Sexual activity has declined precipitously since the early 90s.

By Laura Entis
March 7, 2017

As a nation, our sex drive appears to be on the fritz.

American adults had less sex in the early 2010s than they did in the 1990s, to the tune of nine fewer times a year, according to new research published in Archives of Sexual Behavior. (That’s a drop from a yearly average in the low 60s, to one in the low 50s.)

This slump holds true regardless of gender, age, race, work or marital status, although it’s most precipitous for American who were married or living with a romantic partner, a group that reported having sex 16 fewer times per year in the early 2010s when compared to the early 2000s.

Even after this sharp decline, however, if you’re in relationship you’re still likely having more sex than your peers who aren’t. “Tinder supposedly makes it easier to have sex on tap, but it’s pretty well established that people with a steady partner tend to have sex more often,” says Jean Twenge, one of the study’s researchers and the author of Generation Me.

Part of this sexual drop off, then, can attributed to changing demographics: Fewer Americans are living with a significant other (in 2014, 59% of the population was living with a partner versus 66% in 1986).

But this shift doesn’t account for the entire decline, which started in earnest in 2008. Twenge has another theory on why we’re getting frisky less frequently: technology. More specifically, the rise of smartphones and streaming services, which began gaining real traction in the late 2000s.

“Entertainment is more entertaining now, it’s more on demand — you can access it anytime you want,” she says. “DVRs became more common right around that time, too.” In other words, we might be too busy binge watching shows, playing video games, and Snapchatting our friends to bother having sex.

While the explanation is just a hunch (for now), it’s a convincing one. “Think about what’s happened over the last 10 years,” Twenge says. A decade ago we were all living in a world without ubiquitous screens, constant social media updates, and all 180 episodes of The Golden Girls available to stream on Hulu.

And so, it seems, we resorted to sex.

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