Survey Says Young Men Today Are Having Shockingly Little Sex

The number of celibate men under 30 is on the rise.

As hard as it may be to believe, young people today are having a lot less sex than previous generations were at their age. New data from the General Social Survey indicates that the number of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 who have not had sex in the last year has almost tripled in the past decade. And what may come as an even greater surprise, given lingering gender stereotypes surrounding sex, is that a large portion of those young adults are men.

According to the survey, a whopping 23 percent of 18 to 29 year olds were celibate in 2018. That's up from 8 percent in 2008, and far more than the 13 percent of Americans in their 50s who said they spent 2018 sexless.

The General Social Survey results align with The Atlantic's December 2018 cover story, which revealed that "people now in their early 20s are two and a half times as likely to be abstinent as Gen Xers were at that age."

But it's particularly noteworthy that young men are the ones driving this statistical shift. According to the General Social Survey, 18 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 29 reported not having sex in the last year, versus 28 percent of men in the same age range. That's a pretty sharp uptick from the 10 percent of men who could say the same thing in 2008, as The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham pointed out.

The cause of this decline is up for debate. In her cover story for The AtlanticKate Julian attributes what she calls the general "sex recession" to everything from dating apps, to porn, to technoference, to the rise of hookup culture. But why are young men specifically having less sex?

Well, there's the rise of the online community that refers to themselves as "incels," meaning involuntarily celibate. The subculture consists of mostly young men who claim to want sex but are unable to obtain it and channel their frustration into a strong disdain for women.

There's also the fact that many young men these days are delaying adulthood, which includes but is not limited to relationships with women. After analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bloomberg reported in November 2018 that "men from ages 25 to 34 are less likely to work than before," and that 500,000 of them are missing from the workforce. While there are certainly economic factors at play here, the fact that young women are working at higher rates, according to the data, indicates there's a gender disparity in this trend, too.

Then, there's also the practical element: More young adults live with their parents now than past generations did. Young men are the driving force behind this statistic as well. According to a 2016 analysis by the Pew Research Center, 28 percent of men were living with a spouse or romantic partner in 2014, while 35 percent were living with their parents. For women, it was the reverse; 35 percent were living with their spouse or romantic partner, and 29 percent were living with their parents. Of course, no privacy could lead to no sex.

But perhaps it's not the practical that's causing young men to have less sex than they've had in years. Maybe, it's a larger cultural shift in our society.

In a 2019 article for, reporter and self-described "millennial single guy" Jeremy Schneider argues that the reason the rate of sex has declined for young men is because his generation is shedding the notion that men need to have sex in order to prove their manhood.

"If I have learned anything after spending the majority of my twenties as a single man, it's that you can be very happy while being celibate, and you can be very unhappy while being consistently sexually active," he writes. "There isn't necessarily a correlation between the two, and it puts a stupid, irrational pressure on people to have sex."

Schneider also notes that sex that arises from genuine respect and desire beats the sex that you have simply for an ego boost. "I don't know precisely why more men my age aren't having sex. But I hope it's because we're realizing that stupid adage about sex being like pizza—even when it's bad, it's still pretty good—isn't necessarily true," he writes. "It can ruin relationships if not treated with respect, and it's always better when you don't put ridiculous pressure on yourself to do it."

Another interesting point that's come from the General Social Survey findings is something Ingraham noted on Twitter: The particularly sexless 2018 could've had something to do with the #MeToo movement, which brought up issues of consent between men and women, particularly when power comes into play.

But whatever we attribute the shift in the sex life of young men to, it's evident that the change itself is significant. And for more on sex in your later years, check out 50 Ways to Have a Healthy Sex Life After 50.

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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