Americans Are Having Way Less Sex Than We Used To

Mar 9, 2017 at 5:31 p.m. ET
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I’ll be the first to admit I have a little problem when it comes to binge-watching my favorite shows on Netflix. After all, it’s hard to resist the temptation to kick back and watch an entire season of Gilmore Girls over the weekend. Rory and Lorelai are counting on me, right? Well, it looks like I'm not the only one with this habit — according to a new study, coupled-up Americans had sex 16 fewer times per year between 2010 and 2014 as compared to between 2000 and 2004, and researchers say digital distractions could be at play.

According to the survey, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Americans also had sex about nine fewer times per year in 2010 through 2014 compared to 1995 through 1999. "These data show a major reversal from previous decades in terms of marriage and sex," said Jean M. Twenge, the study's lead author and professor of psychology at San Diego State University. "In the 1990s, married people had sex more times per year than never-married people, but by the mid-2000s that reversed, with the never-married having more sex.”

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So WTF is going on? Age appears to be one factor. People in their 20s have sex more than 80 times per year, declining to 60 times per year by age 45 and 20 times per year by age 65. Each year after the peak of sexual frequency at age 25, sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent. Sad, but natural, I suppose.

The massive sexual decline among married couples is the real slap in the face to those who believe that joining in holy matrimony gives you the green light to have sex any time you want. Twenge raises a few different theories about why, including married partners being less happy, which makes us question the old theory: What came first — less sex, which leads to less happy, or less happy, which leads to less sex?

Well, Twenge says it’s probably some of both. “We do know that sexual frequency is linked to marital satisfaction, so overall if you have fewer people having sex, you could have people who are less happy and less satisfied with that relationship.” She also points to the ubiquity of electronic distraction as another possible reason for the decline in sex. “People aren’t looking around saying, ‘Hey, it’s 10 o’clock, what are we going to do?’” In other words, they're just clicking "next episode" on the Netflix queue.

But can we really blame the fact that we spend a gazillion hours in front of a screen rather than rolling around between the sheets? Well... maybe. Let’s face it: Smartphones and the appeal of 24-hour streaming are, for the most part, not helping our love lives. How many of us go to bed with our phone, rather than our partner? Looks like it’s time to start paying attention to a different kind of entertainment.

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