Copious amounts of words have been spilled on the internet about why millennials aren’t fucking… but part of that might actually be connected to our jobs (or lack thereof).
Chances are, you’re overworked at a job that turned out to be infinitely less glamorous than you imagined. By day, it turns your brain into dog shit as you answer stupid questions asked by stupid people for stupid reasons. By night, after staying too late at the office, you go straight home to your studio apartment before falling asleep on the couch in the middle of a Netflix binge. And your sex life is in the toilet.
I wish I could say that there was a clear line between the exact career that you choose and how much sex you’re having. It would be easy to say that doctors are getting laid more than people who work in advertising, who are getting laid more than people who work in finance and so on. But figuring out how your career is influencing your sex life is more complicated than that.
Sure, Tinder does release a list of the most “swiped right” careers every year—but if we all had sex with everyone we swiped right on, we’d probably die… of sadness. Besides, time to swipe does not mean time to bone. On the contrary, if you feel the need to escape for hours after work into the world of apps and other social media, it could be a sign your career is impacting your sex life.
Hours worked and sexual frequency
According to a report, Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, millennials in the US are having less sex than any previous generation. As the report highlights, those born in the 1990s are having sex about 57 times per year, which is a noticeable drop from previous generations (hell, even the Silent Generation was averaging about 63 times a year in their day).
But is that being influenced by millennials’ careers?
One particularly interesting finding is that the decline in sexual frequency was the largest among those with a college degree. About 15 times less a year. So one might conclude, if you have a post-secondary education, you’re working longer hours, you’re more burned out and you don’t have the energy to have as much sex.
The researchers did address this in their report. They initially theorized that because millennials are working longer hours and have more access to pornography, that those factors may be influencing their lower sexual frequency. It stands to reason that instead of using their precious leftover energy to have sex, they’re coming home dead tired and turning to Porn Hub as a substitute.
However, the report found that, “working hours among those who were employed and pornography use were both positively, not negatively, correlated with sexual frequency.”
This was a bit surprising to read in the report. So I reached out to one of the researchers, Dr. Jean Twenge, who is also the author of iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, to clarify if having a career which made you work longer hours meant having more sex.
“No,” Dr. Twenge explains. “People who work more have more sex—probably because of who those people are (those with more energy, healthier, married, etc.). But that doesn't mean longer working hours will lead to more sexual activity on average over time.”
Dr. Twenge says that what the report found, was that people with full-time jobs had sex more frequently than those who were not working or working part-time.
So a steady career which provides you with some financial security still seems be a positive move for your sex life. But this shouldn’t be confused with devoting too much time to the office, burning out and feeling that you only want to come home to the warm embrace of Netflix.
“If you're spending a lot of time on social media, watching Netflix, etc., you have less time to socialize in person, and that might lead to less sex—both among partnered and non-partnered people,” says Dr. Twenge.
Burnout and the need to numb
I wondered just how much distracting ourselves with new media was being impacted by our careers. So I turned to Tammy Faulds, a Toronto-based life coach who makes a living, in part, by helping young professionals who feel unfulfilled or burned out by their careers.
Tammy herself understands burning out. As a child, Tammy had a kidney removed and went through chemotherapy to win a fight against cancer. As an adult, after years in a fast-paced, jet-setting career as an event planner, Tammy was told she had precancerous cells forming in her cervix. That was enough for her to make a major life and career change.
Tammy herself says she can’t see much of a pattern between particular career choice and how much sex her clients are having. Although, Tammy does say she mostly sees clients from the worlds of advertising, marketing, startups and some finance. Doctors, lawyers, and engineers are a more rare occurrence.
What is consistent are the complaints which clients come to her with. They feel trapped in a career they don’t find fulfilling. And they’re burning out.
So for Tammy, she more closely sees a link between sexual frequency and burnout. And that burnout leads to a lot of “numbing”—how Tammy defines a need for escapism which she notices in her clients. “You can numb yourself with anything,” says Tammy. “If you’re on Instagram for an hour, and you don’t notice an hour has gone by, you’re probably numbing.”
Perfectionism on the rise
But why are millennials burning out when other generations didn’t? It could be a by-product of millennials tendency towards perfectionism.
“I haven’t had a client yet who doesn’t struggle with perfectionism,” says Tammy. “What perfectionists don’t want to be is vulnerable and they’re internally motivated by what other people think. And, well, it doesn’t get much more vulnerable than dating and sex. Sometimes it’s easier to throw yourself into work, measure your self-worth by your productivity, and hope for the best. It’s even easier to blame your ‘busy, oh so busy’ lifestyle on why you’re single.”
Another study, highlights how perfectionism is increasing because of millennials’ unrealistic expectations related to their jobs and, an increased need for meritocracy.
“There’s a prevailing culture, which young people have internalized, that things are just and fair,” explains Dr. Thomas Curran, an assistant professor at the University of Bath and one of the co-authors of the report. “If they just work hard, they’ll get that good job and earn lots of money—it’s a kind of social promise which, throughout generations previous, has been pretty true. But I’m not sure that’s something that’s necessarily the case today.”
Dr. Curran explains that because young people have such high expectations of themselves, jobs and managers which expect too much of young people or are too demanding eventually burn them out.
“[Millennials] work harder. There’s this lame perception of young people being lazy. It’s complete nonsense,” says Dr. Curran. “They don’t go into the workforce unproductive. It’s a management issue. The problem comes when they become exhausted and they suffer from psychological problems which impede their ability to be productive. This is a different generation of young people that need to be managed differently.”
If that sounds like you, and you want to have more sex (and, you know, be generally happier and more present in your life), it might be worth taking a page from Tammy’s book and seriously thinking about making a career or job change.
On the other hand, if you can make an effort to have more sex, it might make you happier at work.
Follow Chris on Twitter.