New Study: Millennials Don’t Deserve to Be Called the Hookup Generation

Remember when Vanity Fair published an article last year gleefully proclaiming we were at the dawn of a “dating apocalypse” and promiscuous millennials and their newfangled internet-enabled devices were on their way to destroying sex and romance as we know it? And remember when Tinder, affronted by this suggestion of base crassness, took to Twitter to unleash a savage, epic rant directed at the magazine and its indelicate fingering of the app as a prime catalyst of our rude new world?


@VanityFair Little known fact: sex was invented in 2012 when Tinder was launched.

–Tinder (@Tinder) August 11, 2015

@名利场 知道个屁:性是在2012年Tinder面市时被发明的。

–Tinder (@Tinder) 在2015年8月11号的推文

Tinder wasn’t the only collateral damage in journalist Nancy Jo Sales’s nearly 7,000-word piece: a widely circulated paper from Archives of Sexual Behavior claiming millennials have fewer sex partners than previous generations was bizarrely relegated to a dismissive parenthetical. Now, roughly a year later, the authors of that study are back and re-inviting us to the lively party that is speculating about millennials, and their perceived failings, on the internet.

Tinder不是Nancy Jo Sales那篇7000字文章的唯一受害者:《性行为档案》上一篇广为转载的论文也莫名其妙地被她在文章注释里轻蔑地嘲讽了一番。论文宣称比起前面几代人,千禧一代的性伴侣更少。现在,大概一年之后,这项研究的作者再次站出来,邀请我们加入这场网上大讨论,审视千禧一代和他们的堕落。

The new Archives of Sexual Behavior study uses data from the General Social Survey—a nationally representative sample of American adults aged 18 to 96, conducted biannually since 1989—to examine patterns of sexual inactivity over time. The analysis shows that not only are people born in the 1980s and 1990s reporting fewer sexual partners than GenX’ers or Baby Boomers, but also that the marked change in sexual inactivity is independent of the effects of age or time period. In other words, it can be attributed to a generation alone.

《性行为档案》的这项新研究采用了“综合大调查”——一项自1989年以来每两年举行一次的调查,其样本代表了全美范围内18至96岁的成人——的数据来研究性行为不活跃程度(sexual inactivity)随时间的变化。研究发现,不只是80后和90后们比起X一代【译注:约略指1965年至1980年出生的人】和婴儿潮一代【译注:约略指1946年至1964年出生的人】拥有更少的性伴侣,而且这种性行为不活跃程度的显著变化同年龄和时代没有关系。换句话说,原因可能仅仅出在这一代人身上。

“Americans born in the 1990s were more likely to be sexually inactive in their early 20s.”


The numbers are significant: Fifteen percent of millennials born in the 1990s and between 20 and 24 years old reported having no sexual partners since the age of 18. That’s more than double the six percent of GenX’ers born in the 1960s who reported having no sexual partners during the same age ranges.


These comparisons are purely descriptive in the sense that they give us clues about what, exactly, defines the millennial generation: Americans born in the 1990s were more likely to be sexually inactive in their early 20s; women were more likely to be sexually inactive than men; and people who did not attend college were more likely to be sexually inactive compared to those who did.


“We can say ‘Here’s the trend’ and isolate it down to saying it’s a generational thing, but we can’t exactly say why,” says Ryne Sherman, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at Florida Atlantic University.

“我们可以说‘趋势便是如此’,然后孤立地看待这个问题并认为这是年代更替的自然结果,但我们却说不出来原因何在。”Ryne Sherman说道,她是该研究报告的共同作者,佛罗里达大西洋大学查理•施密特科学学院的心理学副教授。

Potential explanations explored in the paper include the rise of internet pornography, the economic downturn and its role in delaying millennials’ independence from their parents (think less independent lodgings to help facilitate sex), and the possibility that millennials are indeed hooking up with more partners, but engaging in penetrative sex less often. The explanation Sherman favors is that apps like Tinder—and the rise of the internet itself—provide an outlet for people to connect and be social without needing to pursue sex in real life.


Of course, another possible explanation is that different generations interpreted the survey’s key question—“Since the age of 18, how many sexual partners have you had?”—differently.


Sherman thinks this is highly unlikely, saying that if interpretation of the phrase “sexual partners” was changing, it would show up in the period effect (i.e., everybody living in that time would experience a change in the meaning of the term) and not just the generational effect. It didn’t.

Sherman 认为这几乎不可能,他说如果对“性伙伴”这个词的理解一直在变,那它就会体现在时间效应上(比如,生活在某一时间段的每个人都会感受到词意的变化),而不仅仅体现在代际效应上。实际上并没有。

But, I’d challenge Sherman to have a conversation with my grandmother about “sexual partners” and see if he still feels we’re all still on the same page about words and what they mean.




comments powered by Disqus