Imagine that you’re the commissioner of the NFL and a certain Dallas-based football team has been bringing shame upon the league with a litany of domestic abuse and DUI arrests. One day, an underling bursts into your office.
“Good news, Commissioner. Everybody on the Cowboys roster has stopped breaking the law!”
“That’s great,” you reply. “Did this happen because our ‘Stop Being a Terrible Person’ campaign finally worked?”
“Oh, uh, no,” the underling says. “It happened because the team’s plane just exploded.”
As this imaginary commissioner, how would you feel in this moment? Probably the same way I felt after learning that about the sex rates of unmarried millennials.
Millennials’ Sex Lives Are In Trouble
The average millennial has fewer sexual partners than both Gen Xers and the Boomers. In 1991, 54.1 percent of US high school students had had sexual intercourse. By 2015, that number dropped to 41.2. However, during approximately that same time frame, the rate of regular church attendance by Americans dropped by nearly ten points, while moral acceptance of extramarital sex increased. So a return to Biblical beliefs concerning sexuality is certainly not the cause of millennials’ increased avoidance of promiscuity.
What’s causing millennials to be less sexually active, then? As with any trend, there are numerous explanations. But the two biggest factors seem to be the copious amounts of pornography that millennials, in particular millennial men, have grown up consuming, and the widespread use of socially isolating social networking. Just take a look at this profile of a millennial man, courtesy of Tara Bahrampour:
Noah Patterson, 18, likes to sit in front of several screens simultaneously: a work project, a YouTube clip, a video game. To shut it all down for a date or even a one-night stand seems like a waste. “For an average date, you’re going to spend at least two hours, and in that two hours I won’t be doing something I enjoy,” he said.
It’s not that he doesn’t like women. “I enjoy their companionship, but it’s not a significant part of life,” said Patterson, a Web designer in Bellingham, Wash.
He has never had sex, although he likes porn. “I’d rather be watching YouTube videos and making money.” Sex, he said, is “not going to be something people ask you for on your résumé.”
Will This Trend Persist, Or Will Millennials Change?
For those who believe that sex is something that ought to take place only within the confines of marriage, it’s initially encouraging to hear that millennials are having less sex outside of marriage. It becomes profoundly discouraging, however, to learn that the cause is not a rediscovery of Christian morality, but having their plane shot down by the bazooka blast of smut and antisocial behavior.
This raises an important question: Is this a curious fad or a troubling trend? Will the millennial lack of interest in sex eventually correct itself, once we adjust to life in the internet age? Or will they be unable to pull themselves out of the screen-filled, porn-infested tar pit and rediscover the value of human companionship and physical love?
I worry that many won’t. That tar pit isn’t merely delaying millennials’ pursuit of procreation and human companionship—it’s grinding to a halt one of the most important cogs that moves that machine, a cog known as “developing an appreciation for feminine virtues.”
Marriage Creates Space For Real Love And Virtue
Generally speaking, when a man pursues a woman, he begins by pursuing sex. To be clear, when I say this, I don’t mean that all men are Lotharios whose intent in approaching a woman is always to seduce her by the end of the evening. Rather, I mean that the biological desire to procreate is what first compels a man to pursue a woman, regardless of when he believes that procreative act should take place.
For example, the reason a Christian man asks out a cute young woman in his college Bible study group is because he’s pursuing sex, even if his intention is to not to have sex until they would be married. He sees an attractive woman. He experiences the desire to do what his body was designed for—to unite sexually with hers and to create life. And so he approaches her as the first step to fulfilling this biological need.
As men pursue women, however, they come to develop a more robust appreciation of what women have to offer them beyond physical beauty and sexual gratification. They become more exposed to the various feminine virtues—things like kindness, compassion, selflessness, loyalty, tenderness. And the more decent men encounter “the imperishable beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit,” as St Peter calls it, the more they come to value this inner beauty over raw sexuality.
Likewise, the more that decent women see men valuing their feminine virtues, the more they cultivate them and the more they seek the corresponding masculine virtues, such as bravery and self-sacrifice. We begin the mating dance by following our animalistic urges. But, during the tango, we become human as we discover what it means to love and serve and belong to each other.
Pornography Destroys The Dance And Ritual Of Marriage
Hans Fiene is a Lutheran pastor in Illinois and the creator of Lutheran Satire
, a series of comical videos intended to teach the Lutheran faith. Follow him on Twitter, @HansFiene.