The evolution of talking about sex (from a millenial’s POV) - Primary Health

The evolution of talking about sex (from a millenial’s POV)

  • July 12, 2023

  • Siiri Kolohe Keola, MPH, CPH

  • 3 minutes

The rise of Gen Z has generated new social norms and attitudes about sex that change the conversation.

Most of the content that shows up on my feed about the difference between millennials and Gen Z are about variations in slang. In these humorous skits, the millennial struggles to keep up with new Gen Z terms like cheugy (out of touch or trying too hard) and bet (Okay, or It’s on). Meanwhile, millenials internally grapple with the fact that they – actually, we –  are no longer the target audience.

Besides new slang, the rise of Gen Z has generated new social norms and attitudes about sex, ushered in by the rise of the Internet, and morphed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, Gen Z’s sexual behavior is in stark contrast to millenials.’ For example, ‘slow dating’ and meeting potential partners in person is now the norm, whereas during my early 20s, dating apps were rife with activity. Even the CDC has reported a decrease in self-reported sexual activity amongst teenagers. It makes sense that a global pandemic marked by widespread physical distancing would make meeting in person a sought-after experience. 

How else have conversations about sex changed since the late 90’s and early 2000’s? Here’s some other observations: 

1. We discuss sex more widely in public

When I was growing up, I did not hear many people talking about sex. That may come as a surprise to older generations, as it seemed like sex was all that was talked about on TV. However, while the media put sex on surround sound, the content mainly showed and discussed the act of heterosexual sex. Pop culture in the early ‘00s was obsessed with the who, where, and when of sex. But what if you were questioning your sexual orientation, figuring out your sexual preferences, or even wanted to learn about safer sex? For those answers, you had to log on to the Internet. 

Today, given that most of us have access to a treasure trove of global knowledge via our phones, I hear more nuanced conversations about sex. These conversations occur much more often, and among people of all ages. People talk about their preferences, knowledge, boundaries, expectations, and opinions about sex, instead of just sharing stories about their experiences.

2. We use an expanded vernacular 

Demisexual.” “Unicorn.” “Simping.” Those words are just a miniscule amount of vocabulary I’ve learned over the past decade. While some words are new, others have been used by a particular community for a long time and have entered the public domain. Additionally, common words like ‘consent’ and ‘negotiation,’  which seemed more appropriate for a courtroom, are now used to talk about sex.

3.Technology makes it easier to communicate your STI status

During my 20s, when I would talk to my partners about their STI status, I felt like the conversation was based on an honor system. That’s because neither of us had ready access to our STI testing records to show that our last STI tests were *actually* negative, or that we took a test at all. Fortunately, all of this information is now easily accessible on our phones, ready to be shared with a potential new partner. What’s cool about the Primary.Health platform is that it clearly communicates your test results, which test(s) you’ve taken, and when you completed them.

Let’s talk

So, how will conversations about sex change over the next decade? I’m not sure, but I’m looking forward to it! Want to be involved in changing the conversation? Learn more about Primary.Health STI testing here.

Disclaimer: This blog content and linked materials are not intended as individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered as such. Any readers with medical concerns should contact a licensed healthcare provider. This blog is provided for informational purposes only. 

Our latest healthcare newsletter delivered to your inbox.