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  • Robert Farago

Are Gen Z the New Victorians?

Back for the future!

For the last twenty years, Oren Bornstein has been organizing bachelor parties. As the jefe of Connected Montreal, Mr. Bornstein has noticed a change in bachelor bacchanalias.

“They’re focused less on the avant-garde, more on general male bonding experiences.” By “avant-garde,” the pre-wedding planner means sex. Obviously.

While being a wild and crazy guy at bottle service strip clubs is still a thing (as the above image from Connected Montreal’s website proves), Mr B. says it’s no longer the thing.

“The debauchery is toned way down… Bachelors are now opting for white water rafting, axe throwing, group dining and other more ‘civilized’ activities.”

Mr. Bornstein attributes the move away from a stripper-less “guy’s getaway” to one main factor: men are getting married later.

By the time the average U.S. male ties the knot (now in their thirties), public displays of lust are no longer de rigeur. According to, the stripper industry’s revenue has been decreasing by 5.1 per year over the last five years.

Is the trend away from sex and drugs and rock and roll true further down the chronological ladder? Is Gen-Z (late teens to early thirties) rejecting sexual hedonism?

According to a 2021 survey, 30 percent of teens had never had sex (down from 38 percent in 2019). Forty percent of 18 to 30-year-olds in California haven’t had sex in a year.

If we’re seeing a general move away from excess we must be moving towards… what? Something more akin to Victorian values.

Britannia Rules The Waves

The Victorian era ran from 1837 to 1901. Despite the huge number of working prostitutes, it’s come to be known for its emphasis on propriety, modesty and maintaining a respectable reputation.

That’s not the whole story. Hypocrites or not, Victorians put a strong emphasis on morality, family, hard work, thrift, discipline, self-control, education and religion.

You could say these are traditional American values. You could also say America’s moved well away from them in the last few decades.

Sexual self-restraint fell victim to the pill. Families splintered. Easy credit knee-capped thrift.

Discipline and self-control? Dinged by crappy education and an significant rejection of organized religion (only 20 percent of Americans attend church or synagogue every week).

Evidence – however tenuous – that the pendulum is starting to swing in the opposite direction, towards Victorian values.

The Life I Lead

It must be said that Britain’s Victorian values existed within a rigid class system – antithetical to American's’ faith in free choice, equality of opportunity and “rugged individuality.”

Victorians also put enormous emphasis on respect for authority. That’s a bone of contention in The Land of the Free. Since the ‘60’s, Americans have learned not to trust, well, anyone. Not the media, big business, the government or organized religion.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that overarching institutional failure would lead to disorder, chaos and moral disintegration. In short, a ghastly mess. And you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s what we’ve experienced in the last five decades.

And now? A data point…

Social Media Posting Has Run Out of Gas

Until recently, hundreds of millions of Americans felt obliged to market themselves online via social media (e.g., Instagram). They posted billions of images of beauty, happiness and success/excess. Leading to depression, eating disorders, existential angst and suicide.

According to a Morning Consult report in October 2023, 61 percent of adults with social media accounts are becoming more selective about what they share. Gen Z has moved to more exclusive, personal and supportive group messaging apps.

If I’m right, if Americans are turning their backs on the let-it-all-hang-out, party-’til-you-drop, shag-yourself-silly, buy-everything-on-credit, judge-your-worth-by-your-financial-status lifestyle, the big question is “why?”

The cratering economy? An alarming drop in testosterone levels? The failure of dating apps and the rise of the hyper-critical woke movement? All of the above?

Don’t discount the rise of the internet.

Back in the day, the media was monolithic. America was a mass society. A teenager was a teenager, no matter where they lived. Same for factory workers, executives and housewives. They talked alike, dressed alike and thought alike.

The internet has delivered unto us infinitely more choice in everything. Today’s young Americans are tribal. Thousands of tribes, related to dress, food, politics, sex, music, movies, religion and more.

Take a look at the stupefying selection at your local gas station’s drinks cabinet. And then think about all the internet-enabled information and “lifestyle” options.

Overchoice vs. Overindulgence

All this variety forces people to choose what they do.

They’re beginning to realize choices have consequences; certain choices are better than others. Specifically, they’re discovering that unbridled, amoral consumption – of one sort or another – is unfulfilling.

I may be wrong. When the American economy recovers, we may experience a replay of the last century’s Roaring Twenties.

Big business certainly hopes so. I don’t. I’m glad we’re seeing a trend towards a more restrained and AI-educated society.

When bachelor parties forgo tits and ass to bond with each other in a quieter, gentler environment, something profound is happening. Watch this space.

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