Virginity Still the Best Route to Marriage

For decades, the media and even various policy groups have told Americans that it’s OK—nay, it’s good and healthy—to explore multiple sexual relationships with multiple partners. Merely watching television may lead one to conclude that most Americans lead sex lives that are wildly promiscuous and adventurous. But a new study out of the Institute for Family Studies suggests that A) sexual mores have changed less than some would have us believe, and B) there is still much to be said for chastity.  In a study for the Institute for Family Studies, Nicholas Wolfinger seeks to better understand the relationship between premarital sex and later marital quality. “The 1960s,” he opens, “changed premarital sex. Prior to the sexual revolution, unmarried heterosexual sex partners tended to marry each other (sometimes motivated by a shotgun pregnancy); in more recent decades, first sex usually does not lead to marriage.” Nonetheless, Wolfinger continues, while those trends have certainly been dramatic, the numbers of married Americans who report only one lifetime sexual partner have actually held pretty steady for a number of decades: around 40% for women, and inching toward that for several years for men.  Furthermore, respondents of a previous survey “who tied the knot as virgins had the lowest divorce rates, but beyond that, the relationship between sexual biography and marital stability was less clear. Having multiple partners generally doesn’t increase the odds of divorce any more than having just a few does.” Wolfinger seeks to better understand this relationship. Analyzing almost 30 years worth of data from the General Social Survey, Wolfinger notes that “[o]verall, 64% of respondents report very happy marriages. . . . Also, most Americans have less exciting sexual histories than the media would have us to believe. The median American woman born in the 1980s has had three sex partners in her lifetime. The median man has had six p
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