Here a good study on relationship tempo and relationship quality.
Rapid sexual involvement may have adverse long-term implications for relationship quality. This study examined the tempo of sexual intimacy and subsequent relationship quality in a sample of married and cohabiting men and women. Data come from the Marital and Relationship Survey, which provides information on nearly 600 low- to moderate-income couples living with minor children. Over one third of respondents became sexually involved within the first month of the relationship. Bivariate results suggested that delaying sexual involvement was associated with higher relationship quality across several dimensions. The multivariate results indicated that the speed of entry into sexual relationships was negatively associated with marital quality, but only among women. The association between relationship tempo and relationship quality was largely driven by cohabitation. Cohabiting may result in poorer quality relationship because rapid sexual involvement early in the romantic relationship is associated with entrance into shared living.
The authors are from Cornell University and University of Wisconsin – Madison. Prestigious schools, and very far to the left.
Here’s another recent study that shows that if a woman has more partners than just her husband as a premarital sex partner, the risk of divorce increases.
Using nationally representative data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, I estimate the association between intimate premarital relationships (premarital sex and premarital cohabitation) and subsequent marital dissolution. I extend previous research by considering relationship histories pertaining to both premarital sex and premarital cohabitation. I find that premarital sex or premarital cohabitation that is limited to a woman’s husband is not associated with an elevated risk of marital disruption. However, women who have more than one intimate premarital relationship have an increased risk of marital dissolution.
Data from the 1988 US National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) were utilized to assess the impact of premarital sexual activity on subsequent marital stability. Among white NSFG subjects first married in 1965-85, virgin brides were significantly less to have become separated or divorced (25%) than women who had not been virgins at marriage (35%).
[…]The lower risk of divorce on the part of white women with no premarital sexual experience persisted even after numerous intervening and background variables were controlled.
And I am going to save the best study for last. This marvelous PDF is from August 2014, and is put out by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. It is comprehensive, and links to many papers from decades ago to the state of the art today. It seems like people are really rushing into sex these days, without much thought. They want to have fun, feel accepted, be like their friends, conform to the culture. But sometimes, it’s better to be practical than to be governed by the desire for fun and thrills. If you want to do something, look at the research and find out what the consequences are before you do it. That’s what a sensible person does.
When it comes to discussing the Bible’s rules on sex, evidence is very important. Evidence is what convinces even non-Christian people to take the Bible seriously when it comes to putting sex in its proper place. That’s why we need to know what the Bible says, and we need to augment that with real-world evidence so that it is applied to our own decision-making, and so that we can be persuasive when discussing it with others.
This study is from the Institute for American Values. Despite their name, they are not conservatives. It was done by Norval Glenn and Elizabeth Marquardt.
If you download the 88 page PDF, the first few pages are an executive summary.
There are a couple of things that really struck me about this IAV study on hooking-up.
First, this one from p. 15:
A notable feature of hook ups is that they almost always occur when both participants are drinking or drunk.
A Rutgers University student observed, “You always hear people say, oh my gosh, I was so drunk, I hooked up with so and so…” Perhaps not surprisingly, many noted that being drunk helped to loosen one’s inhibitions and make it easier to hook up. A number of students noted that being drunk could later serve as your excuse for the hook up. A Yale University student said, “Some people like hook up because they’re drunk or use being drunk as an excuse to hook up.” A New York University student observed, “[Alcohol is] just part of an excuse, so that you can say, oh, well, I was drinking.”
A Rutgers University student commented, “If you’re drinking a lot it’s easier to hook up with someone… [and] drugs, it’s kind of like a bonding thing… and then if you hook up with them and you don’t want to speak to them again, you can always blame it on the drinking or the drugs.”
Other women observed that being drunk gives a woman license to act sexually interested in public in ways that would not be tolerated if she were sober. For instance, a University of Michigan student said, “Girls are actually allowed to be a lot more sexual when they are drunk…”
A University of Chicago junior observed, “One of my best friends… sometimes that’s her goal when we go out. Like she wants to get drunk so I guess she doesn’t have to feel guilty about [hooking up].”
