A substantial generational shift has been detected in attitudes toward sex outside marriage and the number of sexual partners, according to a massive study in the US.
Researchers, analysing data from a survey of more than 33,000 Americans between 1972 and 2012, also found that acceptance of homosexuality is at an all-time high.
“The changes are primarily due to generation — suggesting people develop their sexual attitudes while young, rather than everyone of all ages changing at the same time,” said Jean M. Twenge from San Diego State University.
“This has caused a large generation gap in both attitudes toward premarital sex and number of sexual partners.”
The 1980s-1990s born Millennials are more accepting of premarital sex than their 1960s-born GenX parents.
After barely changing at all during the 1980s and 1990s, acceptance of premarital sex increased from 42% in 2000 to 58% in 2012.
Acceptance of same-sex sexual relations more than tripled from 13% in 1990 to 44% in 2012.
“Millennials are more accepting of premarital sex than any previous generation, yet have had fewer sexual partners than GenX’ers,” Twenge said. “This is consistent with their image as a tolerant, individualistic generation accepting others’ choices and making their own.”
Twenge believes that these shifts in sexual attitudes and behaviour are linked to growing cultural individualism in the US.
“When the culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result,” Twenge said.
The results of the study are published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
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