There’s an important cover story with a terrible title in the upcoming edition of the Atlantic. In ” Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?” senior Atlantic editor Kate Julian explores the reasons why twenty- and thirty-somethings (aka millennials) aren’t having sex the way their 1960s parents did, a phenomenon that’s deemed particularly perplexing considering how sexually liberal our culture has become.
Despite the large number of people who believe sex between unmarried adults isn’t wrong, despite the fact that birth control can be obtained for free and the morning-after pill is readily available, “teenagers and young adults are having less sex,” writes Julian.
In her interviews with experts, as well as with the demographic in question, Julian explores the reasons why young people are having less sex and identifies a number of factors, including the rise of technology and widespread porn use.
Unfortunately, she spent far fewer paragraphs on the real issue: The modern generation was specifically taught to give up on love and to focus on themselves and their careers instead.
It’s not like this is a secret. The evidence is all around. Moreover, Julian’s subjects told her as much. “There’s immense pressure,” one man said, from parents and other authority figures “to focus on the self at the expense of relationships” — pressure, Julian concedes, other 20-somethings assured her extends through college. “You’re supposed to have so much before you can get into a relationship,” another woman told her.
Yet another woman told Julian that when she was in high school, her parents, who are both professionals with advanced degrees, had discouraged relationships on the grounds that they might diminish her focus. Even today, in graduate school, this woman finds the attitude hard to shake. “Now I need to finish school, I need to get a practice going, I need to do this and this, and then I’ll think about love. But by 30, you’re like, What is love? What’s it like to be in love?”
Even Alexandra Soloman, a psychologist who teaches an extremely popular course called Marriage 101 at Northwestern University, says students have absorbed the idea that love is secondary to academic and professional success. “Over and over,” she writes, “my undergraduates tell me they try hard not to fall in love during college, imagining that would mess up their plans.”
The real concern, in other words, isn’t that young people are having less sex but that they’re unable to form attachments.
An actual relationship with the opposite sex eludes them. Young people are afraid of commitment, and they’re afraid of intimacy. As Julian notes, one survey of more than 20,000 college students found the “median number of hookups over a four-year college career is five — a third of which involved only kissing and touching.”
That’s not a sex recession — that’s a connection recession. It shows an inability to care.
Why wasn’t that the focus of the cover story?