If you’re anything like me, recent headlines have been getting you down. Most of the people I know have been limiting their social media time because things seem so bleak. For folks with sexual trauma in their past, the last year or so has been especially hard. At times like this, it’s easy to feel pessimistic about the the state of dating, sex, and gender relations.

And while it’s easy to jump on the pessimistic bandwagon, I don’t think the situation is hopeless. I spend a fair amount of time teaching at colleges, and I’m always impressed by how far ahead of mainstream culture the students are. Just last week I taught two classes at Portland State University, and there are certain things I cover with adults that I know I don’t even need to mention with these young people. In other words, things are changing - and there are lots of reasons to be hopeful. Here are a few things I'm hopeful we'll see in our not-too-distant sexual futures.

More Acceptance of Different Genders, Orientations, Sexual Roles and Sexual Preferences

While I’d normally go over the wide spectrum of genders, and discuss pronoun use, the students I teach are so far ahead of the game they list their pronouns when they introduce themselves. Not only that, but queer identities are a matter of course, as is basic safety when it comes to sex, STI talks, and barrier use.

In fact, every time I leave a college class, I’m brimming with optimism for the future of sex. Sunny Megatron of the American Sex Podcast sums it up nicely, “I think the future of sex will leave room for everyone to recognize and embrace fluidity — of sexual orientation, gender, sexual roles, simple sexual preferences, etc. It will allow us to free ourselves of hang-ups and shame and be happier because we're living more authentically.”

Her thoughts ring true to my experiences. Even when I’m off duty and not teaching, I’m seeing this trend in my personal life. At parties with a younger crowd I see sexual fluidity along with an acceptance of a wide range of sexual expressions. And that greater acceptance isn’t limited to gender; there’s a greater acceptance of a variety of relationships styles and sexual interests, including kink and BDSM.

More Sexual Freedom

Sex Therapist Liz Powell agrees. “I think the future of sex is about giving each person the freedom to decide what Great Sex means to them,” she said. Kink educator Colette Miller echoes that point, “I feel like the millennial generation has really opened the dialogue for gender and sexual fluidity acceptance, and I think generation Z will bring a whole new level of normalization.”

Not only that, but I see the definition of what people consider sex broadening every day. Sex acts that used to be taboo are now nearly mainstream (just think of the pegging scene on "Broad City") and people are even thinking beyond genital touch and orgasms. Sexual and personal expressions from ecosexuality to asexuality are getting more acceptance, and people are realizing that there are nearly infinite ways to experience intimacy and pleasure.

A Culture Built Around Consent

And while the current growing pains might seem insurmountable, what the #metoo and #timesup movements are doing will usher in a new age of consent culture, making it easier and safer for everyone to explore their sexuality.

More - and Better - Sex Toys

Want even more good news? More and more people are starting to understand the value of sex toys in their own intimate lives, and body-safe sex toys are more available than ever. From affordable silicone dildos to sex dolls, toys are evolving at an amazing pace.

Speaking of sex toys, advancements in technology are bringing people together in new and innovative ways, and are helping eliminate some of the the stresses of long-distance relationships. The combination of video chat and responsive sex toys are making hot date nights a possibility no matter where in the world the participants might be located.

More Emphasis - and Money - for Sex Research

Finally, I’m optimistic that science will catch up and start taking sex seriously. Small studies are already happening and as the culture catches up, financing will be available for larger scale studies that will finally take into account that pleasure during sex matters.

The Future Is Bright

Change is always slow, and sometimes awkward. And while right now it might seem hard to fathom, the fact that mainstream media now covers everything from BDSM (thanks to "Fifty Shades of Grey") to watersports (thanks to President Trump) means that a wider variety of options is currently available to people than ever before. With those options and acceptance, more people than ever will find ways to express their authentic sexual selves, something that's as fundamental to emotional and physical health as nutrition and exercise.

I believe that a generation that is sexually fulfilled and liberated will make changes that reach far beyond the bedroom. In my line of work, I’m happy to see that shift happening every day.

The future of sex is bright.