Whether most couples see less sex as a problem or not, the change is real and can’t all be explained only by people staying single longer. There have to be other factors as well—something that insinuated itself into our lives some time around the turn of the millennium. The most obvious candidate may be the one you’re carrying right now: that device that provides ready access to unlimited entertainment or companionship all the time, everywhere. Since broadband internet became widely available in 2000, “there are so many other ways to entertain yourself,” besides sex, says Twenge. “Whether it’s your smartphone and social media or streaming video, there’s just so many other things to do.”
In August of this year, two economists released a working paper that looked at the link between television ownership and sexual frequency in lower income countries, where TV ownership was less common. After analyzing data from 4 million individuals in 80 countries they found that having a TV set in the home was associated with a 5% drop in sexual frequency.
In wealthier countries, a wider array of entertainment alternatives are even more likely to sneak into the bedroom. An online study of 1000 Americans commissioned by the bedmaker Saatva found that almost 40% of them bring some sort of internet-connected device to bed with them. About 60% of them browse the internet from bed and 24% of them have fallen asleep while doing so. And the more highly educated seem to be the worst offenders. The poll found that affluent Americans were more likely than Americans as a whole to fall asleep while using email, working or paying bills or finances, activities more likely to raise stress than libido. “Technology in the bedroom, unless it’s technology that’s being used in a kind of pro-sexual or sexual arousing way, can be a major deterrent to some of that kindling of sexual arousal that’s really necessary for desire,” says Dr. Lori Brotto, an obstetrics professor at the University of British Columbia and a sex therapist.