Media coverage describing today’s youth as “the hook-up generation” seeking one-time sexual encounters over dating and relationships is inaccurate and “has really done a lot of damage for young people,” according to Debra Lynn Herbenick, PhD.
Herbenick, of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, told attendees at APA’s Annual Convention in Toronto that while many of today’s youth say they feel they should want to pursue only casual sexual encounters, they actually want to date, find a relationship and experience a strong connection.
“Even with 14- to 17-year-olds, you see a strong interest in dating and being in love,” said Herbenick, an associate professor in the School of Public Health at Indiana University Bloomington, and one of the lead researchers behind the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. “Given statements like, ‘I would rather date someone I like or love than just hook up with someone casually,’ we had more than 80 percent of women and men agree or strongly agree with that statement.”
Two-thirds of respondents in that age group wanted to be in love within the next year, and three-quarters of 18- to 24-year-olds felt the same way, she said. But one-quarter of young men and one-third of young women reported that they feared that saying they wanted to be exclusive with someone would make them look clingy or needy.
“In terms of thinking how we connect with younger people, we need more models for … talking about meaning and connection and saying what you want and being who you are,” she said. “I think that sense of humanity is really lost for a lot of these younger people or hasn’t been part of the conversations that they’ve had.”
The NSSHB is the largest nationally representative survey of sexual health and behavior in the United States and includes 5,865 adolescents and adults between ages 14 and 94. At the session, Herbenick also reported findings from two additional studies she’s worked on — the 2015 Sexual Exploration in America Survey and the 2015 U.S. Survey of Women and Intimacy. These include the finding that “love factors into women’s protective behaviors during sex,” said Herbenick. She and her fellow researchers found that women who love their sexual partner but feel their partner doesn’t love them back are three-and-a-half times more likely to use a condom than women in mutual love. Women who are having sex with a partner they don’t love and don’t believe loves them back are five times more likely to use a condom, she said.
Herbenick blogs about the science of sexuality at http://mysexprofessor.com/