Religiosity and Premarital Sex in Adulthood

One article from the “Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion” is entitled “Religiosity and Premarital Sex in Adulthood.” In this article, author Steven K. Barkan explores the relationship between the degree of religiosity of a never-married individual and the number of partners the same never-married individual will have over the course of their adult life. Many prior studies have analyzed the effect of religion on the sexual behavior of adolescents, but not much work has been done regarding religiosity and the sexual behavior of adults (Barkan 2006: 407). Barkan concluded that “religiosity has a consistent, fairly strong, and statistically significant deterrent effect on the number of sexual partners”(Barakan 2006: 414). While Barkan did not control for specific variables to determine what the exact reason as to why religiosity among never-married individuals serves as a deterrent to the number of sexual partners they may have, Barkan did hypothesize, by extending a Durkheimian view of religion as a force for social control (Durkheim 1995), that religion, by giving people a shared set of beliefs, serve as a means for socializing participating individuals. Moral norms, such as an undesirable view of premarital sex, affect the behavior of the people shaped and involved in that specific moral community. Individuals feel pressure to remain within the boundaries of their moral community’s moral norms and consequentially do not involve themselves with as many partners before marriage as their secular counterparts might.

            The data used for this study was gathered by the General Social Survey (GSS). Barkan states that he utilizes six GSS survey results from 1993 through 2002 which asked 1,166 respondents how many sexual partners they’ve had in the past five years. Barkan’s considered religiosity as a multidimensional concept which includes factors such as how often respondents attended religious services, prayed, and the importance religion plays in their lives. Barkan also controls for age, race, gender, years of education, and geographical location of respondents(Barkan 2006: 411). Respondents were limited to being, non-married, white orAfrican-Americans, and were all 18 years or older.

            This journal article should help listeners of the podcast better contextualize why the interviewees have the views on sex that they do. If, as the article concluded, religiosity has a statistically significant effect on the number of sexual partners one has, then it should explain to the audience why Eli, a secular conservative Jew, might have more liberal views on sexual encounters prior to marriage than the anonymous interviewee, someone from a more traditionally religious background.

              This article touches upon the concepts covered in both readings and class discussions of Emile Durkheim’s theory on regulation and integration. As we learned from our reading titled“The Sociology of Suicide” (Wray, Colen, and Pescosolido 2011), Durkheim argues that behavior, more specifically suicide, is determined in part by the degree if integration and regulation that one has within a community. In the same vein, the degree to which someone is integrated with their religious community may have an effect on how likely they adhere to the moral rules of that particular religion.

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