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Ueda et al., 2020, "Trends in Frequency of Sexual Activity and Number of Sexual Partners Among Adults Aged 18 to 44 Years in the US, 2000-2018"; Note: This survey was conducted every two years from 2000 to 2018 and is charted in four-year groupings; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans — especially young heterosexual men — are reporting less sexual activity, per a study that looks at the past 18 years.

Why it matters: Given that sex and reproduction are fairly key to a society having a future, the results raise eyebrows. But what the survey really shows is how technology has fundamentally altered how human beings socialize.

What's new: In a study published on June 12 in JAMA, researchers analyzed survey responses between 2000 and 2018 to look at frequency of sexual activity and the number of sexual partners for men and women between 18 and 44.

  • With few exceptions, sexual activity showed a marked decline — especially among young men and especially in recent years.
  • Nearly a third of men aged 18–24 reported no sexual partners over the previous year in 2016–18, up from 18.3% in 2000–02. The drop was particularly sharp among men who were unemployed or reported lower income.
  • The percentage of women who reported no sexual partners also increased over the same time period, albeit less sharply. The only exception was women aged 35–44.

What's happening: In a commentary appearing with the study, psychologist Jean Twenge outlined a few possible explanations for the drop in sexual activity. These include general delay in achieving the markers of adulthood — including living at home longer — as well as the increase in the availability of pornography.

  • But sexual frequency has also been decreasing among married and older people who presumably have reached adulthood, and Twenge argues there isn't a clear link between pornography consumption and reduced sexual activity.
  • Instead, Twenge puts much of the blame on everyone's all-purpose scourge: the internet. With digital entertainment of all sorts available on demand, time spent online displaces face-to-face social interaction, which generally is required for sexual activity.

Of note: A new report from the Brookings Institution estimates that the U.S. could see up to 500,000 fewer births next year because of the COVID-19 recession.

The bottom line: Increasingly, we'd rather canoodle with our phones than each other — and COVID-19 will only accelerate that trend.

Go deeper... Date from home: Romance in the age of the coronavirus

Go deeper

Justice Department closes Emmett Till murder probe

A faded photograph is attached to the headstone that marks the gravesite of Emmett Till in Burr Oak Cemetery in Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson via Getty Images

The family of Emmett Till announced Monday that the Department of Justice has formally closed its second investigation into the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.

Why it matters: The DOJ reopened the probe in 2018 after the white woman at the center of the case reportedly recanted her allegation that Till, a Black 14-year-old, sexually harassed her prior to his murder.

GOP Rep. Devin Nunes to retire, will be CEO of Trump media org

Rep. Devin Nunes. Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who serves as the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, will retire at the end of the year and become CEO of Trump's new media organization.

Why it matters: Nunes, once considered a moderate member of the party, became one of the fiercest defenders of former President Donald Trump throughout both of Trump's impeachments and the Intel committee's Russia investigation.

DOJ cites discrimination in lawsuit against Texas over voting districts

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas, alleging Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Black and Latino voters and has "again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans" when they approved new redistricting maps.

Why it matters: A DOJ assessment of the new districts found that they violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference.