In the space of little more than a year – it first appeared on Urban Dictionary in April 2015 – the phrase “Netflix and chill” has morphed from an unacknowledged code into something so overused that even your mum knows what it means. If a potential romantic partner invites you to come over and watch something on their laptop, we all understand what they're really asking: if you want to have S-E-X.
But now a Cambridge statistician has torn that theory to shreds – by claiming that streaming services like Netflix are actually causing couples to have less sex than ever before.
In 1990, the average British couple had sex five times a month. Today, they’re doing it just three times a month – a decline of 40 per cent in 20 years.
David Spiegelhalter, the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University, said that Netflix, box-sets and smartphones represent a shift to a culture of “massive connectivity”, where people need never be bored. And apparently, the less bored we are, the less likely we are to try to liven things up the old-fashioned way.
Speaking at the Hay Festival, Professor Speigelhalter said: “How many times have you had sex in the last four weeks? You can start seeing the changes in society. People are having less sex.”
He continued: “You say why? Statisticians say ‘I don’t know’. One of the researchers mentioned the word iPad. I think it’s the box set, Netflix, OMG I’ve got to watch the entire second series of Game of Thrones.
“The point is that this massive connectivity, the constant checking of our phones compared to just a few years ago when TV closed down at 10.30pm or whatever and there was nothing else to do.”
Professor Speigelhalter added that there were often rises in sexual activity during power cuts – supporting his theory that simply not having anything better to do can be a powerful aphrodisiac.
There’s plenty of research to back up the suggestion that technology has a disruptive effect on our sex lives. In 2015, researchers at Durham University found that 40 per cent of couples in England had put off sex to make a phone call, send a text or simply drift around on the internet – with one third of respondents even admitting to answering their phone during sex.
A study of 523 Italian couples, meanwhile, found that couples with a TV set in their bedroom had half as much sex as couples who didn’t. (Although being Italian, even the TV-watching couples were still having more sex than the average pair of Brits.)
And whether your drug of choice is House of Cards or Making a Murderer, we all occasionally succumb to what’s been dubbed “bedtime procrastination”: binge-watching a TV show late into the night. Unsurprisingly, bedtime procrastination leads to less sleep – and a study published in 2015 revealed a strong correlation between a lack of sleep and a lack of sexual arousal in women.
Back at the Hay Festival, Professor Speigelhalter warned that British couples won’t be having sex at all by 2030 if current trends continue. Unlikely, perhaps – but if we don't want the human race to die out, maybe it’s time we started “chilling” without Netflix's help.
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