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Premarital Promiscuity
A new study says that premarital sex is nearly universal among Americans, and has been for decades; is the American government funding the right project?


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Premarital promisuity is more common than many may think.


Before you or your spouse even begin to read this article, especially if your reading it together, now might be a good time to either close out of this window or, perhaps confess to any lies you may have told about sleeping with another(s) before you met.

Originally published in the January/February 2007 issue of "Public Health Reports," Lawrence B. Finer’s report titled "Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954-2003," says that the vast majority of Americans have had sex before marriage, including those who abstained from sex during their teenage years.

But contrary to what we think we already know, the report does show that premarital sex is not any more common now than it was in the past. Even among women born in the 1940s, nearly nine in 10 had sex before marriage. Now, you can even bring grandma and grandpa into the conversation with this one.

But before we go finger pointing, we must first check the numbers. Using data from several rounds of the federal National Survey of Family Growth to examine sexual behavior, the study showed that by age 44, 99 percent of respondents had had sex, and 95 percent had done so before marriage. The report also concludes that even among those who abstained from sex until age 20 or older, 81 percent had had premarital sex by age 44.

"This is reality-check research," says Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute and author of the report. "The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government’s funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12-29 year-olds. It would be more effective to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active—which nearly everyone will."

However, after pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars into their abstinence-only approach for teenagers, the Bush administration doesn’t agree.

Dr. Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, insists that the government has no mission to counter premarital sex among adults. He states that the Bush administration does not believe government should be regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults.

Whether it’s the numbers or the government who’s correct in this instance, any conversation that transpires from this article between you and your spouse and/or grandma and grandpa is not our responsibility—though we do have other sections to help with that.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.



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