Some reported that drinking had led them to do things they later regretted. A University of Virginia student said, “My last random hook up was last October and it was bad. I was drunk and I just regretted it very much.”
And this one from p. 30 on the effects of hooking-up on their future commitments:
A few women did see an unambiguous connection between present relationships and future marriage.
[…]Many women either saw little or no connection between present and future relationships, or their understanding of this connection was curiously flat. A student at New York University said, “[The present and the future are] connected because I will still have the same values and principles that I have now, but I just won’t be single anymore.”A number of women said that the present and the future are connected because whatever heartache or confusion they experience now gives them lessons for the future.
A University of Michigan student said, “Early relationships prepare you for marriage because it’s like, oh, what type of person do I want to be with? Oh, I’ve had these bad experiences. Or, I’ve learned from this relationship that I should do this and I shouldn’t do this.”
A sophomore at Howard University said that “I am kind of learning from a lot of the mistakes that I have made.” At a further extreme, some women saw their future marriage as the reason to experiment widely in the present. A Rutgers University student said,“I think hooking up with different people and seeing what you like and don’t like is a good idea. Because eventually you’re going to have to… marry someone and I’d just like to know that I experienced everything.”
Although it is admirable to take risks and learn from one’s mistakes, these women would probably find it difficult to explain how having your heart broken a few or even many times in your early years — or trying to separate sex from feeling, as in hooking up — is good preparation for a trusting and happy marriage later on.
And on p. 42, we learn what women think marriage is and isn’t for:
For instance, in the on-campus interviews one student complained, “[With] marriage…you have to debate everything… Why do you need a piece of paper to bond a person to you? …But I know if I don’t get married I’ll probably feel like… [a] lonely old woman… If anything, I’d get married [because of] that.”
This student went on to say that she would be satisfied to live with a man, but added that, if the man was committed to her, he would offer to marry her, and that this was the kind of commitment that she wanted. A student at the University of Washington said,“I don’t want to get married right after I graduate from college. I just think that would stunt my growth in every way that there is. I would like to be in a very steady, committed relationship with a guy.”
And on p. 44, we learn that they like co-habitation, which increases the risk of divorce by about 50% (but they don’t know that):
In the national survey, 58 percent of the respondents agreed that “It is a good idea to live with someone before deciding to marry him.” This belief often coexists with a strong desire to marry, because it was embraced by 49 percent of the respondents who strongly agreed that marriage was a very important goal for them.
[…]Women we interviewed on campus reflected a similar range of attitudes about cohabitation. Some women thought that cohabitation was a good way to test whether one could spend a lifetime with a potential partner. In such cases, women often cited fears of divorce as the reason for trying cohabitation first. A senior at the University of Washington said, “I kind of don’t really see marriages work ever, so I want to make sure that everything’s all right before [we get married]. I don’t see how people can get married without living together because I know like I have a best friend and I live with her and we want to kill each other, like, every few months.”
Other women felt that, in an age of divorce, cohabitation was a preferable alternative to marriage. A student at New York University said, “You see so [many] people getting divorces… I just don’t see the necessity [of marriage].” She went on to say, “I think that I don’t have to be married to [the] person that I’m with…. You know like… Goldie Hawn [and Kurt Russell]? They’re not married.”
But let’s get back to the drinking and the hook-up sex…
Once a woman abandons femininity for feminism, then sex is all that she can use to get noticed by a man. Men are like hiring managers, and courting is like a job interview for the job of marriage and mothering. If a woman tries to get the job by having sex with the interviewer, he isn’t going to hire her for the marriage job, since sex has almost nothing to do with the marriage job. Men have to think about things like fidelity and mothering ability when they are choosing a wife. The problem is that thanks to feminism, women have stopped trying to show their ability to be wives and mothers to men, preferring to instead act like bad boys – no emotions, toughness, hardness, binge-drinking, promiscuity. Men may be happy to have sex with women like that, but they do not commit to them for life. They’re just looked upon as feral animals, to be pumped and dumped by every man who isn’t a Christian. And Christian men are disqualified for relationships with young feminists, because we have morals.
