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Crush, “sexfriend”, “sex plan”… How people under 30 are reinventing intimate relationships

Crush, “sexfriend”, “sex plan”… How people under 30 are reinventing intimate relationships
Crush, “sexfriend”, “sex plan”… How people under 30 are reinventing intimate relationships

This unprecedented study, conducted by INED on 10,000 people aged between 18 and 29, highlights the diversity of romantic and intimate relationships among young generations.

The younger generation was presented as disillusioned with the couple, having given up on sex despite heavy use of dating apps. In reality it is nothing of the sort.

This is what a study by INED (National Institute of Demographic Studies) shows on Wednesday 19 June, entitled “Couples, one-night stands, sexual friends: diversity of intimate relationships among the under 30s”. This is the first study taken from the “Envie” survey, conducted in 2023 on 10,000 young people aged 18 to 29.

“Although it has been said that this generation has little interest in sexuality, it appears that four out of five have had an intimate relationship in the previous year,” Marie Bergström, scientific director of the Envie survey.

No “sexless” generation.

First lesson from the INED study: young people do not give up married life and romantic relationships. Thus, 79% of young adults surveyed say they have experienced at least one form of intimate or romantic relationship in the past twelve months. They can be “classic” couple relationships, one-night stands or “continued relationships”, in all their plurality: “sexfriend”, “sex plan”, “friendship with a plus”, “flirt”, “adventure”.. 19 The percentage of them have even experienced all three types of relationships, although the majority (60%) have experienced only one, that is, one or more couples, one or more one-night stands or one or more ongoing relationships. . . Finally, 21% of young adults have not experienced any of these relationships during 2023. This is more often the case for men (24%) and especially non-binary people (38%) than women (17%).

The couple remains the norm

Even if those under 30 are open to other, more vague forms of relationships, the study shows that the majority of them still remain tied to the “traditional” couple: two thirds declare having had a relationship in the last year, if this relationship is finished or not.

But, unlike older people, few young people live with their partner (less than a third of those interviewed), only 9% have a civil union and 7% are married. Which doesn’t stop them from declaring themselves “very” in love with their partner (77%). 17% say they are “somewhat” in love and only 6% say they are “not at all” or “not at all” in love.

“This relational diversity opposes conventional discourses, both those that predict the death of the couple and those that announce a “no sex” generation that has become prudish or cautious,” the researchers of the study analyze. Contemporary youth is, on the contrary, an intense relational moment. The couple occupies a central place but coexists with stories and ephemeral relationships that blur the boundaries between friendship and sexuality. »

Ephemeral and untethered adventures

Another lesson to learn from the study’s findings: One-night stands, or a few days’ worth, are taking an increasingly important place in the intimate lives of 18- to 29-year-olds. 21% of them say they have experienced it in the last twelve months. This is especially true for people who have experienced a breakup during the year.


Those interested may have also experienced more short stories: two (21%), three to five (27%) or six or more (20%), compared to 32% who experienced only one.

A relative place of apps in meeting sharing

Although dating apps are now part of the daily lives of young adults, they are not yet the primary place where couples form. According to the study's findings, relationships started via apps remain mostly fleeting: 21% of young adults who had a one-night stand in the last twelve months met their partner via a dating app. The proportion is half that of people in couples (cohabiting or not), among whom only 11% knew their partner in this way. The relationships monitored fall somewhere in between: 16% of respondents have met their “sex buddy,” their “regular sex date” or another such partner through an application.

In fact, it's quite Ireland (in real life, “in real life” in English) that relationships arise, ephemeral or otherwise. Therefore, places of study and work remain an important meeting space, especially for couples (34%). Places such as bars, discos, concerts and festivals are also conducive places for meetings, as are, to a lesser extent, the street, shops and other public spaces. This is especially true in the case of one-night stands. To these meeting contexts are added other more minority ones such as evenings with friends, social networks or online games, at home (at home, at a friend's house or at a partner's house) or with the family. These other contexts never exceed 10% but demonstrate the diversity of ways of meeting young adults.

Contrasting experiences by gender, age and social category

Final lesson of the INED study: there are large disparities in situations among the people interviewed. Therefore, more women than men and non-binary people report having been in a relationship. Men are more likely to talk about “sexual plans” than women, while women are more likely than men to describe these relationships as “friendship with an advantage.” Non-binary people are those who most often report ongoing relationships: the questioning of gender seems to be accompanied by that of marital and sexual norms.


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Source: Madmoizelle

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