A pro-family group is expressing skepticism about the accuracy of a new report that says 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex. A study by Lawrence Finer of the Alan Guttmacher Institute finds that 99 percent of Americans had sex by the age of 44, and 95 percent had done so before getting married.
The “reality-check research,” as Finer calls it, was based on interviews of more than 38,000 people, some 33,000 of them women, in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002 for the federal National Survey on Family Growth. The study purportedly examined how sexual behavior before marriage has changed over time. According to Finer’s analysis, even among those individuals who abstained from sex until at least age 20, four-fifths had had premarital sex by age 44. The study also found women, even those born decades ago, virtually as likely as men to engage in premarital sex.
An Associated Press report on the study quotes Finer as saying that the likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s. In other words, the researcher claims premarital sex is “normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades.”
However, Dr. Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America (CWA) sees Finer’s report as a ploy to cast doubt on the need for abstinence-until-marriage programs. “My eyebrows went up when I first saw the numbers,” she recalls, “and I thought that the results were a bit too pat because they fit so specifically into the agenda of Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute.”
For that reason, Crouse says she is “quite suspicious” about the numbers cited in the Institute’s report. “They are so extreme,” she contends, “I think you’d have to have another study done to replicate those results before I would buy into them.”
One reason the CWA spokeswoman feels the credibility of this report on Americans and premarital sex needs to be questioned is that Finer works for a group which she believes actually favors both extramarital sex and abortion. The Guttmacher Institute, a private New York-based think tank that investigates sexual and reproductive issues, is an organization that strongly discourages government-funded abstinence-only programs and instead promotes so-called “comprehensive sex education,” which is condom-based and emphasizes the concept of “safe sex.”
The Guttmacher Institute is among a number of organizations, including the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, that tout “sexual rights” and “reproductive rights” — terms many pro-family and pro-life supporters understand to mean unrestricted sexual license and the right to abortion on demand. The Institute’s website, similar to those of Planned Parenthood and SIECUS, expresses the organization’s commitment to individuals’ rights to express themselves sexually — regardless of marital status — and to have access to “comprehensive” information that will enable them to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and to “exercise the right to choose abortion.”
“The federal programs prior to the Bush administration were overwhelmingly supportive of comprehensive sex education, of course, which is provided by Planned Parenthood and supported by Guttmacher and SIECUS and all of the left-wing groups,” Crouse says. “And now that there is some money — just a tad of money — going for abstinence-till-marriage programs, [such groups] are objecting to any money whatsoever being spent in that direction.”
Lawrence Finer talks about people needing a “reality check” regarding premarital sex, Crouse adds. However, she insists it is his research that needs the reality check.
Abstinence Education Advocate : Guttmacher’s Facts Are Skewed Abstinence-based sex education proponent Leslee Unruh, who heads the South Dakota-based Abstinence Clearinghouse, is also suspicious of the Guttmacher Institute’s findings — and of the motives behind them. “Of course, right now we know the reason abstinence education is being attacked and these types of studies are going to continue to come up more and more in the following months,” she says, “is because of the reauthorization of Title V. Title V is the federal dollars that are funding the abstinence-until-marriage program across the nation.”
Unruh says Guttmacher has been a part of Planned Parenthood in the past, and it continues to have an interest in pushing “this new, so-called research,” which appears to support comprehensive sex education programs. However, she insists that the sexual “freedom” being promoted by Guttmacher and the other organizations pushing the “safe-sex” myth has failed an entire generation of Americans.
“The sexual revolution came, it went, and it lost,” the Abstinence Clearinghouse director observes. “The sexual revolution ended the last century, and we feel people need to be looking to what the newfound research is on sexuality,” she says. “Today’s a new day, and we know that from the studies we have seen, that many young people are demanding the higher standard of abstinence education.”
Abstinence Clearinghouse has seen study after study indicating that increasing numbers of young people are open to the abstinence message and that many are choosing to remain chaste until marriage, Unruh observes. “According to the CDC, there are less kids having sex now than those that are,” she asserts. “So we have numbers that show there is a different thought process going on in America right now, and we believe a lot of that has to do with the fact that these programs raise the bar.”
Condom-based sex education, Unruh suggests, can have the effect of communicating to young people that “everyone else” is having sex, and that having premarital sex is not only normal but inevitable. What abstinence-only education does, the pro-family advocate contends, is empower young people to choose intimacy over immediate gratification, love over lust, so that more and more are “looking to a lifetime mate, a monogamous relationship, and choosing purity over promiscuity.”
Aloys Evina is the chief editor for the editorial sections of both the French and English versions of the Continental News websites. He is Executive Director and Chief Editor with Le Journal Chretien, which is the largest electronic distributor of French Speaking Christian news and information worldwide.