Moreover, if a man is constantly being offered sex from feminist women during his 20s and 30s, he basically loses all the time that he could be training for his roles as protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader. He will never take on those roles if he is handed sex before marriage for free. That is the root cause of the “man-up” complaint that women make. Why don’t men grow up? Because they don’t have to. They don’t have to do a thing to audition for husband roles, in order to get sex. They just have to be “hot” and feign liberal political views. Many (most?) teenage women are giving the bad boys oral sex on the first date now. Women aren’t looking for husbands until much later, when their effort to achieve self-esteem through slutty behavior stalls out, and they realize that the whole feminist project was futile and unsustainable.
In a previous post, I explained how feminist leaders wanted to get women to drink like men, have sex like men, and to abolish courtship and marriage. Under the influence of cultural definitions of what makes a good man and a good relationship, women began to choose men to have sex with without any consideration of morality, religion, marriage, etc. This results in a cycle of binge-drinking, one-night-stands, cheating, co-habitating, breaking-up, stalking, aborting, etc., until the woman’s ability to trust and love anyone – including herself – is completely destroyed. And yet these college women somehow believe this is is “fun” and “adventurous”, that it makes them feel “sexy”, and that the experience of being selfish and seeing the worst kind of men acting in the worst possible ways, point blank, somehow prepares them for marriage and motherhood. They are told this, and they are so unable to break out of their need to “fit in” with their peers and culture that by the time they realized they’ve been had, it’s too late to fix it. And yet, they themselves made those decisions. They are responsible, whether they intended the consequences or not. No one was stopping them from investigating what was likely to happen, if they decided to play the fool sexually.
Here is a striking essay from the Public Discourse. It talks about how we, as a society, have generally taken on an anything-goes approach with respect to sex. The one exception (for now) is pedophilia, which is the sexual abuse of children by adults. The essay points out that there is no moral reason for having this one exception, on secularism. The exception exists because of a sort of “ick” factor – not because we have a moral framework that makes anything right or wrong objectively. The essay argues that we are not shy about harming children in a million other ways, and lists some examples. I just want to quote a few and then I’ll comment about my own moral views around sexuality.
Quick summary of his argument:
The moral structure of pedophilia is simply this: the welfare of children is subordinate to the sexual gratification of adults.
[…]We should be thankful that the Sanduskys and Laheys are still considered monstrous. But in contemporary America that condemnation rests on sentiment and not on moral reasoning. No one can simultaneously explain why their actions were so vile and uphold the first commandment of the sexual revolution: fulfill thy desires.
[…]No, it isn’t how Sandusky and Lahey did what they did, or under what circumstances, that explains the disgust. It’s what they did—but nobody wants to acknowledge that.
The reason for that reluctance becomes clear, if we keep in mind the moral structure of pedophilia. Sexual gratification trumps. Thank goodness that for now, there aren’t many men who are sexually attracted to youngsters. In that single case, we raise the banner for the children. But in no other case.
That’s his argument.
Now, a quick excerpt:
If we altered the question, and asked not how many people have done sexually abusive things with children, but how many people have done sexual things that redounded to the suffering of children, then we might confess that the only thing that separates millions of people from Jerry Sandusky is inclination. Everything that was once considered a sexual evil and that is now winked at or cheered, everything without exception, has served to hurt children, and badly.
We might point here to divorce. Unless it is necessary to remove oneself and one’s children from physical danger and moral corruption, the old wisdom regarding divorce should hold, if children themselves have anything to say about it. Parents will say, “My children can never be happy unless I am happy,” but they should not lay that narcissistic unction to their souls. Children need parents who love them, not parents who are happy; they are too young to be asked to lay down their lives for someone else. It is not the job of the child to suffer for the parent, but the job of the parent to endure, to make the best of a poor situation, to swallow his pride, to bend her knees, for the sake of the child.
We might point to births out of wedlock. The child has a right to enter more than a little nursery decorated with presents from a baby shower. He should enter a human world, a story, a people. He should be born of a mother and a father among uncles and aunts and cousins and grandparents, stretching into the distant past, with all their interrelated histories, with his very being reflected in all those mirrors of relation, not to mention his eyes and his hair, the talents in his fingers and the cleverness in his mind. This belonging to a big and dependable world can be secured only in the context of the permanent love of his mother and father, declared by a vow before the community and before the One in whom there is no shadow of alteration.
