An Intellectual Treatise on the Finer Points of Porn and Masturbation

4th Annual Champions Of Jewish Values International Awards Gala
Shmuley Boteach and Pamela Anderson believe porn is a waste of time, money and energy, as well as detrimental to a man’s well-being. But while porn has its issues, it doesn’t merit a blanket condemnation based primarily on moral or spiritual values. (Photo Credit: Steve Mack/Getty Images)

It almost sounds like a bad joke. A former Playboy Playmate and a rabbi walk into a bar, and write an op-ed together for the Wall Street Journal about why pornography is morally objectionable. Except for the idea the people involved probably didn’t craft this piece within the confines of an establishment which serves alcohol, though, such is exactly the case. The unusual tag team of “actress” Pamela Anderson and religious leader/TV host/author/one-time politician Shmuley Boteach co-authored a scathing attack on an entire industry which generates tens of billions of dollars in revenue. I would link to the actual article, but as I refuse to either subscribe or log in on, you’ll get Rolling Stone‘s article about the article instead.

So, why exactly is porn so reprehensible, according to Anderson and Boteach? To cite the work that cited the work, here are some passages which help expound their worldview:

1. “[Pornography is] a boring, wasteful and dead-end outlet for people too lazy to reap the ample rewards of healthy sexuality.”

2. “From our respective positions of rabbi-counselor and former Playboy model and actress, we have often warned about pornography’s corrosive effects on a man’s soul and on his ability to function as husband and, by extension, as father. This is a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness given how freely available, anonymously accessible and easily disseminated pornography is nowadays.”

3. “Nine percent of porn users said they had tried unsuccessfully to stop—an indication of addiction that is all the more startling when you consider that the dependency rate among people who try marijuana is the same—9 percent—and not much higher among those who try cocaine (15 percent).”

4. “Whereas drug-dependency data are mostly stable, the incidence of porn addiction will only spiral as the children now being raised in an environment of wall-to-wall, digitized sexual images become adults inured to intimacy and in need of even greater graphic stimulation. They are the crack babies of porn.”

5. “The ubiquity of porn is an outgrowth of the sexual revolution that began a half-century ago and which, with gender rights and freedoms now having been established, has arguably run its course.” Now is the time for an epochal shift in our private and public lives. Call it a ‘sensual revolution.'”

Hmm, very articulately written. Obviously, that was all Pam Anderson. Shmuley’s just riding along on her Baywatch-slow-motion-running coattails, I think we can all agree. As well-stated as Pamuley’s (that’s my portmanteau for their two names; not bad, eh?) arguments are, however, they are not above reproach or debate. Let’s take it point by point, shall we? Feel free to agree or disagree as we go along, by the by.

1. Wow. “Judge not lest ye be judged” much? I’ll get to my thoughts on the relative entertainment level of today’s pornography, but let’s first address the other contentions in this first blurb. On the notion porn is a “dead-end outlet for lazy people,” I think this a bit of an unfair characterization. Maybe social interaction is intimidating for the viewer, and he or she needs encouragement or time before trying to seek out a love interest/sexual partner. Perhaps the watcher, curious about sex but rebuffed by his or her parents, and finding Sex Ed taught by gym teachers inadequate, is looking for pointers on what goes where and how. Or possibly the beholder, while his or her significant other is away on a work assignment, is feeling lonely and is looking to blow off a little steam—if you know what I mean.

Whatever the circumstances, to say that watching porn, Internet or otherwise, is for lazy people and wasteful, seems, at best, a mischaracterization of the average consumer, and at worst, irresponsible. After all, having sex just for sex’s sake, while perfectly enjoyable, if not performed with the requisite care and safety, risks sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy, not to mention damaged friendships and hurt feelings. Anderson and Boteach appear to be making the assertion that watching porn and being in a healthy, committed relationship are mutually exclusive, but not only is this patently false, but the insinuation that, um, enjoying oneself fully to X-rated material is a wasteful sin invokes what I submit is a particularly shitty story from the Old Testament.

