Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reality check: 95 percent of Americans had premarital sex -

And the rate has been fairly stable all the way back to the 1940s. So there really wasn't a golden age of chaste youngsters. Which makes perfect sense given that there is an evolutionary reason why puberty starts as a fairly young age i.e. much younger than what we would common accept as a statutory age of consent.

Nevertheless I read it with a raised eyebrow as the numbers are pretty high. And as a skeptic, anytime I see something that agrees with me so completely, I tend to be cautious in affirming it until more facts come to light.

So here's the report from the Guttmacher Institute.

But first a disclaimer. I am not a statistician nor do I have much training in them outside of my A Level C Math classes. Furthermore, I don't really have a good ground in such research methodology, or at least nothing formally learned.

The first thing that struck me was their narrow definition of pre-martital sex which they defined as "either having had vaginal intercourse before first marrying or ever having had intercourse and never having married". The reason I say this is that there have been a couple of studies showing that teens (and adults) who while proclaiming never to have had sex, have engaged in what is called "anything-but" behavior i.e. having had engaged in what would be considered sexual activities such as mutual masturbation, oral and anal sexual intercourse. So either the figures would be way higher if such activities were included or possibly that sexual activity comes in a complete package.

Here are the results they drew:
Data from the 2002 survey indicate that by age 20, 77% of respondents had had sex, 75% had had premarital sex, and 12% had married; by age 44, 95% of respondents (94% of women, 96% of men, and 97% of those who had ever had sex) had had premarital sex. Even among those who abstained until at least age 20, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44. Among cohorts of women turning 15 between 1964 and 1993, at least 91% had had premarital sex by age 30. Among those turning 15 between 1954 and 1963, 82% had had premarital sex by age 30, and 88% had done so by age 44.

Well, so much for "expected standard" of behavior among society at large.

Note the last sentence because I want to point out a recent absurdity by the Bush "faith based" Administration which is now advocating abstinence until 30. That's right people, you can by now drink, drive, smoke, get killed and kill and you can't have sex. This is the question I've always wanted to ask one of those abstinence only people during those talks i.e. even if we were to take at face value everything you said thus far, would you include adults under the category of not having pre-marital sex and on what basis would you justify it.

Anyway, the rest of the research paper reads well and basically just repeatedly kicks the "conventional" wisdom in the face and then some more.

Some points to note. Median age of first premarital sex has been dropping since 1954 to 1993 (20.4 to 17.3) before creeping up for the period of 1994-2003 (17.6). Percentage who had had premarital sex by 15 has indeed shot up from 4% in the period of 1954-63 to 14 percent in 1984-93. Although the biggest percentage rise (50%) was between the periods of 1954-63 and 1964-73. While the percentage rise between 1984-93 and 1994-2003 was 7.69% (to 2 sf). Same goes for fall in median age.

Otherwise, the figures across the board since 1964 have been really really stable i.e. definitely not outside of the bounds of statistical significant i.e. noise.

So what would be the "moral" choice now? To basically ignore reality and the wider stable historical and future trends it presents, or continue with what is really a screwed up policy and in turn screwing up the lives of countless teenagers along the way? Sorry, irrational religious beliefs can no respect from me, particularly in this circumstance.


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