And now my comments about this article.
So pretty much all my regular readers know that I take extremely conservative views on social issues, since I am an evangelical Protestant Christian. But I don’t just have conservative views – I am also chaste at a personal level. I am not one of these re-virgins – I have never had sex. Not once. And I don’t mean I have never had sexual intercourse only, I mean that I have never even kissed a woman on the lips. I am a radical on the issue of chastity. I don’t view chastity as depriving oneself of something good, I view it is as a thing that serious Christian men do when we want to enable and develop other capabilities. It’s my conviction that chastity enables the capability to see women as God sees them, which is a precursor to growing them up to serve him. That’s what women are for, on my view – exactly like men are for knowing and serving God. It’s my belief that once a man has premarital sex, it becomes much harder for him to view women that way.
So, I am really really really against any kind of sexual activity of any kind prior to marriage. I think that if a man wants to show affection to a woman, then sex before marriage is not the way to do that. There are other ways, and men ought to know how to speak the language of love to a woman in many different ways apart from sex, assuming that this is his goal for her. A man needs to create a context for sex before he can have it. Marriage is how a man provides a context for sex. Not just by giving a woman safety, but by specifying a shared vision which the woman agrees to support when she agrees to marriage. Men shouldn’t have intimate experiences with women who are not committed to a constructive partnership with specific goals, e.g. – birthing or adopting children in order to give them a stable, loving sane environment to grow up in. That is so rare nowadays, especially on college campuses which are inundated with sexual liberalism, thanks to radical feminism. My conviction that sex is not something that should be done before marriage emerges partly from a concern that children should have the best opportunity for that stable environment. And that’s what I want to focus on – sexual restraint as a means of providing for children and protecting children.
First, premarital sex creates a situations where abortion happens. Men and women should not engage in activities for recreational reasons that could possibility lead to the death of another human being, period. I am not one of these people who thinks “oh, poor woman who is pregnant, what a beastly man who did that to her – but she can do the right thing and keep the baby”. I think that women are equally to blame with men for even having sex before marriage – the mistake was having sex in the first place. So getting pregnant and keeping the baby is good, but preventing fatherlessness and not putting burdens on taxpayers is much, much better. People who engage in premarital sex are not only selfish, immature and irresponsible, but they are actually acting in a negligent fashion towards the child that may result from their choices. We should not make choices that put innocent children at risk. Premarital sex can be compared with driving while drunk in that regard. You might think it’s fun, but it’s not a good, moral thing to do because of the harm that may result. Saying “but I didn’t mean to” after the fact doesn’t change the harm.
Second, I’ve blogged before about many studies (like this one) that show that premarital sex reduces relationship stability, duration, and quality. Another study I blogged about showed that the number of sexual partners that a man or woman has before marriage directly affects the probability that the relationship will provide a stable environment for raising children. So one of my reasons for being chaste is to maximize the probability of giving my future children that stable environment. Another reason to be chaste is to give my future wife that gift of fidelity. When a man has proven that he has the ability to restrain himself with his wife during the courtship, that is a signal to her that he is good at self-control. The ability to court without premarital sex shows her that he is able to think about her as a person, and that he is able to evaluate her objectively for the purpose of filling the roles of wife and mother. And that this is, in fact, his whole purpose for her. A purpose that will survive the decline of her appearance and youth. Security is another gift that a chaste man gives his wife, so that she can age confidently.
Thirdly, I have in the past blogged about research on gay unions showing how various factors that are more probable in gay relationships, (e.g. – elevated rates of domestic violence, low relationship stability, drug abuse, high rates of promiscuity, etc.), undermine the stability of the environment in which children grow up. More here. Dr. Ryan Anderson has argued that the norms present in gay relationships will undermine the norms of traditional marriage, (permanence, sexual exclusivity, etc.), if marriage is redefined to eliminate the gender requirement. I think we need to keep the traditional definition of marriage because it’s better for children if we do (and there are other reasons to prefer natural marriage, as I’ve written about before).