Our boy Shmuley alternatively refers to masturbation as onanism, a term which recalls the story of Onan from the Book of Genesis. Allow me to set the scene. Onan had an older brother named Er. Er, at some point, took a wife in Tamar. Apparently, though, ol’ Er was a bit of an asshole, which made him ripe for the smiting in the eyes of Old Testament God. So, bye-bye went Er, which left Tamar without a husband to fill her womb with little blessings. OTG, however, had a plan up His almighty sleeve. In Er’s stead, He commanded, speaking through Onan’s father, Judah, to fill in for his fallen sibling. Regardless of whether or not Tamar inspired any sense of carnal lust, Onan understandably felt conflicted by this whole arrangement. His brother just died, and now he’s just supposed to step in and get cracking? From Onan’s perspective, he probably felt like he was betraying his brother’s memory—and from the look of things, the man wasn’t exactly down with O.P.P. Ultimately, OTG commanded, but when it came time for Onan to “go in unto” his brother’s wife, he could just couldn’t bear to fulfill his appointed duty. From the King James Version:

“And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.”

Well, you can’t be fruitful and multiply by spilling it on the ground. Luckily, Old Testament God, the forgiving and all-knowing Creator He is, understood that Onan had been under a lot of stress in his time of grief, and so He gave the seed-spiller a second chance. Kidding! He slew him right then and there. Literally speaking, Onan came and went. So, what’s the moral then? Always f**k your brother’s wife? Don’t f**k with Old Testament God? Either way, I’m not sure how great of a lesson there is to be learned by this example, such that the moralizing of the Pamela Anderson-Shmuley Boteach brain trust falls a little flat in this specific instance.

2. Once again, we’ve crossed the line from the physical to the metaphysical. However much the body may appreciate pornography, the model and rabbi speak to the belief that witnessing videos of gangbangs, public exposure, threesomes, etc. is bad for the soul. Before we conjure up images of hellfire and damnation, let’s just approach this from what supposed effects this “corrosion” has on a man’s life. Because only men watch porn. Whatever. First of all, pornography is cited as a negative influence on a guy’s ability to be a good husband. I suppose this may be true, if he lusts after the women he sees on his screen and neglects his marriage bed, or mowing the lawn, or brushing his teeth, all because he can’t keep his hand out of his pants. By this token, being a father or getting to work on time or whatever priority should take precedence is decidedly more difficult. I’m not going to front like porn can’t get in the way of a person’s ability to function in the real world. In this respect, however, we might say it is no different from, for instance, gambling, and with that, far less expensive. At least if you keep to the free sites.

3. We’re already engaging in a dangerous apples-to-oranges sort of comparison when we speak of marijuana next to other substances like cocaine or heroin, because weed, while not a benign drug, does not belong in the same class as the other two, and I would argue it doesn’t nearly as much damage to lives and homes than alcohol and tobacco do. Accordingly, however appropriate or inappropriate the parallel between porn and marijuana is, there are any number of sources of addiction in our world. Some people have a problem with food. Others play too many video games or spend too much time online or on their phones. Even Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Fort Minor fame has had to cope with his unshakable “friction addiction.” Painkillers. Sex itself. Addiction is a many-headed monster, and porn addiction is just one of its faces. I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of such an addiction as much as put it in a larger context.

4. “Crack babies of porn”? Shmuley and Pam are seemingly going for some shock value with this statement. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not they are appealing too strongly to a sense of moral outrage, but again seeking to put things in their proper perspective, I don’t think porn is the sole source of questionable messages to young men and women, especially on the subject of sex. Advertising, for example, when not engaging in a rational attempt to convince us to purchase a product, preys on our appetites, and this includes sexual imagery, such as in TV spots for Carl’s Jr. and Hardees where skinny, attractive females take a bite out of an oversized burger. Obviously, I’m not saying that today’s adult entertainment is a paragon of virtue in this regard, but to point the finger at pornography when today’s teens and young adults are bombarded with messages about their appearance and their sexuality seems a bit disingenuous.

