A new survey detailing the extent of casual sex among singles shows many are having intimate relations before the first date, a development that can be blamed in part on technology but leads to tremendous regret and permanently damaged relationships.
This week, the dating service Match released a new survey on sex and singles conducted by Research Now. Included in the data are the revelations that 34 percent of singles have had sex before a first date and that millennials are 48 percent more likely to have sex before a first date than all other generations of singles in order “to see if there is a connection.”
In a USA Today story on the survey, sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson suggests millennials have inverted the relationship process, using sex to determine if they want to pursue anything further with that person.
“We used to think of sex as you crossed the line now you are in an intimate zone, but now sex is almost a given and it’s not the intimate part. The intimate part is getting to know someone and going on a date,” Anderson is quoted as saying.
Ruth Institute Founder and President Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse says the discrepancy between millennials and other singles is that the older ones know better.
“The reason older generations are not [having sex before a first date] is because they have figured out already from experience that this is not a good idea. What we’re doing is just one generation of young people after another are having to figure out for themselves that hopping into bed with somebody is a lot more complicated and potentially hurtful than we’re led to believe by the media and stories like this one,” said Morse.
Morse also says smartphone apps for the explicit purpose of casual sex are contributing to the trend.
“It’s a new thing when you having dating apps or casual sex apps on your cell phone and you can find out if there’s somebody close by who wants to have sex with you. That’s a new thing,” she said.
“The desire to be sexually active has been with us forever obviously, but this way of going about it and the way the culture is pushing people towards sex without any kind of intimacy or friendship, that is something new and, I think, uniquely destructive,” said Morse.
Morse calls surveys like this and their positive portrayal in the media “cheerleading for the sexual revolution.” But despite the glamorous and enticing portrayal of casual sex, she says it comes with many consequences, including the attachment people are specifically not looking for.
“What you learn from experience is that your body has a tendency to attach to the person you have sex with. If it doesn’t attach, often times what we have done is we are separating ourselves from our bodies, we’re anesthetizing ourselves,” said Morse.
She also says the surveys and the pop culture leave out other aspects of the hook-up culture.
“One thing they don’t talk about here is the roles of alcohol and drugs in casual sex. What one can see in other kinds of surveys is that when people decide they’re going to do completely anonymous sex like this, it isn’t unusual for people to get themselves completely plastered before they do it,” said Morse.
“That should tell you it’s not as much fun as it’s cracked up to be. That’s something that I’ve been hearing from college students for quite a while,” said Morse.
It’s not just college students who have regrets. The Ruth Institute has begun what may be a one-of-a-kind program called “Tell Ruth the Truth,” which invites people to share the impact that casual sex has had on their lives.
“What we’re trying to do is get away from this message of airbrushing away all the problems and allowing people space and time to say here’s what really happened. ‘Here’s how I really felt after casual sex. Here’s the next step after the first time you have that kind of encounter and then you get kind of swept away in it and are having one encounter after another and they’re not really satisfying you. Here’s where that leads,'” stated Morse.
She says her work shows that personal stories resonate best with young people.
“I think millennials particularly want to hear stories. They don’t care for data. All these numbers aren’t going to touch them one bit. But if someone who is 35 years old stands in front of them and says, ‘This is how my heart was broken by doing what you’re standing there thinking about doing. They just might listen to that,” said Morse.
Perhaps worst of all, says Morse, is the long-term damage casual sex inflicts on future efforts at meaningful relationships.
“The results of sex are bonding and babies. That’s the natural biological result of sex, bonding and babies. If people don’t know how to bond with one another, they’re going to have trouble creating lasting, stable relationships for when they do finally want to have babies. Then they’re not going to be ready to really care for their children and give the children the kind of security and attachment that they need,” said Morse.
She says impact of poor bonding is also is also felt by the children.
“The kind of damage that’s going to happen to children of people who can’t form relationships is really hard to predict just how bad that can be. Honestly, I don’t see a floor under this elevator. We’re still going down,” said Morse.