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‘Nomance’: Why do Gen Z teens want less sex on screen?


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A recent study conducted by UCLA reveals that individuals between the ages of 13 to 24 are looking for less sex scenes in both television and film. 

The research has discovered that Gen Z show a heightened inclination towards narratives centred around good old-fashioned platonic relationships rather than explicit sexual encounters.  

In fact, over half (51.5%) of the 1,500 participants in UCLA’s “Teens and Screens” survey admitted they’d much rather watch content focused on friendships.

Despite the popularity of sex-filled shows such as HBO’s Euphoria and Netflix’s Sex Education, almost half of respondents (47.5%) believed that most TV shows and movies could do without including sex in their plots, and another 44.3% thought that romance in media was quite overused.

Researchers behind the study have coined this evolving trend as “nomance.”

What are the reasons behind this shift?

Maddie (Jennifer Lawrence) and Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) in Columbia Pictures’ NO HARD FEELINGS.

The research team attributed Generation Z’s preference for chaste entertainment to a desire for more wholesome character relationships, which has intensified following months of isolation during the pandemic. 

“Young people are feeling a lack of close friendships, a separation from their community, and a sense that their digital citizen identity has superseded their sense of belonging in the real world,” explain researchers Stephanie Rivas-Lara and Hiral Kotecha in an essay discussing the survey results.

Ana, a 16-year-old survey respondent, conveyed her feelings, stating, “When there’s media with too much sex, me and my friends often feel uncomfortable.” 

“My friends and I maybe awkwardly bear through it,” said 20-year-old Joseph, another respondent. 

The results of the survey reflect the widespread criticism that HBO’s hotly-debated show, The Idol, received due to its excessive nudity and explicit sexual content. The show faced accusations of portraying themes related to “rape fantasy” and “torture porn.”

Yalda Uhls, the founder of the UCLA Centre for Scholars and Storytellers, commented, “It’s not that young people aren’t interested in TV, movies and other media with sexual content, it’s that they want to see more and different types of relationships.” 

Are Gen Z less horny?

Hunter Schafer as Jules and Zendaya as Rue in HBO’s ‘Euphoria’

The growing “nomance” trend also lines up with past studies showing a decline in sexual activity amongst Gen Z. 

A 2021 study by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that only 30% of teenagers had engaged in sexual activity, a significant decrease from 38% in 2019 and over 50% in preceding decades.

This decline constitutes the largest recorded drop in the history of the survey, which has been conducted biennially since 1990 and involved over 17,000 adolescent students.

The CDC’s Kathleen Ethier said the decline may be a good thing if it reflects more young people making healthy decisions to delay sex and reduce their number of partners.

“But what concerns me is this is potentially a reflection of social isolation,” said Ethier, director of the CDC’s division of adolescent and school health.

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