Netflix, Instagram Tik Tok are killing sex.
A quarter of Americans had no sex in 2018.
That's one in four people doing the equivalent of a vow of celibacy for at least one year.
People had more intercourse at the height of Medieval Europe, with many celibate monks and religious restrictions around sex.
We are living in the age of most sexual opportunities. Install an app, make your profile in three minutes and you’re swiping away at thousands of potential partners. Compare that with your grandfather’s dating experience. He had to physically meet potential partners, restricted to physical proximity and people he had no idea if they were interested.
It's much much easier for us to have sex than our grandparents. Yet we are having much less. Twenty-something-year-olds are 2.5 times less likely to have sex than Generation X (40-50 y.o. now) at the same age.
What is causing this decrease in sex?
Sexual behaviours are famously hard to control. Research shows that virginity pledges and abstinence-only education don’t actually increase abstinence.
Yet it is increasing now.
Where pledges and education failed, the attention economy accidentally succeeded. Our sex lives are dying due to our addiction to social media, videos and gaming.
There are many theories about the decrease in sex: pornography, decreases in marriage, living with parents, helicopter parents, anxiety, decrease in confidence, less alcohol consumption , and so on.
These theories have validity.
But the core of the matter is we are replacing sex with activities which offer similar pleasure (in the moment).
Sex is highly dopaminergic. This makes sense. Passing on genes is the main objective of all living things.
Intercourse raises dopamine levels to roughly double versus baseline. But so does gaming. And social media.
Instead of sex we scroll Instagram, gaze at TikTok, play World of Useless Tasks, binge-watch Netflix and worry-skim news.
Of course we do. It's so much easier. Just touch the phone.
And it’s so much safer. There is no risk of rejection, of feeling you are unattractive, or did not satisfy the other person, or feel embarrassed, or fail to get your satisfaction. Sure nobody thinks watching TikToks for ten minutes is as good as a good romp. But it's just so easy. And endless.
This is supported by porn. Shooting tanks on the phone is not the same as a naked and willing partner. But when you couple it with masturbation with supernormal stimuli, then the effort and risks of trying to find that willing partner might appear too big. Even initiating with a long-term partner might feel too hard.
At a society level all of this is great. We are already too many for the planet. Less sex
means fewer children, thus fewer people, thus less drain on the planet.
Thank you Meta, TikTok, Snap, amateur and professional porn stars, game developers, Netflix, influencers and content creators, news outlets for saving the plant by making us have less sex.
At an individual level it's not such a good thing. We evolved for sex with other people, not masturbation in front of screens. There are negative physiological and psychological effects.
Then there are the wider implications.
If you're too distracted to have sex, what are you capable of? It's unlikely you have the mental space and resources to make good decisions, long term plans, intentionally decide your behaviour or work to achieve goals. Carnal desires need less bandwidth than important, but difficult, things.
What can you do about it?
Put the phone down and get it on with someone else.
This is one form of self-improvement that everybody will get behind of.