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San Diego Researcher Finds Millennials Less Likely To Be Sexually Active

Photo caption: A couple sitting on a bench looks out at the ocean in La Jolla, September 2, ...

Photo by Nathan Rupert / Flickr

A couple sitting on a bench looks out at the ocean in La Jolla, September 2, 2013.

Millennials may be more accepting of premarital sex than any other generation, but fewer of them are actually doing it.

Millennials may be more accepting of premarital sex than any other generation, but fewer of them are actually doing it.

That's according to a new study co-authored by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge.

"Millennials born in the 1990s were more than twice as likely to have not had sex since age 18 compared to Gen X'ers born in the 1960s," Twenge said.

The researchers looked at how people of different generations aged 20 to 24 responded to survey questions about sex. They found that a larger proportion of millennials reported being sexually inactive in early adulthood.

About 15 percent of millennials born in the 1990s said they've had no sexual partners since turning 18. That's up from only 6 percent of people born in the 1960s.

The researchers don't pinpoint any one definitive cause for this trend, but they offer some possible explanations. They note that are marrying later in life and living with their parents longer.

"When you’re living at home, it is probably a lot harder to bring a sexual partner home with you," Twenge said. "That's one of the things about sex. If you have your own place, it's a lot easier."

Some media coverage has suggested millennials may be too busy focusing on work or school to have an active sex life, but Twenge isn't convinced. She notes that labor force participation rates and time spent doing homework have actually been declining for millennials.

Twenge offers a different explanation: Millennials tend to be more individualistic. She said perhaps that's why they're more likely to approve of an individual's choice to have premarital sex, or to avoid it.

"This generation might feel more free to not have sex, if that's their choice," Twenge said.

Twenge said the data, culled from the biennial General Social Survey, is about as reliable as any self-reported data on sexual experiences can be, but it's possible people from different generations could interpret questions about sex differently — does oral sex count as sex? — or be more likely to lie in their responses.

However, the findings are backed up by previous research, including Twenge's study from 2015 showing millennials tend to have fewer sexual partners, as well as Centers for Disease Control data showing a steady decline in the percentage of teenagers who say they've had sex.

In her book "Generation Me," Twenge writes that narcissism has been on the rise in recent generations.

When asked if millennials could be avoiding sex because they don't think any potential partners are good enough for them, she laughed and said, "That's an interesting theory, but I don't have any data to back that one up."

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