We May Have Emerged From the Sex Recession

Dirty talk and role play will save us all

Midsection Of Romantic Couple Kissing
People are finding more meaningful ways to connect and get intimate
Getty Images/EyeEm

While the United States has spent the last months teetering on the brink of a financial recession, it seems its sex recession may have taken a surprising turn in the other direction. Researchers commissioned for eharmony’s Dating Diaries study found that creative intimacy-building exercises like massage and role play are on the upswing — and appear to have rescued our shared boner from the edge of the cliff and placed it safely back on the orgasm freeway. 

Of the single people polled, 36% reported an increase in sex during the last year. Analysts attribute that spike to an embrace of different sex styles, with 65% reporting that they’ve tried new sex positions, roughly 60% reporting that they’ve given and received massages or oral sex or have engaged in the art of dirty talk. Sex toys, role playing, watching porn together and introducing additional partners have also seen an uptick among singles so far in 2023. 

For partnered people, however, the prognosis isn’t as promising. So far this year, it looks like 27% are having less sex than last year, while 31% report getting it on at least three times a week. 

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In 2018, when Atlantic writer Kate Julian first coined the term “sex recession,” the downturn in sexual activity among people of all ages, especially Gen Z, made researchers and reporters pause. We should be in a sexual “boom time,” Julian wrote, because of our unprecedented acceptance of the spectrum of sexuality, alternative relationship structures like polyamory and non-monogamy, graphic depictions of sex in film and online, birth control and sex outside of marriage. Since Julian’s piece published, it’s been speculated that heightened anxiety around consent, coupled with certain lifestyle constraints — like living with your parents well into your 20s because you can’t afford to pay astronomical rents — have contributed the most to Gen Z’s extended dry spell. 

Today, 2018 feels so far away. Since The Atlantic published that article, we’ve lost our constitutional right to an abortion. We’ve survived a pandemic, undergone multiple social upheavals and witnessed a war overtake eastern Europe. The hybrid workplace has obliterated the lines between public and private. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez time-traveled back to 2003. A lot has changed. 

Despite all the chaos, or perhaps because of it, people are finding meaningful ways to connect in 2023. But if we truly resolve to resurrect our collective libido, we will have to continue to expand our views of sex. Intimacy is not limited to the penetration of a vagina by a penis. Sex — and really, connection — looks different for everyone, depending upon preferences, abilities and relationships. And in the end, it looks like sensual massages and vibrators will pluck us from our flaccid nightmares and deliver us unto our lusty destiny.

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