Love & Sex

Five Reasons We’re Having Better Sex Than Our Parents

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While the old folks wring their hands about the kids these days, let's keep a few facts in mind.

Father Son Talk

Now more than ever, the media freaks out over the "pornification" of today's youth. (Blowjob parties! Sexting! Heretofore domesticated girls going wild!) But as it turns out, the news isn't all bad. In fact, this generation is actually one of the most sexually open, tolerant, and yes, safe in the nation's history. Here are five refreshing facts about the sex lives of today's youth.

1) We have safer sex.
According to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior — the most comprehensive look at sex behaviors in the United States in the past twenty years — eighty percent of males and sixty-nine percent of females age fourteen to seventeen surveyed said they used a condom the last time they had sex, while less than half of all adults over forty reported the same. In other words, adolescents are more likely to use protection than adults. While the study only took vaginal intercourse into consideration, these findings are still impressive, especially when you consider the seeming disregard for comprehensive sex education in this country (if we pretend that teens don't have sex, then they won't, right?). Somehow American teens still know how to keep their sexual escapades under wraps. This behavior carries into college as well, with two MIT students leading the way by blogging their dorm-room antics and reviewing the various condoms they've used along the way. (Among their observations: the Trojan Ultra Pleasure model lives up to its name, and while studded condoms are often a bitch for the female recipient, they make great water balloons in the shower. The more you know.) Their blog is a fun and titillating read and could also serve to teach their elders a thing or two about protection.

2) We don't regret it.
Hooking up existed well before the term "hooking up" existed. But the cultural expectations that have long accompanied such trysts (i.e. guys should feel pride, girls should feel shame for the rest of their heathen lives) are slowly dissipating. According to one study conducted by the University of Louisville, both males and females between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five reported that the experience of hooking up was largely more positive than negative. (It only took us countless generations to figure it out.) Feelings of excitement, desirability, and adventure outweighed the awkwardness and confusion. And some even felt optimistic that a long-term committed relationship could eventually emerge with their hookup partner.

3) We're adventurous in bed.
Women in their early twenties are surprisingly adventurous in the bedroom. According to the aforementioned Indiana survey, twenty-three percent of women between twenty and twenty-four have engaged in anal sex, and nine percent have had oral sex with other women. That's more than any other age demographic in the study. Perhaps the increased openness and experimentation is due to greater independence and sex-positive attitudes on college campuses — the University of New Hampshire even held a sex fair last month. So raise your vibrators to female empowerment; it's great to see women finally being recognized as sexual actors, not just sexual objects.

4) We're not insecure about sexual orientation.
Researchers in Bath, England conducted a study in two U.K. universities and one sixth-form college, and found that a whopping eighty-nine percent of heterosexual guys have no problem kissing their straight male friends on the lips. Thirty-six percent even engage in sustained kissing. This is a small sample from a specific demographic of highly educated British straight guys, but the responses are still telling. Seriously, could you imagine guys fessing up to kissing their bros fifty or even twenty years ago? According to Dr. Eric Anderson, from the University of Bath's department of education, "Heterosexual men kissing each other in friendship is an offshoot of what happens when homophobia is reduced." Whether it's a reduction of homophobia or just an expanded definition of masculinity, it's refreshing to see such openness and tolerance in action. Plus, it's totally hot.

5) We're exposed to broader representations of sexuality.
According to GLAAD's study of the 2010-2011 television season, there are twenty-three reoccurring LGBT characters in prime time. That's almost four percent of all characters on TV, up from a mere 1.1 percent in 2007. Media representation of gay and lesbian characters has never been greater (although it must be said, there is still a dearth of transgendered people and gay African-Americans). Unsurprisingly, the most inclusive shows, such as HBO's True Blood, are also the shows with the youngest viewership. This is awesome for two reasons: a) young audiences have accepted and embraced alternative sexualities (at least when it comes to sexy vampires), meaning the future looks bright for sexual equality; and b) young gay viewers who feel alone or weird can see themselves reflected in pop culture, for perhaps the first time ever. While it's easy to criticize some representations as stereotypical or demeaning, you could say that about almost any representation of anyone on TV. At least it's no longer stigmatizing to have an openly gay protagonist; it was only thirteen years ago when Ellen DeGeneres' show was swiftly canceled following her coming out. If the statistics are any indication, things are only getting better.