The social consequences of unwed childbearing and delayed marriage make the sexual and relational decisions of emerging adults particularly significant for the future of marriage and family in America. To better understand what motivates the sexual decisions of these young people, researchers Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker assemble comprehensive survey data and illuminating personal stories in their new book, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying. They pay special attention to two important concepts: sexual scripts – the unwritten and often unconscious rules that guide sexual decisions – and sexual economics, the market forces that shape the "price" of sex both within and outside of traditional relationships and that powerfully affects when, who, and why people marry.
Both concepts imply that sex is not an entirely private matter between two individuals, but part of a wider social system in which couples participate. Contemporary shifts in those scripts and market forces, argue Regnerus and Uecker, have altered how relationships are conducted and where they go. Women may be the sexual gatekeepers, but that's not how millions of young women say they feel, according to these authors. Despite their emerging educational and economic power, women often feel less-not more-empowered in their relationships.
Mark Regnerus is Associate Professor of Sociology and Research Associate with the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also the author of Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers (OUP 2009).
More About the Speakers
Mark Regnerus, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology and Research Associate, Population Research Center, University of Texas
Kay S. Hymowitz
Simon Fellow, The Manhattan Institute, and author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Is Turning Men Into Boys
Co-Founder, DoubleX, and Senior Editor, The Atlantic