By Zanna Haney
Sex is everywhere around us, but why are we having so little of it?
The statistics seem to show that sex is on the decline for teens and young adults in the United States. The CDC published “Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Behaviors and HIV Testing” ranging from 1991 to 2015. In this study, the number of high school students that had sexual intercourse decreased from 54.1% to 41.2%. I have read articles that have expressed reasons behind this, with the most well-known and discussed being the decrease in coupling. It has been estimated by many, including some psychologists, that this is the primary reason for the decline. However, I would like to challenge that. Even though coupling is on the decline, and people are entering committed relationships later on in life, I believe there are much more significant factors.
For starters, the CDC study only focused on sexual intercourse. This is an outdated and sex-negative view of sex. It is representing that sex cannot consist of anything other than penetrative sex. As many of us know, sex is much more vast and expansive than penetration. This was confirmed by many Americans during the Clinton and Lewinsky scandal in the late 1990s. We are at a time when people are defining what sex means to them. Many of us are no longer staying within the limited parameters that have been placed on us in regards to what defines sex. Sex can be any sexual experience/encounter that you identify as sex (i.e: oral sex, heavy petting, genital stimulation, sex with toys, solo sex, etc.).
In addition, it is focusing on partnered sex and does not include solo sex. The importance of solo sex, exploring your own body, becoming comfortable with certain touch, has been discussed in sex therapy for some time now. With the increase in sex educators and the rise in social media exposure, teens and young adults are receiving more sex-positive sex education.
Let’s also add that the CDC study was very heteronormative, by focusing solely on sexual intercourse. It leaves out many of the individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community, of which is at a much higher rate now than it was in 1991. It was reported by Out.com in 2016, that only 48% of individuals, ages 13-20 years old, identify as “exclusively heterosexual.” This shows that 52% of them do not identify as heterosexual, whether that is bisexual, gay, heteroflexible, pansexual, demisexual, asexual, queer, lesbian, polysexual, etc. To my knowledge, the CDC study did not specify what the definition of “sexual intercourse” was during this study. However, I’m sure that it did not include inclusivity by including sex with a strap on, sex with toys, anal sex, etc.
So the question is, are young people actually having less sex or are they just more sex-positive and evolved than the CDC?