Inside Australia’s Sex Recession

Article by Tianna Nadalin /
The Daily Telegraph /
March 8, 2020 /
Original Unavailable /

Aussies are having less sex than ever before, and the generation getting the least action is younger than you think. So, what’s going on to stop us getting it on?

If love is a battlefield then sex, it seems, is losing the war. Despite the proliferation — and normalisation — of sexting, swiping right, morning-after pills, porn and even polyamory (Bachie, we’re looking at you), research has shown Aussies are having less sex than ever.

And you may be surprised to learn that it’s gen Z that’s having the least sex off all. In fact, research reveals the younger generations are having 50 per cent less sex than their parents.

This lack of lovemaking was first highlighted by an American study three years ago that showed people born in the 1980s and ’90swere twice as likely to report having had no sexual partners as adults, compared to people born in the ’60s and ’70s. National surveys done by body+soul and the ABC last year confirmed the trend Down Under, showing that Australians aged 18-24 are having sex less frequently than those aged 25-49.

“We know that in all age groups there’s a sex recession,” says b+s sexologist Jacqueline Hellyer. “The amount of sex people are having is getting lower and is particularly low among young people and this very much at odds with the ‘hook-up’ culture they’re so often portrayed as having.”

Why is sex bombing?

So in an era where sex is more accessible than ever, with potential partners literally at their fingertips, why are people not nailing it at, er, getting nailed? “There are many reasons why people are having less sex,” says Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. “These include fear of disease, the rise of one-person households, people living with their parents for longer periods of time, more hook-ups and less relationships, masturbation, poor-quality sex — meaning people desire less of it — and the easy availability of porn.” Hellyer adds that increasingly busy lives are also contributing to crashing libidos. “Most people find it difficult to get aroused when they’re stressed out or feeling insecure,” she says. “It’s an interesting paradox where mental-health issues can lower libido, but sex not only increases feelings of closeness and intimacy, it also causes the body to release endorphins, which help boost confidence and enhance feelings of excitement.”

The casual-sex conundrum Even with the help of apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge, Dr Rosewarne says young adults are facing more barriers to sex than ever — and dating apps are actually part of the problem. “The lolly shop of choice means that some people may simply prefer to have casual sex and many different sexual experiences, rather than a committed partner,” she says. “But casual sex often means less sex.” This tendency towards detachment over devotion and casual over commitment is also seeing younger generations increasingly suffering from paralysis by analysis. “When being selective about the type of person they want to have sex with, and presented with a stream of endless options, they become overwhelmed by the choice,” Hellyer explains.

When they do make a choice, they’re often dissatisfied with the experience. “Often the first time they have sex with someone it’s not that good,” says Hellyer.

“In today’s swipe-right culture of people-shopping, it can be pretty soulless. If this is all their experience of sex is, they’re kind of like: ‘Can I even be bothered?’”

Social-media and your mojo While social media has its benefits, Hellyer says one of the issues with its increased use is that it’s depriving the younger generations of real human connection.

“Technology is making it harder for people to interact on a human level,” she says. “Humans are essentially bonding creatures and sex is primarily a bonding function.” The problem with social media is that it strips the emotion out of the conversation.

“It’s really hard to make good connections with people these days,” Hellyer explains. “With the rise of social media, everyone is communicating via text, which is often strung out over a long time, so they’re losing the flow and the creativity of conversation. Until they meet someone in real life, they can’t smell them, can’t tell if there’s that physical attraction, so how can they tell if they like them? Text chemistry doesn’t always translate to physical chemistry.”

Unsexy education Having sex may be safer than ever — with the rates of teen pregnancy, HIV and STIs all declining — but Dr Rosewarne says this fixation on the functional aspects of sex is not helping young people get excited about getting down.

“Just because something may be less risky in practice, doesn’t mean it’s perceived as such,” she says. “With school-based sex education often focused on how to avoid diseases [and pregnancy], the idea of sex being something pleasurable is rarely the take-away message.” Adds Hellyer: “We don’t get sex education, we get reproduction education. No-one really gets taught about how to get into the mood.” However, Hellyer says anything that encourages people to talk about sex in a safe and open way is a positive thing. “[Opening up the conversation about sex] is helpful because it’s about making better choices around sex and ultimately about creating better connections with people, not just about what their genitals are doing.”

3 WAYS TO… GET BACK IN THE GAME Hellyer’s top tips for sparking a sexual connection

1. Meet people ‘IRL’

One of the things 20-somethings can learn from their parents is that they had to do it ‘in real life and actually go up and talk to their love interest. The advantages of meeting someone in real life is that you have something in common already.

2. Talk, don’t text ‘

Get a little more comfortable talking to people — even if it’s just over the phone with your friends. Start pushing your boundaries a little to help you get more confident at non-text communication.

3. Take the pressure off

On TV, sex always starts with passion, but in real life it often starts from a connection. Relax, don’t try too hard, don’t worry about your appearance and remember to look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them.