Conservatives Have Now Abandoned All Pretense of Advocating For Sexual Abstinence and They Actually Lament the Lack of Fornication – The Bradford Wilcox Piece, 2019
The following piece at The Atlantic (“The Happiness Recession”) was written by marriage-idolater and anti-singleness bigot of The Institute for Family Studies, W. Bradford Wilcox, and co-writer Lyman Stone.
I’d like to remind any new-comers to this blog that I am a life long conservative. I am not a liberal.
Marriage Is Not A Guarantee For Good or Regular Sex
This moronic essay actually suggests that single adults having less sex is what has led to them reporting higher rates of unhappiness, if I’m understanding things correctly.
This, astonishingly, from a right wing organization, (Link): The Institute For Family Studies, that claims to promote “strong families,” and good Lord knows they are obsessed with promoting marriage, even if that comes at the expense of singleness.
The members of this organization regularly publish materials intended to scare, guilt, shame, or pressure single adults into getting married, because this organization exists to promote the nuclear family: hetero-marriage where the couple have children.
I will present you with some very long excerpts from this horrid essay, followed by my comments about the horrid essay below the excerpts:
(Link): The Happiness Recession – on The Atlantic
by W. Bradford Wilcox, and Lyman Stone
Today’s young adults are replacing church and marriage with friendships. But there’s one thing for which they have no substitute.
April 4, 2019
We wondered whether this trend was rooted in distinct shifts in young adults’ social ties—including what The Atlantic has called “the sex recession,” that is, a marked decline in sexual activity for this group in recent years.
Human beings find meaning, direction, and purpose in and through our social relationships with others.
We’re happiest when our ties with others are deep and strong.
And the research tells us that the ebb and flow of happiness in America is clearly linked to the quality and character of our social ties—including our friendships, community ties, and marriage.
It’s also linked, specifically, to the frequency with which we have sex. In th eantiseptic language of two economists who study happiness, “sexual activity enters strongly positively in happiness equations.”
So we investigated four indicators of sociability among today’s young adults—marriage, friendship, religious attendance, and sex—in an effort to explain the “happiness recession” among today’s young adults.
…. And, finally, we looked at sex. Young adults who have sex at least once a week are about 35 percent more likely to report that they are very happy, compared with their peers who have no sex.
But the share of young adults having sex at least once a week has fallen from 59 percent in 1972 to 49 percent in 2018.
This decline is far steeper among men: down from 58 percent of young men having sex at least weekly in 2010 to just 43 percent in 2018. And the share of young adults reporting no sex in the past year has risen as well, now at 22 percent for young men and 14 percent for young women in 2018.
…Less sex, we speculate, could help account for declining happiness for many young adults.
…If Americans still had sex like they did in 2008, or even 2012, we might be a much happier country.
Declines in marriage and religiosity have also played some role, but the effects are much smaller—with each factor only accounting for about a tenth of the decline in happiness.
And, but for the rise in regular friend contact over the past few years, young men and women would be even less happy.
In other words, Americans are offsetting some of the lost community and companionship of spouses and churches with closer ties to friends. But those friendships don’t give young Americans the sex life that made previous generations happier.
Clearly, the United States is in the middle of a “sex recession.”
Nowhere has this sex recession proved more consequential than among young adults, especially young men. Some academics and journalists have now begun grumbling about what they are calling a (Link): “moral panic” about the decline in young-adult sex.
Before the 2018 data came out, the Daily suggested that the decline in sex was modest, and the sociologist Daniel Carlson claimed that the amount of sex one has “is a weak predictor of how satisfied you are with your sex life.”
More important than frequency, the argument went, is the quality of your sexual relationship.
….But the significant and ongoing rise in sexlessness still gives us pause, both because it appears to be making some Americans appreciably less happy, and because it may be an indicator of the trouble facing young adults when it comes to love and marriage.
Indeed, while marriage composition independently has only a modest effect on society-wide happiness, the decline in sexual frequency is itself related to postponed marriage: Married people have sex more often.
Finding a spouse can be hard and, crucially, one of the places young adults have historically found their spouses is church.
Thus, while most of the decline in happiness is about declining sex, that’s not the end of the story.
Declining sex is at least partly about family and religious changes that make it harder for people to achieve stable, coupled life at a young age.
If we’d like more young adults to experience the joy of sex, we will have to either revive these institutions or find new ways to kindle love in the rising generation.
