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If you’re curious what people are doing with their genitals these days — and let’s be honest, who isn’t — is your guide.
The General Social Survey provides an easy way to investigate questions like this.
It’s the survey Twenge used for her sex-partners analysis, and for nearly three decades it has repeatedly asked Americans how many partners they’ve had since age 18. six once again in the four most recent surveys, conducted between 2010 and last year.
Looking at the data myself, I couldn’t find any trend for men in their thirties: Their median number of sex partners was six in the 1989–98 surveys (which I combined to boost the sample size a bit), six in the 2000–08 period, and . Women’s median has climbed from three to four over the same period, though it’s hard to tell if they’re actually having more sex or if they’re just more willing to admit it these days.
An important possibility is that while kids these days are waiting longer to get started, they’re catching up during an extended “early adulthood” that lasts until age 30 or so.
(Twenge’s core finding is that teens are growing up more slowly than they used to, and Regnerus tells us of a 32-year-old subject who didn’t lose her virginity until age 22 but has had about 20 sexual partners since.) Those born in the ’90s and later — ’s focus — won’t start hitting 30 for a few years yet.
And to paint his picture of the modern mating market, Regnerus draws extensively from the 2014 Relationships in America survey, which he helped to create, as well as from detailed interviews that he and his team conducted with young adults from around the country.
*** I highly recommend this book, but I’d like to begin with a caveat and a bit of a digression: Because Regnerus relies heavily on a single survey and recent interviews, he gives somewhat short shrift to trends over time.
n 1960 came the Pill, which disconnected sex from childbearing.
In the 1990s and 2000s came widespread Internet connections, which facilitated easy access to both pornography and dating sites.
Such trends were the focus of the psychologist Jean Twenge’s Few would deny that the Pill was a nuclear bomb detonated above the sexual marketplace, or that the fallout has continued for decades in the form of delayed marriage and childbearing and rising rates of women working.
(What got nuked, of course, was a mixture of good and bad.) But more recent changes seem to be having far smaller and more nuanced effects, with some trends even running the notion of progressively “cheaper” sex.
After all, sex-partner surveys are notorious for producing the mathematically impossible result that men are having more sex with women than women are having with men.