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WETZSTEIN: Sex only reason for cohabiting

- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009

"I didn't know how to be in a relationship and not have sex. That was how I kept men interested, how I kept them with me. It's why they liked me. Or at least that's what I thought."

This comment, from an unidentified 25-year-old woman, is both familiar and pathetic. She wants love, so she offers sex. He, not surprisingly, takes it but runs.

"While it's possible that a couple having sex before marriage will one day make a lifelong commitment, it is statistically more likely they won't," say Dr. Joe S. McIlhaney Jr. and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush.

"In fact, the likeliest outcome of premarital sex is simply more premarital sex," they write in their book, "Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children," which included the quote from the 25-year-old woman.

Cohabiting is growing in America, and young women should not kid themselves. It's all about the sex.

If a woman doubts this, she should suggest to Mr. Might-Be-Right that she is willing to move in with him if there are separate bedrooms and no sexual activity until marriage. She should not be surprised if he says that if there's no sex, there's no reason to move in with her.

In focus groups on cohabiting, women defend it as a way to study a potential mate and experience the relationship 24 hours a day. Cohabiting reveals personal habits — does he (ever) hang up his clothes? — moods, noises and smells, women say.

But whether guys say so or not, cohabiting to them is primarily a bedroom test. If a woman gets a passing grade there, she moves on to the nuisance test. If she's too moody, demanding, ditsy, picky, boring, weird or obnoxious, bags will be packed. After all, this is just a test drive. Good times, but see ya.

Some may think I am a little too glib here, so let me quote Francis Fukuyama, who wrote "The Great Disruption, Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order," a 1999 book about the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s.

"One of the greatest frauds perpetuated during the Great Disruption was the notion that the sexual revolution was gender-neutral, benefiting women and men equally," he wrote. "In fact, the sexual revolution served the interests of men."

Birth control and abortion may have freed women from worrying about pregnancy, Mr. Fukuyama explained, but it also meant "men felt liberated" from social norms requiring them to take care of any woman they managed to impregnate. Men became less attached to women and children.

Virtually all men have benefited from this new sexual paradigm, Mr. Fukuyama added. Throughout history, only powerful, wealthy, high-status men enjoyed sexual access to many women — in fact, that was a major reason men wanted to be powerful, wealthy and high-status, he wrote. Now millions of women are giving ordinary men (i.e., men without power, wealth or high status) sexual access.

I find it inexplicable that women think cohabiting is in their best interests. How many times do we hear about a woman who has gone through life collecting boyfriends, house keys and bedroom experiences, only to end up at a sperm bank in her 30s because she (still) doesn't have a husband but can't live another day without a baby? And yet that is the fate for many female cohabiters. Single women, not married women, are using sperm banks in ever greater numbers, according to a recent article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender.

Divorce brings heartache to both men and women, and cohabiting has been portrayed as a way to avoid divorce. But here's another way to look at it: Divorce is like having your childhood home burn down because of an electrical fire in the furnace. Cohabiting is like coping with that tragedy by living without a furnace and using space heaters instead.

Marriage education can rescue us. In fact, as relationship-skills programs spread through U.S. schools, houses of worship and communities, men and women will see they can create satisfying, lasting, healthy love relationships.

When that happens, they can both get off the merry-go-round of cohabiting and kick the "divorce revolution" to the curb.

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.