College college students aren’t having intercourse – and fogeys do not know whether or not to be relieved or nervous
It’s not like it used to be. Students don’t have sex. Well, some are, but nowhere near as many as you might think. And if you’re wondering why, it’s not because Covid has kept thousands of them off campus in the past 12 months.
The truth, according to a new report, “Sex and Student Relationships,” is that they don’t want to have special sex – nearly six in ten (58 percent) say making friends at university is more important than having sex find partners.
Only 16 percent enjoyed the prospect of sex when they became a college student. And male students are less sexually active than their female counterparts. Just over a third (34 percent) say they had sex while studying, compared to almost half (47 percent) of women and more than one in ten (11 percent) say they are celibate because they have it wants to be.
Men are more likely than women to state that they have had more sexual partners. And almost every tenth sexual encounter takes place during the university’s welcome weeks.
And this is important – not least to dispel FOMO (fear of missing out) among today’s students, says Nick Hillman, director of the HEPI (Higher Education Policy Unit), which conducted the survey of around 1,000 students last summer. It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you feel like everyone else is having a better time.
“People have very inaccurate perceptions of other people’s lives, especially when it comes to sex,” says Hillman. We’re not getting any better here either – previous research found that people believed women had 17 sexual partners by the age of 40 and 50 – in fact, there are eight.
And here’s another exaggerated story, says Hillman. Newspapers love heavy headlines about students doing sex work to make ends meet. “But even selected Internet surveys cannot provide an exact picture of what student life really is like,” he says. And it’s a lot less exciting than we lead us to believe.
“Given the evidence of poor mental health in many students and the high incidence of loneliness, it is important to create a more nuanced picture of how students really live,” he says.
Students have been accused of most things over the years – laziness, three years of squats, binge drinking, drug use and, more recently, being excessively awakened and hypocritical.
This is to blame for built-in beliefs, says a media lecturer at a London university, created by the days of scholarship and no debt, new sexual freedoms and the relative certainty that a job was about to crop up.
“I’d say the student sex thing is a baby boomer obsession and a pretty manly one,” she says. “The pill, the easy access to abortion, changed a generation and that changed everything for the students.”
Today’s universities are more sober and prudent – excessive student drinking is subsiding, the past year has been a social problem for many, and even in a normal year it is the libraries rather than the bars that stay open all night.
When students have free time, the professor says, many spend money making money instead of having sex.
Your undergraduates – undergraduate and graduate students – are more likely to be concerned about homesickness, juggling jobs and studying, or whether they will have successful careers. “Sex is just not the top priority.”
One focus of the wild side of university life is UK narrative. As a nation, we unusually use university to get out of the house and grow up.
In other countries, students mostly live at home while they study – a passion killer, if there ever was one.
“It’s cultural,” says Dr. Sarah Nicholson, a retired NHS psychiatrist. “British nationals still see the university as an opportunity to find their way around and experiment – a much wider experience than just studying.”
But sexual mores have changed, she says, and men are afraid that consent will be wrong. At some universities, participation in training courses on consent and coercion is compulsory.
And just over a quarter of students say what they learned in their pre-university life actually prepared them for sex and relationships when they got there. “You used to know the rules,” says Nicholson. “It was the man’s responsibility to take the first step.
“For girls, it was how much flirting you can do without ending up in bed. And for boys, how little flirting you can get away with before you end up in bed. Boys in our generation weren’t shocked when you said no. But you knew on the first date that you can be as optimistic as you want, but you won’t get any further. ”
Maybe technology has replaced flirting, she says. Four in ten students say they have sexted a partner – mostly sending naked pictures of themselves, while some have used video software to have sex.
“And that never could have happened before – you couldn’t talk dirty on a payphone in the corridor.”
While education about consent is essential, says Nicholson, it is up to peers to work out new norms as they meet and mingle – only the pandemic has limited that.
“But you don’t want the previous generation to tell you what the moral code is. This is very important for your own peer group. ”
It’s hard for parents to know if they’re relieved that their young adult children aren’t having sex in college, or worry that they’re not having enough fun, or that intimate relationships might mean they are lonely.
The truth is, ask parents today about the sex lives of their school children and most have no idea. Some report their children approach sex with enthusiasm, others say their children are more concerned about debt, careers, and the effects of Covid-19 and Brexit.
“I can honestly say that I never worried that the pandemic, for example, made my son’s chances of lying down or putting the kibosh on his probable promiscuity,” says Rebecca *, mother of a second student Year of study at the University of Birmingham.
“I don’t think young women need men and sex that way,” says Tess, a mom of a sophomore. “They need a lot less male approval to gain self-esteem than they did in the past. Then it was really important to have a boyfriend even though he was ‘hot’. These young women are much better educated and empowered now. If my daughter meets someone she likes, that’s fine, but she doesn’t worry about it. ”
The real wisdom of this research, says Nicholson, is knowing whatever you’re doing, you are not alone. More than half of those surveyed say they have seen porn, almost a third say they have had an intimate relationship at university, a quarter arrive at university, have never kissed anyone and 43 percent have never had sex .
“And those are the benefits of such surveys,” says Nicholson. “People read it and say, ‘Oh, thank God I’m not the only virgin. “