5. In principle, I agree with the idea that a shift toward eroticism and sensuality in pornographic media in the near future would be beneficial for its consumers. The only part this final blurb has me pondering is this vague comment about gender rights and freedoms being established, as if progress still doesn’t need to be made for groups divided along demographic lines. Maybe I’m thinking beyond the scope of Pamuley’s analysis here, but to the women in America fighting for equal pay, to the people of color demanding they receive equal consideration under the country’s criminal justice system, and to the LGBT community looking for its place in American society, we still have a long road ahead of ourselves on the path to making the United States inclusive for all people. Representations of Asian, black, female, gay, Latino, lesbian, and trans sexuality are but a part of this struggle, but an important part nonetheless.

James Deen, you are no James Dean. (Photo Credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

If my rebuttals to Pamela Anderson and Shmuley Boteach’s philosophical waxing make it seem as if I’m all in on jerking off to today’s porn, let it be known I have my reservations to this end. For the lonely bachelor or bachelorette, I sort of feel like pornography lends itself to excitement followed by an inevitable letdown. After all, as the joke goes, with masturbation, you’re only truly screwing yourself. Still, for all the, ahem, amateur research I’ve done on the subject (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry—so, so sorry), I find a lot of the material on popular porn sites objectionable. Not objectionable enough not to frequent them, of course, but still displeasing. Some of my frustrations with this method of temporarily relieving one’s sexual frustration, in no particular order:

1. Same old scenarios: It’s the year 2016, soon to be 2017, but we haven’t really advanced in terms of storytelling in porn. Maybe this much is understandable, for much of Hollywood’s output lately is arguably uninspired, and worse yet, the films made by major studios feature people who can actually act, dance, direct, produce, sing and write. The talent bar for the adult entertainment industry is set even lower, however, with the apparent presumption these “actresses” and “actors” are getting paid to have sex on camera because they can’t do anything else—or else they would. This seeming condescension aside, I tend to feel like we can do a better job of setting the scene in today’s X-rated fare—even if the end result is two or more people wantonly boning. The majority of sexual encounters depicted in these fictional scenarios are likely to fall within one of these categories:

  • Step-parent/step-child or step-sibling/step-sibling
  • Teacher/student or tutor/pupil
  • Doctor or nurse/patient
  • Boss/employee
  • Talent agent/potential client

I’m sure I’m forgetting some popular genres, too, but regardless, these role play situations have pretty much been driven into the ground. Even when some studio or some brand tries to put a fresh “spin” on the tried-and-tested formula, the same boring essence is preserved. For instance, there seems to be a rash of sites devoted to hidden camera “reality” porn starring “amateurs” (despite it not being that well concealed that the same actors and actresses are appearing in umpteen number of videos), as well as point-of-view (POV) sex that, I suppose, is supposed to make the viewer feel as if he or she is a participant. Concerning the second count, though, and maybe this is just me, but I find it hard to imagine I’d be having sex with a woman who looks like one of the top porn stars in the business—at least not without money changing hands, or her husband ready to walk in the house any second and threaten to kill me. I mean, I know it’s a fantasy and all, but even these have their limits.

2. Unrealistic female body types: I know, I know—it’s fantasy, it’s escapism. This notwithstanding, I don’t understand why certain looks and body types prevail among the upper echelons of adult entertainment. While I truly believe that porn has something for everyone—chicks with dicks, midgets, tentacle rape, urination, I could go on—a number of the divas, if you will, of the XXX world conform to one of two ideals: 1) the skinny, petite, almost pre-pubescent-looking young lady, or 2) the artificially busty “mature” woman with inflated lips to match and the high likelihood of being cast as the best friend’s hot mom or the sexy librarian. Again, maybe I’m the outlier here, but on the first count, I don’t know what’s incredibly sexy about a rail-thin girl who looks like she should still be in high school, and who has absolutely no hair, you know, down there. Meanwhile, on the second count, when a woman’s chest and other features are so obviously fake and disproportionate to the rest of her figure, it’s just a turn-off. Isn’t the real thing better? Or does size count for everything? (Ladies, wait your turn, we’ll get to that in just a bit.) Anyone?

