Why Monogamy Matters

Thought someone might post this yesterday, and chances are our loyal readers have already seen it. But I suspect it will spark an interesting conversation. Ross Douthat writing in Monday's New York Times:

In 2002, the study reported, 22 percent of Americans aged 15 to 24 were still virgins. By 2008, that number was up to 28 percent. Other research suggests that this trend may date back decades, and that young Americans have been growing more sexually conservative since the late 1980s.


Why is this good news? Not, it should be emphasized, because it suggests the dawn of some sort of traditionalist utopia, where the only sex is married sex. No such society has ever existed, or ever could: not in 1950s America (where, as the feminist writer Dana Goldstein noted last week, the vast majority of men and women had sex before they married), and not even in Mormon Utah (where Brigham Young University recently suspended a star basketball player for sleeping with his girlfriend).

But there are different kinds of premarital sex. There’s sex that’s actually pre-marital, in the sense that it involves monogamous couples on a path that might lead to matrimony one day. Then there’s sex that’s casual and promiscuous, or just premature and ill considered.

This distinction is crucial to understanding what’s changed in American life since the sexual revolution. Yes, in 1950 as in 2011, most people didn’t go virgins to their marriage beds. But earlier generations of Americans waited longer to have sex, took fewer sexual partners across their lifetimes, and were more likely to see sleeping together as a way station on the road to wedlock.

 And they may have been happier for it. That’s the conclusion suggested by two sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, in their recent book, “Premarital Sex in America.” Their research, which looks at sexual behavior among contemporary young adults, finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression.

Tim Reidy


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William Atkinson
7 years 10 months ago
Interesting topic, when the reality kind of slays these studies,  I guess at any given time slot Americas married folks are monogmous, but in reality with divorce, remarriage, and so much of our social structure couples living together in non-married state; we are in reality a polygamous society.  Overall life times Americans marry and get remarried to extremes, sort of different way of having many ladies or wives, so not all at same time, but yet multiple encounters.   As far as pre-martial sex, Americans (since catholic church did away with betrothals) find sex and sexual experience outside of marriage sinfull  (some would say sinfull within marrisage under certain cercumstances) most catholic americans just plain ignore these so called moral norms.
the Americasn moral norm, all are free individuals, women and men. with full rights that the catholic (also mormans and muslims) see as anti religious, especially when it comes to female rights alongside men.    We especially see this in the evolution of marriage vows with women no longer subject to binds and dictates of the man they are engaged, betrothed, and eventually married to.

We see today in American and also world (Vatican also) movement to align their teaching, testaments, writings, and social structures with individual free rights taking front row over former social and community rights.   the American way of life (rights under constitution) are slowly becoming the religious, political and economical rights throughout the world.    Free to be free.....
Juan Lino
7 years 10 months ago
Tim's post and Will's comment are very interesting.  Looking at my experience and my friend’s experiences, I can tell you that we've haven't really benefitted from the so called “sexual revolution.”  What I mean is that at a certain point we've become very cynical about love and/or happiness through love.  Speaking for myself, I've told women that I slept with that I loved them (I meant it) and that I would be with them forever and vice versa and guess what, it didn't turn out to be true!  And so, the scars build up and the next time you hear someone tell you those words you actually cynically think: “B.S, I've heard that before!”  I may not say it, but I certainly think it inside.

Yeah, maybe we don’t want to go back to the 50s – a mythic area for me – but what we have know is really not utopia either.  All I can say, is that being faithful to Christ in this area has been hard but it definitely has been fulfilling.  And yes, my heart craves monogamy and I hope it's not just smoke and mirrors.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 10 months ago
Being 60 years old and married for almost 40 years, all I've got to say is that sexual love is very, very tricky territory.  I'm convinced that sexuality and spirituality are energies that are very close to each other, probably intertwined deep down somewhere.

Monogamy may be the best/only way to reach this place, but I'm not at all sure about that, and I sort of resent the celibates and moralizers who try to put a box around it, defining it with rules and regulations. 

We all stumble around in this dark area, making a lot of mistakes (it's the only way), with occasional glimpses of something that might be called transcendence.
Jim McCrea
7 years 10 months ago
At first I thought this was an article written by Newt Gingrich.
7 years 10 months ago
We know a lot more about the health risks of sex than we did during the 60s and 70s.  Prior to then, pregnancy was the primary risk, with gonnorhea and syphyllis becoming treatable in the early 20th century.  In the early 80s, we learned about herpes, incurable and permanen; in the 90s came HIV/AIDS, permanent and lethal; and now HPV, a known cause of several types of cancer. 

Is it conservativism or fear that is the cause of reduced sexual activity?  Well, we know how cool and prevalent smoking used to be, and how human willpower was able to overcome the psychological and physical addiction in the face of sickness and death.

I suppose that conservativism and rejection of risky behavior go hand in hand.  As many religious prohibitions are derivative of bad things happening to people that we were inexplicable but able to be associated with certain behaviors, it seems that the secularists' religion, science, is, ironically, coming around to teaching the same things that the ancient religions teach, armed with the evidence that is so demanded by a faithless society. 


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