Millennials should be at their sexual prime. Why are so many couples reporting major dry spells?

“The first [several] years of our marriage we had an amazing sex life … and as he got older (he’s 30 now), he just doesn’t seem interested in sex anymore.”

This is one of many comments floating around the r/DeadBedrooms subreddit on the social-media platform Reddit – a self-described “discussion group for Redditors who are coping with a relationship that is seriously lacking in sexual intimacy”. Frustrated anecdotes like these abound from people who are in low- or zero-sex relationships. “Why does he prefer his own hand over having sex with me?” one poster asks. The subreddit’s outlook is relatively bleak: “Advice is always appreciated,” reads its description, “just don’t be surprised if we’ve heard it all.”

While it may seem natural enough for these stories to come from older couples struggling to retain the spark they had decades earlier, many are posted by people who self-identify as being in their late 20s or 30s. Some say children or marriages put a halt to their sex lives; others say their “low-libido” husbands can watch endless pornography, yet won’t get aroused with them. The list of grievances continues from throngs of millennials posting about their ‘dead bedrooms’.

Although millennials are in or around their sexual prime, some members of this generation around the world have reportedly been “retreating from sex”. Accounts from millennials forums including r/DeadBedrooms corroborate this, especially for married and long-term couples. 

Some recent statistics tell a similar story: a 2021 survey of adults ages 18 to 45 across the US, conducted by the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and sex-retailer Lovehoney, showed that among married adults, millennials were the most likely to “report problems with sexual desire in the past year”. The survey showed 25.8% of married millennials reported this problem, while only 10.5% of married Gen Z and 21.2% of married Gen X adults reported the same.

Although “low desire isn’t necessarily synonymous with being in a sexless marriage”, says Justin Lehmiller, research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, “when one or both partners in a marriage experience a drop-off in desire for sex, sexual frequency usually declines – and loss of desire is one of the biggest reasons why marriages become sexless in the first place”.

What, exactly, is going on? Sex therapists and researchers suggest a variety of factors that may explain millennials’ sexless marriages, from their current life stages to the almighty influence of the internet. Regardless of the specific reasons causing sexual fractures in the bedroom, overwhelmingly, this generation is facing some unique – even unprecedented – obstacles to healthy sex lives.

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