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February 11, 2019
by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW

Sex: the Revolution and Counter Revolution

February 11, 2019 15:04 by Ruth Gordon, MA, MSW, LCSW  [About the Author]

The 60’s brought with them the sexual revolution.  With the arrival of “The Pill”, youngsters, especially women, no longer abstained due to fear of pregnancy.  The days of doing everything but “it” were, largely, gone. 

 All of this occurred before knowledge of AIDs, herpes, and other STD’s came to public attention.  It became routine to share sexual intimacy with multiple partners. 

Many women believed that since pregnancy was no longer a threat, that it was “polite” to offer sex in return for a dinner date.  Many men were gladdened by this shift in mores. 

The first wave of the feminist movement had not yet arrived.  Boys and girls were, for the most part, in agreement that “no” might mean“yes”.  Women who were raised in the 40’s and 50’s had been taught that a woman without a man was nothing.  Lots of these women went out of their way to make sure “their” men were happy. 

In this milieu, those who were curious and adventuresome experienced a feeling of freedom.  For others it was a time of embarrassment and, even, shame.  The anti war movement, which protested the war in Vietnam, as well as the Civil Rights movement also blossomed at this time.  Protest, questioning and rebellion became the trend.  The sexual revolution fit right in with this agenda.

Fifty years later, the landscape has, once again, changed.The millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — are a different type of genus all together.  With an intense focus on productivity and increased alone time that is spent with electronic devices, relationships have, frequently, taken a back seat.

The who have followed this path have deprived themselves of the opportunity to experiment in social situations. It is not surprising that a number of millennials have a fearful attitude toward sexual encounter.  Some research indicates that the availability of porn on the internet, on sites such as, is one of the primary reasons for this shift.  Why bother to find a partner when it is so easy to pleasure one’s self?  Why risk rejection and possible ridicule?

Published research confirms that the number of teens who are having sexual encounters has decreased.  As of 2017, the CDC reported that there was a decline in adolescent sexual activity from 54% to 40%.

In a culture that encourages paying more attention to electronics than one’s peers, it is hard for millennials to become comfortable with members the opposite sex.  For better or worse, with a waning interest in dating and romantic relationships, along with the perceived need to devote one’s time to success-related output that is work- or school-based, there is less opportunity for learning about intimacy — platonic or sexual.

It has been reported that many in this group receive the bulk of their sex education online.  It is not surprising that confusion rules.  Watching erotic episodes online is quite different than the direct contact that was routine in other generations, such as the Baby Boomers.  Not only is there a lack of distinction between the preferences of one individual as opposed to the desires of another, intimacy can be portrayed rather like paint by numbers.  This does not allow for the variability that resides on human side of things.

There are millennials who, again with online tutoring, avoid the possible discomfort of experimenting with a partner by exclusively falling back on self stimulation.  There are those in this group who claim to believe that taking the time to explore interpersonal intimacy is a waste of that time. As with all of life’s challenges, avoidance does not shore up self-confidence.

A result of learning through pornography is that men, especially, are unaware of the pain that numbers of women encounter during intercourse.  X-rated movies indicate that there is nothing but pleasure. The truth is that 20% of women report painful vaginal sex and 72% experience discomfort when entered anally. 

These young adults, who have dismissed he value of spending time together, have not built the trust that leads to an optimal personal or sexual encounter.  It has been found that many in this cohort are uncomfortable being naked in front of each other.  66% are less comfortable with oral sex than previous generations.

Another factor in Millennial sexual behavior is that there has been a leap in the percentage of young adults who live with their parents. Since 2005 there has been a 22.5% rise in the number of individuals who have made this lifestyle choice. Rising rental rates as well as lagging salary offers has contributed to this situation. Said situation means that many young adults lack unsupervised alone time.   Thus there are limited opportunities for erotic face to face education and experimentation.

Significant numbers of this group regularly use anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication.  Research reveals that individuals in all age groups have experienced lower libido when using this type of medicine. Lack of practice, inhibition and unease with their corporal body, raises the likelihood that the fear of poor performance push numbers of Millennials to abstain altogether.

Uncertain boundaries are another issue that encourages celibacy.  The #metoo movement has brought to light many types of what we now identify as abusive behavior. Familiarity with what is and what is not acceptable has become cloudy.   Is it ok to give a compliment? a hug?  Is flirtation appropriate?  There appear to be flexible rules in these areas.  How does a young man (or woman) let an individual know that there is interest?

Why is this worth discussing?  The birthrate is down.  Should this trend continue, all of society will be affected.  Eventually there will be a diminishing tax base and a weakened labor force.  One cannot assume that electronics will fill the gap.  At some point the ratio of taxpayers to retirees will affect an already shaky Social Security system.

One thing that is certain is that practices will continue to change. At the bottom of this is the wish to be loved for one’s genuine self. Remembering shared similarities rather than dwelling on differences would provide a route to greater contentment and  sustained self-esteem.





“Technology Can Have Positive and Negative Impact onSocial Interactions”


“Top 21 Things Millennials Do Differently Than Baby Boomers”


Ironside, V. (1/11/2011) “We Paid the Price for Free Love: The Flip Side of the Sexual Revolution”


Julian, K (12/2018) “Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?”


Warnke, M.B. (8/3/2016) “Millennials Are Having Less Sex Than Any Generation in 60 Years.Here’s Why It Matters”


Wilcox, W.B., Sturgeon, S (2/8/2018) “Too Much Netflix, Not Enough Chill:Why Young Americans Are Having Less Sex”

About the Author

Ruth Gordon Ruth Gordon, MA/MSW/LCSW

I bring with me +30 years of experience as a clinician. My Masters degrees are from: Assumption College, Worcester, MA, Master of Arts in Psychology & Counseling/ and Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA, an MSW in Clinical Social Work. This is the 11th year I have written a monthly newsletter that is sent to approximately 500 individuals. The archive can be found on my website,

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The OC Building, 11983 Tamiami Trail, N., Naples, FL 34110
Naples, Florida
United States
Phone: 239 293-4314
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