Millennials Have Surprisingly Conservative Views on Sex

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Photo: Jamie Grill/Corbis

Along with their reputation for narcissism and unemployability, millennials are also widely believed to be tolerant. But it turns out that last bit may be wrong: A large survey performed by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) just found that millennials are actually rather conservative about sex and sexuality. The study polled 2,300 Americans between the ages of 18 and 35, finding nearly 40 percent of young people polled believe homosexuality is always morally wrong. 38 percent were concerned about the morality of sex between people in noncommitted relationships.

But if millennials are a bit conservative, their parents and grandparents are becoming increasingly tolerant with age. According to a Gallup poll, older Americans’ support for gay relationships has increased 25 percent since 2001. And while a higher number of millennials think sex outside of marriage is morally acceptable, acceptance of extramarital relations has increased, since the early aughts, to a whopping 28 percent among Americans 55 and older.

The PRRI survey also tracked respondents’ awareness of social stigma created by such views. Millennials seem to be well aware of the impact their intolerance has on others. While 41 percent of respondents believe sex between teens under 18 is always morally wrong, almost as many agreed that pregnant teens and teen parents face a lot of stigma. Almost half of those surveyed agreed that transgender people face a lot of stigma in their community, and 29 percent believed gay people face a lot of stigma.

In every category, women were more likely than men to acknowledge the way certain groups face discrimination within their communities. While millennials may be more personally intolerant than previously thought, they do recognize the importance of protection from discrimination in the workplace. A majority acknowledged that women face significant workplace discrimination, and nearly three-quarters of respondents believe gay and transgender people should have legal protection against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.