According to numerous sources, more men are having less sex. The reasons why are a matter of discussion.
Last week, the Washington Post published some alarming news: In the US, more people than ever were not having sex. Especially men under 30 were doing it tough. In ten years, the percentage of them reporting no action under the sheets at all had almost tripled, from 10 percent in 2008 to 28 percent in 2018. With women, it had also grown. Doubled, in fact, from 9 to 18%. But young men were clearly missing out more than women. Because even if they were doing it, they were doing it less often. Most disturbing was that the share of men under 30 who reported zero female sex partners since they turned 18 had grown from 7 % in 1989, 8 in 2008 to 27 in 2018. Journalist Christopher Ingraham spoke to the researcher responsible for the General Social Survey that produced these numbers and asked her, of course, what was going on. According to Jean Twenge, there were a number of reasons. First of all, the participation of young males in the labour force has fallen. And ‘less work = less relationships = less sex’. 54% of unemployed Americans don’t have a steady partner, compared with 32% of the employed. Secondly, men in that age group are ‘more likely to live with their parents, which presents obvious barriers to having sex’.
Worried, I had a look at whether the ‘Great American Sex Drought’ was a local affliction, or could be seen around the world. After a day of researching, what I can say is that most of us are apparently doing it less and less. A 2014 Australian study of Health and Relationships found that people in heterosexual relationships have sex 1.4 times a week, down from 1.8 in 2003. 14.6% of the people interviewed had had no sex at all in the month before. Here, researchers blamed the drought on the ‘intrusion of individually consumed media…people take their laptops and smartphones to bed’ instead of each other, and that, of course, works not as well, sex-wise. Another, more recent, a bit of research showed that 1 in 2 Australian men experience sexual difficulties, although almost opposite ones: 37% climaxes too quickly, 17% lacks interest in sex altogether. So what on earth is going on? With sex in general, but men and sex in particular?
Of course, the famous incels, the involuntary celibates who clutter up the internet, are blaming it, as writer Phil Barker recently wrote, on ‘the perfumed evil of testosterone-sapping feminism’. They believe that ‘the average guy has no chance of being chosen by a woman for sex’, because those horrible females ‘only want sex with alpha males’. To Barker, this sounds like a ‘self-perpetuating cycle’: you sit at home at your computer all day, playing videogames and watching porn. And then your complaint is that fabulous women are not beating your door down to have great porn-like sex. It is a strange kind of reasoning, but also very dangerous, because it makes men ‘angry. Too angry. Someone’s going to get hurt’. And that shows, because men kill women. In their relationships, in the world. ‘Some men believe that everything bad in their lives’ is because of feminism, which ‘has robbed them of a basic human right: sex’. And therefore, what they see as revenge is acceptable.
Obviously, this group is the first one that is, I guess (and hope), having less sex now than they were.
Leaving the crazies to one side for a moment, Barker also points to what he calls the ‘Man box’, that contains everything a ‘real man’ has to be and cannot be. You know the drill: don’t cry, don’t touch. ‘Talking trash about women is a prerequisite of membership of the Man Box’, so maybe being in a relationship (which is often, I would say, the prerequisite of sex) is a no-no. Especially now, when women and girls are overtaking men and boys in just about everything. According to the Man Box, men have to be on top, and this generation of girls (and more and more women) don’t mind a little bit of that them themselves, thank you very much. So that might be the second reason especially young men aren’t getting any. Reason three, according to Barker and psychologists Steve Biddulph (in Australia) and Philip Zimbardo (in the US) is the lack of male role models, especially fathers. As Biddulph wrote: ‘If you want to be loved , you have to see the opposite sex as people, empathise with them and care about them’, which is something that men learn from their fathers. Unfortunately, a lot of those ‘elders are absent and men do not step up’, so good manhood is not taught. In the US, 41% of women with children are single mothers. That, Zimbardo says, means a lot of fatherless boys. And even if they are there: the average father talks to his son 30 minutes a week. A week! That is not nearly enough to show them how to behave in a way that catches a mate, not drives them away.
According to Zimbardo, there are a few other reasons why young men don’t usually present as prime sexual partners. Because society mostly tells them what not to do, but not what they should do, boys and young men are confused. This makes them withdraw into the safety of their own bedrooms (and seeing that they are 25% more likely to live permanently with their parents now, they don’t even have to get out of that room to make money to pay for it). There, they watch a lot of porn and play a lot of videogames. Thirteen hours a week on average, apparently. In fact, American research has shown that by the time they turn 21, boys have spent 10,000 hours playing online games. Had they gone to school, they could have obtained two BA degrees in the same time frame. Which is what girls are doing, who are now, as a consequence, topping the boys in education everywhere. Obviously, those games also do other things: they normalize violence and domination, and have clear goals that can be reached. They are safe, unlike the outside world, especially that of (sexual) relationships. And the porn has not only introduced them to completely nutty male/female connections, it has also given them something called ‘porn induced erectile dysfunction’. Apart from that, sitting on their bum all day has made them fat (70% of US males are obese) and reduced both their libido and their testosterone levels. Charming. But not helpful in real-life mating. Just asking: isn’t it time we did something?