Are Millennials Transgressive?

Watching Van Wylder, American Pie, Zac Efron’s antics in Neighbours or reading this issue of Woroni, one might be led to believe that university is a place of spontaneous threesomes, sex in library stacks and general romantic experimentation. Or at least frequent games of suck and blow.

Instead, college nowadays seems to more closely resemble 7th Heaven. When was the last time two people had casual sex and didn’t fall straight into a relationship afterwards? Burton and Garran Hall had an unofficial orgy room in the 70s. Now such antics would get you expelled.

Rather than transgressive, are millennials actually the most conservative generation since the Great Generation (that’s the one before the boomers)?

Let’s have a look at some data. It’s hard to think of a factoid that would confirm or refute the hypothesis that we’re a staid bunch of puritans, but we can get a sketch.Fifty Shades of Grey sold 70 million copies. We can’t know how many of those were bought by millennials, but even if it’s just 1%, that’s a lot of S&M. Or is it? Those unfortunate enough to read through Anna’s and Christians psycho-sexual train wreck will know that there isn’t much BDSM in the first book besides one instance of spanking. The raunchiest scene is a dream sequence. In fact, the main theme of the book seems to be insecurity.

Compare this to The Story of O, a bestseller among baby boomers in France, replete with scenes of whipping, group sex, bondage and voluntary human slavery. And let’s not forget the works of the Marquis De Sade, available in all good bookshops during the French enlightenment and overflowing with the most obscene in human sexuality.

Turning to more traditional statistics (disclaimer: from the United States), our generation is more likely to think sex is fine, inside and outside of marriage, but we are also losing our virginity later and are slightly less sexually active while at university than the boomers. Teenage girls from our generation are/were less sexually active than those of generation X, the so-called ”AIDS generation”, and we have fewer unplanned pregnancies and abortions, in large part because we are more responsible about birth control. We are marrying later as well, but not because we’re busy playing the field. Our generation has fewer sexual partners before marriage than gen-X.

Leaving sex for a moment, our generation is less likely than any of the recent generations to have a self-inflicted accident. We have fewer deaths from drug overdoses. We commit fewer crimes. Our American cousins are heavily progressive in their politics.

According to Millennials Rising: the next great generation, we’re conventional, focused on security, and pressured to “study hard, avoid personal risks and take full advantage of the collective opportunities adults are offering”.

Armed with that data, let’s speculate: it seems that we are liberal but risk-averse. Life is pretty sweet and we don’t want or need to deviate from the basic narrative to have a great time.

Our boomer parents have made us believe we are special and all-powerful. We seek confirmation of that in rapid advancement in meaningful careers and strong, stable, supportive relationships.

We’re not squeamish about sex but that also means deviousness has lost a bit of its allure. And we’re not so keen to experiment with intimacy if it might end in a bruised ego.

We seem like a very likeable and inevitably successful generation, but also a bit earnest and boring.