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On Thursday, April 29, 2021, The Telegraph published results of a study of students at British universities.

The trends in the findings were present before coronavirus, although the survey, “Sex and Relationships Among Students”, was conducted last summer by the HEPI (Higher Education Policy Unit).

Ultimately:

they don’t want to have sex particularly – nearly six in ten (58 per cent) say making friends at university is more important than finding a sexual partner.

Here’s the story via Twitter:

Hmm:

I can well imagine welcome weeks led to encounters.

Nick Hillman, who is the director of HEPI, which conducted the survey, said that we have misconceptions about the number of sexual encounters women have. A retired psychiatrist said that sex on campus appeared to be a Boomer thing:

I heartily disagree with the assertion in the article that the British are somehow abnormal for leaving home to attend university. That is also widely done in the United States. It is a good thing for those who did not attend public (boarding) school. It teaches independence in a controlled environment.

The mandatory university lectures on what one can and cannot do in a one-to-one encounter are good, but they might also make one sex afraid of the other. Dr Nicholson, the retired psychiatrist, said that (emphases mine):

sexual mores have shifted, she says, and men are scared about getting consent wrong. At some universities, it’s compulsory to attend training around consent and coercion

“In the old days, you knew the rules,” says Nicholson. “It was the man’s responsibility to make the first move.

“For girls, it was how much flirting you could do without ending up in bed. And for boys, how little flirting you could get away with before ending up in bed. Boys in our generation weren’t shocked if you said no. But they did know on first dates you could be as optimistic as you liked but you weren’t getting anywhere.”

True.

These days, sexting seems to be a thing, with 40% of students polled admitting to sending intimate photos of themselves to someone they fancy.

By and large, however, a media lecturer said that most students are worried about money and getting ahead in life:

If students have any free time, says the lecturer, many spend it earning cash rather than having sex.

Her students – undergraduates and postgraduates – tend to be more worried about homesickness, juggling jobs and study, or whether they are going to have a successful career. “Sex is just not top of their radar.”

Furthermore, some things just do not change over the generations, including the reluctance between parents and children to discuss sexual intimacy. Dr Nicholson said:

“ … you don’t want the previous generation telling you what the moral code is. That’s very much for your own peer group to work out.”

For parents, it’s hard to know whether to be relieved that one’s young adult children are not having sex at university, or worried that they’re not having enough fun, or that no intimate relationships could mean they are lonely.

The truth is, ask parents today about their student children’s sex lives and most don’t have a clue. Some report that their kids are approaching sex with gusto, others say their children are more worried about debt, career, and the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit.

“I can honestly say that I have never worried that the pandemic, for instance, has scuppered my son’s chances of getting laid or put the kibosh on his prospective promiscuity,” says Rebecca*, a mother of a second-year undergraduate at the University of Birmingham.

“I don’t think young women need men and sex in that way,” says Tess, mother of a second-year student. “They are a lot less needy of male approval to get their self-esteem as they were in the past. Then, having a boyfriend, being thought ‘hot’ was really important. These young women are much better educated and empowered now. If my daughter meets someone she likes, then fine, but she’s not worried about it.”

And finally, some students will find comfort in this research. It will put to rest their FOMO (fear of missing out):

I don’t know what to think about this report. My friends and I enjoyed dating and parties at university. It was a good opportunity to find out more about the opposite sex in a relatively safe environment. Better there than outside in the big, bad world where anything can happen, sometimes adversely.

Perhaps I’m showing my age.

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