Responding to the Sexual Revolution with Love and Fidelity
Caitlin La Ruffa
Sex has become the expected price of entry for the dating market today. In response to numerous forces driving the cost of sex downward over the past few generations, more and more high school seniors are engaging in sexual relationships as they begin their foray into the adult dating and marriage scene.
The media’s ubiquitous portrayal of casual sex as lighthearted fun with limited consequences has created a cultural perception of sex as costless. Pornography, through its ability to shape perceptions of “normal” behavior and by acting as a competitor (mostly to women) in the dating market, also has exerted downward pressure on the price of sex. Other cultural influences — like the voices of elites who preach self-actualization through sexual experimentation (while living largely conventional family lives themselves) and early sex education that explicitly introduces and teaches risky behavior to young teens — have increased the demand for earlier and more frequent sexual experiences.
Perhaps no other single factor has influenced the cost of sex more than readily available contraception. The pill and its counterparts have influenced our collective conscience so greatly that sex and reproduction hardly maintain their link in the Millennial mind.
The trend toward early commencement of sexual activity is linked to a greater number of lifetime sexual partners; higher risk of sexually transmitted infection; increased likelihood of unwed pregnancy (despite easy access to nearly free contraception); abortion; and single parenthood. More partners and quicker initial sexual encounters are negatively correlated with lifelong marital happiness and fidelity, both empirically and intuitively. Early entanglement is also linked to poor decision-making in spousal selection, the effect of which is compounded by creating a cycle of broken marriages and families.
Rates of depression and anxiety, conditions for which nearly one-quarter of American women are clinically treated, are higher among those who engage in casual sex, and women who “hook up” are more likely to report feeling disrespected by their partners. Add to this the current teen and twentysomething generation’s lack of hope in the possibility of lifelong faithful marriage. While the divorce rate among the college-educated has stabilized, among those with a high school but no college degree — a majority of Americans — the divorce rate continues to rise.
The generation of children who grew up under full-blown no-fault divorce are suffering the consequences of their parents’ (and lawmakers’) decisions. They have never been taught, either in formal relationship education or by the lived example in the classroom of the family home, what healthy, loving, faithful relationships look like. They are terrified of repeating their parents’ mistakes, but their attempted solutions — like overwhelming hesitancy toward commitment and avoidance of relationship labels — actually perpetuate the problem.
To address this generational cycle of heartache and broken relationships, we need to begin by piecing back together the puzzle of love, marriage, sex, and children. When these pieces are well integrated, we witness the flourishing of family life. Conversely, when our culture has scattered them, we see the sexualization of childhood and the breakdown of the family in a vicious cycle.
We need to impart to the next generation an understanding of sexuality that grounds it in human reality — which includes human biology. We need to instill a sense of intentionality in dating and teach authentic relationship skills, not just “condom negotiation.” These include skills like those taught in Dr. John Van Epp’s Relationship Attachment Model or Dr. Scott Stanley’s Sliding vs. Deciding framework, both of which show students the progression of a healthy relationship.
In essence, we need to focus less on teaching young people the mechanics of sex and more on instilling the virtues of love and prudence. We need to give postponement of sexual activity a purpose greater than mere utilitarian pregnancy avoidance, especially since recent research shows that many young women in middle America are largely ambivalent about avoiding pregnancy.
Young people themselves are starting to recognize the harmful effects of the sexual revolution ideology that they have been spoon-fed from a tender age. Many have dedicated themselves, through the work of Love and Fidelity Network and other ministries and organizations, to educating their peers in the pursuit of authentic love and giving them hope that lifelong marriage is both attainable and worth sacrificing to maintain.
We should applaud their efforts and follow their lead, recognizing that this generation does not want to live enslaved to their sexual desires but simply has never been shown another way.
— Caitlin La Ruffa is Executive Director of the Love and Fidelity Network.
Next Up in the Culture Section:
- Robert E. Rector, Kirk A. Johnson, Ph.D., Lauren R. Noyes, and Shannan Martin, “The Harmful Effects of Early Sexual Activity and Multiple Sexual Partners Among Women: A Book of Charts,” The Heritage Foundation, June 23, 2003,
https://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2003/pdf/Bookofcharts.pdf (accessed June 6, 2016).
- Katherine Bindley, “Women and Prescription Drugs: One in Four Takes Mental Health Meds,” Huffington Post, November 16, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/16/women-and-prescription-drug-use_n_1098023.html (accessed April 20, 2016). See also Melinda Bersamin, et al. “Risky Business: Is There an Association between Casual Sex and Mental Health among Emerging Adults?” Journal of Sex Research, June 7, 2013, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23742031 (accessed June 6, 2016).
- Paula England and Jason Young, “Understanding the Hook-up Culture: What’s Really Happening on College Campuses. Media Education Foundation Study Guide,”
http://www.mediaed.org/discussion-guides/Understanding-Hookup-Culture-Discussion-Guide.pdf (accessed June 6, 2016), p. 23.
- International Planned Parenthood Federation, “Condom Negotiation,” April 26, 2012,
http://www.ippf.org/news/blogs/condom-negotiation (accessed April 20, 2016).
- For John Van Epp’s Relationship Attachment Model, see www.lovethinks.com (accessed June 23, 2016). For Dr. Scott Stanley’s Sliding vs. Deciding framework, see slidingvsdeciding.blogspot.com (accessed June 23, 2016).
- Amber Lapp, “When Pregnancy Is ‘Planned But Not Planned,’” Institute for Family Studies, April 20, 2015,
http://family-studies.org/when-pregnancy-is-planned-but-not-planned/ (accessed April 20, 2016).
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