Why Are Americans Still Giant Hypocrites About Sex?
Continued from previous page
Attitudes toward adolescent sexuality reveal the gulf between American generosity toward ourselves versus hostility toward others. The typical trajectory for an American is to have sex as a teenager, turn out just fine, get a little older, and then suddenly get very concerned about teenagers having sex. Our news media is awash in hysterical stories about teen sexuality, even though kids these days are actually having sex slightly later in life than previous generations did, and teen pregnancy rates have been in a freefall since the 1950s, which many Americans falsely believe was a time when young people were more chaste.
Oral sex rates are up, but it’s worth noting that many researchers suggest this shows kids are embracing responsibility, finding a way to have sex without risking pregnancy. But instead of accepting that kids these days may be just as smart--and maybe smarter--than we were, we as a nation instead eat up hand-wringing articles about “hook-up culture” and alarmist stories that frame the rising rates of oral sex as an indisputably bad trend.
The good news is there’s no reason to believe that hypocrisy is inevitable. While one out of three Americans may be a massive hypocrite with regards to premarital sex, two in three Americans have reconciled their experiences with their beliefs. It’s hard to imagine that many Americans supporting premarital sex 50 years ago, even as they were awash in teenage shotgun marriages that resulted from their hypocrisy. And even though our hypocritical attitudes toward teenage sexuality have caused damage, especially during the Bush administration when real sex education was ended (and the teen pregnancy rate went up), the larger trend is toward young people learning more about contraception and being more willing to use it. Perhaps we’re only a couple of generations away from a society where people’s beliefs about sex reflect their sex-loving realities.