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.
Guess where I’m linking today? To a radical feminist web site named Jezebel, to an article written by a radical feminist who writes for the radically leftist Slate.
No, I’m not crazy. Just read it:
Much of the conversation around alcohol and sex has focused on assault—the line at which intoxication becomes incapacitation, for instance—but what we fail to mention is how haunted people can be by the sex they actually, technically consented to.
[…]I wonder what my sex life would even look like if alcohol hadn’t been there. Alcohol gave me comfort in my own body, and it allowed me to turn my erotic curiosity and hunger for experience into an action plan. I was tired of being the stuttering girl sucking in her stomach after the lights went out. I wanted to be the woman who roamed wild and free.
Alcohol also helped me cut the girlish strings on my heart, an action my college years demanded. Three months into my freshman year, I split a six pack with a dashing sophomore, and we wound up partially clothed on his bed, my bare legs wrapped around his waist, my hands around his neck. I pulled back slightly and asked him the question, the naive question of a girl who does not yet understand her fate: “What does this mean?”
He looked past me, into his studio apartment, and then back into my eyes. “It means that I’m a 19-year-old boy, and we’re having fun.”
What is interesting is that she didn’t see this man’s using her for fun after getting her drunk as any disqualification for a serious relationship. On the contrary, she believes that a serious relationship built on self-sacrificial love and commitment that lasts through difficulties can be found in a man who uses her for fun sex:
I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy that night with the dashing sophomore. I’m saying the fun part for me might have been turning our physical intimacy into a sustained attachment.
Amazing. She wasn’t looking for men with good educations, good jobs, lots of savings, who were sober and chaste – they would have made her unhappy with their bossy leading, and strict plans about courting and marriage. Nope, she wanted the drunken slut who didn’t ask her any questions or have any plan for her to develop into a wife and mother. That’s who she wanted. He was hawt! And he was free, easy and fun.
She is 35 now, and still single. I’m sure if you ask her, she would like to be married “some day”, but who could look at 20 years of drunken sex and say that this is good preparation for the challenges of marriage? Marriage is about self-sacrificial love, and endurance. To prepare for it, you learn self-denial and self-control. You learn how to accept expectations, obligations and responsibilities.
Anyway, back to the article by the drunken, promiscuous feminist. The point that I wanted to make is that she chose the alcohol herself, and that she did it for a very specific reason:
I wanted to have fun, too. And alcohol evened the score. I cared less about everything when I was drinking: What you thought of me, what I looked like in this dress, whether that taco was warm or cold when I stuffed it in my mouth. I don’t want to make it sound like I drank in order to have sex. I drank for a million reasons.
[…]Booze downshifted my intense body consciousness, and it revved up my bravado. Sex was scary—but alcohol made me feel safe.
She drank in order to have sex. Got it? She chose to get drunk in order to have sex. This is the part that permissive parents and pious pastors need to understand about their darling daughters. Many young women think that recreational sex with hot guys is a pathway to marriage. They drink in order to make progress towards the marriage they want – the marriage to the man who is fun. Not the man who is serious. They don’t want the serious man who makes plans and expects them to behave responsibly and honor obligations. They want the fun, hot man – the bad boy – and they expect to change him into a faithful, sober, responsible provider through the magical power of vagina. And if that doesn’t work, by threatening him with divorce.
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.”
[…]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].”
I think at this point you should assume that if your daughter is not passionate about chastity, natural marriage and pro-life, then she is probably somewhere on this drinking – recreational sex – cohabitation – abortion – no-fault divorce path. The more fun-loving and emotional a woman is, the more likely she is to fall into it, and some of them just work it together with Christianity. Once woman I know was living with a non-Christian man and praying fervently for God to make her career take off. God is there for hope and comfort, not to impose any sort of moral boundaries. And parents and pastors are oblivious – they just want to let women do whatever they want, and then blame men for not making it “work out”. Parents and pastors are not doing the job of explaining to women what their lives will really be like from age 40 to 90, and urging women to make a plan that provides lasting love and and security even as they experience declining youth, declining beauty, and declining fertility.
I hope that many of the men out there who refuse to hold women accountable for their own desires start to understand that not everything a woman wants is good, and not every plan a woman makes will work. Sometimes, you need to calmly and constructively challenge them about their priorities, plans and actions. It’s for their own good.
Here’s a useful video for learning about what men think of marriage now that radical feminism has redefined it:
This comment about the video by Gaza on the Elusive Wapiti blog deserves a post of it’s own, so here it is:
One thing that Helen seems to miss is how women value and prioritize marriage and what role this plays vis a vis the male corollary.
The “story” isn’t just about men being “on strike” or even (to Helen’s credit) rationally choosing to delay and/or avoid; it must also include how women treat marriage WRT their own valuation and prioritization and life decisions (NOT merely stated desires).
There are not swarms of 25 y/o female college-grads looking for a husband with no willing men within sight. There are, however, swarms of 25 y/o/ female college-grads looking to have fun, travel, chase dreams, build careers, and explore their options.
I’ve “dated” a few of these women; most (and their social circles included) are so focused on the self-indulgence (“experience”) and the status associated with sexual conquest/power that any mention of marriage is usually as a joke (enter the “boyfriends/husbands are boring/stupid/lazy” meme); marriage is merely some distant thing to be acquired at some seemingly distant age.
Sure, over time (cue: the wall), the distant thing becomes a stated desire, but the transition from stated-desire to behavioral change and actual prioritization often takes years. I meet women well into their 30’s who still can’t alter their behaviors to demonstrate congruence with their stated desires.