I think I’ve said enough here to show that very often when it comes to sexual activity what is driving my conservative views is concern for others. Concern not just for the future children, but for the future wife. And not just for them, but for society as a whole, who would have to pay the social costs of things like divorce, and the social costs of children of divorce, etc. And not just for society, but also for God, who intends sexuality for a very specific purpose – it is a form of communication for two people who have been bonded to each other for life. Marriage has to count for God and achieve his goals. One of those goals is raising up children well for his sake. And adults need to control themselves in order to provide children with what they need.
Consider this article from Family Studies that talks about how the number of pre-marital sex partners that a woman has increases her risk of divorce.
American sexual behavior is much different than it used to be. Today, most Americans think premarital sex is okay, and will have three or more sexual partners before marrying. What, if anything, does premarital sex have to do with marital stability?
This research brief shows that the relationship between divorce and the number of sexual partners women have prior to marriage is complex. I explore this relationship using data from the three most recent waves of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) collected in 2002, 2006-2010, and 2011-2013. For women marrying since the start of the new millennium:
Women with 10 or more partners were the most likely to divorce, but this only became true in recent years;
Women with 3-9 partners were less likely to divorce than women with 2 partners; and,
Women with 0-1 partners were the least likely to divorce.
Earlier research found that having multiple sex partners prior to marriage could lead to less happy marriages, and often increased the odds of divorce.
[…]Even more noteworthy has been the decline in the proportion of women who get married having had only one sex partner (in most cases, their future husbands). Forty-three percent of women had just one premarital sex partner in the 1970s.
[…]By the 2010s, only 5 percent of new brides were virgins. At the other end of the distribution, the number of future wives who had ten or more sex partners increased from 2 percent in the 1970s to 14 percent in the 2000s, and then to 18 percent in the 2010s. Overall, American women are far more likely to have had multiple premarital sex partners in recent years (unfortunately, the NSFG doesn’t have full data on men’s premarital sexual behavior, and in any event they recall their own marital histories less reliably than do women).
Here’s the change:
And the problem with this, of course, is that more premarital sex partners means a higher risk of divorce:
Why is the 2-partner number so high?
In most cases, a woman’s two premarital sex partners include her future husband and one other man. That second sex partner is first-hand proof of a sexual alternative to one’s husband. These sexual experiences convince women that sex outside of wedlock is indeed a possibility. The man involved was likely to have become a partner in the course of a serious relationship—women inclined to hook up will have had more than two premarital partners—thereby emphasizing the seriousness of the alternative.
The Christian Post had an article about some recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control about virgins.
A new Centers for Disease Control study examines teenage health behaviors in connection to their self-reported sexual activity and shows those who remain abstinent are much healthier on many fronts than their sexually active peers.
The report, titled “Sexual Identity, Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12, United States and Selected Sites,” showcased the results from a 2015 survey that monitored several categories of health-related behaviors like tobacco usage, drug and alcohol use, sexual habits, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence.
The report concludes “that students who had no sexual contact have a much lower prevalance of most health-risk behaviors compared with students” who had sexual contact.
The article quotes Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, who I have featured on this blog many times:
In a Monday interview with The Christian Post, Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, said, “this study is remarkable because it asks questions and reports the answers, rather than avoiding questions or assuming answers.”
As Glenn Stanton noted last week in The Federalist, the results from those questions and answers are remarkable.
With regard to smoking, teenage virgins are 3,300 percent less likely to smoke daily than their peers who are sexually involved with someone of the opposite sex, Stanton computed from the report’s data. Teen virgins are 9,500 percent less likely to smoke daily than their peers who are sexually involved with someone of the same sex or in a bisexual relationship, he added. Chaste young people are also extremely less likely to use indoor tanning beds, binge drink, smoke marijuana, ride in cars as passengers with a drunk driver, and get into physical fights than their sexually active peers. Abstinent youth are also more likely to get a solid eight hours of sleep every night and eat breakfast daily.
[…]The CDC report also included findings from 25 state surveys, and 19 large, urban school district surveys conducted among students in grades 9–12 which took place between December of 2014 and September of 2015.
