The New York Times
By DAVID BROOKS
Sex is pretty elemental. We share the same basic biology. We watch nationally broadcast TV shows and movies designed for international audiences. You'd think you'd be able to drive across a few neighborhoods in this country and come across reasonably similar sexual behavior patterns. But you'd be wrong.
Edward Laumann of the
The authors of the study culled data from thousands of interviews in several
If men can have multiple partners, they have little incentive to limit themselves; marriage rates drop. Though they face a shortage of African-American men of equal status, Southtown's women tend not to look outside black neighborhoods.
A few miles away, there is a largely Hispanic neighborhood the academics
call Westside. About half the people here are foreign-born, many from rural
While roughly two-thirds of the non-Hispanic men in
Shoreland is an affluent white neighborhood on the near northwest side. There is a large gay and lesbian population, and sex is more likely to be impersonal. About 43 percent of the gay men in Shoreland have had more than 60 partners. This neighborhood, too, has developed its own social institutions. A local softball league has become a place where lesbians can go to meet possible partners. Though people here are better educated, their social lives are still tightly bounded. Over 75 percent of the gays and lesbians interviewed said that most or all of their friends are gay, lesbian or bisexual.
When you step back from this data, you see that, first,
there has been a flowering of diverse sexual zones. This spontaneous evolution
is so rapid, it is very difficult for big institutions
to keep up. How can the city government of
Second, sexual marketplaces are a rapidly expanding feature of society, and they are becoming more distinct from marriage marketplaces. Furthermore, as the sex markets become bigger and more efficient, people have less incentive to get married. As the scholars Yoosik Youm and Anthony Paik write, "Opportunities in the sex market act as constraints in the marriage market."
The big problem here is that there is an overwhelming body of evidence to suggest that marriage correlates highly with happiness. Children raised in marriages tend to have more opportunities than children raised outside marriage.
Over all, Americans are spending much less time married. They marry later and divorce at high rates, and remarry less and less. We are replacing marriage, one of our most successful institutions, with hooking up. This is a deep structural problem, and very worrying.