"THE PROPER BASIS FOR MARRIAGE IS A MUTUAL MISUNDERSTANDING": Notes I didn't use for my review of Premarital Sex in America.
Sorry about the length! I thought this book did a good job of advancing the ball in terms of our understanding of American ideas about marriage and sex. It's worth your time. Everything that follows is something I thought as a result of this book, not
necessarily something the book said itself, unless it's in quotation marks.
Oh, and: I snagged the epigraph for my review from the Cigarette Smoking Blog
p1: "premarital" no longer typically implies sex between two people who eventually do marry one another--pre
-marital sex. (Although Maggie Gallagher points out
that according to the CDC, "32 percent of currently married women under the age of 45 say they have had only one sex partner in their life. ... If the data are accurate, they suggest there are at least as many adult women under the age of 45 who have never had sex with anyone but their husband as there are gay people in the general population.")
p34: Especially after high school, oral sex isn't an alternative to intercourse; it's a warmup. Thinking of it as a birth control strategy, a means of maintaining "technical virginity," etc, requires a lot of naivete about human nature.
p60: 1/5 of sexually-active young men have had sex on the first day of knowing someone! And only 13% of s.a.y.m. have waited more than a year for sex.
pp 60-1: men w/fewer economic resources tend to have more partners, not fewer
p61: guys who've had more partners tend to be quicker to perceive women as less attractive after sex
(With all of these correlations and statistics, the point is not to say, "There are no exceptions, and people never change!" If you don't think this stuff applies to you, maybe it doesn't!--although I do generally think we're less exceptional than we'd like. And the stats might help you see places where you or someone you love does
fit the average models, and therefore where you do need to put more conscious effort into changing or into addressing their issues. Knowing what kind of emotional baggage many people bring away from the experiences you've had can help you jettison that baggage--in part by suggesting that you're not uniquely messed-up if these are issues you have. Anyway, this is one of the many, many things I wanted to say in the AFF piece to mitigate its advice-column or preachy quality, but I ran out of room....)
p64: Birth control has made women slightly more like men (i.e. able to have relatively less-consequential, less-costly sex) rather than making men more like women (i.e. desiring high-cost, high-commitment sex)
p88: A girl says oral sex is "vulgar" but women should be nice and "giving" in relationships and do it anyway. This gets at one aspect of what you might call the Dan Savage worldview
which I hadn't considered: If social norms shift such that the default is more like
the "Good, Giving, and Game" model where you do the sex act you'd (strongly, in the case of anal sex, as Regnerus and Uecker find) prefer not to do, women have to give in a lot more often than men. (Assuming that this shift in social norms doesn't radically shift which
sex acts men vs women object to and how strongly.) The "GGG" model can be just another way of playing on women's altruism--and our preference for justifying
our actions as altruism even when there are a lot of other motives in play.
[ETA: I should make clear that I think this gender imbalance is an unintended consequence of the "GGG" idea. I mean, I don't think Dan Savage came up with this phrase in order to prey on women's insecurities! But I do think it plays into some of those insecurities.]
p104: "Hooking up" is more common at elite universities than lower-tier ones. Elite-U students are too focused on their educations and future careers to make time for an intense relationship, basically, but they still want sex.
p107: imbalanced campus sex ratios (i.e. more women per man--an increasingly common situation) lowers women's control of sexual relationships
p110: The authors imply that there isn't a script
for regretting casual sex--they write as if seeking out sex is scripted but regretting it is more authentic or less socially-condoned, and I'm not convinced that's true.
p126: if college sex ratios remain the same "for long," 26 of 100 women will have to marry down educationally
p137: there's a minority of women for whom "no strings attached" sex is the ideal (though, p157, not an especially workable one). What I take from this is that there's a need to convey, culturally, that this preference is less beautiful
, that beauty requires vulnerability. (One danger is that in making that point we might unintentionally sound like we're invoking Love in the Western World
-style anti-marriage romantic tropes.)
p141: Very weak link between sexual behavior and depression in men (unlike the correlations for women between, e.g., more sex partners and a higher incidence of depression)--did they look for links to aggression or self-destructive behaviors? In other words, when we look for "depression" are we ignoring how the same emotional distress might manifest in people with more testosterone? They mention that men often express hurt differently, pp162-3, but don't really explore the idea.
p152: "The Sex Itself Is Not the Problem"--it's number of partners. Currently being in a sexual relationship typically makes women feel better. "Indeed, the sex is operating as it tends to--bonding persons, deepening relationships, and fostering greater interpersonal intimacy."
p161: "One study of casual sex in college notes that the most likely pairing is between self-confident men and distressed, depressed women."
They also explore the direction of the causal arrow here (i.e. which came first, higher incidence of depression or higher number of partners?)
p177: Catholics marry "early" (before age 24) second-last
after black Protestants! And that's even though Hispanic men are more likely to marry early. "Catholics, Jews, and the religiously-unaffiliated." I know there are a lot of reasons for those numbers, but I am pretty sure it's not a good sign for the spiritual and vocational formation of Our Young People.
p182: I would like to distance myself from the authors' sunshiney reading of our economic crisis. That is all.
p183: Young adults believe that identity-formation should happen before marriage, as vs. marriage being one of the biggest sources and shapers of identity; p185: If you change within marriage that's viewed as a threat
to the marriage, so marriage requires
you to stop changing and to have already done your identity-formation. This seems to me to be a result, in part, of divorce "scripts" like, "He's not the man I married." We don't hear nearly enough about how to reshape or renew a marriage when a spouse changes.
p186: wishful thinking and misinformation about peak fertility
p188-9: parental resistance to young marriage--this is a major factor
p190: learning to be "good in bed" as a "transferable skill set," rather than learning to please the specific person you love and marry
p194: idealization of marriage means no relationship can live up to it
p220: the effects of childhood/youth mobility
on later marriage outcomes: maybe "they get used to breakups." p221: Early geographic mobility is correlated with both liberalism and a higher number of sex partners--and the sex-partners correlation remains even after various common-sense things are controlled for like race, age, socioeconomic status, and parents' marital status.
p231: In discussing demography, the authors use this phrase: "the unintended byproducts of often rational and optimal decisions by regular people to have fewer children and a life richer in
economic success and personal experiences
." I have bolded the part that is bizarre and telling
p232: The fruits of the Second Demographic Transition
are money and freedom
p234: "Blues grow... by conversion... higher education and social class mobility. Reds tend to grow by reproduction."
p234: "Reds" are guiltier, more conflicted (earlier we've seen how much they're torn between a script in which marriage and family life is the primary goal and a script in which career and economic stability is the primary goal--and those scripts really do conflict for them). They're torn between two worldviews, marginalized--they don't stand within their own POV the way "blues" seem to. (Obviously this is wildly generalizing, but as a wild generalization I think it works. There's a reason I wish I'd titled my review of Red Families vs. Blue Families
, a book written from an intensely "blue" perspective, "Written by the Victors.")
And on that depressing note, I guess I'll end. I like the authors' decision not to do the obligatory last chapter where they offer their ten-point plan for cultural renewal. You'll note that I couldn't resist it myself. They're humbler than me.