3. The male-female attractiveness disparity: To be a successful female porn star, not only do you have to be attractive to a large swath of adoring, horny fans—men and women alike—but you have to keep yourself in good shape, and if you’re going to distinguish yourself from the other female adult entertainers in the business, you’re either going to have cultivate or possess some acting chops, or else be adventurous enough sexually that you are recognized as one of the craziest sex fiends on the market. To be a male porn star, meanwhile? Uh, you pretty much just have to have a big cock. You don’t need personality. You frankly don’t even have to be that good-looking. Yup, if you’re a man working in porn, a plus-sized wang is essentially your only qualification. As a heterosexual man confident in his sexuality, I’ll concede some male porn stars are handsome fellows. By and large, though, despite the porn industry being a woman-dominated area, much more is demanded of them than it is of their well-endowed male co-stars. Porn isn’t the only business to fall prey to this inequality of attractiveness between men and women; I personally have lost count of how many instances of “Hot Wife, Average Guy” I have seen in commercials during televised sports games. Still, there are plenty of women who watch porn, and I submit they deserve better than a few good men here and there. In other words, pornography for the female viewer should be more than a bag of 10-inch dicks.

4. Stupid porn names: Enough with the names ending in XX or XXX. No one expects you to use your real name, but this trope of the adult entertainment industry is overused and dumb. Ditto for people naming themselves after popular Hollywood stars of yesteryear. (Looking at you, James Deen.) To stress, it’s OK that you adopt a “porn name,” but at least make it seem plausible. Or at the very least, reference an awesome franchise we watched as kids.

5. The normalization of female subjugation and the promiscuity double standard: I get that for some, perhaps many, rough sex and other elements in the BDSM purview are a turn-on. Nevertheless, there are a surprising number of sites and sub-sites devoted to “hard” or “brutal” sex which appear among the top-viewed or featured videos on popular porn services on the web, and the scenarios which are concocted to justify these kinds of kinky intercourse seem to be unduly harsh on the female characters/actresses, not so much in the obvious physical sense as much as the emotional/psychological sense. The female participant, who in some cases is forced to engage short of rape, becomes a “dirty little slut” or “bitch” or “whore” who “really wants it,” with copious slapping of the face and elsewhere on her person as part of the humiliation.

Even when rough sex isn’t the assumed end result, a significant portion of the scenarios that rate among the most popular or proudly feature involve some sort of deception or manipulation of the woman-object. Give me a blow job or I’m telling our stepmother. Show me your tits and I’ll let you ride in my taxi for free. You’re a student and could really use the money—how about I f**k you while my friends watch and this random-ass dude films it? All too frequently, these desperate women are blackmailed, convinced by way of some sort of quid pro quo, or tricked into having sex with some person they don’t know, and presumably, because they allow themselves to be coerced or conned, they deserve their fate. These dumb ho’s—they’ll do anything for a dollar, especially when they see our painfully large schlongs! Those males abusing their position of power or supposedly knowing better than their targets—they’re never wrong. They’re not the whores. Boys will be boys. Life isn’t fair. F**k or be f**ked.

Even when porn sites go for a more “passionate” or “sensual” vibe to the coital exploits within, I usually find the presentation vaguely depressing. Imaginably to appeal to the intended female audience, the setting is frequently an aspirational one as far as most viewers are concerned. Nice house, fine linens, no children anywhere to be found, presumably because they are being watched by the nanny. To be fair, I suppose making love in a back alley wouldn’t be quite as attractive to the consumer/masturbator, but I can’t help but think I’m the only one who doesn’t get a little disheartened at seeing rich white people screw in a place I couldn’t conceivably afford—and I’m white. Think about how people of color, often relegated to sites uniformly calling them “exotic,” feel not seeing themselves represented thusly, or if they are, they are often the maid, or some basketball player with whom the woman secretly cheats on her husband, or some subservient practitioner of Eastern culture who meekly submits to the fetishistic desires of the domineering white man employing her. As with more mainstream forms of entertainment in television and movies, the tendency is to think in terms of stereotypes, perhaps even more so since the standards for writing these adult scenarios are lower in the porn industry, and either way, the push for diversity is weak at best.

