8 Predictions about the Future of Sex, Gender, and Marriage in America

Recently I was reading sociologist Mark Regnerus’s insightful new book Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy. His premise is that the Pill and ubiquity of pornography have caused sex to be more widely available, which drives the cost of sex down and makes real commitment more “expensive” and difficult to navigate. Essentially, Regnerus examines sex in America today through an economic lens.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was his final eight predictions for 2030 in regard to sex, relationships, and marriage. He admits that these are “educated guesses” and that the evidence for some is better than for others. Even though he is confident they won’t all come true, they are based on his best reading of current numbers and trends.

8 Predictions Future Sex Gender Marriage America

Prediction #1: Sex Will Get Even Cheaper. Regnerus considers this one “easy.” Fertility control is improving and there is little risk of pregnancy with sex. Porn use also continues to grow and shows no signs of declining. The continued growth of erotic experiences through porn will continue to cheapen the real thing. Eventually porn will be taken for granted. And as a result, there will be more loneliness, since solitary sexual experiences simply cannot fulfill our deepest needs.

Prediction #2: Enforcement of Age of Consent (Sexual) Laws will Decrease. This is perhaps one of the most startling of his predictions, but Regnerus does note that the age of consent is up for grabs. He is not predicting that American parents will embrace adolescent sex, but that there will be less enforcement age of consent laws near the legal age. In fact, he predicts that prosecutors will not wish to press charges unless the victim is clearly pre-pubescent.

Prediction #3: The Percentage of Unmarried Americans Will Increase, but the Age of First Marriage for Women Will Slow. Demographers predict that the share of Americans who never marry will continue to increase. Women no longer need men for social, cultural, and economic reasons, and men no longer feel the need to act “nobly” towards women and their interests. Regnerus predicts we are moving towards a nation that increasingly replaces marriage relationships with partnering singles (and he believes this will make our nation remarkably lonely and vulnerable).

Prediction #4: Same-Sex Marriage Will Decline Among Gay Men. Regnerus believes the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 was more a sign of deinstitutionalization than the revitalization of marriage. Given the propensity of men towards non-monogamy, he believes far fewer gay couples will choose marriage (unless, of course, in the unlikely event that marriage is transformed to integrate non-monogamy). Regnerus concludes, “By 2030, there is a good chance that a look-back at June 2015 will reveal same-sex marriage as a quest for rights and a cultural land grab rather than a product of the genuine desire to access a historic institution” (p. 207).

Prediction #5: Men’s Sexuality Will Become More Malleable. According to Regnerus, scholars are beginning to reveal that men exhibit a greater degree of sexual malleability than previously thought. He expects men to increasingly experiment with same-sex sexual behavior while not identifying as exclusively gay. He believes this is due to the declining stigma of non-heterosexual identities, increasing emphasis on a variety of sexual experiences, and the ubiquity of pornography that blends straight, gay, lesbian, multi-partner, and other forms of sexuality.

Prediction #6: Organized Christianity Will Not Stem the Retreat from Marriage in the U.S. While American Christians value lifelong monogamy, according to Regnerus, few have the commitment to make a significant cultural difference. One reason is that the evangelical church is decentralized. And the other reason is that many Christians have bought into the cultural emphasis on individualism and self-fulfillment at the expense of biblical teaching.

Prediction #7: Polygamy Is Not Coming Back, but Polyamory May Become an Accepted Minority. According to Regnerus, long-term legal shifts in family laws favor the individual, not the kinds of unions they form. Americans are more interested in fleeing marriage than having multiple marriages (at least in significant numbers).

Prediction #8: Efforts to Abolish Gender Will Not Succeed. Such efforts may have some success, but ultimately Regnerus concludes, “Because while the globe’s inhabitants may exhibit sympathy for the equal treatment of its citizens, and perhaps efforts to ensure equal economic access, they have much less patience for efforts aimed at obliterating all sexual difference—that is, eradicating the truth of sexual dimorphism” (p. 212).

Even though these are reasonable predictions, it is impossible to know what the future will hold. I have some intuitions about these trends, but don’t have a crystal ball.

Nevertheless, they will certainly be on my personal radar as I both study and have conversations about the future state of love, sex, and marriage in America. I hope you will be following these trends as well, and be thinking about what they mean for Christian faithfulness and cultural engagement in the years to come.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 


 

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10 replies
  1. JCS says:

    On a secular viewpoint, I can’t find anything in history that alludes to someone’s sexual preference before coming to the knowledge of the person first! I think as it was put many years ago that we’ve opened a Pandora’s Box, now we have transgender. On a Biblical standpoint, we come to a very trendy aspect which mocks what God Has Created!

    There are times in The Bible when God remains very patient, then He gives those over to their own depravities. What will come after transgender?

