Although the Mellennials have an average 8 partners in their adult life (as compared to 11 sexual partners for those born in the 50s and 60s!), the overall acceptance of premarital sex has been on the rise for the past few decades. While premarital sex was only deemed OK by 28 percent in 1972, 38 percent in 1978, and 41 percent in 1982, in 2012, more than half were of the mindset that there’s nothing wrong with being sexually active before tying the knot. This apparent contradiction might indicate that they’re more responsible and yet more open-minded than their parents’ generation.
According to the study’s author, Jean Twenge, it’s not a moral high ground that keeps Millennials from racking up sexual partner numbers, but the fact that they are more aware of HIV and STIs than other generations.
“Millennials are more accepting of premarital sex than any previous generation, yet have had fewer sexual partners than GenX’ers. This is consistent with their image as a tolerant, individualistic generation accepting others’ choices and making their own,” Twenge said.
Same-sex sexual relations
Tripled from 13% in 1990 to 44% in 2012, acceptance of same-sex sexual relations has significantly grown. However, the number of sexual partners (controlled for age) also shifted substantially, from 2.16 for the Greatest Generation to 11.68 for 1950s-born Boomers and 8.26 for Millennials.
Open, yet discrete discussions
Twenge encourages parents to frankly and open-mindedly discuss sexuality issues with their children, however to be mindful of keeping their own sex life to themselves. Millennials are more likely to discuss sex with their parents than other generations (mostly because sex education in school is precarious) but they don’t feel comfortable sharing the intimacies of their life.
Twenge theorizes that these shifts in sexual attitudes and behavior are linked to growing cultural individualism in the U.S. “When the culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result,” Twenge said.