Marital and Sexual Lifestyles in the United States: Attitudes, Behaviors, and Relationships in Social Context

Article excerpt

Marital and Sexual Lifestyles in the United States: Attitudes, Behaviors, and Relationships in Social Context. L. Rouse. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Clinical Practice Press. 2002. 327 pp. Paperback, $34.95; Hard, $59.95. ISBN: 0-7890-1071-2.

The book is designed as a text for use with upper-level undergraduate and graduate students who are majoring in family science, sociology, or other related fields. It would also be informative individual reading. The approach is research based and scholarly but also readable.

Rouse addresses the sociology of sexual expression in its many forms. The author traces the changes in attitudes, behaviors, and relationship choices over the past 50 years in the United States. She explains and documents how attitudes and behaviors formerly labeled unacceptable have become largely socially accepted. She also addresses how certain behaviors become labeled as deviant in various cultural groups and gives examples of how those behaviors vary widely, particularly between indigenous people groups.

The introduction and first two chapters set the stage for Rouse's approach to the topic. She defines her terms (e.g., sociological imagination, human sexuality) and discusses how empirical data are gathered and used to understand human sexual behavior and personal and relationship choices (e.g., single, married, or cohabiting). In Chapter 3, Rouse addresses sex and singles with particular attention to communication between dating couples, date rape, contraceptive choices, and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases. Chapter 4 examines changes in societal attitudes and trends in marriage, divorce, and sexual behavior in the United States, particularly in the decades since 1950. She also discusses the pros and cons of the "open marriage" and "swinging couples" experimentations in which some married couples engage. Rouse dissects the terms "sexual morality" and "sexual hang-ups" in Chapter 5. She clearly explains the various paraphilias (e.g., exhibitionism, fetishism, obscene communication, pedophilia, sadism, masochism). …