When it comes to safe sex, younger generations are more responsible: Survey

Simone Paget
Toronto Sun, April 1, 2019

A few years ago, I dated this guy we’ll call “The Cop.” He was a divorced single dad and worked in law enforcement. The dating scene in my hometown is inundated with men in their 30s and 40s who are still waiting for their band’s “big break” and therefore can’t commit, so I liked the idea of dating someone who appeared to be a responsible adult.

The only problem: When it came time to be intimate, The Cop sulked and complained about having to wear a condom. One night, he even refused outright. His argument? He used to be married and felt he “shouldn’t have to.” Besides, I should “just trust him” (Did I mention that this guy already has four children? Four.)

It was the kind of behaviour high school guidance counsellors had warned us about (just kidding — my high school’s sex ed program was practically non-existent. I got most of my sex info from Salt-N-Pepa songs.) I don’t remember experiencing the dreaded condom tug-a-war in my teens and twenties, but now I frequently encounter men who share The Cop’s attitude towards safer sex practices.

It makes sense. Kind of. Gen X and older millennials like myself, came of age at the height of the AIDS crisis in North America. Many of us spent our formative years terrified of accidental pregnancy and STIs. Having survived thus far, I get the sense that some of my peers have become more loosey-goosey when it comes to condom use. With that said, there’s still a prevailing stereotype that it’s the younger generations who like to play it fast and loose when it comes to safe sex. But that’s simply not the reality — and there are the stats to back it up.

Skyn Condoms recently surveyed 2,000 Gen Z adults (18-22) and millennials (23-38) in the U.S. and Canada, asking them to provide detailed information about everything from condom use and sexual education to favourite sexual positions and fantasies.

Not only are younger generations on top of their same sex game, but it’s 18-22-year-olds that are leading the way. The survey found that 65% of Gen Z respondents reported using condoms “all of the time” or “some of the time,” while only 54% of millennial participants answered the same.

“Gen Z seems to have gotten the message a little more strongly than millennials that safer sex is an important part of health,” remarks Rena McDaniel, a clinical sexologist and sex and intimacy expert for Skyn Condoms. However, it’s not all sunshine and multiple orgasms. “Gen Z seems to be getting it on at earlier ages than millennials, but this doesn’t seem to translate into having better sex with 10% of Gen Z faking orgasms all of the time, compared to 6% of millennials,” says McDaniel.

I was also disappointed to learn that the ol’ condom standoff is still alive and well amongst Gen Z and millennials. When asked “have you ever, even once turned down sex with someone because they wanted to use a condom?” Ten percent of people surveyed answered “yes.”

Which, brings me to my final question. If a partner refuses to wear a condom, how should you respond? McDaniel says it’s simple: “In short, tell them ‘bye!’ If someone is refusing to honour your boundaries around safer sex and is actively taking risks, like not using a condom, that put you and your health in danger, then it might be time to question whether or not this relationship is serving you.”

Conversations about safer sex and condom use don’t have to be heavy. “A whisper in a lover’s ear of, ‘I’m so turned on. I’m going to get a condom,’ can build anticipation as safer sex becomes part of the sexual experience and not something that takes you away from it,” says McDaniels.

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