Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying

Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying

Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying

Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying


The period of young adulthood, from ages 18 to 23, is popularly considered the most sexualized in life. But is it true? What do we really know about the sexual lives of young people today?

Premarital Sex in Americacombines illuminating personal stories and comprehensive research surveys to provide the fullest portrait of heterosexuality among young adults ever produced. Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker draw upon a wealth of survey data as well as scores of in-depth interviews with young adults from around the country, both in and out of college. Digging underneath stereotypes and unexamined assumptions, the authors offer compelling--and often surprising--answers to such questions as: How do the emotional aspects of sexual relations differ between young men and women? What role do political orientations play in their sexual relations? How have online dating and social networking sites affected the relationships of emerging adults? Why are young people today waiting so much longer to marry? How prevalent are nontraditional forms of sex, and what do people think of them? To better understand what drives the sexual behaviors of emerging adults, Regnerus and Uecker pay special attention to two important concepts: sexual scripts, the unwritten and often unconscious rules that guide sexual behavior and attitudes; and sexual economics, a theory which suggests that the relative scarcity of men on college campuses contributes to the "hookup" culture by allowing men to diminish their level of commitment and thereby lower the "price" they have to "pay" for sex.

For anyone wishing to understand how sexual relations between young adults have changed and are changing,Premarital Sex in Americawill serve as a touchstone for years to come.


As the title betrays, this is a book about premarital sex. in other words, this book is about the vast majority of Americans. in December 2006, researchers from the Guttmacher Institute released a report about the historic and contemporary prevalence of premarital sex, and they received an avalanche of media attention for it. Their news: about 95 percent of the American public had their first experience of sexual intercourse before they got married. the report also suggested that this is nothing new—even most Americans born in the 1940s reported having sex before marriage. But having sex before you’re married doesn’t mean you had sex by age 18, or even age 25 (although opportunities for premarital sex are certainly increasing). This book is about the heterosexual decisions and relationships of unmarried Americans between the ages of 18 and 23, and our best data estimate suggests about 84 percent of them have already had sex.

Ironically, we won’t actually use the term premarital sex very often. Not because the sexual relationships we will describe here aren’t actually premarital—they are—but because the term itself has changed meanings. Historically, it implied a sexual relationship between a couple who eventually got married. Most sexual relationships among contemporary young adults, however, no longer result in marriage. and an increasing share of American adults aren’t marrying at all. Yes, premarital sex has lost much of its association with marriage, at least marriage to a particular partner. It now tends to refer to any act of sexual intercourse that occurs prior to a person’s getting married. Whether it’s a person’s first sexual partner, an old boyfriend, a one-night stand, or someone’s eventual spouse, the “who” has become less important than the “when” in the use of the term.

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