To make matters worse, rather than labeling this material “erotic” or “romantic,” sites like Pornhub will bill it as “for women” or “female-friendly,” creating what I argue is a self-fulfilling prophecy about men and women having very different views on sex, if not irreconcilable differences on the subject. Men are all dogs who want it any way they can get it. Women are frigid creatures who generally don’t enjoy sex and must be prodded into “giving it up.” These are antiquated views on the subject of knocking boots, and yet I feel there is not enough emphasis on changing attitudes toward sex and gender roles. Though I wouldn’t say I love these passion-oriented formats in light of the aforementioned concerns, I certainly would rather watch them than ones in which the guy is choking and manhandling the girl, or another of umpteen terrible parodies of popular shows and films (is anyone really asking for a XXX American Dad movie?).

In conclusion, and bringing us back to Pam Anderson and Shmuley’s treatise on porn, I concede there are a number of things wrong with today’s pornography, including the major points already discussed, as well as—and you’ll probably scoff at what I’m saying—but not using condoms when the context warrants. If it’s the yuppie husband and wife banging in the kitchen with the stainless steel appliances and the convection stove top, sure, they’re married and hopefully not cheating on one another—though this is porn, after all, and anything is liable to happen. If it’s two people who met five minutes ago in a bathroom stall, um, maybe they should wrap it up. Impressionable minds do watch this stuff, y’know. But yes, even with its faults, I think to make a blanket statement such as “porn is for losers” unfairly demeans both the user and the industry. For starters, for any number of single people, watching adult entertainment and pleasuring themselves is their only outlet for their sexual energy. Not only that, but studies show it may be healthy for you, too, and may help you avoid certain conditions and diseases. Furthermore, there’s no demonstrative link between porn viewership and the degradation of one’s mortal soul. If gamers can play Call of Duty and not shoot up an entire building, I’m convinced men can watch XXX videos and still be a functioning member of society. I’m not saying these media can’t be bad influences, but it’s not a fait accompli, and regardless, doesn’t absolve the perpetrator of blame.

In short, I would rather young men watch porn and risk corruption, than bottle up their sexual frustration and have no idea where or what the clitoris is, let alone how they might otherwise please a flesh-and-blood female if given the chance. Today’s porn is in need of improvement, no doubt, and while I broadly support the notion of a “sensual revolution,” I think we need to move toward a more accepting and honest conversation in this country about sex in its various forms before we can truly make any progress in this regard. As rock band Garbage would have it, “sex is not the enemy,” and for that matter, neither is porn.

Less Sex for Millennials? (Tell Me About It!)

Millennials are apparently having less sex than their counterparts did from previous generations. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

As written about in a piece by Susan Scutti for CNN, citing research by the academic journal Archives of Sexual Behavior (ahem, totally academic, yes), the twenty-somethings of today are having less sex than their Gen-X counterparts.

Tell me about it, sister. Of respondents in the most recent iteration of the study, 15% said they had no sexual partners before the age of 18, while only 6% of respondents from the previous generation claimed the same. As someone who currently lives at home and drives—because it was the only family car left over—a 1999 Toyota Sienna that plays cassette tapes, the last model of its kind, um, I know what’s it like to not get laid. For people my age and younger taking this survey, though, who actually make good money, don’t live at home and don’t drive a 17-year-old car which repels women, what gives? I mean, are there those of you who are actively refusing sex? The f**k?!? Shit, I’ll take some of what you don’t want!

My sordid sexual history aside, the researchers and other experts cited within Scutti’s article hypothesize as to the reasons why young folks today are less likely to want to zoom-a-zoom-zoom in each others’ boom-booms. Some of the possible justifications discussed within:

1. Too busy for sex

This sounds, frankly, kind of stupid, at first blush, but there might be something to this. If you’re working two or more jobs trying to meet current expenses on top of whatever existing obligations you may possess (like, uh, credit card debt and student loans, maybe?), there might be simply not enough time in the day for a little hey-hey on the side. Either that, or the spirit may be willing but the flesh may be weak; that is, you may seek to screw but stumble upon sleep instead. There are those older adults out there who tend to believe millennials have it easy, but speaking on behalf of my generation, while things could be worse, they still could be better for a lot of us. Economists may talk of an end to the Great Recession, but with unemployment in the United States still higher than it could or perhaps should be, and a potential major Social Security shortfall looming in the decades to come, it’s not exactly a romp through the rose garden for younger Americans.

