Looking good has become more satisfying than sex
A recent study reported decreases in sexual activity among adults in the US aged 18-44 years (comparing 2000 with 2018). The percentage of 18 to 24-year-old men who were sexually inactive in the past year increased from 18.9% in 2000-2002 to 30.9% in 2016-2018.
That is a 64% increase in men 80 to 24 not having sex in the past year - that is "sexually inactive" meaning not one sexual partner. Similar trends in sexual inactivity appeared among individuals aged 25-34 years but not among individuals aged 35-44 years.
Falling populations create social stress
On the one hand, this could be seen as a public health issue, since sexual health and satisfaction are key components of health and well-being. Sexual relationships can positively influence life satisfaction and happiness, and sexual activity may lower heart rate and blood pressure while also reducing stress by promoting oxytocin release.
More broadly, and I think that this is where there has been almost no recognition, is the cultural and economic impact of what will, by definition, be a falling rate of population growth in developed countries. Where sexual activity is decreasing population replacement rates trend down - as in Japan.
In the 1970s, Japanese women on average had 2.1 kids. Today that number is only 1.4 – far below the replacement rate (the rate at which Japan would maintain its population).
A low replacement rate means higher costs for the government, a shortage of pension and social-security-type funds, a lack of people to care for the very aged, slow economic growth, and a shortage of young workers. In a post-COVID world these stressors will all be amplified.
These outcomes are what awaits the rest of the developed world, including the US, Britain and Australia. These countries will need more immigrants from different cultures to maintain their standard of living.
What are the reasons that your adult men are having no sex?
Several authors have offered suggestions.
You can decide which fits what you are seeing in your community.
#1 Lack of Opportunity
Jean Twenge suggests that more younger people are living with their parents, and finding it hard to get full-time employment compared to the past. Twenge says this restricts opportunities for sexual freedom and can be accompanied by a lack of motivation due to the stress of uncertainty about the future.
This is the "parasite single" theory.
I find that hard to believe living at home is the cause, as where there is a will there is always a way (at least when I was young). Remember, these people are reporting zero sex during the previous 12 months. In Japan, in the 1970s when the replacement rate was 2.1, and younger people were having more sex, most young Japanese lived at home.
So it seems to me that this is definitely about the will, not a lack of means to find a way.
#2 Social media and phubbing
Twenge also suggests the rise of cellphones and the rise of phubbing (in which one partner pulls out his/her phone, thus snubbing the other partner) as a cause. This was highlighted in a 2016 paper "My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone".
OK, well, I am going to be a little sceptical about this as well. It reminds me of my parents in the 1960s telling me not to sit too close to the TV as it would ruin my eyes. It didn't, and almost every other piece of psychobabble technophobia since has not proven to be true. This type of psychobabble is the stuff of breakfast TV shows in my humble opinion.
While the internet plays an important role in adolescent sexual development, most analysts of this social development forecast greater risk-taking not zero sexual activity.
#3 Could it be the rise of pornography?
Possibly. However, Twenge points out that "the increasing availability of pornography may play a role; however, because those who watch pornography are more sexually active, not less, this explanation is difficult to support".
#4 The #METOO Backlash
The Harvard Business Review reported that since #metoo men to have become more reluctant to engage with women at work, and more likely to exclude women from social interactions such as after-work drinks.
Nearly one in three men reported that they would now be reluctant to have a one-on-one meeting with a woman. 27%-percent said they avoided one-on-one meetings with female colleagues.
Consider this - 58% of men predicted that men, in general, would have greater fears of being unfairly accused.
So men are responding (in 2019) by saying to women:
A VOX report, using their own poll data and that from Pew, reported that the women who were most supportive of the positive outcomes of #metoo identified similar concerns. 21-percent of women said that the increased focus on sexual harassment would lead to decreased opportunities for women in the workplace.
In some workplaces now, "You have to tiptoe around people. You can't even be yourself," said one woman in a focus group Vox conducted with the polling firm PerryUndem. "That's a problem that I think a lot of men are facing."
To me, this seems like a far more deep-seated reason that sexual interaction would also be on the decline.
#5 The high cost of self-absorption
Beyond movements such as #metoo there is a more substantial and more fundamental reason - I believe. Starting with the Baby Boomers (my generation) successive generations have become increasingly unable to separate themselves from their ego.
Each generation has become increasingly unable to step out from their ego to see that their ego is not them. This inability causes people to take everything personally, and to over-empathise - in short - to become neurotic.
It seems that we Boomers were the first generation to be able to dramatically and broadly impact institutions and society with our own anxieties. Perhaps it was a multiplying function of modern communication and media?
One of the manifestations was the self-esteem movement, where everyone won a prize for turning up. Soccer coaches stopped counting goals and handed out trophies to everyone. Teachers threw out their red pencils. Criticism was replaced with ubiquitous, even undeserved, praise - As writer Po Bronson said.
The train wreck of the self-esteem movement not only amplified a sense of worthlessness in their recipients but destroyed their resilience. When faced with life as a young adult, they could not face it. They turned inwards.
Turning inwards has unfortunate consequences, including concerning sexual activities:
Taken together, the factors above undermine our sexual drive and the feeling of sexual worth and competence. Feeling disempowered feeds a more inward view of ourselves.
The focus becomes one of satisfying our wants rather than our needs - buying more personal adorations, and staying single for longer so as not to give up "our freedom".
For example, Japanese men in their early 30s are Japanese buying more expensive cosmetics explicitly made for them, even as salaries fall, unemployment rises, and the population shrinks.
According to Statistica (2019) men and women in Japan are getting married later than previous generations. In 2018 the average age of women who marry for the first time was 29.4 years, while men were on average 31.1 years old when they first got married.
Twenty years ago any woman who was not married by 25 was stigmatised with a dreadful slur which shamed her. Even today, despite Japanese women being more career-minded, the unwillingness to marry earlier is being driven by the men, not the women.
Looking good has become more satisfying than sex, at least for men it seems.
The trend can only accelerate - pandemic fallout
Where are we headed in Australia and elsewhere? For more of the same. The stress of the pandemic and the economic fallout will exacerbate the current trends. We can expect large falls in the population replacement rate in all Western countries. Think of Japan at 1.4 - that's where we are all headed.
The good news is that this may mean that immigrants and refugees will have their day in the sun.
We're all human beings. Diversity may well be our saviour because immigrants and refugees help people see beyond themselves. Turning outwards will increase sexual activity, and the health of the population.
> More posts to help you with EXERCISES
> More posts to help you with DIABETES
> If you are a @MEDIUM reader my publication Body Age Buster has hundreds of categorised posts which I have written especially for men and women over 50.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified clinician. Disclaimer.
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter