Why Millenials are Rebelling Against Their Divorced Baby Boomer Parents and Seek Lasting Love Relationships
If Free Sex isn't free and Safe Sex isn't all that safe, then what's left? A little noticed, but increasing trend towards
committed, monogamous relationships is under way in the U.S., what
could be called "Relationship Intelligence."
Relationship Intelligence refers to relationships without anxiety or guilt. It's totally free, its advocates say, because it's within the bounds of
real trust and commitment. An attractive 30 something TV contributor on
MSNBC-TV explains "I used to complain to my mother, who is a liberal,
about boyfriends who seemed commitment shy. And she would say, "Well,
why buy the cow, if the milk is free?" We're in the sexual promised
land now, the milk is free, people are surfeited with sex- and yet
we're starved for love... I didn't kiss the man I'm dating now, until
the seventh date. I didn't have sex with him until the seventh month.
He respects and values me a lot more than the men I dated in college,
when I was a lot more casual with my body."
A.C. Green abstained for 35 years before he made love to his wife for
the very first time. They are happily married.
admits that abstaining from extramarital sex is one of the most
unpopular things a person can do, but says, "it's ironic, but the guys
who are parents, and especially the guys who have daughters, tend to
look at sex before marriage a lot more carefully now."
at U.C.L.A. reveals that 40% of undergraduates are virgins. A
surprising number of college students are deciding that uncommitted sex
is not worth the effort. They'd rather wait.
University, Rajib Chanda, a senior fraternity president who founded a
computer dating service, says, "in a normal Brown relationship, you
meet, get drunk, hook up and either avoid eye contact the next day or
find yourself in a relationship that consists of a... headlong plunge
into a pool of intimacy when students were really looking just to tip a
Chanda explains about the new trend at Browninstead
of pairing off, many undergrads socialize in unpartnered packs. They go
out to dinner in groups, attend movies in groups and at parties dance
in a circle of five or six. The packs give students a sense of
self-assurance and identity, but keep them from deeper, more
complicated relationships which Chanda says, "may be just the point."
For the first time in twenty years, the proportion of high
school students who have had sexual intercourse at least once dropped
by 5%, from 55% of girls in 1990 to 50% of girls in 1995 (National
Center for Health Statistics) and from 60% of teenage boys to 55%
(National Institute of Child Health and Human Development). Is this a
statistical blip on the screen, or a growing trend?
survey conducted in the Spring of 1997 with over 600 students in an
urban high school in Paterson, New Jersey, nearly 70% of the students
said that "it's better to save sex for marriage." 65% said they don't
hear enough about the benefits of abstinence and how to say no to
When given a choice between condoms and
abstinence, slightly more (51%) say there should be greater emphasis on
abstinence. This in an inner-city black and hispanic community where
many "safe sex" advocates call marriage and abstinence education
"culturally irrelevant," "white-bread," unrealistic and unwanted.
Unwanted by the "safe sex" preachers, but not necessarily the community
they claim to represent.
Even the media, which is to
trafficking in sex talk like big-time pushers are to cocaine,
discovered the reality of real-live virgins. VOGUE magazine in an
article named "like a virgin, again" wondered why "twenty-five years
after women began fighting for the right to haveand enjoysex, many
young women are postponing carnal knowledge."
Garth, a born-again, 26 year-old spokesperson for a Los Angelesbased
group called Athletes for Abstinence. Her agenda was heavily Christian,
but she was no humorless, scrubbedface zealot. She was a beautiful
young African American entertainer who delivered her abstinence rap
with impassioned ease....
"The girls who laughed at me in high
school because I was a virgin," she told me, "are now working at a K
mart checkout counter and have two babies by different men. When people
say to me, 'You've missed something,' I say, 'Yeah, I missed worrying
about being pregnant and getting some STD [sexually transmitted
disease] and having some hospital orderly change my diapers because I'm
lying in a hospital bed dying of AIDS and having chronic diarrhea."
want to be able to look my husband in the face on our wedding night,"
she told me with a beatific smile, "and say, 'I saved myself for you.'"
VOGUE's writer is shocked to find the idea of premarital
chastity taking hold not just among the strongly religious, but even
among typical college coeds you'd expect to have a more carefree
attitude toward exploring and expressing "their sexuality":
could see how her moral resolution might work for the committedly
religious, but it was hard to imagine her message playing out among
college coeds like my friend's daughter. It made sense that they would
be scared of AIDS and other diseases, even alert to pregnancy fears.
But what of this idea of "saving" yourself?