    Reply
  2. Andy Ryan says:

    Evangelicals are the biggest supporter of President Trump. They elected a thrice-married man who boasts about grabbing women’s private parts and trying to sleep with married women. Evangelicals clutch their pearls about gender neutral toilets but support Trump, who boasted about walking into women’s changing rooms and seeing teenage girls in a state of undress.
    .
    Obviously they can support whatever politician they want, but they can no longer pretend that they’re the ones upholding moral values or supporting marriage. Interestingly, in 2011, 30% of white evangelicals said that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.” By October last year, 72% said so — a far bigger swing than other religious groups the poll studied. What a difference having a white Republican on the ballot who acts shamelessly can have on the views of white evangelicals!
    .
    I’d also argue that given recent events they’ve lost the moral high ground with regards to ‘supporting and showing respect for the military’ too, but that’s not really addressed in the above article.

    Reply
    • Kalmaro says:

      Not sure what politics has to do with this, but when the choice was between Trump and Hillary, we didn’t have much choice. Hillary is blatantly corrupt and has gotten people killed. Trump just mouths off and says stuff that’s inflammatory.

      Reply
      • Kyle says:

        You forgot that Trump is blatantly corrupt and has gotten people killed. Makes the decision so easy when you actually realize who you are dealing with.

        Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        “Not sure what politics has to do with this”
        It’s pretty simple: Christians and evangelicals in particular can’t say others are to blame for changing attitudes towards marriage and sex, and then themselves not only endorse Trump as President, but continue to defend him. It also retrospectively shows that the complaints about Bill Clinton were just a pose. And Trump supporters don’t get to take a moral high ground about Harvey Weinstein either. Your guy got accused by multiple women, and he admitted to it on tape. And the more time goes on, the worse your support will make you look, because you know this is going to get worse and worse.

        Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        I did read the article – did you? It discusses changing sexual mores and directly makes reference to how Christians affect or fail to affect them.
        It says: “While American Christians value lifelong monogamy, according to Regnerus, few have the commitment to make a significant cultural difference. One reason is that the evangelical church is decentralized. And the other reason is that many Christians have bought into the cultural emphasis on individualism and self-fulfillment at the expense of biblical teaching.”
        .
        Evangelicals cheerleading for a thrice-married boor, with dozens of accusations of assault against him, who boasts about trying to sleep with married women, and how being a ‘a star’ means women let him ‘get away’ with ‘grabbing’ their private parts, is DIRECTLY relevant to this topic. It’s not like they all said they were holding their nose and voting for him because they didn’t like Hillary – they’re constantly defending him still.

        Reply
        • Aaron says:

          Okay. Did you understand it?

          You sound very angry about something having to do with Trump. Maybe don’t read Twitter or watch CNN for a couple of days and then come back.

          I’m actually not trolling. This emphasis everywhere on Trump is really puzzling, and ascribing all evangelicals with all of Trump’s sins isn’t any more fair than us ascribing Clinton’s (either of them) to you. Whatever Trump is doing really isn’t relevant and isn’t as important as you seem to think it is. (It definitely isn’t as important as Trump thinks it is.)

          No one on the site is cheerleading for anyone, and what your saying really doesn’t seem relevant. Maybe I’m just missing it. Do you think any of the predictions above are going to happen? If you don’t, why not? Most of them seem pretty likely to me.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            ‘What he’s doing isn’t that important’ reads to me like ‘it doesn’t affect me personally so I don’t care about it’. And your advice is to pay less attention to the news, perhaps we should all just close our eyes or maybe just watch soap operas instead, wait for it all to blow over.
            .
            As for no one on the site cheering for anyone, yes they are. The people running the site are defending Trump – you can see their tweets up the right hand side of the page.
            .
            And now you’re playing down what’s happening and implying it’s CNN’s fault and suggesting poor understanding on my part. Wake up, Aaron.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            As for the predictions:
            “Efforts to Abolish Gender Will Not Succeed”
            .
            Who is trying to abolish gender? The argument about trans people is that one can have a male gender in a female body. If anything it is the opposing argument that is trying to abolish gender, as it appears to contend that there’s nothing about being male beyond have a male physique.
            .
            “Same-Sex Marriage Will Decline Among Gay Men”
            .
            Who cares? The important thing is that if two men want to get married then they can. You could show me figures demonstrating that few Korean-American men marry Afro-Carrobean women and it would have no effect on my opinion on whether they should be allowed to.
            .
            “Organized Christianity Will Not Stem the Retreat from Marriage in the U.S.”
            .
            I agree, because Christians get divorced as much as any other group and as I pointed out already, evangelicals overwhelmingly support a guy on his third marriage. So why would we even expect Christianity to stem any retreat?
            .
            “Enforcement of Age of Consent (Sexual) Laws will Decrease”
            .
            A few decades ago people could get married much younger than today – 12 or 13 wasn’t uncommon in some states.
            .
            As a separate point, Mark Regnerus was the guy behind a largely discredited study on same sex relationships. Major academic organizations including the American Sociological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association disputed the validity of his data and conclusions. So I take his ideas overall with a pinch of salt.

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