email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAlways Forever MaybeAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting OffGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot My ShameNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePhilosophy of Love, Sex, and Marriage: An IntroductionPin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in AntiquitySex in CrisisSex in the World of MythSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Dangerous Art of Blending InThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Evolution of BeautyThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incurable RomanticThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe PervertThe Phenomenology of Sex, Love, and IntimacyThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebUntrue VirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Does Consent Really Mean?What Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
In Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think About Marrying, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker focus on young adult's (often referred to as emerging adulthood) sexual habits and engagement in premarital sex. Surveys, in-person interviews, and qualitative data from other sources (such as Add Health) help create a comprehensive overlook of heterosexual, unmarried adults between the ages of 18 to 23.
The authors state that premarital sex and cohabitation is increasingly common among young adults. A minority of young adults do however remain virgins until marriage. Characteristics such as religiosity, ethnicity, high expectations of partners and fear of pregnancy and contracting STIs are all factors that influence such a decision. At the same time, sexual repertoires such as oral sex and anal sex have become more common among young adults although anal sex is a relatively new addition.
Regnerus and Uecker employ the theory of sexual economics and markets when discussing the timing and prize of sex. According to sexual market theory, men are generally more interested in sex, are not opposed to casual sex and initiate sex more often than women. In exchange for sex, the partner (more often the woman) expects something in return, such as financial stability, emotional support, commitment and loyalty. At the same time, sex on the first date, one-night stands and hooking up is fairly common. Therefore, the prize and timing of sex has gone down, and men are more likely to "get away" with "discounted sex". Sexual relationships are said to begin when women want them to, and women are therefore regarded as the sexual gatekeepers. Women's decision to enter a sexual relationship early is said to be counterproductive to sustaining a romantic long-term relationship and maintaining a "high prize" for sex, as women reportedly are less satisfied with short-term sexual relationships than men (in part because of the declining prize for sex and the double standard of sexual behavior).
Women are therefore more likely to be judged, ostracized and called names when engaging in premarital sex, especially if providing "discounted" sex. The authors state; "…there's only one effective way to resist it – and that is for women to attempt to feel and think and pursue sex like men" (p. 244). The underlying notion then is that women need to become more like men in order to combat the sexual double standard. But would that not drive down the prize of sex even more? If men prefer "easy" sexual pursuits, would they not also prefer women who have sex with them early on? The authors suggest that this is not necessarily true. Citing a study by Paula England, the authors conclude; "Men were about 45 percent more likely than women to subsequently disrespect someone who hooked up with them" (p. 106) and "Relatedly, 53 percent of women said that they felt disrespected after hooking up, compared with only 24 percent of men" (p. 106). After all, if men are looking for sexual relationships, those young adults who have the most sex are in committed relationships.
Men are more likely to introduce unwanted sexual requests, use persuasion and coercion to obtain sex, and sexually assault women. It seems as if demanding that women be more like men would not improve the sexual and romantic relationships for women. Therefore, regarding men's sexual behavior as the norm (even though it is more often harmful) while stating that women need to change their sexual behavior results in minimizing women's sexual needs while normalizing men's. It also seems as if there is a catch 22 in terms of women trying to drive up the prize of sex, while trying to be more sexually similar to men. It does not seem as if any of these suggestions can work simultaneously.
Using comprehensive methods to analyze and understand the sexual behaviors of young adults does however pay off. Regnerus and Uecker introduce a nuanced and multi-faceted picture of sexual behavior. They examine the belief that college students are more sexually active and conclude that "hooking up" frequently in college is more common for the campus sexual elite, and more common for those young men and women who are not pursuing higher education. They also conclude that social networking and media help perpetuate the notion that campus life is filled with sexual encounters and frequent "hook-ups".
The authors also discuss sex and emotional health, stating that women are more likely to experience depression, especially when having numerous sex partners (although the correlation and order of the two is not determined). The number of sexual partners does not seem to correlate with depression in men. Men do however tend to react in emotionally different ways than women, and are more likely to be violent, receiving low grades, and use more drugs and alcohol.
Even though the average age of marriage has increased for both women and men (to 26 and 28 years respectively), almost all young adults do want to marry sometime in the future. Those who marry early are more likely to report being religious and in a romantic relationship. Race, SES (socioeconomic status) and parental relationship also influence this decision. Rather than marrying early, many young adults opt for cohabitation even though couples that cohabitate have poorer odds than those who do not.
After introducing various characteristics of the sexual behaviors of young adults, the authors turn their attention to what they describe as red sex and blue sex, sexual behavior based on conservative and liberal young adults. Both red and blue adults engage in sexual activity to a high degree, but there are differences among them. Blue adults tend to wait longer to have children and get married. Red adults tend to prefer marriage to cohabitation and are less pragmatic of abortion and homosexuality. The authors state that more people across America are "becoming blue", but since those same people have children later in life and also have fewer children, the number of "red young adults" is growing by population.
The authors conclude the book by discussing 10 myths concerning sex and relationships that are common among young adults. They also state that narratives and social scripts, and the transmission of such scripts are powerful forces in influencing beliefs about relationships and sex. The authors state that both sexual economics and sexual scripts combine forces to influence the decisions of young adults.
The implementation of sexual economics can be troublesome as it infers that women need to change their sexual behaviors whereas men need not do much to change theirs. The normalizing of "male sexuality" can be problematic, as it no doubt affects women, often negatively, but is simultaneously viewed as more desirable. The range of sexual behaviors and the analysis of young adult's sexuality is however impressive. The fact that the book is easy to read, informative and mixed with personal stories and data makes it a compelling read. The intended audience is not only scholars and students in the field of sexuality, sociology, and psychology (among other disciplines), but the book is also valuable to young adults, parents and anyone else who wish to know more about the sexual behaviors, values, beliefs and practices of today's young adults. Since the book focuses on heterosexual young adults, LGBQT youth may not find the book as useful and informative.
© 2012 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.