2. Technology getting in the way?

Jean Twenge, lead researcher and author of a book on the millennial generation, is quoted within Susan Scutti’s piece about the role technology may play in interfering with their sexual activity—or lack thereof. From the article:

“There’s the possibility that technology has something to do with this,” Twenge said. If you’re spending more time texting with your friends and less time in person, she explained, you might have fewer opportunities to “hook up.” Or, more simply, since “there are more ways to entertain yourself,” sex is less important, being just one of many possibilities on a growing list.

This explanation, to me, seems a little more suspect. Later on in Scutti’s piece, she cites another expert in sociology professor Martin Monto who suggests that, despite millennials’ reputation for hooking up, they might not be as Netflix-and-chill as some of us might believe. This notwithstanding, I would think with mobile technology and social media what it is, access is not a problem. I mean, have Twenge and other researchers never heard of Tinder? On a personal note, I text. I play Angry Birds. But—and maybe I’m the outlier here—that wouldn’t interfere with me “hooking up.” As much as I get a kick out of Pokémon Go, I’m forsaking Pikachu for pussy every time—no questions asked.

3. Less pressure

As perhaps indicative of a trend toward reaching milestones later in life, including deciding on a career, getting married and moving out, there is less an of an emphasis on having sex just to have it, and much less on “being fruitful and multiplying,” as the Holy Bible would recommend. As Jean Twenge would insist, despite millennials being within or slightly past their sexual prime, they may not be “emotionally ready” for a durable romantic relationship—as much as they might themselves want it. But the signs point to the notion this is OK. Even when their moms ask if they’ve ever considered using You know, hypothetically. Not speaking from personal experience or anything like that.

4. Safe sex is the best sex?

While there is perhaps not the same level of concern among millennials regarding sexual health and diseases after the worries about HIV/AIDS that predominated for Gen-Xers, Twenge reports that millennials place an importance on safe sex on multiple levels, more so than any other generation. Not only are they concerned with physical safety in sexual situations, but they also highly value “emotional safety.” Jean Twenge highlights, as an example, the use of “trigger warnings” to preemptively alert other online users to the presence of potentially disturbing content. Of course, critics who are either not from this generation or who are not as emotionally “sensitive” as others might label this concern for emotional security as some namby-pamby, touchy-feely crap.

My two cents? 1) These people are probably assholes, and quite possibly Donald Trump supporters, so take their opinions for what they’re worth. 2) Colleges and universities, as well as certain organizations on campuses, may seek to minimize the threats that both women and men face as on-site students, but especially in instances of rape and sexual assault, threats of bodily and psychological harm are very real, and frequently, administrators and police forces alike fail to adequately support those who have been victims of such abuse, either out of concern for the reputation of the accused, the institution, or both. So, scoff if you want, naysayers and frat boys, but this is serious business. I pray for your sake you and your future daughter/son don’t have to experience sexual violence first-hand to appreciate that notion.

In sum, responding to the findings that millennials that are having less sex than previous generations, 1) the idea that people are too busy for romance is not without merit, although one would hope that if people find the right partners, they would make it work, or at least give it the old college try; 2) technology may be a hindrance to authentic connection, though it may be a way to facilitate contact, so this charge may be overblown; 3) younger adults are waiting to have serious relationships and families, which I feel is a good thing if it helps couples avoid messy divorces, and 4) wrap it up, kids, and authority figures, safety in sexual situations is important! So treat it that way!

