Last month while on my commute to work one morning, I came across a post on the GameByte website by Lara Jackson entitled Video Games Are Why Young Men Aren’t Having Sex Any More, Says Professor. It explained how a professor of psychology gave several reasons for a decline in sexual activity over the past few years, with one being targeted at our hobby.
It reminded me of a paper called Leisure Luxuries and the Labor Supply of Young Men by Professor Erik Hurst issued in June 2017, in which he and his colleagues believed that video games were responsible for reducing the amount of work completed by males aged 21 to 30 by 15 to 30 hours each year since 2004. This was something I disputed in a post the following month because citing gaming as the root of wider economic problems felt biased and reductive.
Stunning chart: the share of men under 30 who aren't having sex has nearly tripled in the past decade… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) March 29, 2019
Each time a study into issues affecting younger generations is completed, it frequently seems as though video games are given as at least part of the cause. Additionally, the reporting of these findings is often distorted in the media with articles written using language that twists the conclusions made so they seem more directed at our pastime. I’m sure there’s a possibility that gaming could be preventing certain young men from having sex – as could any other form of entertainment – but what’s really going on here?
After completing some research, I found that all sources led back to a single article on The Washington Post website called The share of Americans not having sex has reached a record high from March 2019. According to the latest General Social Survey, a sociological survey regularly completed by the University of Chicago since 1972, 23% of adults spent 2018 in a celibate state and a much larger portion of these than expected were men in their twenties.
The portion of Americans aged 18 to 29 reporting no sex in the past year had more than doubled to 23% too, with men in this age group nearly tripling to 28% – even more surprising when compared to the much smaller 8% increase in their female peers. The professor mentioned in the first paragraph above was Jean Twenge of San Diego State University, and in an interview she said that there could be several potential explanations for this interesting trend.
You’re probably thinking to yourself that this is where the video-games-are-why-part comes into play but let me stop you there for a moment. The first reason discussed in The Washington Post article was the fact that labour force participation among young men had fallen; however, rather than attribute this to gaming like Hurst above, Twenge noted that researchers also see a ‘connection between labour force participation and stable relationships’.
The General Social Survey showed that 54% of unemployed Americans didn’t have a steady romantic partner compared to 32% of those employed. This leads nicely to the second possible reason given by the professor: “There are more people in their twenties who don’t have a live-in partner. So under those circumstances I think less sex is going to happen.” In addition, young men are more likely to be living with their parents than women: “When you’re living at home it’s probably harder to bring sexual partners into your bedroom.”
And finally, Twenge did pick up on our hobby. When discussing whether technology could be a factor she said: “There are a lot more things to do at 10 o’clock at night now than there were 20 years ago. Streaming, social media, console games, everything else.” So out of 500-or-so words written by Christopher Ingram for The Washington Post, it was this last sentence that was picked up on by a number of online news outlets and made into a story.
The latest data on sexual frequency from the General Social Survey: The decline continues, especially among the you… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jean Twenge (@jean_twenge) March 29, 2019
Let’s take a look at a quote from that GameByte post: “A professor of psychology has blamed video games for one of the reasons why there’s been a decline in young men having sex.” I’m not sure this was the case; gaming was part of a possible explanation given among several. And here’s another line: “In a recent survey, The Washington Post found…” Not entirely correct again. This statement implies that it was the newspaper itself conducted a survey specifically into the correlation between video games and a reduction in sex.
The complete transcript of Twenge’s interview isn’t provided in full and it’s possible that Jackson may have had access to this when writing her article. But it seems as though the information she used isn’t even taken directly from The Washington Post – it came from the Daily Star. As if it wasn’t bad enough that a journalist seems to have not bothered to trace back to the original source in this instance, I’m a little shocked they’d rely a source with such a poor reputation.
Yes, there are studies and papers such as those produced by Hurst which unfairly discriminate against video games and those who play them; and yes, it’s right that we highlight them and discuss their subjects openly. But poorly-researched and badly-worded content created by someone from our own community isn’t justifiable. It does nothing except perpetuate tired stereotypes and continue to hold us back, and as my other-half said when I chatted to him about the GameByte post: ‘It’s all a load of b****cks.’
It’s natural for us as writers to want to put our opinions into a post when we feel strongly about something, and it’s important we action our research properly, clearly state our sources and be aware of the effect our words could have. And once we’ve completed those responsibilities, we can get back to having fun – whether that’s playing video games or having sex.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.