Millennials are shunning sex – but who can blame them, when they have so few chances at independence?

The real shaggers these days are divorced middle-aged women, the fastest growing group of single mums

Janet Street-Porter
Friday 08 July 2016 17:04 BST
Millennials are having less sex today than the baby boomers in their youth
Millennials are having less sex today than the baby boomers in their youth (Alamy)

Today, young people drink and smoke less, and have fewer sexual partners than their parents’ generation. In spite of everything that’s been written about them, millennials use less prescription and recreational drugs and get into fewer fights. In some ways, they are more adult that me – the perpetual badly-behaved teenager, with loose morals and a perpetual itch to have a good time and sod the consequences.

I feel blessed to have been born a baby boomer, to parents who scrimped and saved and had endured war and rationing. I grew up with sex and drugs and rock and roll, and readily available contraceptives.

By 15, I was obsessed with the all-important need to lose my virginity. I kept detailed diaries (in code) of my assignations and sightings of my objects of lust. On holiday with my parents, I begged a cute French student to do the deed, but he was far too well brought up.

Finally, a bloke I met in a club in Soho invited me back to his place, and the next era of my life began. I never saw him again. Aged 20, I’d had two abortions and about six sexual partners; by 21, I had a decent job, a rented flat and bags of confidence. I quickly got married and then divorced, and didn’t consider faithfulness an essential.

Today’s young people have values, aspirations and ambition, and care passionately about causes, from animal rights to global warming and third world poverty. I achieved success through hard work and capitalising on every opportunity – something sensible, moral millennials are denied.

They are saddled with student debt, nearly all are living at home, denied promotion or even the chance of an interesting job with prospects. They will live through two recessions: the banking crisis of 2008 and the probable economic meltdown post-Brexit, which could severely limit their chances and reduce their income. And if they do manage to scrape together enough money to rent a tiny living space in a multi-occupancy apartment, thin walls and lack of privacy will not exactly encourage romance or one-night stands.

Technology has castrated, not liberated poor millennials, replacing exploring sexual options (a basic expression of freedom) with a load of drab experiences online, constantly ‘liking’, not licking, other people. Ticking boxes instead of sharing kisses or holding hands.

Sure, there’s tremendous pressure on young girls to send explicit imagery of themselves to people they don’t know or peers they seek to impress, but the evidence suggests that teenagers and twenty-somethings are having less penetrative sex than my generation did. Easily accessible online porn seems to be having a deadening effect on lust and the number of teenage pregnancies continues to decline.

The real shaggers these days are single and divorced middle-aged women – the fastest growing group of single mums.

Constantly inspecting naked women online isn’t a good way to learn how to make the first fumbling steps to building a relationship in the real world. Many young women socialise in packs, more comfortable with their posse, spending their time tapping on keys, playing with the phone and sending selfies. It’s no preparation for face-to-face chat with a potential soulmate.

Maybe millennials are happy with their sexless, ascetic lives. Maybe it’s patronising of me to view it as lacklustre. Maybe what I measure as a “sexual experience” is based on out-of-date assumptions.

Young people shun simple definitions of gender; they are far more sophisticated and adaptable than my generation. In my twenties and thirties, people were gay or straight, and they formed friendships within like-minded groups.

Millennial sex seems to be defined differently. Young people are far more accepting and less judgemental. I can’t help thinking that in the future, we might just swap phials of fluid and abandon messy, squidgy sex.

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