—- //// —-
My comments on that piece:
Conservatives and many Christians place too far an emphasis on The Family and Marriage.
The Bible Does Not Prescribe Sex or Marriage As A Cure For Sadness or As A Means of Repairing Culture
The Bible nowhere says that a cure, or the “only” cure for sin or loneliness, is for people to marry and have children.
As a matter of fact, Jesus in the New Testament says that anyone who loves their family more than Him is not worthy of Him.
Pointing to a crowd of strangers, rather than to his actual mother and brothers, Jesus of Nazareth told his followers, “here are my brothers, here are my mothers.”
Jesus of Nazareth was de-emphasizing marriage and family in a culture that idolized it (as American Christians are doing today in our culture).
Jesus was teaching that community can and should be found among believers of him, not only, or primarily, through blood relation or via a spouse.
Churches Have More Single Adult Women Than Single Adult Men
As I’ve noted on this blog time and time again over the last few years, I no longer view churches as a safe or good place to meet adult singles.
For one thing, there are (Link): far more single Christian women in churches than there are men. There are no men showing up in churches for women who would want to date or marry one.
This leaves marriage-minded Christian single women with having to look outside the church to find a mate: such as bars, nightclubs, or dating sites.
Christian single women who’d like to marry are also left to consider marrying a Non-Christian man, since they’re unable to find any of marrying age in churches.
Most churches are loathe to help marriage-desiring singles find mates – they incorrectly assume doing so is somehow sinful, inappropriate, shows a lack of faith in God to provide, or will turn churches into “meat markets.”
Christian singles are therefore left to their own devices.
Churches Are Not Safe Places To Meet Mates
As I have noted on this blog many times before, a lot of people who attend church or who just claim to be Christ-followers are not quality marriage material.
Many self-professing Christians, even the ones who attend a church weekly, are perverts, abusive, or weirdos (I have a list on this blog (Link): here.)
Church is not a safe place for single adults to meet people to date or to marry – maybe it was at one time, but no more.
Christ Intended for Church (Believers in Christ), Not Marriage, To Provide Adults With Companionship
The Christian Church – fellow believers in Jesus (not a brick building, not a weekly religious meeting) – are supposed to comprise a family for all other believers – that was the intent of Jesus.
That was one reason the church was created, among other reasons.
If a person is never-married, childless, or widowed or divorced, and has no living biological family living, and that person is also a Christian, then she should be able to find the belonging and companionship she needs and wants from the community of believers around her.
God did not, and does not, in the Bible, prescribe marriage and The Nuclear Family as being the only means through which a person can get a need for companionship met. Being God, he knew it would not be possible for everyone.
The church – (Link): believers in Jesus – are to be your family, not just your blood relation – not just a spouse, (should you marry).
By over-emphasizing marriage and The Family as they do, groups such as Institute For Family Studies, Focus on the Family, and conservative Christians, ironically harm people more than they help.
Those marriage- and- Nuclear- Family- obsessed groups encourage people to marry, have children, which causes them to keep to themselves (see the studies on so-called (Link): “Greedy Marriages”), rather than to reach outside of themselves and their Family Unit to say, invite over the lonely, 80- year- old- widower for an occasional dinner or movie night.
Having Sex Or More Sex Does Not Make People Happy
Regarding one of the main points of the article by Wilcox:
“[Rate of happiness] It’s also linked, specifically, to the frequency with which we have sex.”
I don’t think the Bible teaches that concept at all.
There was a king mentioned in the Old Testament, Solomon, who had a very large harem – he was likely having sex with a different woman every night of the year, and it brought him no joy.
He is thought to have written the book of Ecclesiastes, though the author of that book identifies himself using the name of Qoheleth.
People have been trying to find happiness, purpose, and inner peace through everything but God for eons, now – some people seek it through sex, some through fame, others through money or career.
The purpose of Qoheleth [the author the biblical book of Ecclesiastes] was to contend that there is nothing “under the sun” that is capable of giving meaning to life.
Even if some level of fulfillment or self-satisfaction were achieved, death is waiting at the end.
Frustration and adversity are unavoidable, and answers to the hard questions of life are not forthcoming.
On these terms the book confronts the crookedness and uncertainty of life and shows, probably unconsciously, the need for a concept of resurrection to bring harmony out of the discord of reality.
The message of Ecclesiastes is that the course of life to be pursued is a God-centered life.
