In a slow moment at Starbucks, one of my favorite young baristas chatted about how she and her boyfriend divide the cooking duties. She also mentioned they recently moved here from halfway across the country.
Her revelations made me think about how much has changed due to the sexual revolution. Activities and events that used to take place within marriage now often happen outside of it. In addition to sex and intimacy, unmarried couples share residences, cooking, bill-paying, childbirth and childrearing, and — really — life and career planning. And I wondered if this lovely barista would like to be married to this boyfriend of a few years.
Maybe not. But her situation is illustrative of a sea change in the culture.
University of Texas sociologist, Mark Regnerus writes of this phenomenon in Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy. He conducted over 100 interviews and drew on data from his survey of over 15,000 Americans to back up what we all know: “cheap sex is flooding the market in sex and relationships” and it’s resulting in a disturbing decline in the marriage rate. His extensive research has shown that, among Americans ages 24 to 32, casual sex is the norm and waiting until marriage is rare.
Cheap sex has become “a presumption, widely perceived as natural and commonsensical,” he writes.
The development and widespread use of the birth control pill served to separate sex from childbearing. A weaker tie between sex and pregnancy detracts from the argument that marriage is necessary for sex. Thus women lose some of their gatekeeping power.
No strings sex might be fun for men but, as Dr. Regnerus points out, it does little to encourage them “toward those historic institutions — a settled job, and marriage—that created opportunity for them and their families.”
Mark Regnerus’s book makes a good case that cheap sex is actually very expensivefor women, men, and the society.