Ten Myths About Sex and Relationships Among Emerging Adults

Social researchers Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker expose ten myths about sex and relationships among emerging adults in America (ages 18-23) in there book Premarital Sex: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, And Think About Marrying. Regnerus is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Research Associate with the Population Research Center at the University of Teas at Austin, and Uecker is a postdoctoral scholar with the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. The publisher’s comment in the flyleaf of the book makes a grandiose claim: “[it is] the fullest portrait of heterosexuality among young adults ever produced.” What follows are their ten myths:

First, long-term exclusivity is a fiction (242).

Half of all marriages last a lifetime, and extramarital affairs are a small minority problem.

Second, the introduction of sex is necessary in order to sustain a fledging or struggling relationship (243).

The quicker sex enters a relationship the sooner the relationships fails, and most relationships fail.

Third, the sexual double standard is inherently wrong and must be resisted by any means (243).

The sexual double standard between men and women may not be liked, but it is true. Men and women pursue sex for different reasons. Women may enjoy sex as much as men, but they do not think and feel the same way about it. Generally they “set higher standards for their relationships” (244). Why accept the idea that women shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than men? Instead, why not rejoice in the fact that they do?

Fourth, boys will be boys. That is, men can’t be expected to abide by the sexual terms that women may wish to set (244).

Boys may want to maximize orgasms and minimize commitments, but this can change if, speaking in sexual economics terms, the going price for sex rises. “Men live up to–or down to–the expectations placed upon them” (244). Currently the price for sex is cheap, as a committed relationship is not always a requirement for sex, but if this changes since men want sex they will pay a higher price. “In other words, men will work for sex. But they won’t if they don’t have to” (245).

Fifth, it doesn’t matter what other people do sexually; you make your own decisions (245).

The actions and attitudes of others affect your decisions: “if a critical mass of men and women enjoy an extended series of sexual relationships and expect sex fairly promptly within them, it becomes quite difficult for a minority to do otherwise” (245).

Sixth, porn won’t affect your relationships (246).

Because more and more men are viewing porn regularly it “cannot but shape sexual market dynamics” (246). And studies have shown that the tandem of porn and masturbation actually “reduces the value of intercourse” because it is much more physiologically satisfying than masturbation alone (246). “Porn becomes easier, and so must women (on average)” (246).

Seventh, everyone else is having more sex than you are (247).

Actually you are less conservative than you think–“most still overestimate how much sex is actually going on around them” (247). The authors write about this phenomena of pluralistic ignorance, “it happens when individuals within a group begin to believe that their own private attitudes, beliefs, or judgments are more conservative and rare than the public norms they see displayed by others” (247).

Eighth, sex need not mean anything. (247)

This myth can occur broadly between the sexes, but exists especially among women. It is emotionally challenging for women to engage in casual sex and to experience a broken sexual relationship.

Ninth, marriage can always wait. (248)

Most emerging adults still want to get married–eventually. They put off marriage for years and years and thus the marriage market “does not grow deeper and more impressive with age” (249). Thus, the authors encourage “men and women who’ve met someone who is ‘marriage material’ to think twice before rejecting the notion that they’re just not ready yet” (249).

Tenth, moving in together is definitely a step toward marriage. (249)

In most cases cohabitation does not last. “It overwhelmingly leads to either marriage or breakup within a few short years” (250). It is also more advantageous to men than to women as it gives them “more stable access to sex, without the expectations or commitments of marital responsibilities” (250).

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