Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jon Stewart's Comeback In 5 . . . 4 . . .

A shocking headline: Most Americans Have Had Premarital Sex

An astounding 95% of Americans - even women born way back in the 40s, says the article - have engaged in pre-marital sex. Older generations just weren't as open about it. Or perhaps TV wasn't. Regardless, the study is touted as yet another reason Bush's abstinence-only programs are silly.

However you feel about the main subject of this article and study, I hope you noted the following paragraphs (READER WARNING: irony or hypocrisy sensitive readers may wish to skip this part):

Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defended the abstinence-only approach for teenagers.

"One of its values is to help young people delay the onset of sexual activity," he said. "The longer one delays, the fewer lifetime sex partners they have, and the less the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease."

He insisted there was no federal mission against premarital sex among adults.

"Absolutely not," Horn said. "The Bush administration does not believe the government should be regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults."
Really? The administration doesn't believe in regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults? Of ANY adults?

I'm having a rather difficult time believing that statement.


Josh said...

"The longer one delays, the fewer lifetime sex partners they have..."

Interest. In my experience, I've found the opposite to be true. I'll never think about hitting a baseball again.

doughnut70 said...

Heavy duty subject which people have debated and discussed forever. I guess the obvious assumption about the study is that they are counting people who had sex with the person who became their spouse. Otherwise I think it's some professor trying to get publicity. I particularly would question the study if it claimed to not be counting future spouses when it deals with prior generations. Values have changed today, but more than that, in the years prior to 1960 most of the countries population was still living in smaller communities where everyone essentially knew each others business. I have to believe if premarital sex was going on at any significant level, it would have been if not widely accepted, at least not looked down on like it still is in most smaller communities (ie the several newspaper stories in the past year about towns forcing unmarried couples to leave or to give up government benefits because of their living arrangements).

Anonymous said...

I don't recall the article alleging that the findings wouldn't include those who had premarital sex with the same partner with whom they'd be having marital sex. In fact, I think it's a far safer bet that the figures include plenty of examples of married people who boinked before they walked down the aisle.

I think there's something to be said for at least pretending like it doesn't go on, keeping it hushed, rather than acknowledging it in an approving way - which is what we're doing more and more. Sound a bit conservative? It is.

And prevailing cultural attitudes toward premarital sex - that is, the way it would have been discussed in public - has ZERO bearing on the rates reported here. Ain't life grand and complicated?

Furthermore, as the linked article illustrates, people will run 8,000 ways with this data.

As for me, I don't think pre-marital sex is a gateway directly to hell, but I also strongly, strongly support programs that encourage kids to wait until they are older for sex (but they should still know everything they can about contraception, STDs, and pregnancy).

doughnut70 said...

As I am sure you have seen in your trips to Europe, there is a much different attitude towards sex here than in most of the rest of the world. In most places sex is taught as a natural bodily function and although it's important, it isn't given the mystery treatment that it has been in this country. But then again, in some cases it's treated with even more secretiveness, which we make fun of, just as most European countries make fun of our attitudes.

I think a lot of people would like to see prevailing attitudes here brought in line with Europe and I think a lot of other people in this country think that is a big part of the deterioration that so many social scientists perceive as happening here (Not that they want to put women in Burka's, but a lot of them don't want them out of the house working), while most of us (including, it sounds like CD) fall somewhere in the middle. That is the debate I was speaking of in my prior post and I think we have all come across it in one form or another.

I think you see that debate playing out in places like Jackpot, Missouri where an unmarried couple was recently forced to move out of town or in South Carolina where most counties don't let unmarried couples living together collect government aid in any form or on the other side of the argument in places like West Hollywood or San Francisco where sexual openess is flaunted in many neighborhoods and people who live there know they have to accept not only an open sexuality, but alternatives openly practiced that they might believe are wrong and immoral.

Most of us grew up in the days when Ozzie and Harriet and every other husband and wife on television slept in separate beds and motel owners refused to rent to unmarried couples. That's all changed a lot and I think as a society we are trying to find a happy medium.

My point about the study was a cynical one, which is that I think the researcher was trying to influence the debate I am talking about by implying that the amount of promiscuity happening today is no different than it was back in the day, but that we talk about it more today.

I have heard people claim that in conversation quite a bit and I think they (and he if that is his point) are kidding themselves if they really believe it.

