Paul Joannides Psy.D.

As You Like It

Are People More Interested in Sex Today Than Before?

Access to porn and information about sex has changed, which may have an effect.

Posted Sep 30, 2015

A student asked me if there had been a heightened interest in sexuality and sex-related information during the past 5 years vs the past 30 years.

To help answer his question, I created this image--which is the way people of his generation often communicate:

Paul Joannides/Royalty Free
Source: Paul Joannides/Royalty Free

Then I answered in words, which is how people of my generation used to communicate...

I don’t think there’s been a change in the level of interest about sex, although young people often feel they are more sexual and more interested in sex than their parents or grandparents were.

What has changed dramatically are the delivery systems for information in general. Information is far more image-based now than it’s ever been at any time during our history. Massive changes in digital technology—especially the cameras on our phones–have changed how we communicate. So the change is not in the level of interest about sex, but in how that interest is explored and expressed.

This is particularly important when you consider that the brain processes information from images differently than it does information that is spoken or written in words.

Today, the average 8 to 10 year old has easy access to highly explicit images about sex. We don’t know what the long term effects of this are going to be. It’s still an experiment in the making. How does the mind of an 8- to 10-year old process close-up videos of people having sex? Will this impact the kind of sexual fantasies and desires he or she has as an adult?

A colleague who uses my book in her college sex-ed course recently said that she’s never seen a generation of young adults who are so misinformed about sex. That’s fascinating when you consider that we’ve never had a generation of young adults with such easy and complete access to porn from such an early age.

Is the misinformation about sex because young minds assume that porn is how people really have sex (no kissing, no tenderness, no talking)? Is it due to the distortions about sex from Abstinence-Only sex education? Is it from all of the blogs, forums and sex-related sites that appear to be supplying credible information about sex but aren’t? (I suspect there is more misinformation about sex on Reddit than in the entire history of the universe combined–as well as credible information. How can a person tell which is which?)

I wish I had answers, but I don't. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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