Sexual practices study brings out the dumb in John Birch commentator
By Lee Russ
Wednesday, December 27, 2006 at 04:20 PM
I don't expect a lot of objectivity from most people, and I'm rarely disappointed in my expectations. But this is really pretty sorry: A John Birch commentator manages to completely miss a major point on a study of pre-marital sex in America while excoriating the study, its author, and the institution for which the author works.It starts with a study of pre-marital sexual practices in America, conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, results of which were compiled into an article by Lawrence Finer, research director at Guttmacher.
Then news outlets began summarizing the article, such as in this piece from CNN. CNN ballyhooed the idea that "95 percent of Americans had premarital sex."
Well, that can't be, not in moral, puritan, increasingly religious America, can it? Not according to Warren Mass, Editor of the John Birch Society Bulletin, who wrote the following:
Planned Parenthood Affiliate Study Makes Outrageous Claims
A study conducted by Lawrence Finer, research director at the Guttmacher Institute, a special affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, claims that 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex, and that this rate extends even to women born in the 1940s.
The recently released "Trends in Premarital Sex" was authored by one Lawrence Finer, research director at the Guttmacher Institute, a special affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America....As to why Planned Parenthood and its well-heeled benefactors are so interested in publicizing data concerning the previously private sexual activities of Americans, we must consider the impact on the "family planning" (which includes abortions) industry's bottom line if they can convince the American public that "everybody's doing it."
If the public perception, especially among impressionable young people, is that premarital sex is almost universal -- and therefore morally acceptable-- then an increase in promiscuous behavior, and the demand for abortions, is sure to follow.
Well, we all know we can't have that. So reasoning from the conclusion back toward the evidence, Mass comes up with this:
While there is little doubt that the rate of premarital sex has increased since the onset of the "sexual revolution" in the late 1960s, many individuals, including this writer, find the report's claims to be incredible. For example, Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, expressed skepticism about Finer's figures: "Any time I see numbers that high, I'm a little suspicious. The numbers are too pat."
Especially questionable are the report's statement that among women born in the 1940s, 88 percent had had premarital sex by age 44. This is particularly so because the report did not isolate only the late 1940s, which would have included several years' worth of early Baby Boomers, but also women born before and during World War II, who would have reached sexual maturity as early as the mid-1950s. Anyone familiar with American culture of the 1950s and even the first half of the 1960s recalls the social ostracism that awaited young ladies who did not wait for marriage.
Moreover, in the days before FDA approval of "the pill" in 1961 -- in a time when many doctors would not provide contraceptives to unmarried people -- premarital sexual activity as widespread as the Finer report suggests would have unquestionably resulted in a very high rate of out-of-wedlock births and/or pregnant brides at the altar. Yet, no evidence is offered to suggest this. Remember, abortion was illegal everywhere in the United States until 1967, and was first available on demand only in 1970.
It is possible that the study deliberately mixed apples and oranges to produce skewed results. Note that it reported that among women born in the 1940s, 88 percent had had premarital sex by age 44. Why age 44, since the median age of a first marriage for women in the United States in both 1950 and 1960 was 20.3? It is likely that these results included many women born in the early 1940s who married as virgins in the 1960s, but later became either divorced or widowed. If a substantial number of these engaged in premarital sex before marrying again in the 1970s and 80s, they would have been included in the above-cited statistics.
Yet, the Guttmacher study would have us believe that high school and college girls in the days of "Father Knows Best" were as promiscuous as those who emulate role models such as Britney Spears! If that is so, why did the annual birthrate per 1,000 unmarried girls aged 15-19 triple between 1960 and 1994, even as abortion went from being illegal almost everywhere to being available everywhere?
Yeesh. For the edification of Mr. Mass, assuming he really believes what he wrote:
- Condoms were available long before the pill, and you better believe that a lot of teens born in the 40s and 50s used them. A lot of them.
- Not all instances of sex, even without condoms, produce a pregnancy.
- The fact that abortion was illegal never prevented young women from getting pregnant or from getting an abortion.
- This is probably the big one--who in their right mind thinks that kids didn't follow through on their sexual urges because the public was watching "Father Knows Best?"
- As Mass himself acknowledges, the Guttmacher study was based on ever having pre-marital sex. Women born in the 40s might well have entered a first marriage before having sex, ended up single again through divorce or death of the husband, and had sex before entering their second marriage. If they did that before the age of 44, they're counted in the study as having had pre-marital sex.
- The statement that "before FDA approval of "the pill"...premarital sexual activity as widespread as the Finer report suggests would have unquestionably resulted in a very high rate of out-of-wedlock births and/or pregnant brides at the altar. Yet, no evidence is offered to suggest this," is just plain ridiculous, a blatant red herring. The study was not looking at evidence of that, had no reason to look at evidence of that, and would be a very different study if it had looked at evidence of that.
What a tangled web we weave, when we try to control what others believe.