They are open-minded, tolerant, and aware. Gender and sexuality do not define them as people, and the digital world is their place to create meaningful relationships. Generation Z is just entering adult life, but will there be space for sex in it?
People born between the mid-to late 1990s and the early 2010s began to enter the workforce. They are no strangers to modern technology, the Internet and virtual reality, and algorithms are their daily bread. They were the first generation to function in a fully digitized world from the beginning. They are also the first to have to live in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has occurred and the inevitable climate crisis is bringing a host of disasters. All this has certainly had no small impact on the largest generation ever, comprising around 30 per cent of the world’s population.
Post-millennials, also known as Generation Z, grew up in an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance of LGBT people, the #metoo or the body-positive movement. In comparison, the millennial generation before them was surrounded by images of Victoria Secret’s Angels, BayWatch, or Britney Spears music videos.
Gen Z seems to have a sense of responsibility, not only for their lives, but for the planet as a whole. For many of them, sex is the least important part of their day-to-day lives. There is also no denying that young people’s lives are dominated by social media and modern technology.
According to a Gallup survey, 5.6 percent of American adults identify as LGBT+. Among Generation Z, the figure is 15.9 per cent, more than half of whom are bisexual. Since Generation Z is just entering adulthood, these statistics may still increase quite a bit over the years. Researchers are also still pondering why there is such an increase in people identifying as LGBT+. It probably has to do with young people’s considerable interest in the concepts of gender identity and sexuality, and thus learning about and defining their own.
Of unquestionable importance to this topic is the Internet, which has become a safe space for non-heteronormative people to discover themselves. Even the millenial generation grew up in a world where LGBT+ people remained in the shadows. Nowadays, more than ever before, the queer community is present in pop-culture, from books through music, up to films and TV series. This is the status quo in which Generation Z is shaping their worldview and image of relationships.
The rigid lines around gender and sexuality are just opening up for everybody. Young people are just doing it… They’re leading this revolution, and they’re forcing scientists to take a closer look. —Said Phillip Hammack, a psychology professor and director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Laboratory at the University of California.
There is no need for sex.
The public presence of the queer community is only one of many transformations we witness in the way the younger generation connects with each other. For some time now, attitudes toward sex have become much looser. The popularity of hookup culture, which accepts and often encourages casual and one-time sexual encounters, has also increased. However, this has not translated directly into survey results on young people’s sexual activity.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted for more than 30 years, has shown that sexual activity among young people has declined sharply. In 1991, 54 per cent of young people said they had had their first sexual experience. Another 37 per cent said they regularly had sex. In the 2017 survey, these results already looked quite different. Experiencing their first sexual raptures was declared by 39.5 per cent, while 28.7 per cent claimed to have a regular sex life.
Significantly important in this topic is progressive sex education, which has taught how to say “no” when someone does not want to get close.Also, awareness has increased, sex is no longer a forbidden topic, and it is easier for everyone to talk about it.
It seems like young people feel much more confident and safe in the comfort of their own homes. The digital generation enters their adulthood accustomed to all kinds of pornography. For obvious reasons, it is a much easier, more accessible, and faster option than physical intimacy with a partner. Not surprisingly, Gen Z has begun to experience their most intimate moments online.
Dr. Matthew Berry, a Melbourne-based psychologist, distinguished between two types of arousal: one coming from visual stimuli and the second, which is an effect of emotional closeness. He also found that many young people have never experienced the latter, with consequences such as erectile dysfunction in men in “real arousal” situations.
A quite similar conclusion about Gen Z’s approach towards sex comes from the 2019 SKYN Condoms Sex & Intimacy Survey. When asked, “Would you rather give up sex or all social media for a full year?” Only 55 per cent of Gen Z adults said they would give up social media, compared to 67 per cent of millennials.
The post-millenial generation soon will have the most say in all kinds of topics-from politics to relationships and sex. The largest generation ever is slowly becoming the main consumer of our culture and, at the same time, the main target of its producers. By taking the reins of social life, they can set new standards for how to approach relationships and sex. And it looks like their ideas are quite different from those of previous generations.