Now, many pro traditional marriage people will tell young men “feminism and the sexual revolution change nothing about a woman’s suitability for marriage, so go out there and get married to these women anyway”. In my experience, no one is telling women NOT to follow their hearts, and explaining to them the harm that they do by allowing their feelings to determine who they will engage in relationships.
I would like to see women make better decisions with men before they marry, rather than be influenced by their peers and culture to give themselves to men who are not marriage-minded. Maybe a little skepticism should be shown to “follow your heart”? Women need to understand what they are losing when they choose to have premarital sex.
In my group of friends, the men are aware of the Biblical prohibition on premarital sex. My friends know about the research on marriage, and what it takes to make a marriage work. We don’t follow our hearts, because we do what we know will work to achieve the results we want. We don’t listen to the culture, and we don’t listen to radical feminists. Men generally take an engineering approach to marriage – we want to know what the best practices and tradeoffs are, and then we plan and act to succeed.
My own research with working-class young adults leads me to believe that they have basically made peace with sexual permissiveness—at least outside of marriage—even as they retain some ambivalence about it. They tend to move in quickly with new romantic partners, even as they worry that people rush too quickly into relationships. From survey data, we know that people without a college education have more lifetime sexual partners than those with a college education, and that most of them see no problem with premarital sex.
But there is one problem: easy access to sex with multiple partners can make for complicated relationships. As sexual partners accumulate, so does the potential for distrust. As one man whose ex-girlfriend had cheated on him explained, “It’s gonna take a lot more time for me to ever trust somebody again like that. I let her in quick, and now it’s never gonna happen again.” One divorced man said simply, “Everyone has to watch their ass all the time.” There is the feeling that no one is safe—even in marriage. As another young man claimed, “Nowadays, even though you got a ring on your finger, people tend to look past that.”
So people describe keeping vigilant watch over their partners’ cell phones, policing for messages from exes. They live an all but married lifestyle, yet they say that they are hesitant to make the commitment of marriage. Why? Part of the reason is that they don’t trust their partner, or themselves, to remain in the marriage. In one survey, 42.5 percent of low-income, unmarried respondents cited “worry that the marriage would end in divorce” as a reason they might not be pursuing marriage, and 23.5 percent cited “questions about whether your partner is trustworthy.” As one young man that I interviewed said after learning that his fiancée was cheating on him, “I don’t trust nobody.”
That distrust is at least partly the legacy of the libertarian sexual ethic, which assumes that sexual activity outside of marriage is typically okay so long as people are mutually consenting to the acts. And that distrust is why I have a hard time believing—as Noah Smith does—that sexual permissiveness will somehow evolve into more stable marriages for the working class. (Indeed, having more sexual partners prior to marriage is linked to greater odds of divorce, as Nicholas Wolfinger and W. Bradford Wilcox recently documented.) There is no invisible hand that will transform James and Jessica’s distrust and cynicism, which stems in part from their multiple past sexual relationships, into trust and an enduring marriage. What the working class needs—what we all need—to achieve our shared aspirations for lifelong love and a stable family is social permission to date without immediately having sex.
That’s important because today young people often assume that withholding sex is a sign of distrust. As James said, if you begin a relationship and don’t have sex, “they automatically assume that you’re cheating.” But sliding into sex often translates into sliding into a relationship—and children—without first building trust and discerning for character and compatibility. And that slide often contributes to the erosion of trust in the opposite sex and in lifelong love. We must confront that reality if we’re serious about empowering working young adults to achieve trusting relationships.
“Withholding sex” makes it sound bad. You don’t have sex or even do sexual things before marriage because you are trying to prove to your partner that you have self-control enough that when you are married, he/she need not be concerned that you are OK with sex outside of a lifelong commitment. You restrain yourself in order to prove to the other person that you have what it takes in order to be trusted, and the other person does the same to you. It’s not that you are trying to reduce the amount of “fun” you are having, it’s that you are auditioning for a role, and this is what the other person needs to see from you during the courtship – chastity. Chastity demonstrates to them that the commitment you are offering is not based on things that fade, like beauty or youth.