Why Asexual Identity Emerged in the Millennials’ Generation

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 sexual 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 a complete 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 before, simply that it 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.

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5 thoughts on “Why Asexual Identity Emerged in the Millennials’ Generation

  1. Pingback: Linkspam: August 26th, 2016 | The Asexual Agenda

  2. Hi Sara—
    This is Navi/Thomas, the guy you gave those maps to a really long time ago in Castella. I ended up not actually getting my phone in Seiad Valley and hiking the rest of the trail without one. I finished the trail & finished updating my blog…just wanted to say I’m sorry for the incredibly long time it took for me to get back to your comment as well as thanks again for basically saving my hike that day with the paper maps and the water intel!

    Your blog is great as well…I’m sorry this comment is not directed toward your post but I’m brain-dead at the moment. Lots of really interesting stuff…makes me feel like I’m back in college again, in a good way. Hope you are well and having a nice summer on the west coast!
    Best,
    Thomas

    • Hi Navi,

      I noticed on your blog already that you finished your hike – CONGRATULATIONS!!!

      As it so happens, I went back and hiked from Etna Summit to Seiad Valley. I then went back a third time and tried to hike from Etna to Castle Crags, but I got injured near Scott Mountain so I hitchhiked out with a couple of botanists (I just recovered from my injury). At least I got to hike through the Russian Wilderness and Trinity Alps Wilderness.

      I hope you’re doing well too and coping with post-PCT life (I know a lot of PCT thru-hikers feel pretty unhappy when they made the transition from PCT life to life after the PCT).

      While I was hiking through the Trinity Alps Wilderness, I met another thru-hiking blogger, Yoda, and I’m reading her blog too.

  3. Sometimes I wonder if asexuality could exist in a society with a vastly different economy. Like, in preindustrial society, where women were at home and men out in careers….or maybe they both worked on a farm, but either way, they were expected to be a family unit. The most basic economic unit, after an individual I guess. And…this was shaken up a few times, like in wartime, where women were encouraged to get jobs. I have heard that the kind of fiction produced during this time had more strong female characters (might be worth looking into for finding more queer characters???). But after wartime, there was a concerted effort to get women out of the workforce so men could have their jobs (also I think there was a similar effort with racial minorities). Increasingly in the past decades it seems this family unit has become less significant as far as economic necessity….where gender is less of a factor as to who is or isn’t working.
    Well, these are the kinds of thoughts I’ve had previously. But now I’m thinking, even after women were working more it was still some time until the asexual identity came about. This kind of generational change makes a lot of sense in that.

    • I do not see why asexuality would not exist in a vastly different economy. The way people interpret it does seem to depend a lot on culture (for example, many cultures do not have the concept of ‘sexual orientation’).

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