The pleasures of life are not intrinsically fulfilling and cannot offer lasting satisfaction, but they can be enjoyed as gifts from God.
Life offers good times and bad and follows no pattern such as that proposed by the retribution principle.
But all comes from the hand of God:
When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one
as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover
anything about their future.
Having sex – regular sex, or great sex (or great AND regular sex) is not going to bring one lasting happiness.
I remain a virgin past the age of 45 in large part because I was waiting to get married to have sex, but I never married.
I would still like to marry and have sex with a spouse, but I think the authors of the piece in the Atlantic, Wilcox and Stone, are out of line to suggest that people can be happier in life if they just have sex, or have more sex.
Being as obsessed with promoting marriage as they are, I suppose they would further suggest that everyone get married in order to have sex with a spouse – but they’re not entirely clear on that in their essay.
Conservatives And Christians No Longer Support, Defend, or Respect Celibacy or Adult Virginity
As a conservative, I am baffled at the lack of respect for virginity and celibacy that so many other conservatives, especially Christians, have been displaying the last several years, including in light of all these new studies saying that Americans are having less sex than ever.
I grew up in the 1980s, when conservatives and evangelicals and other Christians were complaining constantly that people were having too much sex, having it at the “wrong” times (i.e., prior to marriage), and having it with the “wrong” people (i.e., non-spouses, or men with other men).
Now, all the sudden, with these reports that Americans are having less sex, conservatives and Christians are running around fretting and lamenting about it. There has been an absolute, 180 degree, turn-face on this issue.
Christians and conservatives in the 1980s would’ve been thrilled to read that fornication is down in society.
Not today’s conservatives, and Christians though – they are writing these hideous editorials arguing against sexual abstinence and bemoaning how worrisome it is that people, especially younger people, are not committing fornication.
Marriage Is Not A Guarantee For Regular Sex (Part 2)
In the article Wilcox quoted in his paper, (Link):Don’t Fear the Sex Recession, the author, Hope Reed, mentions that sex has dropped off among middle-aged married couples has declined. This goes against his point that marriage leads to regular sex (and hence, happiness).
…from the late 1990s to 2014, sex for all adults dropped from 62 to 54 times a year, on average. The research showed a decline in sex mainly among white, middle-aged, married couples.
— /// —
I have many examples on my blog of sexless marriages.
There are married couples (including married Christian couples) where one or both partners do not want to have sex.
There are married couples where one partner does not want to have sex but the other does, and the partner with the higher libido (which is usually the wife, contrary to gendered stereotypes) is frustrated at the lack of sex.
From that same article by Reed:
Current research suggests that having sex more than once a week (Link): does not have any positive impact on relationship satisfaction. Less than once a week can bring down satisfaction, but more sex does not necessarily improve it.
According to Carlson, “the amount of sex is a weak predictor of how satisfied you are with your sex life.” In other words, not only are the concepts of quality and quantity distinct, but there is little relationship between the two variables.
….The real problem with this argument is that it is a mistake to conflate sexual frequency with sexual satisfaction. Identifying the decrease in sexual frequency as a “sex recession” implies that more sex is always better. But while every dollar is of equal value, every sexual encounter is not. There’s also a bit of a dark side in framing sex as economic given the realities of sex work.
….Various socially conservative theories, such as attributing the decline in sex to the increase of women in the workforce, or to couples in general working longer hours, have been (Link): debunked. In fact, the reverse is true, with the busiest couples reporting the highest sexual frequency.
— //// —
Conservatives and Christians No Longer Defending the Bible’s Teaching that Singleness is Better than Marriage (1 Cor. 7) and that Sex Outside of Marriage is Sin
It used to be that conservatives, both secular and Christian, promoted sexual abstinence and waiting until marriage to have sex, but in the last few years, they’ve been rejecting those positions.
Now it’s the occasional secular or liberal magazine or blog that is defending people’s choice to remain abstinent, such as:
This is from the earlier days of my blog, when liberals defending abstinence was far more rare:
There are a lot of people out there still having a lot of sex (and having it outside the confines of marriage), and some of the sex is unsatisfying and bad.
There are married people who are having bad sex.
Some of those married couples are having mediocre, (Link): ho-hum sex – but marriage has not made them happier (nor has the sex).
