Gen Z teens and young adults are having less sex than past generations and want less sexually explicit content shown in the media they watch.
A new study from UCLA found that Gen Z teenagers and adults are asking for fewer sex scenes in the television and movies they consume.
The “Teens and Screens” report out of the school’s Center for Scholars and Storytellers found that 51.5% of adolescents would prefer to see more content that portrays platonic relationships and close friendships.
The study also found that 44.4% of youth surveyed felt that romance in media was “overused.” In comparison, 39% would like to see a greater number of aromantic or asexual characters depicted in media.
47.5% of those surveyed also said that sex scenes in the majority of TV and movie plots were not necessary.
Certified sex therapist and gender and sexuality studies expert Aliyah Moore told Fox News Digital that the changing cultural landscape has been a significant factor in young people’s views on sex.
“Gen Z has grown up in an era marked by a greater awareness of consent, sexual boundaries, and the #MeToo movement. This heightened awareness leads them to demand healthier and more respectful depictions of relationships, which shift the focus from physical intimacy to emotional connections and platonic relationships,” she said.
Moore also said that unparalleled access to online resources and an increase in isolation and loneliness could also explain their desire to see less emphasis on sex in the media. Such access and a heightened yearning for online connectivity leads youth to seek media content that reflects the diversity of human experiences, such as aromantic and asexual characters.
“They remain lonely as social media has become so widespread and online social interactions have replaced real-life relationships,” she said. “In this regard, youth seek media that can be a source of consolation and connectivity. Many readers would love to read stories that are not limited to physical intimacy and sexual desire. Such readers would feel that there is someone out there willing to listen to them and understand them.”
Additionally, it may be difficult for young people to start having sexual intercourse because of social pressures and concerns such as performance anxiety, body image and a fear of sexually transmitted infections, Moore added.
Bradley Schurman, a demographic strategist based out of Washington D.C., told Fox News Digital that young people want on-screen representation that mirrors their real-life experience, which includes having less sex than previous generations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently concluded that 30% of teens in 2021 said they had never engaged in sexual intercourse. Those numbers were down from 28% in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the number of American high school students engaged in sex has been steadily decreasing for years. Thirty years ago, half of teens reported having sex.
“There’s an overall trend of younger people having less sex worldwide for various reasons, including technology, heavy academic schedules, and delayed adulthood, a byproduct of extended longevity,” Schurman said.
The strategist added that young people live at home longer than previous generations and receive financial support from parents for greater periods of time.
Shurman also noted that in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act all but makes the age of 26 the “line of demarcation” between adolescence and adulthood because parents are responsible for their children until then.
“Essentially, they remain ‘children’ longer than millennials, Gen X or the boomers,” he said.
UCLA has been tracking youth behavioral trends for nearly a decade through its annual California Health Interview Survey, the most extensive state health report in the country. The 2021 report found that 38 percent of Californians aged 18-30 reported having no sexual partners in the prior year, the lowest level of reported sexual contact in 10 years.
Those results have also held true on a national level.
The University of Chicago’s General Social Survey in 2021 found that 3 in 10 Gen Z males between the ages of 18 and 25 revealed they had not had sex in at least a year. The same was true for 1 in 4 Gen Z women.
Family therapist and co-founder of Family Addiction Specialist Lin Sternlicht suggested that overexposure to pornography may be contributing to the decline in sex and the need for less sex in media.
“Many Gen Z individuals have grown up with easy access to the internet and social media, resulting in potential exposure to sexual content at a younger age than previous generations, which can lead to desensitization,” she said. “As a result, they may seek more meaningful, less explicit content in their entertainment.”
Sternlicht also said that Gen Z’s strong commitment to mental health awareness may make them more aware of the potential harm found in explicit content, leading them to desire more responsible and sensitive portrayals of relationships in media.
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