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The Sex Secret You Won’t Find in Cosmo

abstinence, MARRI, marriage, religion, sexuality, women's health No comments

Betsy Huff, Intern
 
Pick up the latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (or any issue for that matter) and you are sure to find a cover story on the “hottest new sex secrets.”  In fact, the aim of the publication seems to be to aid women in finding the most possible fulfillment in their sexual experiences and encounters.  There is a shocking, but not so new (in fact some may say ancient) piece of information that may change the way you view religion and sex.  
In February of 1999, U.S.A Today ran a cover story entitled “Revenge of the Church Ladies,” by William R. Mattox Jr., which revealed that some of the most sexually satisfied women in the country are religious women. It is no divine revelation that premature sexual activity has devastating effects on young girls, but a study that reveals in objective terms that religious women experience more frequent sexual responsiveness might come as a surprise.  Gone is the notion of the prudish, Victorian-minded and sexually repressed church woman the Sexual Revolution worked so hard to release! 
The study cites four factors that may contribute to sexual fulfillment in religious women. Sexual inexperience and lack of baggage from past sexual involvements contributes to a satisfactory sex life within marriage. Similarly, this lack of a sexually licentious past is related to less sexual anxiety due to guilt or fear of consequences from sexual promiscuity. Logically, sexual anxiety is a factor that inhibits sexual satisfaction.  Also, marriage in itself creates an environment for human sexuality to flourish.  The commitment and fidelity created by this relational union allows a woman to “let go” and thus experience more sexual responsiveness.  Finally, for religious women sex is more than just a physical act to meet a sensory appetite. The physical act is also spiritual and emotional; it is symbolic of a transcendent truth that the two are really “one flesh.”  
This is just one of many examplesof social science research supporting the way God intended and commanded humans to live. Other examples include evidence from MARRI research that supports the idea of an intact family as the best environment in which to raise happy, healthy, and successful children.  Other social science researchsupports these same ideas. As Dr. Pat Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute says, “The social sciences, done well, illustrate the way God made man.”

Spirituality and Sexuality: Already on a Campus Near You

abstinence, Christianity, marriage, religion No comments
Julia Polese, Intern
In Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Religion and Romance on America’s College Campuses, Donna Freitas examinesthe interplay between spirituality and sexuality on seven different college campuses across the United States. After conducting hundreds of surveys and face-to-face interviews, she discovered that colleges divided into two categories: evangelical and “spiritual.” The spiritual schools – Catholic, private nonreligious, and public universities – were characterized by a dominant hookup culture and students who considered themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” She noted that while most of the students at these spiritual schools asked sincere questions about truth and a “Higher Power,” they did not believe these questions had anything to do with their sexuality. The evangelical schools presented a different picture. Most students assumed prima facie a picture of their sexuality inextricably linked to marriage and their faith. Their sexual choices were also spiritual (and religious) choices, and chastity was the overwhelming norm and ideal at evangelical colleges.
 
Some students interviewed realized that there must be something off about the hookup culture: many women reported feeling disappointed when a one-night stand did not turn into something more, some men wondered about the effects their choices would have when their decided that it was time to “be in love” and settle down. Freitas’ book is important because it reveals a significant season of habit-formation for many, if not most, young people today. MARRI’s research shows how important the interaction between religiosity and marriage is in sustaining an organized society. If a majority of college students spend four years divorcing questions of their sexuality’s effect on their souls, they form habits of compartmentalization that follow them for the rest of their lives. In Mapping America, MARRI shows how family structure and religious attendance positively affect myriad aspects of life. The integration of marriage and relationship choices and religion and spirituality is of utmost importance, and it is to college students’ detriment if they do not learn to do this in a real way in the most formative years of their lives.

