Sex is complicated. It’s great (I mean, really great) (Did I mention it’s great?)
… but it’s also complicated, especially within a dating culture that has — and continues to — evolve in major ways, to redefine our modern understanding of relationships, intimacy, sex and sexuality.
If anything, the more media attempts to conceptualize millennial dating and sexual culture, and the more stories my friends and I swap over one (or a few) glasses of wine, the more I find myself thinking about it.
When it comes to millennials specifically (since our generation is especially interesting in the frame of cultural discussions), what are our sex lives really like? Are we truly comfortable discussing our sexuality, our preferences, our desires, our needs or our insecurities? Are we really having more sex? Are we having more orgasms? Are we confident in the bedroom? Is casual sex coming at the price of intimacy? Are we all satisfied? Are we really that open, sexually?
So, naturally, I decided to bombard my social network with all those questions we all (I would bet) have considered, or even touched on, to get a real sense of how Millennials feel about their sex lives right now. And with that I welcome you back to the series — Sex Talk, With Millennials, for Part II.
And if you haven’t had a chance to check out Part I yet, don’t worry, I’ve linked it here (there’s no time like the present).
1. The Age Old Debate — Can ‘Friends With Benefits’ Work?
If you ask me, great sex without ‘strings’ and paired with a mutual, unwavering aversion to intimate attachments or emotions — well, the likelihood of that holding steady is like wishing for the Queen St. streetcar to not be packed like a case of human sardines at 5:30 pm on a weekday. Or like the Leafs pulling through in the play-offs. Or like immediately getting seated at a table at Sugo on a Friday night. Okay, you get the point — it’s not impossible, it just seems notoriously unlikely.
I’m not saying casual sex doesn’t work, in theory… I’m just saying that sex without intimacy can be appealing on paper, but tougher to emulate in real life, over time. While there are bound to be some unicorns in the mix, someone usually ends up catching feelings (whether they admit it or not) and someone usually ends up, on some level, getting hurt and pulling away.
But while beloved scenes from some of our favourite rom coms, ‘No Strings Attached’ and ‘Friends With Benefits’ play through your mind, let me intercede with this:
When asked this question, 42% of those polled said Totally and 58% said Always Drama. This strikes me as a suspicious split, so naturally I decided to ask it again to compare results (I’m a skeptic, what can I say). The second time around, 63% voted Always Drama, while 37% voted Totally — so it seemed everyone was still relatively split on this particular topic.
So hey, maybe I’m wrong and Toronto millennials have this friends with benefits thing totally figured out.
2. What About Open Relationships?
Quite simply, monogamy isn’t for everyone. Sure, it’s a traditional construct that has been ingrained into many of us (probably most of our lives) through parents, loved ones, movies, books etc., but there are plenty of relationships that thrive on a different dynamic — non-monogamy.
Polyamory, open relationships, these are relationship models which have been rising steadily in popularity over the past 10 years. In fact, studies show that more than one in five American individuals have engaged in a non-monogamous relationship at one point in their lifetime, which accounts for roughly 20% of the American public.
Here’s where it gets interesting though. According to research conducted by YouGov, an Internet-based market research firm, just about half of all millennials are open to non-monogamy. So, of course I had to add this line of questioning into the mix…
Yet, interestingly enough, when asked if open relationships can work, only 30% of those polled said Yes, while a predominant 70% said No. When I followed that up with, “Would you ever consider agreeing to a hallpass in a relationship?” 83% said No and only 17% said Yes.
And while we are still on the topic of non-monogamy, I also asked if millennials think our generation is more prone to infidelity, to which 65% said Yes and 35% said no. When asked to expand on their reasoning, these are the answers that were most prevalent:
– “Too easy to get distracted with attention from others on social media”
– “Too many options, nobody wants to actually work at relationships and we are scared of commitment”
– “Too much opportunity. We can meet people outside of our regular work and social circles with a swipe. We know that someone else is always just one swipe away. A desire for instant gratification takes over”
– “Too much access to temptation via online/social channels”
– “Accessibility. Everything is so easy to hide and online dating is just so readily available”
– “We’ve accepted the belief that love is temporary, and there are always more (potentially better) options out there”
– Social media feeds into the mindset that “the grass is always greener on the other side”
– “A constant bombardment of images and information of how it could always be better”
Of all the answers I received, there was one, undeniable theme: Accessibility. On paper, accessibility is what we all want. Dating apps and social media have allowed us to connect with people outside work and social circles, this seems like a positive concept. It should, technically speaking, make dating easier. And yet, in many ways, accessibility has made it that much harder, as the ‘paradox of choice’ seemingly impacts our ability to commit to one relationship amidst this new culture of virtual dating and unlimited access.
3. When it Comes to Dating Apps, Does One Rise Above the Rest?
Since we’re on the topic of dating apps already, why not continue the conversation? Curious to see if there was an obvious winner in the popularity contest between available dating apps, I asked my viewers which they preferred: Tinder or Bumble (or any others, such as Hinge, The Inner Circle, The League etc.). Bumble took the majority win with 66%, while 34% voted in favour of Tinder. However, PSA to all my single friends — Hinge was a very popular response, with some people noting that it seemed to be a bit more personality based than some of the other options.
Of course, I wasn’t done there. Next, I wanted to know if people would rather “meet” through a dating app or in the DMs (classic Millennial move). This one surprised me as well, with 62% voting for Down in the DM and 48% voting for Dating Apps. However, when asked “Would you rather meet someone (casual or serious) online or organically in person? Does it matter to you?” 72% opted for Organic and only 28% voted Doesn’t Matter.
4. Ghosting — Is It a Real Thing?
By definition, ‘Ghosting’ entails breaking off a relationship by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as ignoring the former partner’s attempts to reach out or communicate. This appears to be a millennial-specific phenomenon that started around 2014, with countless stories hitting the web (and circulating through friend groups) that recount the sudden ‘ghosting’ of a potential partner. So, naturally I had to ask about this to find out for myself.
According to my polls, 69% of us have been ghosted and 70% of us have ghosted someone else. So it looks like almost every person who has experienced ghosting, has also potentially inflicted it on someone else. Even worse, my numbers appear to be modest as Fortune Magazine reports that 80% of Millennial singles have been victims of ‘ghosting’. Yikes.
Guys, don’t pull a romantic Irish Exit… just send a text when you want to break things off.