Study Says Fewer Young People Are Having Sex Because of Video Games and Not Enough Alcohol


Casual sex among young people is on the decline and it seems like the culprit is the fact that boys are preoccupied with video games while girls are consuming less alcohol. 

Scott J. South, distinguished professor of sociology at the State University of New York, and Lei Lei, assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University in New Jersey, citing a study by Twenge, Sherman, and Wells (2017a), found that the percentage of men and women aged 20 to 24 who said they had not had a non-romantic sexual encounter in the past year had gone up from 11.7 percent from 2004 to 2009 increased to 15.2 percent in 2010 to 2014.

Video games over sex

“Although similar declines in sexual activity are found among older age groups, the decline in sexual activity has been most acute among teenagers and young adults (Abma and Martinez 2017Ethier, Kann, and McManus 2018),” the study said.

“Some commentators speculate that the decline in sexual activity among young adults is attributable to the rise in the use of various forms of electronic media,” the study said. “Anecdotal reports (Jabr 2019) suggest that young adults, especially young men, are substituting video gaming for opposite-sex interpersonal relationships, some of which would presumably entail sexual intercourse.

“Other observers speculate that the proliferation of Internet-based sources of entertainment such as video streaming underlie the decline in young adult sexual activity (Wilcox and Sturgeon 2018). The increasing availability of electronic communication technologies may limit the need or desire for face-to-face interactions (Tillman, Brewster, and Holway 2019). Arnett (2018) argued that young adults’ more frequent reliance on electronic media detracts from the time available for the types of unstructured socializing that might lead to causal sexual encounters.” 

Less booze, less sex

The researchers also suggest a link between decreasing alcohol consumption for young people and casual sex.

“One of the strongest predictors of the likelihood of engaging in casual sex is alcohol consumption (Armstrong, England, and Fogarty 2012Johnson 2013Vander Ven and Beck 2009),” the study said. “The disinhibiting qualities of alcohol are of course well known. And young adults’ alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, has been dropping over the past few decades (NIDA 2018). Because there is some evidence that alcohol consumption increases young women’s more than young men’s odds of engaging in casual sex (Owen, Finchan, and Moore 2011), it is possible that the decline in alcohol consumption explains more of the decline in young women’s than in young men’s propensity to have sex outside of a committed romantic relationship.”

In an interview with, Lei theorized that, for young people, “less alcohol could mean less in-person socialization, which leads to fewer opportunities to find a potential partner for casual sex.”

And as for young men, the researchers say the link between them spending more time playing video games and lower incidence of casual sex is undeniable.

“We find that young men who play video games frequently are less likely than other men to engage in casual sex,” Lei said.

“Gaming can affect how and with whom they socialize, which then affects their opportunity to meet potential sex partners,” South added. “Other people argue that gaming also provides an alternative gratification to sex.”

It’s worth noting that the study was conducted before the onslaught of the pandemic, which could have radically altered the findings of the study. Or did it? The researchers could only hazard a guess.

“I would guess that Covid-19 would further reduce young people’s frequency of having casual sex,” Lei said. “The closing of businesses—in-person dining, cinemas and malls—diminishes the opportunities for young people to meet potential sexual partners. Young people may also avoid casual sex due to the risk of disease. Economic insecurity could also be a reason that further dampens young people’s interest in casual sex.”

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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