For the past four years, Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and author of Anatomy of Love, has been crunching the numbers from a massive sex survey undertaken by the Match.com dating site. (It sampled 20,000 unmarried American men and did not include Match.com clients.) "I was horrified," Fisher says. She found that for men in their sexual prime, or twenties through forties, 20 percent hadn't had sex in the past year and 25 percent reported it happened once a month or less. "It's really a sexual famine for single people in this country."
Mind you, we don't know for sure that men are getting it on with startling infrequency compared with a generation ago. Anthropologists weren't consulting for dating websites 30 years back. But modern life – the brutally competitive job market, the ever-plugged-in digital culture, the ready access to sex-drive-depleting medications (SSRI antidepressants, blood pressure meds) – suggests it. "These guys are coming out of the woodwork," says endocrinologist Florence Comite, a New York City antiaging doctor. "They're feeling overwhelmed, they're juggling a million things, and their libido is down."
Even psychologists agree that the remedy may be to focus on the body before the brain. "The solution to low sex desire has to do with lifestyle change more than some blinding insight about how sex really represents some subconscious thing that you didn't know it represented," says Russell Stambaugh, a clinical psychologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a spokesperson for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. Focus on key physiological factors and your mind follows. The bigger takeaway: Loss of sex drive isn't the inevitable baggage of aging – your sex-life success is in your own hands. So to speak.
Don't Envy the Millennials
You might think 20-somethings, with their topped-off hormone levels and all-access pass to a hookup culture, are busy getting busy. But the numbers say otherwise. Researchers at Indiana University's Kinsey Institute found that, for single men and those in relationships, 22 percent in their thirties had sex two to five times a week, as did 20 percent of men in their forties – versus just 16 percent of men in their twenties. And if they're using popular apps like Tinder or Hinge for one-night stands, the sex that younger guys are having could be worse. According to one study, 85 percent of men reached orgasm during sex with a committed partner, but slightly fewer than a third did so with a person they'd just met.
The generation that has the most to worry about? Zerosomethings. New research has raised red flags about the potential of industrial chemicals, such as phthalates in plastic goods and bisphenol A in food can linings and thermal paper receipts, that act as "endocrine disruptors." While it's unlikely that a grown man is going to have his libido zapped by TupperWare, it is possible these chemicals can lower fertility rates, and even interfere with the normal sexual developmental of a fetus.
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