Cohabitation

cohabitation, family, marriage, religion No comments
MARRI Interns
It is vexing professional conduct for a researcher to rigorously investigate the nuances of a social phenomenon and then disregard those well-established facts when offering a prescription.  Yet it was exactly that inexplicable approach to the social sciences that was on full display on the New York Times editorial page last weekend.  In an op-ed entitled “The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage,” clinical psychologist Meg Jay simultaneously displays both a firm knowledge of the effects of cohabiting and an inability to proscribe it. 
The title of the op-ed is itself revelatory of the fact that it is the downside of cohabitation that is newsworthy, since the popular presumption is that cohabitation is either neutral or desirable, but the research explodes these unreflective and unexamined presuppositions.  That research demonstrates that cohabitation is almost unexceptionally harmful for successful, stable marriages and families, as Ms. Jay argues in her op-ed. 
Yet the primary and glaring flaw of this article is its vacillation at the time of offering a prescription to this entrenched problem.  This vacillation is both wanton and willful; the author, preferring defeatist resignation to bold, consistent remedy, demurs that “cohabitation is here to stay.”  That a Slate.com columnist can flippantly generalize that “everyone lives together now before getting married” is understandable, but that a professional relational advisor can express such ideas is borderline insulting to those clients of hers that she has relegated to such irresponsibility.  (Parenthetically, it must be noted that the Slate article is patently wrong when it argues that “the cohabitation effect” which holds that cohabiting couples are less satisfied with marriages has disappeared; research as recent as the 2000s suggests that it still holds true.)  On the contrary, rates of cohabitation correlate with specific behavioral practices; for example, MARRI research shows that only 27.1% of women from intact marriages who worship weekly cohabit before marriage. 
Refusal of commitment is the essence of cohabitation; it is therefore incomprehensible to suggest that cohabitation be somehow reinterpreted to be a “pre-marriage” arrangement.  A far superior prescription that is consistent with the evidence is that clinicians and counselors advise their clients to forego cohabitation and make the real commitment of getting married.

Can Cohabitation Lead To Fulfillment?

abstinence, Christianity, cohabitation, marriage, religion No comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern

Marriage Savers President Mike McManus relays in a recent articlea talk Pope Benedict XVI gave to United States Catholic Bishops in which he urged them to address the issue of cohabitation. Pope Benedict stated, “It is increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible mature sexual ethic in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”

There is a devaluing of the idea of commitment in our culture that is affecting U.S.couples from pledging their lives to each other. A possible cause for this is the population has become unhealthily focused on themselves. The individual is so elevated over his neighbor or community that if anything endangers personal happiness, it is avoided. Sadly, this has included marriage. However, science has claimed the opposite. One studyhas shown that “married couples enjoy more relationship quality and happiness than cohabiters.” The modern understanding of personal fulfillment and relationships has blinded us to the reality that in covenant there is actually increased happiness.
Perhaps an analogy can better explain the difference between cohabitation and marriage. If I could hold in hand my life, and then close my hand, I would certainly have and be able to enjoy my life. However, I would be unable to receive anything from others because my hand is closed. I may show at times what is in my hand, but in fear of losing what is mine, I never let go. However, if I was to open my hand and give up my life, only then am I in the position to receive life from another. It is the same regarding cohabitation and marriage. A cohabiter allows a glimpse to their partner, but never fully gives up his life. Only in the true commitment of marriage can one fully and wholeheartedly give and receive life and happiness.

Gallup on Well-Being and Religion

culture, MARRI, religion, social institutions No comments
MARRI Interns
The incisive social critic H.L. Menken famously described Puritanism as “the haunting fearthat someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  In the eyes of a not insubstantial portion of the population, this sentiment has been mass-produced and broadbrushed across the entire landscape of religion.  Surely it is by now axiomatic that religious people are little more than repressed, uptight, morose discontents with personal vendettas to search out and destroy any wayward vestiges of amusement that might be illicitly had. 
But, as is often the case, a large body of research suggests otherwise.  A February 16, 2012, headline by the Gallup organization declares “Religious Americans Enjoy Higher Wellbeing.”  Gallup drew upon a massive sample of 676,000 interviews conducted over the course of two years to declare decisively that “the statistically significant relationship between religiousness and wellbeing holds up after controlling for numerous demographic variables.”  In six out of seven categories, including Life Evaluation Index, Emotional Health Index, Healthy Behaviors Index, Work Environment Index, and the Basic Access Index, very religious Americans score higher than nonreligious or moderately religious Americans (the exceptional category is the Physical Health Index). 
This research confirms earlier research conducted by MARRI, including studies detailing the Benefits of Religious Attendance and Religious Practice and Educational Attainment.  These and other studies demonstrate that the side effects of religious practice are unequivocally desirable and beneficial both to the wellbeing of the individual and the strength of the society.  Given this social science data, it would seem that the wit of Menken and the general suspicion against religion that his comments represent might be in need of revisitation and revision. Despite these popular misconceptions, the data demonstrate that religious people are undeniably, but perhaps not inexplicably, happy.

Importance of Being Married and Religious Attendance

Christianity, culture, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments

By MARRI Interns

A recent Mississippi State University (MSU) study was conducted to find possible reasons for marital longevity, particularly among African American couples. Keri Collins Lewis reports on the researchdone by MSU professors Tommy M. Phillips, assistant professor in MSU’s School of Human Sciences, and Joe D. Wilmoth, associate professor in the School of Human Ecology at Louisiana State University, who focused on long standing married couples in historically black churches in Mississippi. Overall, African-American couples believed that their marital success is attributed to faith, with specific denotation to help from God more than any other category.
 
