Are young people scared of sex?

Saturday 22 October, 17.30 - 18.45 , Frobisher Auditorium 2 Millennial Dilemmas

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Video and audio of this debate are available at the bottom of this page.

Sex is everywhere we look. Popular television programmes like Big Brother, Love Island and Ex on the Beach actually show people having sex; magazines publish quizzes and top tips about how to have the best sex of your life; and, in most popular clubs, condoms are available on demand. Sex is no longer a secret confined to the bedroom. And indeed sex has never been more casual. The notion of “friends with benefits,” is mainstream. With the rise of online dating, and hook-up apps like Tinder, Grindr and Bumble, it’s less taboo than ever to have casual sex.

So, how do we explain reports that millennials are having less sex than their parents? A recent study suggested that 20- to 24-year-olds were more than twice as likely not to have had sex before turning 18 than the previous generation. Yes, everyone is talking about sex, but is anyone actually having any? Perhaps there is also a fear of sex. The National Union of Students has released several reports claiming that one in four women will experience sexual harassment during their university life. The issue of consent has never been more politicised. UK and US universities, have introduced mandatory consent classes in which students are taught how to have consensual sex. And it’s no better off campus. Recent reports suggest young women are at risk from sexual harassment in nightclubs, pubs and bars. It sometimes seems as if sex is a danger to be negotiated, rather than an enjoyable, sometimes spontaneous, activity. Add to that the constant warnings about sexually transmitted diseases, and is it any wonder so many young people are choosing not to jump into bed with each other?

Is the current panic about sexual harassment and rape culture putting young people off sex? Do we really have a generation of young people who don’t know how to have sex without instruction from workshop leaders? Or are we simply more aware these days of the dangers and potentially harmful effects of sex in the absence of the moral codes and taboos of the past? Do young people genuinely need guidance to navigate today’s hyper-sexualised culture?