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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
'We are separating ourselves from our bodies'
A new survey detailing the extent of casual sex among singles shows many are having intimate relations before the first date, a development that can be blamed in part on technology but leads to tremendous regret and permanently damaged relationships.
This week, the dating service Match released a new survey on sex and singles conducted by Research Now. Included in the data are the revelations that 34 percent of singles have had sex before a first date and that millennials are 48 percent more likely to have sex before a first date than all other generations of singles in order “to see if there is a connection.”
In a USA Today story on the survey, sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson suggests millennials have inverted the relationship process, using sex to determine if they want to pursue anything further with that person.
“We used to think of sex as you crossed the line now, you are in an intimate zone. But now sex is almost a given, and it’s not the intimate part. The intimate part is getting to know someone and going on a date,” Anderson is quoted as saying.
Ruth Institute Founder and President Jennifer Roback Morse says the discrepancy between millennials and other singles is that the older ones know better.
“The reason older generations are not [having sex before a first date] is because they have figured out already from experience that this is not a good idea,” Morse told WND and Radio America. “What we’re doing is just one generation of young people after another are having to figure out for themselves that hopping into bed with somebody is a lot more complicated and potentially hurtful than we’re led to believe by the media and stories like this one.”
Morse also said smartphone apps for the explicit purpose of casual sex are contributing to the trend.
“It’s a new thing when you have dating apps or casual sex apps on your cell phone and you can find out if there’s somebody close by who wants to have sex with you. That’s a new thing,” she said.
“The desire to be sexually active has been with us forever obviously, but this way of going about it and the way the culture is pushing people toward sex without any kind of intimacy or friendship, that is something new and, I think, uniquely destructive,” Morse said.
“What we’re trying to do is get away from this message of airbrushing away all the problems and allowing people space and time to say here’s what really happened. ‘Here’s how I really felt after casual sex. Here’s the next step after the first time you have that kind of encounter and then you get kind of swept away in it and are having one encounter after another and they’re not really satisfying you. Here’s where that leads,'” stated Morse.
She said her work shows that personal stories resonate best with young people.
“I think millennials particularly want to hear stories. They don’t care for data. All these numbers aren’t going to touch them one bit,” Morse said. “But if someone who is 35 years old stands in front of them and says, ‘This is how my heart was broken by doing what you’re standing there thinking about doing,’ they just might listen to that.”
Perhaps worst of all, Morse said, is the long-term damage casual sex inflicts on future efforts at meaningful relationships.
“The results of sex are bonding and babies. That’s the natural biological result of sex, bonding and babies,” Morse said. “If people don’t know how to bond with one another, they’re going to have trouble creating lasting, stable relationships for when they do finally want to have babies. Then they’re not going to be ready to really care for their children and give the children the kind of security and attachment that they need.”
She said the impact of poor bonding is also is also felt by the children.
“The kind of damage that’s going to happen to children of people who can’t form relationships is really hard to predict just how bad that can be,” Morse said. “Honestly, I don’t see a floor under this elevator. We’re still going down.”