I am not saying it was better, but the people in those days practiced different morals perhaps grounded in different necesseties that confronted them. For example, lack of knowledge of birth control could certainly give a lot of additional consequences to casual sex.

However, I think that the different world we live in may have a need for different values and even if so called small town values were still preached by popular culture, I think clearly you would still have a lot more premarital sex today than you did back then.

Why? mostly because people now move more often than they did back then and you no longer have to worry about offending the sensibilities of someone that you probably would have to deal with for the rest of your life. Of course increased knowledge of contraceptives and women being allowed into the work force also decreases some of the personal risks to an unwanted pregnancy which is a part of the debate.

So I guess it is something our generation is muddling through and I just thought that the way the study came across was more an attempt at bashing one side of the cultural debate rather than adding to the sum of overall knowledge.

Anonymous said...

I think you're confusing "promiscuity" with premarital sex. As you point out, the article doesn't mention, directly, the percentage of those who had premarital sex who had it with future partners.

The article does mention that later marital ages contribute to a higher number of sexual partners. Still, if anyone uses the data that 95% of Americans have sex before marriage to support the argument that Americans are promiscuous and have been since forever - well, they'd be wrong - at least based on the information in the linked article.

And lastly, whether 95% of people do something has no bearing on its morality.

doughnut70 said...

My point was that I believed the hidden agenda of the author of the study was to defend a more sexually open society and to make the point since he talked about prior generations that there has always been a huge difference in how social conservatives viewed premarital sex between couples that were planning on getting married and relationships between boyfriend and girlfriend. The reason I thought that was significant was that if you read the story by itself, the one thing that jumps out is the statement that prior generations had roughly the same percentage of people claiming to have had premarital sex. My point was that although it may have been accurate, in prior generations premarital sex was (in my opinion) by and large only occuring between couples that were already on their way to the altar wheras in this generation, it is a lot more about fun and recreation (be that good or bad).
As for morality, you are of course correct, but the moral norms of society are set by common assent and those norms change over time as circumstances in society change. As an example, one of the more courageous things in movie history was the treating of the character "Sam" in Casablanca. Up until that time African Americans had never been portrayed in any truly positive way in American films. Bogart had a lot to do with how Sam was portrayed. However, there are numerous references to him as a boy and other such racial slurs without which the movie couldn't have gotten made. In todays society, those slurs would qualify as truly immoral. In that time, they were a necessary compromise to advance things and were a very moral choice. So although Martin Luther said that any true Christian must follow his conscience before his church, neighbors or state, I think everyone's conscience has to also consider where the rest of the world is (that 95%) when deciding what is a moral choice. Hope that makes some sense and is not too long.

Anonymous said...

'Nut - your opinion has no basis other than the same kind of anecdotal, sitcom-bed-scenario-sourced thinking that likely prompted the study's author to act in the first place. It doesn't matter if the premarital sex was between engaged folk - if you believe it's immoral to have premarital sex, then premarital sex is immoral. Period. Jesus doesn't care that you were *about* to tie the knot.

You also presented no evidence that the study's author doing any of what you accuse him of.

I think your relativist understanding of morality is odd.

Again, just because society is more accepting of a behavior, doesn't condemn or ostracize people for it, doesn't make it moral.

Bigotry didn't BECOME immoral. It always has been.

doughnut70 said...

Perhaps if I watched more sitcoms, I could publish a study of my own and get featured in several newspapers. You are correct that I presented no evidence to back up any accusation against the studies author. I merely presented a hypothesis and made a comment about the possibility of an agenda. I don't think that's ever out of place in an academic discussion. As for premarital sex, whether it's immoral or not, there has never been a time in the last fifty years when it was not generally accepted if the couples were already engaged, while in many communities it is still not accepted and is in fact ostracized. You are correct that morality is not the result of a public opinion poll (In fact Martin Luther said any true Christian will at some point in his life have to stand up against his family, his community and his church to truly follow Christ)however if the goal of our time here on earth is to pursue a moral society and we are to be concerned with more than our own personal interests, then the strategy to reach a more moral world will always change depending on society at large. Bigotry may have always been immoral, but just as a Bill Clinton will argue that you should never let the perfect become the enemy of the good, to write off someone's action without considering the world around them (Lincoln's bigotry against blacks as an example) is way too simple minded to give an accurate picture of the world.