What about sex? That’s the question that often pops up when people sit back and contemplate the growing demographic and social trends.
For decades, the number and percentage of people who are single has been growing. In part, that’s because people who marry no longer get around to it in their early adult years. The most recent data on the median age at which people first marry showed record highs — 28.7 for men and 26.5 for women. Although cohabitation is growing, too, romantic partners living together account for just a small percentage of all legally single people.
That’s where the sex question comes in. If you are not marrying until your late twenties – if you marry at all – and you are not cohabiting, what are you doing for sex that whole time?
There are lots of possible answers to that question. For example: You don’t have to be cohabiting to have sex within the context of a serious relationship. Or: Some people are not all that interested in sex.
A few months ago, Hannah Rosin set off paroxysms of protest when she offered another answer: Young adults find sex in the hook-up culture. As if that were not enough, she also proclaimed that women were driving this practice and that it was a good thing.
Noting the gains women have been making in pay and in the pursuit of higher education, Rosin says:
“What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom – the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career…For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.”
Young women, Rosin added:
“…have more important things on their minds, such as good grades and internships and job interviews and a financial future of their own…Many did not want a relationship to steal time away from their friendships or studying.”
Rosin is not claiming that kids these days are obsessed with sex. In fact, she notes that teenagers today “are far less likely than their parents were to have sex or get pregnant.”
Hannah Rosin is not peddling the conventional wisdom. Regardless of what you think of the hook-up culture, perhaps you can appreciate her valuing of the important people and pursuits that so often get trampled by all the usual matrimania. She acknowledges that friends matter and so does the capacity to be educated and trained and to support yourself. So most of the way through this Atlantic article, I was cheering.
Then she wraps up with this:
“Ultimately, the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women. Even for those business-school women, their hookup years are likely to end up with a series of photographs, buried somewhere on their Facebook page, that they do or don’t share with their husband…”
The writer who was so open-minded in so many ways ends with a tired old matrimaniacal ending. The woman gets her man. Always. That “deeper human connection” does not get to be one of the friendships she so admired on the previous page, it is a romantic relationship – and a heterosexual one at that.
[Note: Thanks to Crimson for the heads-up about the Rosin article.]
Sexy couple photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 29 Oct 2012