Why Gen-Z is having less sex

Why Gen-Z is having less sex

The rise of shows like The Sex Lives of College Girls and Tell Me Lies reveal a campus life where hookups are happening left and right, and sex is ingrained into the very culture of the college experience. But are shows and pop-culture references to sex-driven college students a reality, or are they just media’s depiction? Let’s dive in!

I remember going to college my first year, excited for the freedom that awaited me. I’d heard story after story of one-night-stands in shared college dorm rooms, an activity that was far from common in my small, sheltered hometown. The first few weeks of school, one night stands were happening on the regular in my flat of eight women. But, as the weeks and subsequent years went on, sex was happening a hell of a lot less, unless you were in a relationship. 

If you scan google search for answers about how much sex young people are having, you will find a slew of articles throughout the past decade referencing a so-called sex recession. Just this summer, the Los Angeles Times published an article called Failure to Launch, about why young people are having less sex. A 2021 survey found that, “the number of young Californians ages 18 to 30 who reported having no sexual partners in the prior year reached a decade high of 38%.”

Ten years prior, that number was 22%. According to the Johns Hopkins newsletter, “The 2018 National College Health Assessment found that only 66 percent of students had sex in the past 12 months, compared to 72 percent in the 2000 assessment.” Nearly 40 percent of the 784 college students The Cut surveyed in 2015 were still "virgins." 

We polled a group of nearly 40 college students (thank you to our interns) on their sex habits. When we asked these 19-21 year olds, “How often are you really having sex?” many of the answers looked like this:


“Haven’t in a little less than 2 years.”

“Currently, not at all.”

“Like once a year, depending on how out there I get.”

While we had a wide array of answers signifying rare sexual activity, the majority of responders said they had sex around once every few weeks. The only people consistently having sex were in relationships. We know that young people are having less sex than ever before – but why? 

It’s rough out there in the 2023 dating world.Talking to my single friends in their mid-twenties, many of them have gone the better part of a year without having sex. They stated many reasons, ranging from healing from past relationships to just having a hard time finding people they enjoy. And many of them mentioned the tumultuous struggle of dating apps. 

So, let’s talk about dating apps. Open up Hinge, Bumble, Tinder, or any other one of the ever-so-popular dating apps, and you will be faced with the same thing: a dystopian combination of vulgar pickup lines, slew of selfies, and swiping through a true paradox of choice. Truly, dating apps feel like they took a page right out of the early Black Mirror episodes. It can be tough to curate meaningful connections on a 6-inch screen filled with six photos and (if you’re lucky) a few fun facts indicating what this human’s personality might resemble. 

My problem with the apps is that they take the human connection out of dating, and base it solely on looks. In reality, someone might be hot, but that doesn’t mean you would have chemistry. On the other hand, you might have a sparky connection with someone you meet at a bar who is the opposite of your traditional type. We asked our community if they would match with their current partner on a dating app? A majority of respondents either said that they would not or that they were unsure. 

The problems with dating apps go beyond a lack of authentic connection. While meaningful and successful relationships come out of dating apps every day, they can also be a straight-up scary place, especially for women. “Columbia Journalism Investigations surveyed 1,200 women and found that more than a third of them reported being sexually assaulted or raped by someone they’d met through a dating site.” This is beyond scary. 

If you choose to use dating apps (they can also be fun and a great way to meet people!) we suggest implementing the following safety precautions:

  • Make sure you meet in public places.
  • Let a friend know what your plans are and where you’ll be.
  • Use protection during sexual encounters.
  • Facetime or video chat before meeting in person!

There are other reasons that the internet is impacting Gen-Z’s dating and sex habits. Online sex is available at the click of a button. “More people visit porn sites each month than TikTok, OpenAI, Zoom, Netflix or Amazon.” Only Fans has risen in popularity, and transformed online porn and sex work. While this is a positive for so many reasons (takes the middleman out of porn production, anyone can do it, people are posting what they choose to show, there is overall much more autonomy and money to be made) it also changes the relationship landscape. Pew Research Center data released in February 2023 revealed that 60% of men under 30 are single. This is compared to 51% in 2019. 

With Gen-Z’s dating practices and lingo like “hot girl summer,” situationships, and soft-launching a partner, everything is a bit different. Gen-Z emphasizes self-improvement, growth, and boundaries over traditions like settling down. Women are talking more about sex. They’re talking about the orgasm gap and female pleasure, not just how to give a good blow job. College students might be having less sex than ever, but it is my hope that they’re setting themselves up for healthier relationships and better sex in their future. 

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