With the advent of dating applications, it seemed likely to many that Millennials and Generation Z were having more sex than previous generations.
According to recent research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, however, this isn’t true.
Millennials are actually less sexually active than their predecessors in Generation X and have a fewer sex partners as well, determines the General Social Survey run at the University of Chicago through the NORC research centre, employing data between 2015 and 2016 on adult sexual habits.
The prominence of online dating is the most likely factor in dropping rates of sexual activity, according to a Forbes report last year. Jean Twenge, a snake person-expert, told the Washington Post that this is because of a new emphasis on physical appearance, meaning those of “average appearance” have fewer choices in the dating pool.
Registered psychotherapist, Barbara Morris works specifically with sexual issues. Online dating and Internet pornography, she believes, are the most significant factors that challenge Millennials.
“Dating [applications] make it so much easier for some people to hook up and much harder for others,” Morris said. “There is more emphasis on physical attributes than there used to be. The dating playing field is very un-level now.”
Baby Boomers, she said, missed the boat in terms of protecting their children from early exposure to pornographic material online. This has contributed to sexual anxieties for Millennials.
“I’ve determined that porn has flooded the sexual field of many Millennials and I believe that it’s been eroding their capacity for intimacy,” Morris said. “It seems to promote the ‘f–k first, talk later’ style of dating… [They] end up experiencing performance anxiety, unnecessary sexual pressure and unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners.”
Intimacy isn’t just sex, Morris said, but is nonetheless important to a healthy relationship.
“Intimacy and sex are crucial in the maintenance of healthy relationships,” she said. “If you have the intimacy, and can really share your thoughts and feelings safely with each other, sex is easy.”
A law student at the University of Toronto, Michelle Polster frequently uses dating apps and websites such as OK Cupid, Tinder, Bumble and Coffee Meets Bagel.
Online dating has allowed Polster to overcome certain fears towards intimacy and relationships.
“I’m pretty introverted and I’ve got anxiety, depression and PTSD related to a sexual assault when I was 18,” Polster said. “Dating [applications] have been a real safe haven for me because they allow me to structure what I’m walking into in advance.”
Yet while online dating has opened doors that may not even have been present without web-based access, Polster allows she is ambivalent about it.
“I’ve had some really lovely conversations with folks,” she said, “On the flip side, sometimes it can feel like a chore to sort through people, matches and messages… I also have this back-burner concern that it’s turned dating into a bit of a game.”
In some aspects, online dating can be a bit dehumanizing, she said, with the distance technology and a keyboard create.
“It’s a lot easier to forget that there’s another person on the end of the line,” Polster said. “Sometimes that keeps me up at night.”
Online dating has increased accessibility to sexual partners, she said, but today’s high speed culture may work against pursuing them.
“Snake People [are] distracted by a million things all the time,” she said, “It’s just as easy and rewarding for me to take a few swipes as it is to read a news article or a recipe.
A 25-year-old Toronto resident, Tristan James said he has mixed feelings towards dating applications. His main experiences are with Grindr, Scruff and Hornet — applications focused on LGBTQ dating.
Using the applications, he said, is frustrating because most of the services aren’t free of charge, with added fees for the ability to limit a search to find an ideal match, rather than just matching based on vicinity.
“Users are represented solely by a thumbnail photo and brief line of text, so it’s difficult to decide who you’d get along with on a personal or romantic level,” James said. “Interactions can range from the banal to more aggressive harassment such as sending multiple unsolicited explicit photos at once.”
While at first his desire to seek out sexual partners increased, after about three months of use he experienced a significant decrease.
“In our heteronormative society, it’s rare to find potential partners en masse,” he said. “As time passed, however, the faces became familiar as long-term users popped up again and again… The exchanges became repetitive and stale.”
Sex will always be something in the forefront of the human brain, James said.
“The value placed on it, however, has become lower as ‘supply’ has increased in the form of easier access to a wide range of potential partners that you can connect with instantly,” he said. “It’s almost like ordering a meal for delivery at this point.”
To contact Barbara Morris regarding psychotherapy services, visit her website at: www.psychotherapyclinictoronto.com/barbara-morris