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For Gen Z, love is not a priority

Gen Z Series Valentine's edition

For Gen Z, love is not a priority Gen Z Series Valentine's edition

"True Love Will Find You In The End" Daniel Johnston sang in 1984, before Thom York imitated it eleven years later. A phrase as old as time with which all mothers soothed their tearful children after the first disappointment in love. But a few decades after the American singer's song was published, this image of blind hope for the future, especially for the emotional one, has ceased to communicate effectively with a new generation of children. For Gen Z, love is something quite different from the emotion for which rivers of ink have been wasted: it is pragmatic, by no means eternal and far from the glamour of romance. Only one in 10 Gen Z members say they are "committed to being committed" and prefer solitude (or casual relationships) to this somewhat outdated image of life as a couple. And of the 15 people we interviewed for our Gen Z Series Valentine's Edition social experiment, not one could give a definition of the big, abstract word "love": «It's just a feeling, right?».

Economic stability, a successful career and home ownership are the goals of Gen Z before marriage or a committed relationship come into play. Loneliness is a recurring theme related to the particularly delicate stage at which this generation has entered adulthood, marked by the legacy of a global pandemic, the continuing worsening of climate change, and financial and political instability. Many feel that they must first achieve personal stability, spiritually but even more so financially, before including another person in their lives. This does not mean that they show no interest in romance and intimacy. Rather, they are finding new ways to satisfy their wants and needs without upsetting their own order of priorities. A change that has led to the idea of "situationship", a term that describes the grey area between friendship and relationship.

In this view, marriage becomes above all an outdated institution, an «Italian-style bigotry», to quote Mattia, or «something very traditional that does not interest me», says Jordan. While Millennials delayed marriage for practical reasons, such as fear of divorce (many grew up as children of divorce) or simply because they could not afford it, for Gen Z not getting married is an ideological choice, a way of defying the value system that preceded them. The same goes for children. 46% do not want any, while those who stand out among the respondents are those who would rather adopt than bring a new life into the world, or «maybe a dog», comments Alessia, much to the chagrin of her friend Andrea. According to a BBC study, when it comes to love, Gen Z also shows a marked decline in adherence to a binary gender and an increase in 'people willing to explore their sexuality', with around 50% describing themselves as heterosexual, while the remaining 50% describe themselves as 'heteroflexible'. Gen Z is following Millennials' interest in open or polyamorous relationships, so much so that, according to YouGov America, one-third of all Americans surveyed say their ideal relationship would be non-monogamous. This openness to different types of partners and sexual relationships shows that Gen Z is not necessarily looking for the "one and only" soulmate touted in romantic comedies, but rather different people who meet different needs, romantic, sexual or otherwise.

Based on these assumptions, one would expect a thriving sex life among today's youth, facilitated by dating apps and a permissive mentality. Instead, the results show that Generation Z is not having more sex than previous generations, but is living in a "sexual recession". When asked how often they have sex, 40% of Generation Z said they never have sex, while 13% said they do it once or less a year. Only 37% said they have sex once a month or more. This is in stark contrast to the current sexual habits of Millennials, 67% of whom over 30 have sex once a month or more. With these numbers, Generation Z is as sexually active as people aged 75 and older. This paints a sad picture of a generation that is, in words, uninhibited and, in fact, very inhibited. It is difficult to say whether Generation Z is shaping society or whether society is shaping Generation Z. What is certain is that if the way we experience love is the result of the way we live in society, loneliness is unfortunately a more faithful companion than sex, and that yes, soul mates and eternal love are certainly false myths to tell children, but realism is not always the happiest choice.