Generally speaking, I don’t believe certain elements of waiting to have sex and long-term relationships with significant others are necessarily bad things, though those factors that take decision-making out of the hands of couples, namely work-related fatigue, are regrettable. Where there may be room for concern, however, is when people more actively seek durable relationships but fail to make progress in this regard. To be fair, relationships are never easy, despite what online dating sites might suggest in their commercials. Nonetheless, millennials may struggle overall with intimacy—something which may have little to nothing to do with having sex for some. Merav Gur, a NYC-based clinical psychologist, wrote in 2014 about the challenge intimacy presents for many of today’s adult relationship-seekers. Though Gur frames her writing mostly in terms of female hardship with finding happiness as part of a committed relationship, it can be argued that there is application to be had for romance-seekers irrespective of gender. Certainly, a number of possible reasons why Dr. Gur sees patients falter appear to be quite general: histories of being bullied or harassed by peers, inherited patterns of unhealthy relationship behavior from parents, intrusive or judgmental parents, poor relationship advice from friends are who struggling with intimacy in their own right, some form of abuse.

As for Merav Gur’s suggestions for how to address issue of this sort, again, while she dispenses advice in terms of a female audience, there are lessons to be learned for women and men alike: be aware of what kind of partnership you want and what behaviors are and are not acceptable, don’t run from confronting emotional conflicts, don’t ignore your own needs for fear of being “too needy,” don’t try to change your partner into the type of person you want him or her to be, don’t be in a relationship just to avoid being alone, recognize the type of individual you may be attracting across failed relationships, realize the limitations of being a “drama addict.” A number of these points seem to be fairly standard responses to improving one’s overall approach to relationships and interacting with people in daily life. All the same, Dr. Gur’s recommendations are of the self-help variety that benefit those who practice them repeatedly and refocus as needed. Often, the easiest problems to face and fix are those that we suppress or ignore. To be reminded of the goals we have set, even in the form of a daily visual reminder, can make a material difference in accepting and accomplishing them.

Going back to the influences technology may have in impacting people’s sex lives and romantic relationships, Gur does reference how electronic means of communication may interfere with the development of healthier communication and interpersonal conflict resolution skills—the kind of skills best honed with live, face-to-face interaction. If millennials’ time is as at a premium like Susan Scutti and others suggest, this recognizably can be difficult. Otherwise, plotting trends of how much or how little sex twenty-somethings are having should be noted without making judgments using broad ideological strokes, especially as colored by intergenerational differences.

The duo of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince once famously quipped that “parents just don’t understand,” and while the tune is a whimsical one, to a certain extent, they might be right on this topic. As much as millennials may not like to contemplate this idea, their mother and father did, in fact, have sex to bring them into the world. However, this does not mean Mom and Dad know everything there is to know about sex, nor does it necessarily qualify them to ascribe an assessment of their son or daughter’s sexual habits based on their own generational values. Certainly, not having a kid, I may not have a leg on which to stand with my opinion, and furthermore, I may be unable to fully appreciate what it’s like to raise a child, but one of my frustrations with what is evidently the prevailing parental attitude in the United States toward sex is that it is one of doom and gloom. Don’t get pregnant. Don’t get an STD. In fact, don’t have sex before you’re married—even though it’s totally enjoyable and we got married young and probably fooled around before we tied the knot.

While it is a bit of a generalization that Americans are puritanical in their beliefs about sex and Europeans are comparatively wildly permissive of their offspring knocking boots before the age of 18, families across the pond do tend to be better able to have an honest, accepting conversation about sex. Amy Schalet, an associate professor of sociology at UMass-Amherst, for one, in measuring the differences in survey measures between American and Dutch families on the topic of sex, believes those in the States could benefit by having a more candid dialog about acceptance and what can or cannot go on underneath the family roof. In doing so, they would do well to consider that their child’s expression of his or her sexuality isn’t automatically just f**king, but can be accompanied by real feelings, even at a young age. Of course, if your sweetie is becoming the village bicycle, then a different type of conversation might need to transpire, but barring that occurring, it is entirely possible for parents and children to tackle the issue head on in a positive way.

In closing, as a millennial, I would like to speak on behalf of older adults reacting to reports of younger adults having less sex in perhaps the most millennial way I can: chillax. It is what it is. We still want to do, you know, it. We still want to have our own kids—even if we secretly want to strangle other people’s children. We just want to do it on our terms. Call us entitled. Tell us again about how you want to see your grandchildren before you die. But don’t act like you know everything there is know on these matters. I mean, who do you think you are, Google?