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Instead, cheap sex has produced a new equilibrium in which, for the college-educated at least, the norm is low-commitment sexual exploration in one’s 20s before stable marriage in the mid- to late-30s (for the poorer and less-educated, it is more often serial relationships and unplanned pregnancies).
Women no longer need to demand a high price for sex because they can obtain money and status on their own, and would have trouble demanding a high price even if they wanted to, since men can get sex elsewhere.
Marriage in turn was anchored both by relatively stable male-female preferences as well as by what the economist Gary Becker referred to as “gains from trade.” Men, then and now, wanted sex, but they also needed a partner to raise their children and run their household while they earned a breadwinner wage.
The first and most important of these is contraception, which has separated sex from reproduction and allowed people to seek it for pleasure and self-expression.
Little wonder, then, that sex and its offshoots —abortion, contraception, teen, pre- and extramarital sex, pornography, and now gender identity — are so prominent in our partisan bickering.
Red America hates women, Blue America kills babies. Yet for all of its prominence in our politics (and regardless of how much importance we attach to it in our individual lives), our understanding of sex is often remarkably narrow.
Sexual freedom was limited to the rich or Bohemian.
The real value in Regnerus’s depiction of this older system, however, is to point out that our move away from it is not simply a tale of progress but of different sets of tradeoffs.
These structural forces and their consequences are the topic of Mark Regnerus’s book , published in September.