As I talked with
these women I was surprised to discover the degree to which their
language and emotions accorded with Garth's vision. They didn't talk
about God, but they did talk about love, tenderness, commitmentand
about not having sex without it. Most were not strictly virgins. Many
had had sex once or twice and then retreated behind a Maginot Line.
They are what the promoters of abstinence like to call "secondary
virgins," and I ran in to a lot of them, young women who told me how
they wished they hadn't done it. They felt dirty, somehow, lonesome,
and were determined not to have sex again short of a wedding or
engagement ring or, at the very least, love.
"The thing that
really bugs me is that I didn't love him," a lovely Asian high school
senior told me about the boyfriend she had slept with a few times and
had just broken up with. "We weren't doing it every single day, like
some of my friends," she continued, looking down at her scuffed saddle
shoes, struggling with tears. "I don't feel bad about it, but I think
that, actually, maybe I'd wait to be engaged or married the next time.
I've had it; I know what it's like; it's no big deal. I'd want
something permanent before having sex again, some stability, a reason
he won't leave or I won't leave.
Anne Taylor Fleming, "Up Front: like a virgin, again," VOGUE magazine, February 1995
in the marriage--hostile world of TV there are changes. A June 1998
NYPD Blue show concludes with an explicit, steamy sex scene between
Detective Di Simone and Detective Diane Rusell who is his wife. After
their passionate groans, she says, "I think we just made a baby." Di
Simone sighs, "Great!"
Maybe the show should be renamed NYPD
RedWhite&Blue. After all, a hot, steamy sex scene between a man and
his wife is light years apart from its meaning in the unmarried state.
To witness such a positive affirmation of the value of marriage, the
idea of pregnancy welcomed and embraced by the NYPD Blue couple left me
speechless. I'd come to the show to be scandalized and ended
up...almost like being in church. Not the usual pomp and ceremony, but
the same uplifting, purifying message.
Besides this growing
cultural shift towards secure, committed relationships, there is a
powerful shift in the scientific community about sexuality. Science,
which once promised "magic bullet" solutions to pregnancy and sexually
transmitted disease, is less bullish, some would say arrogant, than it
once was. Scientific research no longer debunks monogamy and marriage,
but converges regularly with what defenders of the traditional family
have been saying for decades, except without offensive (to some)
quotations from "sacred scriptures."
The largest, most
scientific survey of sex in America ever conducted (at National Opinion
Research Center at the University of Chicago) found that marital
commitment may not just be a moral ideal, it can be good for your sex
life, and your health.
The study found that married people had
more sex than singles. 9 out of 10 married couples said they were very
emotionally and physically satisfied with their sex lives. Those with
more than one sex partner in the last year were the least emotionally
satisfied. The truth may be that Ozzie and Harriet were having more fun
in the sack than James Bond and Octopussy ever had...
Hefner, if he were dead, would turn over in his grave. But he's not
dead, he's married. And so are a lot of other Baby Boomers who left
behind their old ways.
And what about the Millenials, many of
whom saw their parents divorce one or two times? A July 98 Newsweek
article, "Down the Aisle," reports that these 20-and-30--somethings,
though often bereft of role models are, in many ways, more conservative
than their parents, "more likely to value the stability that marriage
can provide," and "determined to succeed where their parents failed."
fact, a market-research firm, Yankelovich Partners, reports that 73% of
Millenials said they'd be in favor of a return to more traditional
standards in family life compared to only 56% of baby boomers who, when
asked the same question twenty years ago, felt the same way.
while these marriage-searchers may lack the skills and role models to
model their new marriages on, a growing marriage education movement is
also rising up to help engaged and newly married couples to gain
practical insights as to how to make love last.
In June of
1998, the state of Florida enacts a law that offers discounted marriage
licenses to couples who can prove they've undergone several hours of
premarital counseling. In Louisianna and Arizona laws are enacted to
allow couples to choose "convenant marriages" in which getting divorced
would be more difficult and preceded by several months of counseling in
hopes of saving more marriages.
Around the country, more than
90 cities and towns have instituted a community marriage policy in
which all the churches pledge to require indepth premarital counseling
and education for every couple seeking to marry in these communities.
Mike McManus, founder of this Marriage Savers movement, says that 80%
of marriages, even those on the verge of divorce, can be saved.
while the editors of Cosmopolitan and Penthouse are unlikely to change
their profitable tune, there is a shift going on in American culture
towards marriage, a trend that will become more and more dominant in
the early decades of the 21st century.
But if you're still skeptical, let's take a look at some real life stories of several twenty-somethings who have survived Free Sex, no longer hold
faith in Safe Sex, and are groping for relationships of more lasting
value, what could be called love smarts, getting smart about love,
marriage, the man-woman thing or simply, Marital Intelligence.