There’s a definite stereotype that millennials are the generation having lots of sex, getting pregnant at super young ages, and catching more STIs than ever. It’s important to know the facts about what we’re really getting up to. Older generations tend to have a lot of misconceptions about us millennials: we’re lazy, social media obsessed, and have it, like, so totally easy compared to them. But these prejudgements also extend to the sexual domain. I’ve listed three general thoughts about what society thinks we do/have, but what’s really going on with us?
- Millennials aren’t f***ing as much as we think
Compared to Gen X and baby boomers, Dr. Jean Twenge reported that millennials are having less sex at the same age than the previous two generations. This drop was particularly significant for men. That number is said to still be dropping for the newer generation too.
The question of why this is the case then has to be asked. For me, there are two possibilities:
- The first is that the pressures to have sex are beginning to fade away. Instead of falling into the pattern of getting married and having kids straight after school, millennials can choose their own path and own their agency. It might not seem like it with recent events and we still have a lot of work to do, but our society is more aware of consent than ever before. With the power to say “no” comes the dismissal of peer pressure too.
- The second is a darker reason but just as much of a possibility. It’s been reported that millennials are facing a mental health crisis. Millennials are tied down to pressures like university, starting out careers (then being attached to them), and simply finding a place to live with rising house prices. Anxiety and depression are on the rise for people my age. With this comes a lack of sex drive. This can be due to the illnesses themselves or the treatments and medicines which can kill a sex drive as a side effect.
- Teenage pregnancy is actually going down
I understand why most people assume teenage pregnancy is a common recreational activity for people my age because of shows like Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant. ‘Reality’ shows are not always as real as we like to think so. Rates of teenage pregnancy are at their lowest since the 1960s. In fact, it is now more common for a woman over the age of 40 to become pregnant than a woman under the age of 20.
While I believe that sex education in this country is appalling, the one thing we did learn was how to put a condom on a cucumber. By introducing conception to young people’s lives, you can introduce sex for pleasure, not just sex for reproduction. Contraception services in the UK are focused on preventing teenage pregnancy as a priority. Emergency contraception services have been provided for women too busy to wait in line for hours at the clinic.
- We may be having less sex, but the rate of STIs is on the rise
Older generations tend to have a lot of misconceptions about us millennials: we’re lazy, social media obsessed, and have it, like, so totally easy compared to them. I don’t think they’re right about their preconceptions. But the rate of STIs among our generation is actually pretty worrying. Reported cases for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have reached record highs for three consecutive years. This could be due to a number of reasons: societal stigma around getting an infection from sex or the lack of decent sex ed in schools.
Not only is condom usage way down, but a shockingly mere 26% of singles between the age of 18 and 34 admitted that they have never even attended a sexual health clinic before. (It’s worth noting that reducing teen pregnancy could be attributed to new methods such as birth control instead of condom usage). Even worse, after being told that their partners have an STI, “68 percent of respondents went ahead and hooked up with them anyways.” Condoms are a great contraceptive, but are not always efficient and can’t always prevent STIs like active herpes.
- What can we do?
It’s clear that there are positives and negatives to millennials and their relationship to sex, as with every other generation. But, it is clear that communication isn’t a common thing among those who hook up. But I believe that issues such as the rise in STIs can begin to be resolved once we incorporate and inclusive sex education. It is crucial to take precautions when it comes to sex.
Just an FYI – there’s no shame in contracting a sexually-transmitted infection. In fact, it’s insanely common. In 2015, 434,456 new cases of STIs were reported in England alone. Let’s then understand that this number is still rising and a quarter of millennials have never even been tested. People get STIs – it’s normal for us, most of them are treatable, and it’s perfectly OK to talk about them. Like these numbers, it’s important to know the figures of teenage pregnancy so we don’t accidentally make sweeping statements. It’s also natural to want sex or to not want sex, but it’s also wise not to assume someone does purely based on their age.
Our generation is facing some troubling times. We’re working too hard, have financial insecurities, and have gained a rising crisis in mental health issues. Invest in knowing what’s truly going on in our lives – sex lives included.