Maybe I’m just officially “old” because I honestly don’t understand what millennials are doing in their sex lives or why they’re doing it. I went into a sex shop to buy a G-string recently—that’s it, just a G-string, like the ones strippers wear, because that’s what my partner is into—and I was astonished by what they’re selling in there these days. I looked about as baffled as I do when I walk around an electronics store and I needed just as much help from the customer service staff understanding what everything was.
When did sex become so complicated? When did people start openly wearing chokers with chains attached and having their dominatrix lead them around the grocery store? (I bring this up because I’ve seen it). You know what’s exciting to my partner and I? Doing it on a surface other than the bed. Maybe I just don’t have a kinky side, but, perhaps someone out there can answer this for me: does being kinky have to mean enjoying choking and being handcuffed in dungeons? It seems like the ceiling for kinkiness keeps getting higher. It seems like the sexual acts that were very hush-hush in my twenties are the new normal.
I remember in my twenties, going to a club I’d been to many times, but on a night I’d never been. I didn’t know that that night was sex dungeon night. My friends and I covered our eyes and mouths, so embarrassed and stunned. We couldn’t believe what we were looking at. And what I can tell you now is that that stuff isn’t reserved to closed-door, private events anymore. People are bringing that stuff to their home bedrooms. People are building sex dungeons in their four-bedroom, suburban homes. It’s a lot. And sometimes, it’s a bit scary. But, as we know, the current sexual norms are often a reflection of the current emotional state of society. It’s a reflection of what’s happening to us as people. Here is my theory on why sex has become so fringe.
We’re having sex with more strangers
People are having sex with far more strangers. How many hookup apps are there now? Where people can even choose a setting on their profile notifying others that they’re just there for sex. Where people don’t even exchange their real names. Where people meet up with the understanding that they won’t even speak, but they’ll just get immediately down to business. We’ve started treating each other as sex dolls.
So they’re dehumanized
What happens when you don’t know someone’s name? Or even favorite color? What happens when you don’t exchange words before having sex? You don’t see that person as human—not really. This anonymity allows us to try vile acts on each other, without the guilt that comes with knowing our partner’s personality. If you know somebody’s mother is currently recovering from cancer, you suddenly feel a bit differently about spanking her with a spiked paddle.
It’s an over-sharing culture
Nothing is private anymore. It’s an over-sharing culture. When a couple finishes having sex, they post a near-nude selfie in bed, on Instagram, telling everyone what they’ve just done. Nothing is private anymore. That includes sexual acts. Everyone is sharing what they do in the bedroom, and that includes those who are acting as sex gimps and things like that.
And we try what we hear about
We’re hearing about everything, and we try what we hear. What story gets the most attention? What information gets shared the most? Texted and posted in group threads? The most shocking. That’s the one. The only moderately kinky stuff isn’t being shared—just the shocking stuff. And people tend to try what they hear about.
Plus, we’re expected to share
Sine it’s a society of over-sharing, we also know that we are expected to share about what we do in our sex lives. And that means we know that our friends will ask about our sex lives. If we don’t talk about it, they pry—they criticize us for being a prude. So, we feel pressure to have a sex life that’s worth talking about.
We’re having sex quicker
Even if we don’t have sex with complete strangers—even if we go on a few dates with someone first—we’re having sex quickly. We don’t really get to know people before sleeping with them these days. Think about it: if you waited to sleep with someone for months—if you waited until you knew all the things about his childhood and past and pain and family—you just wouldn’t feel quite as comfortable asking for that fringe stuff in bed. It’s just different after you’ve, like, held a man’s hand during his colonoscopy. Or sat with him when he cries after his childhood dog passes. And if you wait too long to ask for the fringe stuff, it just feels weird to ask. But we don’t wait for anything these days.
Fear that someone else is better
Today, we know anyone we go out with (or sleep with) always has the option to just hop on the many apps, do some swiping, and find someone he perceives as better than us. We obviously hope someone isn’t in it just for the sex, or that someone wouldn’t leave us if there’s a real connection there, all for kinkier sex. But, we just live in a world where we know everyone has so many other options at their fingertips (in their phone). So there is pressure to be memorable in bed.
It’s reflected in what we watch
Now I’m truly about to sound like my own grandmother but…it’s all this weird XXX films we watch these days. Have you been on an adult site recently? Things are getting scary. If you do a quick search of the most-searched genres, you may sit down and pray for humanity’s savior. Whatever terrifying stuff we want to watch, it’s out there. And when we see it, it further feeds our desire to try it.
Our pleasure threshold gets higher
I think we’re generally getting desensitized. We have access to so much, whenever we want it, however we want it. What do you want? You can probably order it on PostMates, right now. Legal or, well, not. We don’t have to be patient. We don’t have to imagine what things would be like. The access to all sorts of vices is so high right now that I think, in general, we’ve become desensitized and it just takes more to, well, get us off. Literally and figuratively.
It’s an acceptable outlet for unresolved issues
Look, not everyone will like to hear this, but I have yet to meet someone who is into some really twisted sex acts who doesn’t also have some unresolved emotional trauma. And I feel for them—I want them to seek the help they need. But I can’t help but think there is a reason there is a correlation between having unresolved trauma and needing to be choked to enjoy sex.
And therapy is expensive
Also, who can blame people for looking for free ways to release their pain/frustration/self-loathing, or whatever baggage they’ve been left with through their unresolved issues? Therapy is expensive! Tinder, however, is free (I think?). And many individuals find that, so long as they partake in some of their more fringe sex acts on a regular basis, they manage to suppress some of their destructive societal behaviors.
It’s a shortcut to reviving the spark
It’s common for couples who’ve been married for years to turn to the fringe stuff too—the sex dungeons, the swinging, the threesomes, the BDSM—as a form of reviving the spark. They may try this stuff for the first time after decades of an otherwise pretty vanilla sex life. Because, sure, whips and handcuffs can certainly provide an instant feeling of excitement.
When reconnecting is just too hard
The problem with using extreme sex acts to try to revive the spark in a marriage is that it still doesn’t address the real issue at hand. It can definitely be a supplementary part of a bigger plan to bring the spark back. But if the communication has broken down, new and exciting sexual trysts will only cover that up for so long. Furthermore—and especially if those trysts involve bringing in other people—it can even highlight the communication issues at hand.
We’re making monogamy “cool” again
My generation is pretty undecided on how we feel about monogamy and marriage. Some of us even call it “retro” to get married or be in a monogamous relationship. Retro, is, of course, “cool,” and I think some young couples are coming around to the idea of long-term commitment again. However, they’ll only do it with new rules. Sex in a marriage needs to make allowances for kinky behavior if some people are even going to consider entering into an otherwise antiquated institution.
Maybe this generation doesn’t like itself
Being a millennial is kind of a mess. I sometimes can’t decide if we are extremely intelligent or extremely lazy. We are, in a way, the most communicative, in the sense that we put everything online. But that’s also not real intimacy—by being a social media culture we get to open up from a distance. We have expensive college degrees that we don’t use because we want to be food truck owners and YouTube stars instead. There are a lot of reasons for us to feel bad. Maybe we just need, in a weird way, to be punished, and we look for that through sex.