Ten Myths About Sex and Stable Relationships

In their book, Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker concluded with 10 myths that many believe, though the evidence supporting them just isn’t there (pages 236-50).

Myth #1: Long-term exclusivity is a fiction.

“When we ask our students in class how long half of all marriages last, they fumble around for a response, guessing five years, or seven, or 10 tops. But the answer, which never occurs to them, is a lifetime.”

Myth #2: The introduction of sex is necessary in order to sustain a fledging or struggling friendship.

“The sooner relationships become sexual, the greater their odds of failure. This is not to suggest that all such relationships will fail – just that they’re more apt to. Relationships started with sex are even more tenuous. No shortage of emerging adults, however, think the data must somehow be wrong. Hence, they act like it’s not true, only to become part of the same data pattern themselves.”

Myth #3: The sexual double standard is inherently wrong and must be resisted by any means.

“So much about sexual attraction, desire, behavior, and response exhibits robust gender differences. Yet the way the term ‘double standard’ is popularly used implies that men occupy the optimal position; as in, ‘Why should women be held to a higher standard than men?’ On the contrary, perhaps it ought to be lauded that women generally do set higher standards for their relationships. Unfortunately, many well-meaning adults and educators want so badly to dismantle the double standard that they work to normalize any and all consensual sexual relationships, rather than considering whether common experiences of sexual regrets are in fact telling us something.”

Myth #4: Boys will be boys.

“That is, men can’t be expected to abide by the sexual terms that women may wish to set….The reality, however, is that this scenario is not fixed. Men live up to – or down to – the expectations placed upon them.”

Myth #5: It doesn’t matter what other people do sexually; you make your own decisions.

“Free choice disappears when the majority of men and women become constrained by the structured expectations of fairly prompt sex within romantic relationships, fewer expectations for commitment and permanence, etc. In other words, if a critical mass of men and women enjoy an extended series of sexual relationships and expect sex fairly promptly within them, it becomes quite difficult for a minority to do otherwise.”

Myth #6: Porn won’t affect your relationships.

“Wrong. Porn now affects virtually everyone’s relationships, even if neither partner actively spends time with it…. Talk of the ‘false’ or ‘unrealistic’ expectations that porn can generate will eventually diminish, not because the reality of real sex will set in for the porn-inspired men but because the reality of .pornified sex will settle in for women. They will increasingly accommodate their sex lives to it.”

Myth #7: Everyone else is having more sex than you are.

Individuals within a group “begin to believe that their own private attitudes, beliefs, or judgments are more conservative and rare than the public norms they see displayed by others.”

Myth #8: Sex need not mean anything.

It’s tougher for women to untie sex from relationship than for men to.

Myth #9: Marriage can always wait.

“According to most surveys and the vast majority of our interviews, emerging adults still want to get married. The most popular script about marriage, however, is that you should wait quite some time before entering it…. Many lose sight of the fact – or more commonly, realize it too late – that there is a marriage market out there…. It’s a pool that does not grow deeper and more impressive with age… This is not, however a clarion call to marry before one is prepared to, educated about it, thinking realistically about it, isn’t in love, etc…. We simply wish to encourage men and women who’ve met someone who is ‘marriage material’ to think twice before rejecting the notion that they’re just not ready yet. Life plans seldom develop exactly as adults anticipate and on the schedule they wish for.”

Myth #10: Moving in together is definitely a step toward marriage.

“Moving in together might come as a reassuring thrill too many emerging adults, but in the majority of cases, it doesn’t achieve permanence….Cohabitation is…about uncertainty and risk management for both men and women. It’s holding back to see how things go. It certainly feels logical when evaluated against the backdrop of serial monogamy and family experiences with divorce. But since few like to dwell for long and uncertainty, cohabitation is inherently unstable. It overwhelmingly leads to either marriage or break up within a few short years.”