Saturday, February 12, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator

I do learn interesting things from Malcolm Gladwell, but I also find his books a bit precious.

Evidently, other share this feeling: Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Premarital Sex 5: The Main Point

Most emerging adults engage in premarital sex. This has been true for awhile. What is new in this generation is that they have fully sexual relationships which they do not expect will lead to marriage.

Many think that getting broad sexual experience will help their later marriages. Some think that sex is no big deal. A few think that introducing sex early in a relationship will speed it along to true intimacy and love. They are all wrong.

The earlier sex is introduced in a relationship, the shorter it is likely to be.

Women tend to be emotionally hurt by sexual relationships that go nowhere, even when they think they won't care.

Men and women are scarred by broken relationships. The more broken relationships we have in our past, the harder it is to make a secure marriage in the future.

Interestingly, Regnerus and Uecker found that the intercourse itself was a positive factor in the quality of the relationship while it was happening, and even afterward. But that positive effect was outweighed by the negative of a broken relationship, and a broken sexual relationship was even more negative than a non-sexual one.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Premarital Sex 4: Drinking

Regnerus and Uecker found a pretty straightforward connection between drinking and casual sex:

“One in three women who drink almost every day reports having had sex with someone the first time they met, a number even higher than their male counterparts (at 29 percent).” (91)

“drinking does have a strong, linear, and enduring connection to the formation of casual sexual relationships: the more alcohol, the greater the likelihood of sex.” (280, n. 11)

Their research shows that young women who were sexually abused or strongly pressured into sex in high school or younger are more prone to casual sex or to sex at the beginning of what they hope will be a relationship. We know from other research that fatherless girls are more likely to turn to sex earlier and with older men.

A running theme of Premarital Sex in America is that emerging adults follow a small number of standard "scripts" about sex that shape what they think is normal. I think that some young women follow a script that says that casual sex is a quick way to get men to pay attention to them (which is true). But they also experience that casual sex and broken relationships hurt them, even if they try to tell themselves that it shouldn't.

Putting these facts together, I think young women who follow the casual sex script, even though it hurts them, use alcohol to self-medicate against the pain that their script - their lives - are causing them. Drunkenness provides a socially understandable excuse and fuzzes their memory of what happened.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Premarital Sex 3: Who Has Sex the Most?

Yesterday we looked at which unmarried young adults were likely to be virgins. Today we look at the opposite end of the spectrum in the same group.

Regnerus and Uecker start with a bit of bracing realism:
“Men report more sexual partners than women do. Period. Everywhere.” This is not a false stereotype, nor a construct of our culture. How is this mathematically possible? Because some women have sex with many men.

They present the figures on how many sex partners these young adults, 18 - 23, have had, broken out by sex, ethnicity, education level, religiosity, parents' marital status, drinking habits, risk-taking habits, and other characteristics. Since real people are combinations of these categories, they also make a list of some common combinations. They then ask, what proportion of this group has had five or more sex partners?

The lowest category was not surprising to me:

Hispanic women who have gone to college, attend Mass, and have married parents: 0.6%

The second highest category was not a big surprise, either:

Black men, not in college, who first had sex before 16, and like risks: 58%

The highest category - the group most likely to have had five or more sex partners before age 23 - did surprise me:

White women who drink regularly and have had an abortion: 73%

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Premarital Sex 2: Who Are the Virgins?

Regenerus and Uecker estimate that at 18, the threshold of emerging adulthood, 1/3 are still virgins. Who are most likely to be virgins?
  • In college
  • Religious
  • Not prone to getting drunk
  • Do not think of themselves as popular
Some subgroups that are especially likely to choose to delay sex:
  • Asian men
  • Regular churchgoers - men more than women
  • Politically conservative women
The role of physical attractiveness is interesting in predicting sexual activity. In their interviews, the Texas team rated the physical attractiveness of their subjects, as well as asking the subjects to rate themselves. The actual physical attractiveness of the young adults they talked to was not correlated with whether they were virgins or not. However, people who thought they were attractive - regardless of what the interviewer thought - were more likely to be sexually active.

The basic fact of sexual attraction is that any willing woman can find a man for sex, especially among young adults. What needs to be explained, then, is why some choose not to. Young adults who are still virgins have a reason and a support structure that helps them stick to their choice.

The main reason is they want to finish their education, and sometimes get their careers launched, first. College students, and especially Asian men in school, are particularly moved by this reason.

The main support structure is a religious community. This is a complex matter, though: evangelical Protestants are more likely to have sex than mainline Protestants. Regnerus and Uecker argue that evangelicalism is such a relational, pro-marriage, pro-family culture that it makes sex more likely - in part because it also supports marriage and family life if they do get pregnant. Episcopalians and Presbyterians were more likely to be virgins: they were more likely to have education and career plans that would be derailed by early pregnancy.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Premarital Sex 1: They Don't Expect Sex to Lead to Marriage

This week I will be blogging on Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker's Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think About Marrying. This is a fine, large empirical study that will be the standard work on this question for some time.

They are looking at "emerging adults," 18 - 23, who rushed through their adolescence, only to be in a holding pattern before full adulthood until their mid or even late '20s. Nearly all of them want to marry, but they connect marriage with having a job and being ready for kids - which is not where they are yet. On the other hand, they do not connect sex with either marriage or children. Instead, sex is something that women see as a natural part of a romantic relationship, even if it doesn't lead to marriage. Men don't even insist on the romantic relationship as a setting for sex, though they accept that rule if women insist on it. As a result, 84% of the unmarried emerging adults are not virgins, and most of them have sex fairly regularly.

Premarital sex is certainly not new. What is new, Regnerus and Uecker conclude, is that it is no longer connected in the minds of young adults with marriage, at least not to the person you are in a relationship with now. That, they say, is a sea change in our sexual scripts.