But that is when we start to hear how important marriage is, how men are avoiding commitment, why men should value marriage. All bacon-wrapped in various shaming mechanisms. The women singing the “Man-up and marry me” tune are not the 25 y/o versions; they are too busy singing the “you go girl” showtunes, exactly as prescribed by the Sandberg, lean-in, [binge drinking, continuous alpha male hookups, alpha male cohabitation], [and later, jump off the carousel into a marriage to a beta provider that makes her perpetually feel that she married down compared to the alphas that she used to hookup with while drunk].
So we can plainly see how something is valued based on the prioritization of one’s choices. Most young women value marriage as an idea, as a capstone to her personal journey; an indicator of status and achievement but not as a goal in-of-itself and not as a life decision that supersedes the accumulation of personal experience, the flexing her sexual and relationship power, or the kindling her optionality.
These women desire to “hang-out” with the most attractive men they can, under any number of relationship approximations while pursuing their personal journeys and then suddenly desire to elevate commitment and marriage as something paramount, right around the same time their ability to define and opt-in/out of those indulgent relationship approximations wanes. Hmm.
After 10+ years of treating men and relationships as consumable commodities, marriage is now so valuable? So sacred that it will magically be more robust in the face of challenges, requiring more giving and less taking than those previous marital approximations, and yet because it is now a “Marriage”, it won’t be treated as merely a vehicle for the pursuit of her apparently perpetually fleeting “happiness”? Convince me.
There is a false premise at work that assumes that it is men who are devaluing marriage. Sure, there is some truth to this, but woman are messaging their own valuation of marriage as well; in real-time, often in very overt means and often at the expense of men who are still clinging to some idealistic view of marriage.
And likely those are the very men who are willing and able to be husbands at 25. The very same men who will grow to become self-sufficient 35 y/o men feeling their own blossoming optionality, harvesting their own “experiences” with the 25 y/o versions of the suddenly-marriage-minded women, while a decade of observational and experiential evidence of what women truly value buries what remains of their marital idealism.
Tl:dr I’d consider marriage to a woman who has demonstrated through her choices, prioritization, sacrifice and delayed gratification that marriage is valuable to her and who can articulate how it would be valuable to me. [not holding breath]
What do you think? Is that something that you are seeing more of in the current generation of young, unmarried women? I have to confess, I see a lot of emphasis among Christian women on short-term missions trips and on careers, but not much planning on how to be prepared for marriage. In my experience, there is not much preparation work going on, and marriage is put off later and later. This is despite the fact that a woman’s fertility declines starting at age 27 and is pretty much dead at 35. IVF is very expensive, but has a higher risk of birth defects and and can often lead to too many embryos, some of which will then need to be aborted. Men respond to incentives, and they have certain things they are looking for out of a wife and marriage.
It would be nice if there were some wisdom being transferred from older, married women to young, unmarried women, but I don’t see it happening. What I see happening is young women, including ones raised in Christian homes, going off to college to binge drink and hookup and cohabitate, and always expressing the desire for marriage “some day”. But marriage is something you prepare for early with every decision. Some decisions are not good preparation for marriage. I get the impression that young, unmarried women think that marriage is “boring” and not the way to “make a difference”, and so in practice, they are trying other things.
Remember, the offer that a woman such as Gaza describes to a man is not the same as the offer of marriage that was made by 20-year-old women in the 1950s.
Being the legally and socially recognized head of the household.
An expectation of regular sex.
Legal rights to children.
That you are guaranteed a chaste bride on your wedding night.
Men liked the original version of marriage without the modern debasements. Should they feel obligated to settle for the new version of marriage which is influenced by radical feminism? I would have to be convinced. Women are kidding themselves if they think that they can do anything they want and wait as long as they want and still be as attractive to men.
Women who lost their virginity as young teenagers are more likely to divorce – especially if it was unwanted, according to new research.
The University of Iowa study shows that 31 per cent of women who had sex for the first time as teens divorced within five years, and 47 per cent within 10 years.
Among women who delayed sex until adulthood, 15 per cent divorced at five years, compared to 27 per cent at 10 years.
The findings were published in the April issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Author Anthony Paik, associate professor of sociology in the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, examined the responses of 3,793 married and divorced women to the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.
The study showed, however, that if a young woman made the choice to lose her virginity as a teenager, there was no direct link to a marital split later in life.
If the sexual act took place before the age of 16 women were shown more likely to divorce, even if it was wanted.
Thirty-one percent of women who lost their virginity during adolescence had premarital sex with multiple partners, compared to 24 per cent of those who waited.
Twenty-nine percent experienced premarital conceptions, versus 15 percent who waited.
One in four women who had sex as a teen had a baby before they were married, compared to only one in ten who waited until adulthood.
Only one per cent of women surveyed said they chose to have sex at age 13 or younger, compared to five per cent at age 14 or 15, and 10 per cent at age 16 or 17.
Forty two per cent reported that their first sexual intercourse before age 18 that was not completely wanted.
Fifty eight per cent of the group waited until age 18 or older to have sex. Of those, 22 per cent said it was unwanted, compared to 21 per cent who said it was wanted.
Researchers concluded sex itself may not increase the probability of divorce, while factors such as a higher number of sexual partners, pregnancy, or out-of-wedlock birth increased the risk for some.
If you want a stable marriage, then you don’t have sex before you’re married. There are tons of virgins out there, and there is a huge difference in the quality of romantic relationships when both parties exercise self-control with physical touching. Don’t let it go too far – you lose some of what love and marriage can be.
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.