Speaking to young married Christian couples, it is apparent to me that even among Christian youth, sexual mores before marriage are different now to what they were when I was a teenager and a twenty-something. Which got me to thinking about how sexual experiences have changed over the past 40 or 50 years.
The 60's and 70's were a generation of 'free-love' and currently the 'hook-up' culture seems prevalent among the youth. I'm not sure how to classify the 80's and early 90's when I was growing up and discovering my sexuality, and the limits of what I as a Christian was comfortable doing sexually before marriage, but I suspect that this time period was somewhat more conservative than the periods before and after it (though I'm not sure why this was).
The particular items that come to mind for me when I compare the current environment to what I grew up with include:
- ease of access to pornography. I was first exposed to pornography around 17 years' old, on grainy videotape, but with the internet, smart phones and cable, children are now generally exposed to porn in their pre-teens or even earlier. This has a profound effect on their early sexuality and often a profound negative impact on their understanding of and expectations for a normal and healthy intimate relationship with their spouse.
- views on oral sex. In my day, oral sex was viewed almost on a par with intercourse. Pre Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, sexual relations included intercourse and oral sex! Nowadays, it seems that oral sex is regarded as more akin to kissing. In fact, I have even heard it said that teenage girls regard giving oral sex as less intimate an act than kissing!
- hook-up culture. I kissed my fair share of girls in my youth, not all of whom I was seriously dating at the time, but that was generally as far as it went. These days it seems that our society is far more permissive in its view of what is acceptable within a casual hook-up or fling. As a result, young married couples, including many Christian couples, come into marriage more sexually experienced, but also with more sexual baggage and potentially sexual hurts that they need to deal with.
Alongside preaching to our teens and to young dating couples the value of waiting for marriage to explore intimacy together, we also need to be aware of the reality for many of them, and to be able to deal with the sexual issues that they bring into marriage. I suspect that it also means that we need to start speaking to our pre-teens much earlier than we think about issues like pornography, mutual masturbation and oral sex.
To gather some data to see whether my perceptions above are valid, and whether other trends are also evident, I have designed a short 5 question survey. Once I have sufficient data, I will blog the results and an analysis of the changing trends across recent generations. To be able to do so, however, I need a good spread of respondents of various ages, from late teens and newly weds to those that grew up in the 60's. And ideally also a good spread of men and women.
Please take 5 minutes to complete the survey using the link below: