You don’t have to disagree with the premise of the sexual revolution (as I do) in order to accept that its results have been counter-productive to its stated aims.
The idea was that sex was good, and that more freedom would mean more sex. To hell with stodgy “tradition” and all that nonsense! I simplify slightly, of course, but not very much. All those old folks just didn’t want the young to have fun, and they didn’t know why. They didn’t realize that technology and modernity had made all the old reasons for abstinence, for courting, perhaps for marriage itself, obsolete. We could just have sex with whomever.
Except, of course, that it didn’t work out that way:
The share of U.S. adults reporting no sex in the past year reached an all-time high in 2018, underscoring a three-decade trend line marked by an aging population and higher numbers of unattached people.
But among the 23 percent of adults — or nearly 1 in 4 — who spent the year in a celibate state, a much larger than expected number of them were twentysomething men, according to the latest data from the General Social Survey.
Experts who study Americans’ bedroom habits say there are a number of factors driving the Great American Sex Drought. Age is one of them: The 60 and older demographic climbed from 18 percent of the population in 1996 to 26 percent in 2018, according to the survey. The share reporting no sex has consistently hovered around 50 percent, and because that age group is growing relative to everyone else, it has the net effect of reducing the overall population’s likelihood of having sex.
But changes at the other end of the age spectrum may be playing an even bigger role. The portion of Americans 18 to 29 reporting no sex in the past year more than doubled between 2008 and 2018, to 23 percent.
Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, said in an interview that growing sexlessness among America’s twentysomethings is primarily attributable to partnering up later in life.
“There are more people in their twenties who don’t have a live-in partner,” she said. “So under those circumstances I think less sex is going to happen.”
Americans in their 30s, 40s and beyond, meanwhile, are much more likely to be married than those in their 20s. These age groups are now considerably more likely to have sex in a given year than their younger peers.
The sexual revolution didn’t just kill off our emotional attachments with each other and scar people (particularly women) for life. It’s been killing off our sex lives as well, the very thing it purported to champion.
This means that either those who advanced the sexual revolution did not think things through, or their actual goals were not their stated goals. Ordinarily, I would be inclined towards the former, but given the doubling-down and continuation of the “sex-positive” movement (what an amusing self-given label), this appears less and less likely.