Does anyone else hate the term “millennials” as much as I do? As if our entire generation has the singular experience of being raised by Mark Zuckerberg all while subscribing to some pervasive “hookup culture.” Guess what: 1.) I don’t even have a Facebook account, and 2.) The myth of how promiscuous this generation is has been busted.
There is much commotion on the interwebs about a recent study, which revealed that people born in the ’80s and ’90’s have been out-sexed by their baby boomer parents. According to Salon.com’s Tracy Clark-Flory, “not only are millennials doing what their parents already did before them, they’re doing less of it.” Thereby disappointing the adolescents in us who thought they’d one day be awash in nipple rings at a Chilean makeout orgy.
But why’s everyone so riled up? The big plot twist is that millennials (ugh) have had an average of eight sexual partners—a whopping three less than the free-loving hippies who birthed them. I sense that part of the reason this statistic has ignited a lot of commentary is because of the complex reaction it evokes from the younger generation—a sigh of relief accompanied by a competitive jolt. And while folks like Clark-Flory are playing up the rivalry, stating, “No one wants to feel less wild than their parents, especially when it comes to sex,” I think Filipino 20-to-thirtysomethings have a lot to learn from what our American counterparts are collectively exhaling about.
Specifically, their systematized sex education seems to be working. One theory for why the number of sexual partners has dropped is because of what Clark-Flory calls a “greater awareness of STIs and HIV” in recent years.
I spent an entire decade in the American public school system, and I can attest to the exhaustiveness of the sex ed curriculum. As a 12-year-old, barely knowledgeable of my own changing body, I was taught, using a piece of silicone that resembled a knotty chicken cutlet, how to move my fingers in a clockwise motion in order to check a breast for lumps. Even the boys had to learn how to do it. In high school, health classes covered everything sex-related, including abstinence, abortion, and abuse. In college, the clinic had free STD screenings and provided an unlimited supply of condoms in the waiting area.
Then I moved back to the Philippines, where my first job was to interview and subsequently educate prostitutes about their sex practices. It was for a study that would help the government track and end the endemic spread of AIDS/HIV—which, by the way, continues to be on an alarming rise despite the rest of the world’s reduction of new cases.
The doctor who led the study went over the interview questionnaire. When she asked who on our team had ever seen a condom and knew how to use it, only two of us raised a hand. She said something that, were it not for the lubricated latex sliding down her forefinger, could’ve made for a classic cinematic climax: “If you want to make a difference, you have to end your own ignorance.”
Ultimately, we Filipino millennials (Fillennials? Millennipinos?) need to remember that what’s true for our American counterparts isn’t always true for us. Their collective exhale isn’t ours. And anyway, can you really imagine your parents having 11 lovers each? We live in a far more conservative (albeit Zuckerberg-reigned) culture, but it doesn’t mean we have to live in a far more ignorant one.