Enjoyment & Satisfaction Are Not Found Where Elites Expect Them
A recent Atlantic essay1 has American elites in a paroxysm of worry: in spite of our culture's sex-saturation, the widespread availability of pornography and sex toys, the growing acceptance of any and all types of sex within or outside of marriage (as long as it's consensual!), the increasing efficacy and availability of birth control (often for free), and an all-time low HIV rate—in spite of all of these seemingly glorious achievements, American young people are having less sex.
"These should be boom times for sex," writes the author of the piece, Kate Julian. But it isn't so. Teens are initiating sex at later ages (between 1991 and 2017, the percentage of high-school students who had ever had sex went down, from 54 to 40 percent). "Today's young adults," Julian frets,
are on track to have fewer sex partners than members of the two preceding generations. People now in their early 20s are two and a half times as likely to be abstinent as Gen Xers were at that age; 15 percent report having had no sex since they reached adulthood.
In her extensive research—which involved interviewing countless researchers, experts, and average-Joe daters—Julian hit on five essential culprits behind American young people's boring sex lives:
• increases in pornography use and masturbation (although she persists in believing that there's nothing wrong with porn);
• the "hookup culture" and overscheduled lives of American teens;
• the widespread use of dating apps, which seem to be more a waste of time and another route to disappointment than a path to romance;
• the pain, often physical, that young people experience during sex, because, of course, they haven't had high-quality sex ed; and
• inhibitions related to fear of rejection or a negative body image.
Off the Radar
For the Christian reading Julian's essay, the immediate response to her astonished admission that we are, as a nation, having less sex of poorer quality, is something along the lines of, "Um . . . duh?" The notion that lifelong, committed marriage to someone who treasures you and seeks your fulfillment and happiness in every way might possibly lead to both the best and the most frequent sex seems not even to be on her radar. But there's some pretty compelling research to back the biblical position (bad pun intended). Even Julian admits that couples in "committed relationships" tend to have more sex than single adults—despite what Sex and the City and every other sitcom might suggest. And while some surveys and research suggest that cohabiting adults have more frequent sex, others have found the opposite.
Some of the best research on this subject has been compiled by MARRI, the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, which hails from the Catholic University of America. You know who is most likely to report feeling thrilled and excited, satisfied, loved, "taken care of," and needed during sex? Who is most likely to report feeling enjoyment? And who is least likely to feel sad, anxious, worried, or afraid? The person in an always-intact marriage (read: never divorced) who worships weekly.2 Christians who marry, stay married, take their faith seriously, and remain an active part of a religious body—these are the people who report the most frequent and joyful sex.
This is not reported by Julian, or by any of a number of other concerned members of the media and elite, who sit in their offices puzzling over why America's youth don't want (or can't seem to handle) all of the good gifts the sexual revolution has bestowed upon them. This is because America's elite understand sex to mean, largely, orgasm. Sex is this physical thing you do that makes you feel good, whose primary goal is physical pleasure, though it may, secondarily, produce a nice, if momentary, feel-good connection with another human being.
But sex the way that God designed it is so much richer than that. Sex is what binds the married couple together, what makes them married—and thus makes them the image of Christ and his Church. Sex is a physical and spiritual act with eternal and divine meaning. It makes sense that those who enjoy it the most would be those who understand this, and who understand that good sex is about loving and even serving your spouse, about accepting and forgiving him or her, and about putting someone else ahead of yourself—and finding that the other person does the same.
This conception of sex is the truth that appears as "foolishness to the world." And now the world is making itself foolish, as global elites find themselves flummoxed as to why we have so many unsatisfied, de-sexed young people, plummeting birth rates, loneliness, and despair.
1. Kate Julian, "Why Are Young People Having So Little Sex?," The Atlantic (December 2018): theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/12/the-sex-recession/573949.
2. See the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, research papers and "mapping America" charts under the "sexuality" heading, available at https://marri.us/research/sexuality.Nicole M. King
is the managing editor of the Howard Center's quarterly journal, The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy.This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #48, Spring 2019 Copyright © 2019 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo48/have-sex-have-nots