My "Family Life" class is reading Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker's excellent Premarital Sex in America. I have sent the class out to interview their peers about their own experiences of, and attitudes toward, premarital sex.
One of the interesting results of this assignment is that I learn some of the true, on-the-ground moral distinctions that young people use in regulating and judging sexual practice.
In general, Regnerus and Uecker found that most young people think that sex is best and most appropriate within a committed relationship. However, many young people, especially young men, have some experience of casual sex. How do they explain this?
One young man distinguished between a few 'sexual experiments' that he undertook in casual relationships, which he thought were useful learning experiences, and 'habitual hookups' undertaken by some of his peers, who sought casual sex regularly and for its own sake.
Regnerus and Uecker also found that alcohol was involved in many young people's sexual relations, especially (almost universally) in the casual ones. So how to distinguish between moral and immoral drunken sex? One interview subject distinguished between drinking a bit to foster intimacy, which was good, and a 'blackout hookup', which was not.
More dispatches from the front of 'emerging adult' sexual ethics as I receive them.