“And God said to them, ‘Let them be fruitful and multiply…..’” — Genesis 1:28

In our modern culture it seems sex is everywhere. It’s prominently featured in advertising and entertainment and in conversations about sexual orientation in the church and out. But I was surprised to read an article in The Atlantic monthly magazine, that young adults are having less sex than previous generations. For Christians, is this a cause for concern or something to celebrate?

Research and analysis show that young adults today are on track to have fewer sexual partners than members of the two preceding generations. In 2017 teen pregnancy rates were down one-third from a high in 1990 and only 39.5% of high schoolers reported that they’d had intercourse.

One researcher says this may not be surprising as young people have always been more likely to have sex in the context of a relationship versus a casual or nonexclusive dating. And many parents of my baby boomer generation know that our children in the millennial generation are putting off marriage in favor of focusing on their education and careers.

The article noted another hopeful explanation for the decline in sex is the decreased rate of childhood sexual abuse, which can lead to precocious and promiscuous sexual behavior. The familiarity of conversations about sex has reduced the stigma and shame involved in talking about sex. This can empower people to stand up for themselves and not feel pressured into unwanted sex.

Although much to the chagrin of some churches, modern birth control has given men and women more choices about having children. Still sex is still typically required for procreation. Demographic predictions in many western nations show that unless we have more children in the workforce the greying of our society will only continue.

Alexandra Solomon, a psychology professor who teaches a popular course called Marriage 101, sees signs of what she calls “the romantic and sexual stunting of a generation.” She argues that what the media has termed “hookup culture” should more accurately be described as “lack-of-relationship culture.” The adolescent and young-adult years are an important developmental stage in terms of social and romantic development. In previous generations, most teenagers learned how to interact, flirt and kiss, as well as deal with heartbreak and disappointment during these formative years. While teenagers might not be having sex, they also aren’t forming relationships that help them to develop emotional and relational skills that might make them good partners in the future.

Perhaps, there are a few places where the church might address this phenomenon in the lives of teenagers and the use of pornography.

We live in a society where teenagers today are incredibly overcommitted and overscheduled by parents. There’s less time for unstructured play or social interactions between extracurricular obligations and demanding schoolwork. Consequently, some of these young people never develop the social and emotional skills to begin and sustain meaningful romantic relationships.

Our electronic culture and access to pornography may also be a contributing factor to the decline in partnered sex, for both men and women. Ultimately, the decline in sex raises important questions about the future of couples, demographic decline and loneliness. No doubt this so-called sex recession is more a symptom, not a cause, of a variety of cultural and technological changes that have isolated us from one another. Somehow the church must help our younger generations to regain a sense of the importance of developing and growing into healthy relationships with an intimacy that sees children as a gift from God and blessing in our lives. Wouldn’t you agree?

Pastor Terry L. Tilton,

retired

Chisholm United

Methodist Church

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