focuses on relationship harmony between partners. Therefore, current surveys that reveal the growing alienation between lovers hold a lot of interest. Perhaps if lovers are sufficiently dissatisfied, they’ll experiment with another approach to sexual intimacy.

This article appeared on 29 March 2023. GQ surveyed 604 people from a representative range of age, gender, sexualities and backgrounds in Britain to ask how they felt and thought about dating, relationships and sex today. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

We asked men how they feel about dating, sex, and porn in 2023. The answers are not simple

Dating has never been easy; sex has never been simple. Still, right now feels like a particularly tumultuous time when it comes to romance. We’ve had a pandemic that, among other things, was a global mood killer. Before that, the MeToo movement spurred an ongoing confrontation with sexism and misogny at a systemic level and, for many men, an individual reckoning with how they behave towards women. As we’ve spent more time living and working remotely, dating apps and internet pornography have strengthened their grip over our attentions; the former is rewriting the codes of dating etiquette and spilling messily into how we talk to each other, while the latter continues to reshape our expectations of sex and intimacy.

It feels like we’re constantly being told that we’re living in a new age of sexual puritanism and a great sex recession, and yet sex clubs are flourishing and we’re spending £4bn a year on OnlyFans. (So are we horny, or aren’t we?) Meanwhile, birthrates have plummeted, marriage is in decline and, if Twitter is to be believed, dating is dead. Some of this feels like a necessary corrective on the stumbling path to equality and fairness; some of it feels like the dawn of a dystopia. (Not another one!) Put together, it means it can be hard to know what is really going on with sex and love in 2023.

So we thought we’d ask. Earlier this year, GQ surveyed 604 people from a representative range of age, gender, sexualities and backgrounds in Britain to ask about how you feel and think about dating, relationships and sex today. The findings point to men, in particular, being at a crossroads, with increasingly progressive attitudes towards monogamy and parenthood sitting alongside more outdated views and, sometimes, behaviours.

First of all, we asked men how much of a priority sex and relationships are in their lives. Almost half (47%) said they can be happy in a relationship with little to no sex. This bears out in their priorities, too, with men placing spending time with friends & family (35%), working out (25%) and making money (24%) all as more important to them than sex and romance (12%).

This isn’t to say that men aren’t being adventurous. In a sign the post-Covid hedonism many anticipated might be upon us after all, 25% of men claim to have attended a sex party and would do so again. 26% of couples have done so too.

We’re not being honest on dating apps

When it comes to dating, 70% of men admitted they have lied about themselves on dating apps. Of those men, the most common areas in which they’ve misrepresented themselves were in their photos (36%), when describing their age (35%), their career (28%) and their height (27%).

Worse still, 21% of men in monogamous relationships said they were still using dating apps, and the men surveyed were more than three times as likely as women to keep an ex or former love interest’s nudes after a break-up (29% compared to 8%).

Meanwhile, TikTok debates about ‘body count’ – how many previous sexual partners is deemed acceptable in a prospective partner – seems to be playing out in real life, regressive attitudes and all. For many men, body counts count: 61% say it matters to them when choosing a partner (compared to 51% of women).

When is a body count too high? The most popular answer, chosen by 28% of the men who cared at all, was ‘more than ten’. For women, the point where body count became a problem was ‘more than 25’.

Interestingly, Gen Z may be more puritanical on this topic than their elders. Of those GQ surveyed, 71% of 16-24 year olds said that body count mattered to them – higher than for both 25-34 year olds and 35-44 year olds.

We’re living in the age of non-monogamy

Is it possible, or even desirable, to get everything we need from one person? In 2023, it seems the shape of relationships may slowly be being redrawn, from the traditional two to something more bendable.

Much has been written in recent years about the rise of consensual non-monogamy, with increasing numbers of couples looking to renegotiate the terms of sexual exclusivity. The pandemic led many people to reexamine what makes them happy and lean into sexual experimentation, while the steep rise in popularity of kink dating app Feeld suggests a more open-minded approach to sex may be emerging.

In GQ’s survey, nearly half of men (47%) would consider a relationship that isn’t monogamous, and surprising numbers are already: 9% of men said they are in a polyamorous relationship right now, while 12% said they are in a consensually non-monogamous or open relationship.

On the topic of cheating, 60% of men said they have had an affair, compared to only 32% of women. But when asked whether, in 2023, following or interacting with people on social media can constitute cheating, there was greater unanimity – 37% of men and 32% of women agreed it can.

Porn is making us feel worse

The Covid pandemic saw an increase in the use of internet porn, but porn consumption still skews heavily male – our survey results found that nearly three times as many men (61%) watch it regularly than women (22%). For a quarter of men, that means every 2-3 days (compared to 14% who use it every day, and 23% who do so once a week).

Despite how embedded pornography is in their lives, many men reported that porn has a negative impact on their emotional or mental health. Of the men who watch porn, 54% said it makes them feel self-conscious about their sexual performance, more than half (53%) said it makes them feel self-conscious about their bodies and 42% said it left them with feelings of guilt or self-loathing. In addition, 30% said it has left them feeling confused about their sexual preferences. In that sense, porn is becoming like social media: we know it is bad for us, we dislike ourselves for doing it, but we can’t seem to stop.  …

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