Sex & Relationships: Past Highlights & Future Expectations

As we fully exit the past decade of the 2010s, it seems fit to explore how relationship and sex trends have changed in the past ten years and what you can expect for the next decade. 

sex trends 2010s

The 2010s

Freedom. This past decade was marked by a unique sexual climate. Our country’s strong progressive voice gave people more freedom than ever to express themselves as a non-binary gender or transgender identity. Sexual orientation now spans well beyond gay and lesbian to include pansexual, demisexual, autosexual, and asexual.

Birth Control. Birth control is far more pervasive and accessible, and according to NPR, abortion rates are at an all time low from the inception of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Male brith control pills and gels have begun to hit research labs allowing  everyone to soon take responsibility for their reproductive rights. 

Talking Dirty. As conversations on sexuality and eroticism become less taboo, couples are starting to feel more comfortable talking about their fantasies. According to the most expansive research study yet to date on sexual fantasies, the top two themes people fantasize about were group sex and kinky/BDSM sex. 

Less Sex, More Porn. As much as we seem fantasize about sex, Millenials and GenX are having far less intercourse than the generations before them. The article Sex Recession in The Atlantic, documents this recent phenomenon. Masturbation scratches the itch just enough, especially when intimacy is semi-satisfied on social media. 

Porn Availability and Variety. Self-pleasure is bolstered by porn and the wide array of options available, including the newest interactive form, virtual reality porn. This allows for many people to access a fantasy world that seemingly never ends. For better or worse, easy and accessible porn also means many face-to-face relationships are getting delayed, as is the onset of first sexual experience. Sadly, many boys and young men are experiencing erectile issues as they use porn as sex education or a barometer of comparison.

Hook-up culture. Face-to-face intimacy is becoming an endangered species, replaced by the newest mobile dating and hookup apps. In her book Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, author Peggy Orenstein has also found the lack of intimacy to be fashionable among females who now seem to prefer hook-ups that don’t compromise their time or interfere with their career path. Rather than seek intimacy via vaginal sex, typically considered the standard for long-term relationships, anal and oral sex are trending higher in the hook-up scene and noted as “less intimate forms of sex.”

The takeaway? Face-to-face intimacy has become increasingly rare within the past ten years. The more addicted we get to our screens and apps, the less practice we have when it comes to real-time relationships. Add in all the options we have for porn and self-pleasure, partner sex becomes a less important part of modern sexuality.

sex trends 2020s

The 2020s: What To Expect

Porn Technology. Easier access with more personalized features for erotica and porn are likely coming down the pipeline. These already exist and will continue to include virtual reality (VR) aspects, where users are fully immersed in the experience. 

Shared Online Swing Communities. These already exist in some capacity. However, with more technology and widespread use of VR, users can plug into a fully immersive swing community to date and have sex.

Decrease in STIs. With medical breakthroughs continuing to explode, more drugs like PREP and Gardasil will be on the market for prevention and treatment of various STIs. These can include vaccines and pill cocktails, as well as monthly, and eventually yearly, shots and implants. Moreover, open dialogues about sexual health will continue to destigmatize the topic and offer support for those who suffer from STIs.

Psychedelics. As the field of psychology gives more permission for psychedelics to treat mental health issues, it will likely become more popular recreationally for heightened sexual experiences as well. This can include cannabis, MDMA, and psilocybin/mushrooms, especially as they eventually become federally legal substances for beneficial use. 

Body modification. As body image continues to change and morph, along with the field of plastic surgery, people may start doing more modifications surgically to look and feel more attractive and young according to what’s en vogue. With widespread instant access to social media, comparing oneself to “perfect looking” bodies online makes the struggle of body image even more intense.

Less Taboo on Open Relationships. These are becoming more popular and less taboo as couples keep exploring alternatives to the monogamous construct. Destigmatizing open relationships will allow more people to talk about this option more transparently and authentically to consider if it’s the right fit for them or not. 

So what can you expect? Sex trends are dynamic and ever-changing. With advancements in the medical and technological fields, sex  will become safer, new forms of virtual intercourse are likely to arise, and the plastic surgery industry will continue to grow. Societal changes will likely popularize psychedelics to intensify sexual experiences and open the door to explore non-monogamous options for couples. 


To learn more about sex, relationships, and intimacy, stay up to date with The Intimacy Institute’s blog.

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