I recently read the article “When it Comes to Sex, Baby Boomers Aren’t Normal”, which is a response to various essays about Millennials (that is, people born between 1980 and 1996) having less sex than Baby Boomers and Generation X. This quote contains the premise of the article:
Instead of asking why Millennials are having less sex, we could also ask why Boomers and Gen-X had more. Rather than asking why Millennials are so weird, we could compare birth cohorts in a way that doesn’t assume any of them as the baseline. Sexual norms and practices are in constant flux, and we ought not treat them as fixed.
The article also points out some other problems with the hand-wringing over why Millennials aren’t having ‘enough’ sex. For example, many statistics about how much sex people have DO NOT distinguish between consensual and non-consensual sex. It is very difficult to measure the frequency of non-consensual sex, but according to the article, the indicators we do have suggest that one of the main reasons that Millennials have less sex than the Baby Boomers and Generation X is that sexual assault is significantly less common among Millennials (i.e. a disproportionate portion of the decrease in sexual activity is a decrease in non-consensual activity). If this is true, then it’s a wonderful change. The article also claims that Millennials are less supportive of rape culture than Baby Boomers and Generation X, which might explain a decrease in non-consensual sex.
Anyway, what I want to discuss is how the emergence of an asexual identity fits into this pattern of Millennials having less sex (note, I am only going to discuss this in the context of the United States because I do not know enough about how these things play out in other societies).
A disproportionate number of people who participate in asexual communities are Millennials, including me. Contemporary asexual communities, so far, have been largely built by Millennials. Why has asexual identity become more prominent in our generation rather than other generations?
A common answer to this question is ‘The Internet’. The internet no doubt has something to do with it, but I’ve always felt that that’s an incomplete answer. I think another part of the answer is the way that American culture is shifting.
I think compulsory sexuality became especially overt in the Baby Boomer generation (of course compulsory sexuality was around before, it simply was less blatant), and that was one of the reasons why they engaged in more sexual activity than earlier generations. As the Millennial generation emerges in a world which has been dominated by Baby Boomers, the resulting generation clash created a space for an asexual identity to emerge. In other words, my theory is that generations before the Baby Boomers did not deal with Baby Boomer level of compulsory sexuality, thus there was less pushing the asexually-inclined people to identify with asexuality. Then, asexual identities *rarely* emerged in the Baby Boomer generation because it was a particularly hostile environment. Now, the Millennial generation has lived with Baby Boomer attitudes, but is itself calmer about compulsory sexuality, so there was both the motivation and a sufficiently supportive environment for an asexual identity to emerge.
Anyway, this is more of a theory I have than something I have concrete evidence for. Maybe if I did actual research, I’d find that this does not explain the emergence of an asexuality identity in American culture after all.