Young People Aren't Having as Much Sex as You Think

May 5th 2015

Laura Donovan

Don't be fooled by sexting, Tinder, or the assortment of dating apps targeted at young people. New research from the Archives of Sexual Behavior shows that Millennials are more tolerant of premarital sex than their parents' generation, but still seem to have fewer sexual partners than mom and dad. 

The study was done by researchers at San Diego State University, who looked at 33,000 people and found that members of Gen X beat out all the generations' average number of sexual partners. Gen X's average was eleven sexual partners, while those born in the 1940s or 1970s averaged ten. Millennials, however, have an average of eight sexual partners. 

"The drop in sexual partners between Gen X'ers and Millennials was a little bit of a surprise, but not entirely," report author Jean Twenge told Mic. "Other surveys have shown that Millennials are waiting longer to have sex as teens, and these more cautious sexual choices are persisting into adulthood."

While Millennials are more likely to engage in premarital sex, that doesn't mean they want to hook up with everyone they can. 

“Although Millennials are more tolerant of these behaviors, they’re not taking that as license to sleep around,” Twenge told TIME exclusively. "Millennials have never known a world where premarital sex was a taboo. What you might see when Millennials are discussing these issues with their boomer parents is that Millennials are more permissive of sexuality."

So how do you explain the fact that our parents were less likely to support premarital sex yet tended to have more partners than us? Twenge explained to TIME that older generations might have had to keep quiet about the number of people they slept with. The free love generation was big on sex, but suffered health consequences when Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) rates soared and AIDS began to spread.

Our parents' generation had fewer STIs to worry about when they started having sex, so some Millennials may approach sex more cautiously based on the outbreaks of the past.

Watch this fascinating AsapSCIENCE video about how science can boost your sex life: