Decoding Gen Z
A lot of tea has been spilled over Generation Z (or Gen Z), the post-millennial generation born between the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s is a generation of contradictions. And when it comes to sex, the contradictions are out of pocket. Interestingly, Gen Z’s been called puriteens and sex negative, but also sex positive and the kinkiest generation yet. It’s been suggested that they're gettin' busy less often than their millennial counterparts, while simultaneously being heralded as the most sexually progressive generation to ever exist.
In 2022 alone, more than 1.8 million Gen Z (of which more than 38,000 were from Australia) joined married dating site Ashley Madison, representing 40% of all signups – even though the large majority of them have never been married. So, to better understand this fascinating cohort, Ashley Madison surveyed both Gen Z (defined here as 18 – 29 year olds) at the general population level in 10 countries via YouGov, as well as our Gen Z members on their attitudes toward privacy, discretion, and non-monogamy — and their answers may hit different.
Gen Z, sex, and a new set of rules
Gen Z is more comfortable with non-monogamy than previous generations, with more than one third of Australian Gen Zs from the YouGov survey willing to consider a non-monogamous relationship (38%). Fifty-nine percent of Gen Z members said they wanted either an open relationship or polyamorous dating, attributing to them many benefits. Because of this, adultery and infidelity are less prevalent, which means fewer cheating husbands, cheating housewives, and sexless marriages.
Rewriting relationships: Keeping things discreet… unless they aren’t.
For a generation accused of excessive oversharing, it may be surprising to learn that the majority of Ashley Madison members surveyed don’t feel the need to publicize their romantic relationships when adult dating. Of those choosing to make their relationships official online, the majority of Ashley Madison members prefer to ‘soft launch’ – that is to slowly hint at the new relationship by teasing out social media posts over a period of weeks or even months without actually revealing their partner's identity or confirming the relationship itself – while 19% prefer a ‘hard launch’ approach – that is to make a timely and dedicated social media post announcing the relationship once it's become official without any prior social media content leading up to it.
As for what’s driving the decision to socialize their new relationships, 61% of Ashley Madison members said that they do so to help their partner feel more secure in their commitment to them. And unanimity across all members of Ashley Madison is that sex life is the topic that requires the most discretion, followed by salary, romantic relationships, and family life.
A generation of sexually adventurous females
The member survey further illustrated that albeit a minority, female members tend to be more sexually adventurous than men, despite also needing more than one person emotionally. Female members are three times more likely than male members to have hooked up with one or multiple people of the same sex (15% vs 5%), four times more likely to have had one or multiple same-sex relationships via Ashley Madison (8% vs 2%), and twice as likely to have had threesomes/group sex with people of various genders/identities (7% vs 3%).
Gen Z around the world
Gen Z (defined here as 18 – 29 year olds) Brazilians and Mexicans interviewed in the YouGov survey lead the charge in terms of willingness to consider a non-monogamous relationship, which could include polyamory relationships, open marriages or married dating. Australia ranks in the lower half just behind New Zealand with 38%. Placing last is the United Kingdom, where only 26% of Gen Z would consider an open relationship.
When it comes to their sex lives, two-thirds (66%) of Australian Gen Zs indicated that it was a topic that warranted discretion/privacy, compared to 74% of British Gen Zs and 68% of New Zealand Gen Zs. Further, the majority of Ashley Madison members don’t feel it necessary to make their relationships public (62%). Interestingly though, 35% of members want to publicize their relationships, further reinforcing the notion of contradiction.
While the many contradictions may seem confusing, they’re an output of the turbulent, rapidly changing environment Gen Z is currently experiencing. They have a sense of who they’d like to be, but they just aren’t there yet. Because of this, Gen Z occupies a space where two opposing ideas can both be true – and the truth is full of contradictions.
- Based on the number of global signups to Ashley Madison from January 1 to December 31, 2022.
- Survey of 2,118 Ashley Madison Members from July 8 – 12, 2021.
- Survey of 663 Ashley Madison Gen Z Members (respondents ages 18 – 29), April 4 – July 6, 2023.
- Survey conducted by YouGov of 17,096 adults in ten countries, among whom 3,393 were aged 18-29; sample sizes for Australia were 2,184 and 345, respectively. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th – 25th July 2023. The survey was carried out online.