Dorothy Cummings McLean

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‘Cheap sex’ is destroying marriage and faith in America: new book

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

AUSTIN, Texas, October 19, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — “Cheap sex” is to blame for the marginalization of traditional marriage, says famed sociologist Mark Regnerus.

In his recently released book "Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage and Monogamy," Regnerus examines the dramatic changes in American sexual beliefs that have led to an inability among increasing numbers of young men and women to marry, have children and be faithful to one another.

The answer, in short, is “cheap sex” — sex that carries neither the high price tag of a lifelong committed monogamous relationship nor that of reproduction. Three technological developments — highly effective contraceptives, internet pornography and online dating/meeting services — have made sex (or sexual release) as easy to get in the U.S. as  water from a tap.

But even cheap sex comes with strings attached. Regnerus writes that these “price suppressors” have “created a massive slowdown in the development of committed relationships, especially marriage, have put the fertility of increasing numbers of women at risk — subsequently driving up demand for fertility treatments — and have arguably even taken a toll on men’s economic and relational productivity, prompting fewer of them to be considered marriage material than ever before.”

Cheap sex has also changed American attitudes towards homosexuality. Apparently, pornography use is a very significant predictor of men’s support for both same-sex marriage and the proposition that “gay and lesbian couples do just a good a job raising children as heterosexual couples.” (Only 26 percent of the lightest porn users agree with that statement, compared with 63 percent of the heaviest porn users who did.)  

To explain why there is a “stable link” between porn use and “same-sex marriage support,” Regnerus suggests that porn “redirects sex away from any sense of it as involving relationships of permanence, exclusivity, or expectations of fertility.”

“On the contrary,” he continues, “pornography typically treats gazers to a veritable fire-hose dousing of sex-act diversity, and presses its consumers away from from thinking of sex as having anything to do with love, monogamy, or child-bearing — all traits that most Americans have long equated with marriage.”

Unsurprisingly, there is evidence that porn — like other forms of non-marital sex — also ”deadens” religious impulse and leads to a cessation in church attendance. Whereas in the past it was commonplace for Americans to absent themselves from church in early adulthood, they usually returned upon marriage and parenthood. However, as the numbers of Americans who marry drop, and the age of first marriages among those who do marry rise, those who leave church worship have not been returning.

“Cheap sex has a way of deadening religious impulses,” Regnerus writes. “We overestimate how effective scientific arguments are at secularizing people. Narratives about science don’t secularize. Technology secularizes. And sex-related technology does so particularly efficiently.”

Cheap sex has even made American Christians less orthodox. Among weekly church attenders, Regnerus found that 14 percent were unsure about marriage being outdated, 21 percent didn’t know what they thought about no-strings-attached sex, and 25 percent didn’t know if viewing pornography is OK or not. Ten percent were unsure as to whether extramarital sex might ever be permissible.  

A sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Regnerus combines solid research — much of it from the 2014 Relationships in America survey project — with an engaging writing style that makes his work highly accessible to readers. He also sums up his take-home points in a conclusion at the end of each chapter. Being so reader-oriented, it is no wonder that Regnerus has been published in such popular journals as Slate, Christianity Today, The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Regnerus, 46, became famous when, in 2012, he published his New Family Structures Survey (or NFSS) in the academic journal Social Science Research. The NFSS illustrated that children raised by adults in same-sex relationship were at greater risk than other children of being on welfare, being unemployed and of having lower educational attainments. The outcry was long and loud. This may explain the slightly defensive tone in which Regnerus presents his conclusions in Cheap Sex.

Fortunately, Regnerus’ verbal brow-moppings do not take away from the book, which is a must-read for anyone wondering why they have, or their son or daughter has, been unable to find a marriage partner. The answers aren’t pretty, and Regnerus isn’t celebrating with champagne. He observes that those who are unhappy with current sexual trends are “considered misfits, threatened with social isolation and shaming.”

Then, after giving us all the bad news in as balanced a way as he can, Regnerus offers eight  predictions for 2030. Most of them are dire, and hopefully seeing them in type will inspire pro-family, pro-life activists to work even harder, and smarter, to create a Culture of Life.  

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Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and regularly contributes to Catholic World Report.  Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013).  Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband. 

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