Originally published at Empowher.
The verdict is in – your moms and grandmas may have been lying about waiting until marriage to have sex.
The Guttmacher Institute now has released a report about rates of pre-marital sex in the United States. Using data from 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002 National Surveys of Family Growth, which are conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the report studies having vaginal intercourse prior to the first month of marriage or having vaginal intercourse while unmarried.
Males were more likely to have premarital sex at nearly every age – by age 44, over 90 percent of males and females had had premarital sex. 48% of individuals who turned 15 between 1954 and 1963 had had premarital sex by 20. 74 percent of those in the 1994-2003 cohort had had premarital sex by age 20. So while there has been a leap, it may not be as a big a leap as many of us expected.
The increase over the course of decades may have something to do with more effective contraceptive methods and easier access to these methods than before. 94 percent of individuals who abstained until at least age 15 had had sex by 44. 89 percent who abstained until they became adults had had premarital sex by age 44. And perhaps most startling, among women who were born in the 1940s, nine in ten had sex before marriage.
Study author Lawrence Finer states, “This is reality-check research. Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades.”
The study does in fact turn certain attitudes about premarital sex on their heads. The myth that all women prior to the 1960s were somehow more likely to subscribe to abstinence until marriage is being dispelled through this research. Furthermore, the study calls into question abstinence only education as an effective method of preventing or dissuading against having sex.
There are many reasons for believing in having or not having sex before marriage. These values may come from family, friends, or community organizations. At the end of the day the decision to have sex must come from from a breadth of accurate resources and information. It is a top priority to provide all individuals with access to proper sexual health instead of condemning individuals for their choice to have sex. We should be shifting our attention from breaking or following values to proper sexual health education and accessible universal healthcare for all women.