Sexless Millennials: Opposing Hookup Culture

From everyday films and bar talk about tentacle hentai, it seems we all live in a hypersexualised world that presumes we want to lead pulsating sex lives. But in actuality, I haven’t ‘got some’ in a year. That’s right, 365.25 days of abstaining from sex. 

Now before you get your panties in a twist because ours aren’t. A recent statistic quoted on The Atlantic, shows that celibacy is the highest on record among American 18-29 year olds.

Looking to understand this statistic, I sat down with some friends to ask what they think about sex and celibacy. While sex is very normal, should it be the main priority?

“Like for some people, they can just go! Vroommm! Just go! How?” Calvin Yin says throwing his head back as he laughs with shocked awe.  

We’re seated on the communal table in a funky Toorak cafe, our candid conversation about sex in our twenties not evoking a single turned head.

“I respect the casual sex culture, but I find it difficult to participate in,” Calvin explains. As a gay identifying male, Calvin believes there are other concerns for LGBTQI+ individuals. 

“I think straight casual sex isn’t so shameful, but for queer individuals there’s sometimes internalised homophobia, so sex is extra serious, desired or confronting,” he says. 

In addition to the queer perspective, the stigmatised view of sex in China, at home and in school, is something Calvin has been consciously countering since moving here as an international student six years ago.  Now a recent graduate and full-time teacher, Calvin has found that the only package he is interested in is one of “good communication, good compatibility and good sex.”

“All those things are contributing factors for a good relationship and connection with a person. If I single out sex, it won’t work that way for me. That’s not my angle, my angle is to have a good person to be with,” Calvin says.

In the wake of Bumble, Tindr, Grindr, Her and Hinge, it is easy to tangle modern love with hookup culture and casual sex. For Cassidy Polling who chooses to abstain from sex till marriage, “sex is not the highpoint.”

“It’s not the make or break generally, there’s a lot of other social factors and deep values that help to make strong partnerships. Often when you’re leading with sex that can confuse it,” Cassidy says. 

Despite choosing to remain a virgin until marriage, Cassidy claims there are other benefits of remaining abstinent. “If I lose my faith tomorrow, my position on sex is something much bigger than because a religious organisation said so.”

Studying in Melbourne for a year from America, Cassidy has found that remaining abstinent helps keep her depression in check. 

“I always try to cultivate positive experiences in the long term to make sure that I… control who I let come in and affect me in that way… It’s more about being intentional on who you allow in your life… as opposed to repression,” she counters. 

There are equally as many benefits for those who abstain from sex in the short or long term. Less drama, prioritising self, focusing on other fruitful commitments and swiping left on sexually transmitted diseases – to name a few. 

“I’ve never heard one person who has held off sex and regretted it, but I have heard a lot of stories about regrets in relationships and about taking it too physical,” Cassidy recalls.

Pushing sex down the priority list has led to more riveting bar conversations, about everything under the sun- world politics, personal triumphs, professional pursuits and most importantly, the name and breed of our future dogs. 

While staying away from sex comes naturally to some, for others its a conscious and hard decision.

“I was engaged before, and there was that pressure of ‘I don’t know how long I can wait’…even a small amount of contact…would cloud my judgment. Abstinence is not the easy choice, you have to battle a lot of things,” Cassidy says. 

Now back in Arizona, Cassidy works in the film and comedy industries, admitting that in these spheres “the idea that I abstain from sex is seen as a very weird thing, I’m not the most popular person to the party but I think a lot of people have been more understanding and curious.”

Quite often men have a much higher expectation of sex and promiscuity than women do and this shows in the way people have normalised gender roles when it comes to sex.

“I get ‘good for you!’, ‘you keep going girl!’, ‘high standards!’, but if I was a guy I’d get ‘are you a pussy?’. There’s all this negative connotation to it. I have heaps of respect for guys who like to get to know someone before sex and own it,” Cassidy says. In this sex-normative world, the debate is less about which is better, to abstain or engage- read a Reddit thread if that is what you’re after. Rather, it is a personal choice that is not shameful either way.

So for those who aren’t into casual sex, for their own personal reasons or preferences; be it a downward dog, a saucy scissor, missionary, or other positions, it’s okay.  

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