Reason Roundup

'Sex Recession' Skepticism

Plus: school choice in court in Wisconsin and a win against eminent domain in New Jersey


A new sort of sex scare is taking hold. This time—after decades of folks freaking out over the opposite—it's young people abstaining from sex that has the youth-panic pundits and other chattering-class types fretting.

An article and accompanying chart in The Washington Post sparked off the latest flurry of concerned commentary. The latest General Social Survey (GSS) found that the number of 18- to 30-year-olds who hadn't had sex in the last year rose for both men and women between 2008 and 2018:

  • Currently celibate young men rose from around 10 percent in 2008 to around 28 percent last year.
  • Currently celibate young women rose from a little below 10 percent to 18 percent.

The GSS simply asked about sexual frequency and didn't pry into the causes, leaving assumptions to run wild and letting people project whatever political spin they wanted (#MeToo! the financial crisis! video games!).

Folks also speculated about the trend's potential consequences, ranging from the election of Donald Trump to the decriminalization of prostitution. Most of the concern came for the sex-free young men, whom no one seems to suspect are celibate by choice and/or content in their current arrangement. Rather, the assumption seems to be that this additional segment of sex-free young men is a sign and portender of any number of catastrophic things.

There are plenty of possible positive or neutral explanations for the increases, including people getting married at later ages and more people choosing to reject casual sexual encounters. (Keep in mind that the past few decades have also seen decreases in teen pregnancies, unintended pregnancies overall, abortions, and HIV infections.) But the Post article—which relies heavily on commentary from perennial generation doomsayer Jean Twenge—and social media commentators leapt right to imagining a new lost generation of young men, jobless and living in their parents' basements, unable to land dates or find love.

From there, it was a quick jump to talking about MAGA hats and hate crimes. Others blamed technology, social media, and porn.

Samuel Perry, a sociologist at Oklahoma University, corrected the record with regard to higher consumption of porn equating to less sex in real life. "Folks have been asking whether the decline in people (mostly men) having sex is due to #porn. Not likely," Perry tweeted.

Rather it seems the decline is among men NOT watching porn….Men who watch porn tend to have MORE sex, not less….

And of course people gotta remember that women are more likely to watch porn within the context of sexual relationships, as part of sexual activity. So it shouldn't be surprising that the women who view more porn also have more sex on average (i.e., cuz they watch w/a partner).

Economist Gray Kimbrough also suggested a reason to be skeptical of the data overall:

The GSS sample is only "a couple of thousand people every two years. And the questions aren't exactly constant across years," Kimbrough tweeted.


School choice in court in Wisconsin. "Once again, the state Department of Public Instruction is violating the law to harm private schools in the choice programs," says Libby Sobic, a Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty attorney suing the Department of Public Instruction over its decision not to allow "virtual instruction" to count toward classroom instruction hours. "Public schools all over the state are using online learning to expand student access to curriculum and as a way to avoid cancelling classes due to Wisconsin's winter weather. But [the department] will not give students at choice schools those same opportunities. It's unfair, wrong, and illegal."


New Jersey piano tuner can keep his home. The Institute for Justice helped secure a win for Charlie Birnbaum, a piano turner whose home was being threatened by eminent domain in New Jersey. A "state agency called the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has been trying to take the home Charlie's parents first purchased in 1969 and replace it with…nothing. Literally nothing," writes IJ attorney Dan Alban.

Luckily, an appeals court sided with Birnbaum. "In a unanimous opinion, the court affirmed IJ's initial victory in this case, which followed a trial held back in 2016," explains Ablan. "The trial court found that the government's attempt to take Charlie's property without any credible plan for doing anything with it was a 'manifest abuse of the eminent domain power.'"


Will Robert Kraft be suspended over sex-solicitation charge? The Patriots owner has plead not guilty and is currently challenging the charge. If Kraft "wins in court, [NFL] Commissioner Roger Goodell will be faced with a major dilemma," writes Mike Florio at NBC Sports. "If a player were charged with solicitation of prostitution and cleared (whether on a technicality or on the merits), he'd likely face no punishment from the NFL….But that nuance will be lost when considering the league's common refrain that owners are held to a higher standard, and when realizing that multiple players who were never arrested or charged with anything have received significant suspensions."


  • Mark Zuckerberg said the internet needs more regulation. Translation:
  • In a new episode of the podcast Doublrshift, hosts "talk to moms, madams and experts to explore the perks and pitfalls of being a working mom when your office is a legal brothel." The Nevada Brothel Association called it "an extremely well-done program that tells the honest truth about the women who work safely and lawfully in Nevada's legal brothels."
  • Russia is blocking the encrypted email provider ProtonMail. "Russian federal authorities have directed internet service providers across the country to block access to ProtonMail," writes Tamer Sameeh, "as confirmed by the company's CEO. The block order came directly from the Russian Federal Security Service, which was formerly known as the KGB."