As a matter of fact, some people’s marriages are so miserable (or abusive) that they become happier once they divorce, as in this case:
Then of course, there are these considerations:
(Link, off site): The Female Price of Male Pleasure
Jesus of Nazareth never married, never had children, and never had sex, but he seemed like he was a pretty well-adjusted person.
Jesus never pointed to marriage, having children, or having sex as means of making people happy or content.
So why any group of conservatives, Christians or secular, would promote sex, marriage, or the nuclear family as guarantees of reaching earthly happiness I’ll never know.
That, combined with personal observation of all the married couples we’ve all known who complain about how awful their marriages or married sex lives are, belies the claims of over-zealous marriage-promoters such as those from the Institute For Family Studies that having (married) sex will make one happy.
I’d personally like to be married (and to have sex with a spouse), but I cannot say that my life would become magically better or transformed if I had either.
I’m doing just fine as a never-married, virgin adult.
And why is Wilcox so concerned over “young people” lacking sex, marriage, or happiness? There are many middle-aged adults who are, or were, Christians who had hoped to marry, but they are still single at age 40 or older.
What about those middle-aged, never married singles who’d like to marry?
How are Christians, conservative think tanks, or churches helping marriage-minded, middle-aged persons who’d like to marry to get married?
There is way too much youth worship by conservatives and Christians.
We also have some Christians who have actually put forward this perverse, false, and highly unbiblical view that it’s necessary for an adult to have sexual intercourse to really know God.
I wish I was joking, but no, it’s not a joke:
At any rate, I am appalled at Christians or secular conservatives who downplay or denigrate singleness and celibacy, and who worship marriage, “the family,” and sex.
I would expect such attitudes or beliefs from sexual hedonistic secularists or liberals, but not from conservatives, who should be upholding and defending singleness and celibacy.
And never forget, the guy behind this essay is Wilcox, who bashes singleness.
I’ve blogged on him before here:
(Link): Are Single Women – and specifically Never Married Women – More Likely To Be Victims of Abuse? Rebuttals to this view (advanced by W B Wilcox)
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is better to be single than to marry, but one will never, ever find Bradford Wilcox advocating or defending singleness.
Wilcox has a marriage agenda to promote, so he’ll do everything he can to make singleness (and celibacy) look as horrible and unappealing as possible.
Absolutely question anything this guy, and those like him, has to say about marriage, singleness, sex, celibacy, dating, and family.
Christians make a lot of promises about a lot of things:
they will tell you if you just accept Jesus as your Savior, you will find inner peace and happiness.
Some of them also add that if you trust and believe in Jesus and pray to him, and you read your Bible regularly, behave like a “good girl” and don’t have sex prior to marriage, that God will gift you with a husband eventually.
Well, I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was a little girl, I read the Bible regularly, trusted Jesus, went to church for years, and I did not find meaning, joy, happiness, or peace through any of that.
Additionally, I was not gifted with a husband by God. I am still single, past the age of 45.
Christianity, and good, cleaning living, just does not work as advertised.
I have written a bit more about that in this older post:
A rebuttal to the “Happiness Recession” piece by Wilcox here:
(Link): The happiness scamcession
by Philip N. Cohen
A lot of what’s ridiculous about the post follows from this simple manipulation — pretending an insignificant change is very important. One other thing was totally wrong, though.
WilcoxStone have some incoherent theory about how friendship might play a role in the happiness recession. Maybe they were expecting to see a decline in friendship, to support their get-married-in-church-and-stay-there predetermined conclusion. …
Further Related material:
(Link, off site): Brad Wilcox tries to save saving marriage for the marriage movement
Related Posts, on this blog:
(Link): What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis (from TIME) (ie, Why Are Conservative Religious Women Not Marrying Even Though They Want to Be Married. Hint: It’s a Demographics Issue)
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site
(Link): Why Christians Need To Stress Spiritual Family Over the Nuclear Family – People with no flesh and blood relations including Muslims who Convert to Christianity – Also: First World, White, Rich People Problems
(Link): How the Dating Scene Became Stacked Against Women – via CT, by Gina Dalfonzo
(Link): The Neglected God Calls Us to Reach Out to the Neglected at Christmas: God with Us and Them—Immanuel (Re: People Who Are Alone At the Holidays)
(Link): Marcotte on Anyone Choosing To Be a Virgin Until Marriage: “It’s a Silly Idea” – What Progressive Christians, Conservative Christians, Non Christians, and Salon’s Amanda Marcotte Gets Wrong About Christian Views on Virginity