Millennials may be tagged as the hookup generation, but a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests the label is misleading. An analysis of 40 years of sexual data from more than 33,000 Americans projects that millennials—those born between 1982 and 1999—will have sex with about eight different partners in their lifetime, behind Gen Xers with 10, and baby boomers with 12, reports Mashable. "The big conclusion: Even though millennials are more the most sexually tolerant generation, the number of people they have sex with does not match a free love mentality—at least in the most black-and-white view," writes Emily Shire at the Daily Beast. It's not clear, however, whether millennials are having less sex overall than previous generations or just having sex with fewer partners. Think of it as the "friends-with-benefits" wrinkle.
After all, the study shows that they're more likely to have had "casual sex" (38%) than earlier generations (25%), leading a co-author to suggest the need for more research into the dynamic: "Is it an ongoing sexual relationship with a non-romantic partner versus going to a bar and picking someone up? We need a more fine-grain distinction." One theory being floated for the lower partner figure among millennials: Thanks to sex ed and the Internet, they're generally more aware of the dangers of STIs than previous generations, reports the Washington Post. They've also had doting, "helicopter" parents: "Maybe that is coming into play with millennials—they're more cautious," says Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. (In other sex news, a chlamydia outbreak has stunned a Texas high school.)