“We are far less accepting of pressured sex.” But some experts are concerned that the drop-off reflects the difficulty some young people are having in forming deep romantic connections.
They cite other reasons for putting off sex, including pressure to succeed, social lives increasingly conducted on-screen, unrealistic expectations of physical perfection encouraged by dating apps and wariness over date rape.
The portion who reported sleeping with multiple partners also declined, from about 19 percent in 1991 to about 12 percent last year.
Among millennials, the effects are most dramatic among those born in the mid-1990s and later — the first cohort to come of age when smartphones were ubiquitous.
“It ends up putting a lot of importance on physical appearance, and that, I think, is leaving out a large section of the population,” said Twenge, who teaches psychology at San Diego State University.
“For a lot of folks who are of average appearance, marriage and stable relationships was where they were having sex.” Unlike in face-to-face meetings where “you can seduce someone with your charm,” she said, dating apps are “leaving some people with fewer choices and they might be more reluctant to search for partners at all.” It does not help that many millennials are relatively unfamiliar with the kind of down time it takes to really get to know a partner.
“They always ask me: ‘Are you against relationships? ’ My mom — she hooked up all the time in college — she’s like, ‘I would still love you, but are you gay? The sense of caution sometimes manifests itself as a heightened awareness of emotional pitfalls.And a study published in the same journal last year found that although millennials are more accepting of extramarital sex than earlier generations, they reported fewer sexual partners than any group since the 1960s — an average of eight, compared with 11 for boomers and 10 for Generation X.[Why more millennials live with their parents than with a spouse or lover] The decline seems likely to continue: According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the portion of high school students who have had sex fell last year to 41 percent from 54 percent in 1991 and about 47 percent in 2013.She wants what she calls an “old-fashioned” relationship, leading to marriage and kids.But fellow students are into “very casual one-night stands, going to bars and going home with someone,” she said.