Well, here’s where I come in with the “I told you so” because I have been seen this coming since the emergence of internet (OK, I’m old!) and the newfound accessibility to porn it provided. Suddenly, young men who traditionally learnt about sex through Playboys under dad’s bed and the navigation of sexual bases, we’re accessing sexual extremes at a click, desensitising conventional sex and fostering unreal expectations of female compliance and sensuality in the process.
Add to this challenge the emergence of hook-up culture (feminist-advancement my arse!); the massive increase in anxiety and depression rates (and the libido-reducing side effects of antidepressants); dating apps allowing the constant access to “greener grass” options; rising obesity rates and body image pressures (for both men and women); insecure financial futures (and the living with parents into 20s and 30s) and it is no wonder young people are eschewing sex. With all these distractions, who has the time, energy or inclination?
Well, let’s go back to the prevalence of porn as, I believe, it is the root (sorry) cause of so much sexual dysfunction. Discussing the recent statistics with Millennial-aged kids of friends of mine this week, even more alarming issues came to light resulting from its prevalence, affecting the way young people mate, date and relate on every level.
“Boys are watching so much porn they expect us to be like the girls they see in videos,” one 24-year-old I’ll call J, admitted (the young women and their parents asked that they remain anonymous). “This means they expect us to be turned on and ready for sex and don’t pay us any attention with foreplay, so sex isn’t really enjoyable.” A, 21, agrees. “I have only ever had an orgasm with my long-term boyfriend. Before him, I didn’t really get what the fuss about sex was. It seemed to be something only men enjoyed.” “Actually, it can be really painful,” S, 22, added.
Another problem with porn (so many issues, so little space) the women revealed is that they feel a real pressure to look like those who men lust over in videos – hairless and hourglass. “I reckon this is why so many Instagram models look like porn stars these days,” J revealed. “They believe the only way to get men’s attention is by looking overtly sexual. And because other girls look up to these girls as role models, they dress that way too.”
Young men, too, aren’t immune to the pressures of porn. “Guys also have it hard,” one young man, P, 24, says. “We don’t just have to look like porn stars but perform like them too. Then, there’s the whole #metoo thing. Risking rejection is hard enough without being looked at as a sleaze.”
It seems this “it’s all to hard” attitude is a common complaint. “I reckon lots of guys just don’t want the hassle of dating or relationships these days,” another woman, M, 20, confides. “So, it’s easier for them to stay home and masturbate to porn.”
But hasn’t internet dating made it easier to meet men, I ask, looking for some semblance of a silver lining? J is quick to answer. “There’s definitely some Tinderella success stories but mainly it’s only hot girls and dudes who succeed, and even then, they get ghosted, too.”
So, what is the answer, I ask? “Vibrators!” J says with a laugh. M, too, reveals she has a buzzy friend for those lonely nights. “There’s no shame in using sex toys these days, all my friends have one.”
So, maybe Millennials aren’t having less sex, they just aren’t having it with other human beings. Some may call this progress. I call it a modern tragedy.
Wendy Squires is a Melbourne writer.