For years, conservative Christians have decried the “hookup culture” among young people that they believe is eroding the foundation of our nation. America’s youth, they claim, is having sex more frequently and with more partners. But according to new data, these Christians are wrong.
A sweeping new study conducted by sociologist Martin A. Monto of the University of Portland demonstrates that today’s young people are having no more sex than did their parents and they aren’t having sex with more partners, either. In a paper presented at the American Sociological Association, Monto stated there is “no evidence of substantial changes in sexual behavior that would support the proposition that there is a new or pervasive ‘hookup culture’ among contemporary college students.”
How did so many Christians get this one so wrong? The answer seems to be a little thing called confirmation bias, which is the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their preconceived notions or beliefs.
In response to America’s cultural revolution, conservative Christians in the early 1970’s began to preach about America’s “moral decline” or what Robert Bork famously labeled “slouching towards Gomorrah.” According to this narrative, America was abandoning its moral roots and becoming a more sinful, secular nation. As this narrative penetrated Christian communities, every anecdote of a young person contracting an STD or impregnating their teenage girlfriend fit nicely into the larger story Christians were telling, and coincidently, using to generate fear, raise money and political power.
But there are several problems with the macro-narrative of moral decline.