Gen Z on Dating & Sexual Wellness: How They Differ & How to Reach Them

Gen Z approach sex and dating differently to Millenials. So how do you advertise to them? We’ve got tips for brands talking about Gen Z and dating on TikTok.
Fanbytes | Gen Z and dating

In 30 seconds:

  • Gen Z don’t just top the charts for being the highest consumers and most digitally savvy generation – they’re also leading the pack when it comes to sex and dating.
  • It might not be in the way you think, though. Studies show Gen Z talk about sex the most openly – but they’re having less with each other. And dating less, too.
  • For dating and sexual wellness brands, targetting Gen Z is therefore harder than it might seem. We have the lowdown on how best to reach this modern generation.

You might have heard a few young people making the claim, but is dating harder for Gen Z

While this younger generation did have Coronavirus lockdowns to contend with, they’ve also got a world of dating apps available at the touch of a finger to help them meet new people. Virtual dating platforms like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge are so popular they have introduced a whole new language: Generation Z are well-versed in what it means to super-like someone, to swipe right (or left!), to nail your bios, or be ghosted, or catfished, and they know that “sending a rose” doesn’t always require going to your local florist. 

This culture of online dating has created a boom in couples whose first meeting was through a screen. Or rather – it had

Do Gen Z use dating apps? Not as many – or as successfully – as you’d expect from the group dubbed ‘digital natives’. While a quarter of Millennials in committed relationships have apps to thank – only 16% of Gen Z can say the same. 

But what’s causing the dip? 

Well, while 53% of Gen Zers said that the pandemic had negatively impacted their dating life, it’s also true that a more general shift in attitudes towards sex, hookup culture and dating could be behind this generation’s growing singledom. 

And those attitudes impact the way they engage with content and products to do with dating, sex and relationships as a whole. 

Gen Z and dating

When talking about Gen Z and dating, most studies focus on the falling rate of marriages as proof of their claims that Gen Z are the most “narcissistic generation”. 

That is to say, they suggest that it’s an aversion commitment that lies at the centre of Gen Z’s changing attitudes towards dating. 

But we’d argue differently. 

It’s true that attitudes towards long-term relationships are changing, but Gen Zers’ focus on themselves isn’t born of narcissism, but rather a healthy interest in self care, encouraged by the range of information available at their fingertips. 

A global Vice Media Group study showed that, of the 75% of Gen Z singles who weren’t actively searching for a relationship, many stated that the reason was because they wanted to take time to get to know themselves better, first. 

This self-aware approach to sex and dating prioritises quality over quantity – and relationships are only one way this self-exploration is manifesting. 

Generation Z are also the most queer generation in history. One Gallup poll found that a record 15% of Gen Zers identified as LGBTQ+, and they’re much more likely to consider their gender and sexual identity to be fluid – 36% expect their identity to change over time. 

What are Generation Z’s dating habits?

Here’s our cheat sheet for navigating the growing divide between the world of Gen Z dating, and that of older generations. 

Gen Zers are… 

These habits and trends signal a wider culture around dating and sex that really sets
Gen Z apart from Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. Understanding that puzzle is crucial for brands who want to engage with this younger generation without alienating their experiences. 

Gen Z on Sexual Wellness

You’ve heard the saying: sex sells. 

For years that method of thinking has been criticised as being outdated and untrue, but research has found that that’s not the case with Gen Z

Gen Z’s approach to sex is multifaceted; while some studies have found that they’re having less casual sex than the older generation of Millenials who came before them (causing some to call out a “sex recession”), Gen Z are by no means sexually repressed: in fact, they’re much more open about the sexual activity they do engage in. 

They’re more educated, too. 

Growing numbers of Gen Z women and members of the LGBTQ community are looking to social media to inform them about sex and dating, and you can expect to find queer influencers, discussions about consent, and TikTok gynecologists on many young people’s feeds. 

This progressive approach makes Gen Z a huge growth opportunity for dating and sexual wellness brands – one Mintel study found that Gen Z women massively overindex in use of sexual enhancement products, for example. 

Dr Twenge, a researcher from San Diego State university, found that the fact Gen Z college students delaying sexual activity was just one of many postponed milestones, just like Gen Z’s tendency to take longer before driving, working a full-time job, or living alone. 

Twenge’s study produced data which shows that people now in their early 20s are 2.5 times more likely than Gen X at that age to be abstinent – but that does not mean they’re not talking about sex or dating, or interested in it. 

In fact, that interest is something brands can leverage, if they know how. 

How brands can use Gen Z dating trends to attract new audiences

Since Gen Z are so open about their sex and dating lives, knowing where to jump in can seem daunting for brands. But these three tips will help you hit the right notes with this progressive generation:

1. Follow the conversations

When it comes to entertaining or educational content, TikTok is the place to be. This video-first platform is Gen Z’s favourite social media app, with nearly half of them now scrolling through their For You Pages daily.  

That means that for brands who are looking to engage with Gen Z, TikTok is the best platform for sharing engaging, educational content that really lands amongst your target audiences. 

And the conversations are already happening. On TikTok, hashtags like #dating, #relationship and #girlfriend have over 30 billion, 90 billion and 50 billion views respectively. That’s a lot of potential eyes on your branded content. 

