 

This comes to the surprise of many of the researchers, as 75% of millennials are more likely to use online dating websites, the eighth annual Singles in America study found. 

Dr. Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and professor in the Department of Anthropology, said that the article’s findings are not what they seem at face value.

“I don’t share the opinions of that article and I’ll tell you why,” Fisher said. She cited that less millenials are in relationships, and people in relationships have more sex than people who are single. 

But this lack of relationships does not mean that more people are abstaining from sex. Millennials, Fisher said, are just having sex less often.

“They’re having sex, but I think (young people are) very ambitious … (they) don’t want to get into a real relationship until (they’ve) gotten into a school and (have) got (their) career going and … (are) more stable,” she said. 

This commitment to career-building can limit the extent of one’s sex life, not only because they have less time, but because it may not allow people to live alone. Fisher said 63% of single people between the age of 18 and 20 years old live at home with their parents, because they are so career-oriented that they want to save money. On the same lines, more than 50% of people between the ages of 25 and 29 are still living at home.

She attributed pre-relationship sex to the younger generations’ willingness to free themselves from a commitment that could interfere with control of their own time, a phenomenon she called keeping “one foot out of bed to get out if you need to.”

“It’s what I call the precommitment stage,” Fisher said. “Sex isn’t slowing down — 34% (of millenials) have had sex before first date.”

The stages of relationships have also shifted greatly since the boomer generation. 

“(Young people) are taking (their) time,” she said. “Marriage used to be the beginning, now it’s the grand finale.”

Fisher recalled that in the 60s, dating for her constituted getting picked up from her house after dinner and “going mini-golfing” or “going with a group of people swimming,” which cost much less than dates now.

“If you take someone out for dinner it could cost upwards of $70 ... maybe $200 if you’re in New York City,” she said.

The second reason why millennials are having less sex has to do with women’s empowerment. Fisher said young women are more empowered, and have better sex education and more control of their sexuality.

“Women are not getting pressured into sex as often,” Fisher said. “They’re being pickier and choosier, and they don’t want to ‘catch feelings,' so they’re staying away from things that could turn into a commitment, hence (the) precommitment stage.” 

Another piece of the cultural shift has to do with young people’s value of time and love. Dating apps such as Tinder, Grindr and Bumble allow young people to optimize their time, meet the most people and figure out what kind of person they are looking for. 

“It’s what I call ‘fast sex, slow love,’" Fisher said. “Eleven percent of singles, including young people, check the box ‘I’m just casually dating.’ Eighty-nine percent are looking for some sort of romance and a connection with another human being. It’s not just sex (for millennials) ... (The younger) generation’s real focus on (their) future may bring some real stability to the American family.” 

Her great fascination was with the categorization of millennial relationships. 

“(They) have ‘one-night stands’ and ‘friends with benefits,’” she said. “(They) are also learning how to get rid of relationships that don’t work. I’ve looked at the demographics (of marriages) ... the later you get married, the more likely you are able to stay together.”

Fisher, despite the statistics, takes an optimistic standpoint.

“Your generation’s real focus on your future may bring some real stability to the American family,” Fisher said. 

Yara Assadi

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