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We live in one of the most sexually liberated times of human history. Access to new technologies over the past 40 years, whether it is the contraceptive pill, or dating apps such as Grindr and Tinder, have opened a new world of possibilities. As the sexual revolution of the s matured, societal norms shifted with it, with increasing acceptance of homosexuality, divorce, pre-marital sex, and alternative relationships such as polyamory and swinging. The declines were similar across gender, race, region, educational level and work status, with married people reporting the most ificant drops.
Inthe National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles Natsal found that British people between ages 16 and 44 had sex just under five times per month. This was a drop from the survey, released inwhere men were recorded to have sex 6. In the Australian National Survey of Sexual Activity showed that people in heterosexual relationships were having sex on average 1.
While there are many simple conclusions available, BBC Future dug deeper and found a situation that is quite complex. An easy first conclusion to make is that increased access to technology is to blame. Two technologies are usually targeted: online pornography and social media. As an addiction, it is argued that porn acts as a replacement for real-life sex, limiting our sexual desire in the bedroom. Social media and pornography are often blamed for damaging our sex lives - yet the evidence is far from clear cut Credit: Alamy.
Some researchers have even argued there is a link between porn and marriage rates. In a study inresearchers Michael Malcolm and George Naufal surveyed 1, participants in the United States to analyse how 18 to 35 year-olds used the internet, and what impact this had on their romantic lives. Thepublished in the Eastern Economic Journal, found a strong correlation between high levels of internet use and low marriage rates, a factor that was even more ificant for men who viewed online pornography on a regular basis.
Social media in particular has been blamed as a distraction, with people obsessing over their screens instead of their sexual lives. This is an extension of research that ly suggested having a TV in a couple's bedroom ificantly reduces sexual activity. It would make sense that the intrusion of social media devices into all aspects of our lives could have a similar effect. But there are good reasons to question both of these conclusions.
Others have noted the potential for pornography to enhance sexual activity.
This study tested the libido of men measured against their use of pornography. The research found a strong correlation between the amount of time spent viewing porn and the desire to have sex, with those who watched over two hours of porn per week having the highest levels of arousal.
These were noted as well by Twenge, Sherman and Wells in their research, who, despite finding overall drops in sexual activity, found no difference in sexual activity amongst those who frequently watched pornography. Dating apps should make it easier than ever to find a sexual partner - yet millennials appear to be having less sex than generations Credit: Getty Images. The same can be said for social media. In fact research has shown that apps such as Grindr and Tinder may speed up people's sexual livesenabling sex on dates earlier and more regularly.
While technology definitely impacts our sexual lives, it cannot be blamed solely for the noted reductions in sexual activity. Despite early dreams of a population liberated from workour jobs seems to be intruding even further into our lives. Work hours remain extremely high across the Western world, with data recently showing that the average full-time employee in the US works 47 hours per week. It may seem logical to conclude that the fatigue and stress of work may lead to drops in sexual activity.
However it is not quite as simple as that. In for example Janet Hyde, John DeLamater and Erri Hewitt found in their research, published in the Journal of Family Psychologythat there was no reduction in sexual activity, satisfaction or desire between women who were homemakers and women who were employed either part-time or full-time. Contrary to the rest of their findings, Twenge, Sherman and Wells actually found that a busy work life correlated with higher sexual frequency. Life in the fast lane can leave people feeling anxious, exhausted, and depressed - all of which may take a toll on their sex lives Credit: Alamy.
Having a bad job can be worse for your mental health than having no joband this extends to our sexual lives as well. Stress in particular is increasingly being seen as the core indicator of drops in sexual activity and sexual happiness. Infor example, Guy Bodenmenn at the University of Zurich and his research team studied one hundred and three female students in Switzerland across a three month period, finding that higher self-reported stress was associated with lower levels of sexual activity and satisfaction. There are multiple impacts of stressincluding changing hormone levels, contributing to negative body image, making us question relationships and partners, and increasing levels of drug and alcohol use.
All of these have correlations between drops in sexual activity and sexual drive. There are many other reasons to think that changes in our mental health and wellbeing may be damaging our sex lives. While Twenge, Sherman and Wells discounted both pornography use and work hours as causes behind the drops in sexual activity, the researchers argued the drops may be due to increasing levels of unhappiness. Western societies in particular have seen a mental health epidemic in the past few decades, focused primarily around depression and anxiety disorders.
There is a strong correlation between depressive symptoms and reduction in sexual activity and desire. Conducting a review of relevant studies for the Journal of Sexual MedicineEvan Atlantis and Thomas Sullivan at the University of Adelaide found ificant evidence that depression le to increases in sexual dysfunction and reductions in sexual desire. Bringing this evidence together with the noted increases mental health issues, Twenge, Sherman and Wells argue there is a causal link between drops in happiness and average drops in sexual activity.
Research connects these mental health epidemics with the increasingly insecure nature of modern lifeparticularly for younger generations. It is this generation that has shown the highest drops in sexual activitywith research from Jean Twenge showing millennials are reporting having fewer sexual encounters than either Generation X or the baby boomers did at the same age. Job and housing insecurity, the fear of climate change, and the destruction of communal spaces and social life, have all been found to connect to mental health problems. Drops in sexual activity could be argued, therefore, to reflect the nature of modern life.
This phenomenon cannot be equated with one problem or another, but is in fact the culmination of many things. It is the creation of the stresses of modern life — a mixture of work, insecurity and technology. Diagnoses of depression and anxiety have continued to rise during the last decade Credit: Alamy. Some may celebrate drops in sexual activity as a rejection of loosening sexual mores.
But sex is important. It increases happinessmakes you healthierand even makes you more satisfied at work. Most importantly, for the vast majority of people, sex is fun. It is for these reasons that people around the world are trying to find ways to deal with this issue. Japan has been trying to deal with this issue for a long time, particularly over fears of a plummeting birth rate. Parents in Japan are now being provided cash for having childrenwhile for years companies have been encouraged to give citizens more time off work to procreate.
Meanwhile, local authorities have encouraged procreation through a range of measures, including providing shopping vouchers to larger families and launching government-sanctioned matchmaker websites. The problem with these proposals is that they are inevitably just a band-aid.
While additional time off work and government incentives may have short-term effects, they do not deal with the structural problems behind the drops in happiness that may be dampening sex drives. Just as this problem is multi-dimensional, so the solutions must be multi-dimensional as well. Tackling the sexual decline will require dealing with the very causes of the mental health crisis facing Western worlds — a crisis that is underpinned by job and housing insecurity, fears of climate change, and the loss of communal and social spaces.
Doing so will not just help people with their sex lives, but benefit health and wellbeing overall. The many reasons that people are having less sex. Share using. By Simon Copland 9th May The average sex life appears to be dwindling - and it may reflect some troubling anxieties at the heart of modern society, says Simon Copland. Why is this happening? Porn blame An easy first conclusion to make is that increased access to technology is to blame. What is a 'normal' sex life? The invention of heterosexuality The enduring enigma of female sexual desire Some researchers have even argued there is a link between porn and marriage rates.
Chained to the desk Despite early dreams of a population liberated from workour jobs seems to be intruding even further into our lives. A mixture of work, insecurity and technology is leading us all to feel slightly less aroused. The mystery of the female orgasm Sexual Revolutions: A BBC Future special Japan has been trying to deal with this issue for a long time, particularly over fears of a plummeting birth rate. Around the BBC.Sexual encounters Wells
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