In practice

Fanbytes worked with sexual wellness brand LELO on a TikTok campaign to boost brand awareness and sentiment online around their luxury sex toys. They wanted to “focus on normalising talking about sex, masturbation and pleasure”, as well as “educating and allowing people to explore their sexuality”. 

Using our Bytesights tool, which helps to identify trending hashtags in every content niche so TikTok campaign content can be tailored to hit the specific communities your brand is targeting, we found that the hashtag #girltalk was growing in popularity, which meant the tailored content posted there was guaranteed to trend. 

We leveraged this hashtag at the right time, so that the campaign would benefit from engaged eyeballs while it was still growing, rather than get lost in the noise. We created content that captured what fans liked most about videos in this niche, and turned it into creative ways to market LELO’s products.

The resulting TikTok campaign achieved 13,000 clicks and a 65% engagement rate – 10% higher than the industry standard. 

2. Navigate the hurdles

Of course, even when updates are positive and educational, users can often find themselves on the wrong side of TikTok’s Community Guidelines, which bans and removes mentions of sexual organs and sex acts, amongst many other subjects – and no one wants to see their posts disappearing. 

It raises the challenge: how can you talk about products like sex toys on TikTok, or have conversations about safe sex, when doing so can get your content flagged? 

Here’s where being a part of the communities you’re seeking to market to is so helpful. As well as establishing your brand as a trusted voice in these active spaces, it can also mean you’re up-to-date on the language being used to have these conversations in the first place. 

You might find TikTok videos talking about “doing the deed”, or see TikTok creators employing a strategic wink or misspelt hashtag to get around the censors. 

It’s not something brands should allow to dissuade them. Yes, the guidelines provide another hurdle to navigate, but the “under the radar”, rule-breaking feel to these posts is likely to actually entice Gen Z users – a quarter of whom stated they’d be more likely to use TikTok in the event it was banned. 

In practice

Speaking at our Fanbytes Live event, LELO paid content strategist Valentia Holjevac described the challenges of navigating the TikTok platform. 

In an initial campaign, she spoke about how “some of our creators couldn’t even upload their videos” for fear of getting banned. From there, working with Fanbytes, the brand changed tactics. 

“We decided not to show the toys,” Holjevac said, and instead they “had to heavily use euphemisms.” 

“It’s fascinating because you’re marketing a product that you can’t even show.” 

Fanbytes Campaign Manager Sonia Gordhandas explains, “The answer for this campaign lay in creatively tapping into the entertainment nature of TikTok and leveraging the idea of intrigue to create noise. Comedy skits that perfectly hit the mark, content created by couples and lifestyle wellness educators allowed us to appeal to a broad audience.”

The TikTok campaign achieved a huge 1.8 million views, and over 52,000 clicks to the LELO website. Proof that Gen Z are still very interested in what they can’t see. 

Sonia says, “It shows just how curious Gen-Z are about sexual wellness and pleasure. Rather than being a limitation, this campaign showed how LELO could be there for them every step of the way as they discover and explore their sexual identity.”

You can learn more insights from LELO in our free guide takeaways from the Fanbytes event

3. Keep updates positive

Gen Z are not ashamed of their dating and sex lives. Nor should they be! Their candid approach can be shocking to some brands used to more subtle marketing strategies, but their ability to be brutally honest and totally open is key to establishing the positive conversations around these topics. 

In practice

Embracing this guilt-free, shameless attitude towards dating and sex will create a positive culture both on- and offline, and it will show Gen Z audiences that your brand aligns with their modern, pragmatic outlook on love of all kinds. Check out the examples below of TikTokers who are growing a great following through positive, educational content.

Sexual wellness educator Bridgette Ann (@positivitywithb) is a great example of a TikTok influencer using her platform to share matter-of-fact content around sex.

Dating coach Alexis Germany (@thealexisgermany) is a great source of Gen Z dating tips of all descriptions, including light-hearted dating app profile reviews, like this one.

Gen Z uses TikTok to research specific topics that are important to them, meaning they use the app more like Google than a pure social network. This explains why Fanbytes are seeing a considerable increase in self-selecting audiences: TikTokers use the app to seek advice for their particular experience. In dating, this can look like attachment types. Alina Lepak (@youtheceo) is a great example of an influencer creating perfect content for this. 

Romancing Gen Z: a summary

The Gen Z dating culture has seen many navigate away from the traditional dating pathway of moving from dating, to a committed relationship, to marriage. 

Now young people are more fluid in both their identities and their attitudes towards commitment and sex, more educated about what they’re looking for, and more likely to focus on themselves before seeking a relationship with others. 

The removal of much of the embarrassment and stigma around these kinds of conversations and related products has meant that Gen Z consumers are a potentially hugely supportive group for dating and sexual wellness brands to target – and if you land the right note with them, you can expect great loyalty from this generation of supposed “narcissists”. 

If you’re unsure how to go about reaching Gen Z with your dating or sexual wellness brand, get in touch. We’d love to talk you through the ways we can help young people fall in love – with each other and your brand. 

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