The self-assessed questionnaire used in the study contained open-ended questions and forced-choice questions, the first of which asked both spouses together for the top reason their marriage endured. The results were “God/Jesus” first (51%), then love (31%), and good communication (23%) third. God, or Jesus, is recognized by more than half of those studied as the enduring factor in marriage. In a society that is becoming increasingly secular, this is not to be taken lightly. Later questions asked individually further explain this point. Spouses were asked separately whether faith was important to their marital longevity, upon which 93 and 94 percent of husbands and wives respectively agreed “faith was a very important factor.” Regarding prayer, 88 and 97 percent of husbands and wives respectively pray one or more times per day. And church attendance: 91 and 99 percent attend once or more per week.
 
Marriage and Religion Research Institute has published research from the General Social Survey which shows marriage is highly valued among many who practice their faith. In the Mapping America series number 82, The Personal Importance of Being Married by Religious Attendance, it states, “Adults who attend religious services at least weekly are more likely to report that being married is personally very important to them than those who worship less frequently.” The data used in the paper is collected from the General Social Survey (1972-2006), and concluded that 60.5 percent of adults who attend religious services more than once a week view marriage as very important. The people who take marriage more seriously are indeed people of faith and it is incumbent upon those who practice faith to see marriage succeed, both personally and in others.
There are two possible arguments against the veracity of this study. One is that this finding is representative of only 71 couples. However, while this study is small, it is valuable because of its focus. Dr. Phillips’s study states most previous studies on black couples have been “problem-oriented” with little exploration of marital longevity. A second critique may by that the research targeted black churches instead of the black population as a whole. Critics might therefore see this study as biased and discredit the results. However, as Lewis uncovers from Dr. Wilmoth, this method was with good reason: “‘When we looked for ways to find African-American couples with long-standing marriages, we discovered the most reasonable way to contact them was through their churches,’ Wilmoth said. ‘We believe our sample is reasonably representative because almost 90 percent of African Americans identify themselves with a church, and those who are married are even more likely to attend.’” Since a majority of married black couples attend church, it is logical and practical to focus on finding couples in the church, and to consider the results of this study informative as to reasons for marital longevity.

Self and the Single Parent: On Jessica Olien, Part II

child well-being, culture, family, Jessica Olien, marriage, religion, single parents No comments
By Julia Polese, Intern
 
The notion of singleness has been a hot topic lately. Articles discussing single motherhood, living alone, and remaining unmarried by choice reflect trending individualism in American culture. Jessica Olien’s article “I Want to Be My Kid’s Only Parent” sums up the surging solipsism well: “I can’t help but think that having a partner there with an equal stake in the matter would complicate the process.” Her dispassionate ode to single parenthood echoes Kate Bolick’s sentiments in “All the Single Ladies” from The Atlanticearlier this year, in which she discussed “the elevation of independence over coupling.” The individualism Alexis de Tocqueville prophesied as one of the most undesirable discontents of democracy in America is becoming manifest in not only in our local communities, but also in our families.
 
Andrew Delbanco, professor of American Studies at Columbia University, gave a series of lectures in 1998 entitled The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope. In these lectures, he discussed the American people’s diminution of hope: from worship of their God, to loyalty to a notion of the sacred nation-state, and, in the last fifty years, “to the vanishing point of self alone.” Despite this shrinking world, Delbanco claims contemporary culture is still haunted by an “unslacked craving for transcendence.” Even in the glorification of singleness and the “self alone,” the authors of these articles still betray a longing for devotion to something outside themselves. Olien ends her article by exalting her hypothetical progeny, saying she “could have men on the periphery, but [she] would place [her] child securely in the center.” Bolick extols the virtue of the community at Begijnhof, an apartment complex only for single women in the Netherlands. Both are enamored with their self-sufficiency, but betray a desire to devote themselves to something other.
 
MARRI’s 162 Reasons to Marry outlines some of the ways marriage can aid in answering this longing. Married women experience less psychological stress and enjoy more social support than their single or cohabiting peers, and their children report higher quality of life. These aspects of the intact married family present a way to ease the democratic citizen’s restlessness, connecting her to something transcendent and larger than herself when rightly ordered in relation to God and country. With this in mind, the home again becomes a “haven in a heartless world” and not a prison that only works to constrain one’s self-defined existence.

162 Reasons to Marry

child well-being, cohabitation, crime, divorce, domestic violence, education, family, MARRI, marriage, men's health, poverty, religion, women's health No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff
We are excited to present 162 Reasons to Marry, a (by no means comprehensive) list of the benefits and reasons for marriage.

