It’ll be news to few that the internet era has had a huge impact on people’s sex lives today. In fact, not only has it changed the way we have sex, it’s changed the way we look at ourselves and the expectations we have of others.
Less than a couple of decades ago you’d have been hard pressed to get an R-rated sneak peek at the top shelf at a Shell station or newsagents. The magazines on display would often have opaque covers – 18+ only. Much more accessible were the catalogues you would get posted through the door, never to be seen by anyone who might purchase something from them, often to be found under mattresses or in sock drawers.
Teenagers today have never lived in a world without the internet, which was invented in the oh-so-distant nineties. Come to that, they’ve barely lived in a world without social media - YouTube is fifteen, Facebook is sixteen, Twitter is fifteen – you get the idea.
So, what impact has this had on young people today? How has it affected their behaviour when it comes to all things sex? At Curbsights, we decided to run our own survey and asked over 1000 young Brits* to tell us about their sex lives.
The results paint a bit of a sorry picture. Out of the 77% of young people who told us they have had sex, only a third agreed their first time was meaningful, with 58% expressing regret over their choices in sexual partners. It gets worse – 65% voted to say they enjoy music more than sex, with 71% preferring food!
All it takes is a quick Google search – “are today’s young people having less sex?” – for you to be bombarded with articles from economists to gossip mags, trying to explain the decrease in sexual activity amongst young people today. Is it a coincidence that it has happened to the digital baby generation? Why did a third of respondents agree that sex is overrated? We decided to dig a little deeper and ask our young community to tell us the biggest sexual issues they face, and put it to a vote. Here are the top twelve comments in order:
1 Appearance and body image issues (89% agree)
2 Sex isn’t meaningful – no connection or aftercare (87% agree)
3 Social media makes us believe we’re not enough (86% agree)
4 Overexposure to sex at a young age (85% agree)
5 Rape culture, paedophilia – especially amongst teenage girls due to expectations based on porn (84%)
6 Infidelity/inability to stick to one partner (82%)
7 Safe sex – parents and older generations aren’t always comfortable educating (81%)
8 People are too quick to have sex without knowing each other
9 “Slut shaming” (80%)
10 Porn – young men thinking that sex in porn is what sex should be like and that women should like it (78%)
11 Lack of protection (76%)
12 Peer pressure (72%)
With body image coming in at number one, and social media making young people insecure at number three, it’s hard not to draw a line between the two. A recent study by Now Sourcing and Frames Direct gives predicts the average millennial will spend about an hour a week to take up to 25,700 selfies in their lifetime – of these, the study estimated that 69% of all posted pictures have been edited. Unsurprising then, that whilst 60% of respondents claim they are comfortable naked, half prefer to keep the lights turned off whilst having sex.
Another common theme in our survey… Porn. According to our survey, the average age at which people recall seeing pornographic imagery for the first time is eleven – a crucial age when it comes to a young person’s development. Just under half of respondents admitted to watching porn on a regular basis, with 41% admitting they try out things from porn in real life. Rape culture and porn were also seen as linked, with over a third of the young people claiming to have had sex where the boundaries of consent were blurred, or not present at all. One in ten admitted they are addicted to watching pornography.
And pornography has never been more rampant. The industry is virtually impossible to regulate, with PornHub and other major online distributors coming under fire in recent times for exacerbating human trafficking, distributing paedophilic material, and not taking consent into account. Per one report, every day in the US:
2.5 billion emails containing porn are sent or received.
68 million search queries related to pornography- 25% of total searches- are generated
116,000 queries related to child pornography are received
Overall, it’s pretty bleak.
How can we help to make sex safer, better, for our younger generations?
It’s important to listen to young people when they say a big sexual issue they face is the fact that parents and previous generations aren’t comfortable educating young people when it comes to sex. With the internet, the landscape is changing faster than ever, and with all the fake news, fake sex, fake pictures on social media out there, we can’t expect young people to just “figure it out” as former generations might have done. Open dialogue is more important than ever.
Finally, we asked our young people to what advice they wished they had received before becoming sexually active.
· It’s OK to say no.
· Take your time, don’t rush into it.
· Don’t fake it.
· It’s not all about the other person’s needs. You should feel comfortable.
· Trust your gut feeling.
· Don’t do it unless you care for the person.
· Wait for the right person and the right time.
· It’s not a race.
· There is no rush to lose your virginity
· Don’t feel pressured into doing anything you aren’t comfortable doing.
· Just because they’re ready doesn’t mean you are.
· You don’t owe it to anyone.
· Enjoy it.
*Survey of over 1000 young people in the UK, aged between 16-24.