According to a study of 4,000 men and 5,000 women, Americans—especially younger Americans—are having less sex than ever.
Published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study documents a steady decline from 2002, when 19% of men reported not having sex within the previous year, until 2018, when 31% reported not having sex within the previous year.
Additional findings showed a connection between unemployment or part-time employment among men equating to less sexual activity. The percentage of sexually inactive men ages 18-24 in this category increased from 18.9 percent to 30.9 percent.
The study also revealed that women ages of 25 and 34 are also having less sex.
Some experts interviewed for media reports on the study concluded that the results were connected to challenges finding suitable partners. Others, like Jean M. Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University explained it as a part of “delayed development” among young people. "It is more difficult to date and engage in sexual activity when not economically independent of one's parents," Twenge told CNN.
But Twenge’s “delayed development” thesis doesn’t do much to clarify why sexual activity has also decreased among older and married adults. She points to the increased use of technology and entertainment options—ranging from binging Netflix to Facebook—as a probable cause behind this trend.
Another expert, an NHS psychosexual therapist, told the Gaurdian that it’s stress and anxiety that are reducing our sexual desire.
And while data does show that stress can have a negative impact on sexual desire, what is fascinating is how none of the experts interviewed blamed or even hinted at the truth that pornography could be playing a major role in declining sexual activity.
According to Covenant Eyes, an online screen accountability and pornography filtering company, it’s more likely porn that’s getting in the way of real, healthy relationships, both inside of marriage and outside of marriage. With ease of access, the average age of pornography exposure is now close to 12 years old. One recent study found that up to 73 percent of women and 98 percent of men had reported Internet porn use in the last six months.
Another study shows how pornography use mis-wires reward circuits causing sexual dysfunction and reinforcing a dependence on porn to get the same type of “reward,” making satisfaction with a real partner less satisfying. (Park et al, 2016).
Both young men and women are being sucked into a “porn-ified” view of sex and relationships that is creating real barriers to intimacy. According to author Naomi Wolf, young men are learning sex from porn, and young women are learning that unless they can act like a porn star, they can’t expect to keep a man. “For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real…women. Today, real…women are just bad porn,” she explained.
While on the surface declining rates of sex among young adults may look like a win for those who believe in abstinence before marriage, the data may actually reveal something far more disturbing. It may be that online pornography is impeding the ability of young people to connect in positive, meaningful, and healthy relationships—the kind that would lead to a healthy marriage and a secure environment to raise children.
A 2016 study found that divorce rates double when one or both partners use pornography. Even if the married couple stays together, sex is a healthy and necessary part of a marriage relationship that, according to the JAMA study, isn’t happening enough for many married adults.
To be Pro Abundant Life, we must acknowledge that pornography is destructive to those who produce it and those who use it. It’s the enemy of marriages and it dehumanizes people into sexual objects for someone’s gratification. A young woman who is taught that her only value to a man is for his sexual pleasure will have a harder time believing that a baby created through their sexual union has value. Likewise, if young men learn about what sex is for from the producers of pornography, they’re less likely to treat their partners with the sacrificial love they deserve.
The remedy to this is found in embracing God’s design for sex between a husband and wife, united together in marriage. This is a legacy worth passing onto young women and men.