Good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies. All other relationships in society stem from the father-mother relationship, and these other relationships thrive most if that father-mother relationship is an intimate, closed husband-wife relationship. Our nation depends on good marriages to yield strong revenues, good health, low crime, high education, and high human capital

Here are a few selections from “162 Reasons to Marry”:

4. Those from an intact family are more likely to be happily married.

6. Those from intact families are less likely to divorce. 

27. Married men and women report the most sexual pleasure and fulfillment. 

33. Adults who grew up in an intact married family are more likely than adults from non-intact family structures to attend religious services at least monthly. 

37. Children of married parents are more engaged in school than children from all other family structures.

48. Adolescents from intact married families are less like to be suspended, expelled, or delinquent, or to experience school problems than children from other family structures. 

69. The married family is less likely to be poor than any other family structure. 

79. Married men are less likely to commit crimes. 

93. Married women are less likely to be abused by their husband than cohabiting women are to be abused by their partner.

99. Children in intact married families suffer less child abuse than children from any other family structure.

104. Married people are more likely to report better health, a difference that holds for the poor and for minorities.

119. Married men and women have higher survival rates after being diagnosed with cancer.  

126. Married people have lower mortality rates, including lower risk of death from accidents, disease, and self-inflicted injuries.

132. Married women have significantly fewer abortions than unmarried women. 

149. Married people are least likely to commit suicide.

We’ve found 162 reasons to marry — what can you add to the list?

Running Away, Religion, and Family Structure: Is Your Child a Flight Risk?

family, MARRI, marriage, religion, youth No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff

From our latest Mapping America publication (111: “Ever Run Away” by Current Religious Attendance and Structure of Family of Origin):

Adolescents from intact married families who worship at least weekly have an average runaway rate of 4 percent. By contrast, youth from all other family structures who never attend religious services have the highest average runaway rate, 15 percent. 11 percentage points is a significant difference! For more on the benefits of marriage and weekly worship, view MARRI’s other published Mapping Americas.

Football, Fatherhood, and Religion

child well-being, family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments
By MARRI Interns
 
The joy caused by the advent of the Super Bowl this Sunday quickly transforms into melancholy for many men who acknowledge with lamentation that the Super Bowl marks the termination of football season. How ought those men to spend those superfluous hours on Sunday that were previously occupied with football? A trove of social science research suggests quite strongly that it might be best for them, for their marriage, and for their children to head to church.
A number of prominent Evangelical leaders are rediscovering the importance of appealing to men to return to involvement in the church. Dr. John Piper’s 2012 Pastors Conference is entitled “God, Manhood, and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.” Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church of Seattle has long been an ardent advocate of masculine maturity exemplified through religious attendance and participation.
Perhaps this is all of no importance. Perhaps it is just another attempt by several pastors to fill their pews. Or perhaps these men are on to something far more significant about the nature and benefits of male participation in the life of the church. And indeed, it is this latter proposition that seems to be vindicated by much of the social science research that MARRI and others are doing. The social science bears out that it is not only ministry leaders who have reason to champion male reengagement with the church; male church attendance correlates with significant benefits for society as a whole, since it contributes to the stability of the family and the success of children.
These societal benefits are observed by a large number of researchers, among whom are W. Bradford Wilcox, whose book “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands” (U Chicago Press, 2004) treats this subject in great detail. Constraining his research only to a comparison between Conservative Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and fathers with no religious affiliation, Wilcox presents detailed evidence showing that Conservative Protestants are more likely to be involved fathers and loving husbands than are those of no religious affiliation at all: 

Conservative Protestant married men with children are consistently more active and expressive with their children than unaffiliated men and are often more engaged with their children than mainline Protestant fathers. Furthermore, conservative Protestant family men are more likely than unaffiliated men to do positive emotion work in their marriages and are more consistently engaged emotionally in their marriages than mainline men. So the charges that conservative Protestantism fosters authoritarian and other stereotypical displays of masculinity among its family are overdrawn. [emphasis added]

Dr. Wilcox’s research shows that the impact of religion on family life is significant and well worth detailed study. That is why, in a forthcoming paper on the Effects of Religion on Marriage, MARRI presents a comprehensive picture of the benefits for marriage that accrue when partners participate in religious activity (particularly joint weekly worship). The forthcoming paper analyzes the effects of religion on marriage from a number of angles. MARRI’s Mapping America products virtually unanimously support the assertion that religion strengthens marriage in a number of significant and variegated ways.

So men, for the sake of your wife and your children, go to church this Sunday. Besides, unless your pastor is particularly long-winded, you’ll have plenty of time before the Super Bowl starts.