While discussing Dalrock‘s latest post concerning “Duck pickin’ women“, I was taken to task by GKChesteron for inaccurately stating that in the prior century (and earlier) women tended on average to marry in their late teens. He correctly pointed out that the early twenties was the median age for marriage in the US. At least, that is what the US Census Bureau indicates. The bureau gives the median (not mean) age as 21.6 for females for age of marriage, and 25.1 for men, in the year 1910 (about a hundred years ago).
The discussion of age of marriage started with this comment by Sunshinemary:
I mentioned this in a thread last week, but by the time they turn 18 and are old enough to marry, 58% of girls are already sexually active, and by 19 that jumps to 70.1% – with all that this entails in terms of disease transmission, potential alpha-widowhood, accidental pregnancies, and the like. So, even though he sounds extreme to suggest that girls might marry in their late teens, there is some wisdom in his words.
She followed that up with this comment:
Yes, I have learned not to mention that I want to marry my girls off by 20. The shocked looks on people’s faces…
But this really goes with what donalgraeme and I have both written about regarding young women and moral agency (or lack thereof) in the presence of an alpha male.
Then she linked to my post on moral agency in women, which itself was a copy of an earlier post on her old site.
I then expressed my curiosity about how the out-of-wedlock birthrate was so low in that US during that time period (only about 1.5% for whites in 1920 according to this source), especially given fact that contraceptives and abortion were not easily available. Digging around, I found it was probably at least somewhat attributable to the overall low rates of pre-marital sex in the United States during that period. I have only begun to dig into the goldmine of information that is this study on changing sexual mores, but so far it has been illuminating. It reports only a 6% premarital sex rate among American women by age 19, or less than 10% of what it is now.
Even though the median age of marriage for women was in the early twenties, the rate of premarital sex and out-of-wedlock births was low. How did this get achieved? Well, CK Chesteron supplied some helpful theories:
1.) Familial involvement prevented a lot of tumbling
2.) Separate work areas did two things
a.) Reduced opportunity
b.) And reduced pheromone based affections <—- this right here is HUGE
3.) Per the earlier thread bastards only existed where the parents _never_ married. We know for example that the pilgrims (as leftist are wont to tell) had a lot of “shotgun” marriages where the child was born less than nine months after the marriage. But the couple in question _married_ and the offspring was therefore considered legitimate.
All of them are fairly sound, especially point 2. You see, when you put young men and young women together, and they aren’t adequately supervised, sex will happen. Its pretty much guaranteed. This was something we understood a century ago, but is now forgotten amongst the Churchians. The results:
The last one hundred years have witnessed a revolution in sexual behavior. In 1900, only 6% of U.S. women would have engaged in premarital sex by age 19. see Figure 1 (all data sources are discussed in the Appendix). Now, 75% have experienced this. Public acceptance of this practice reacted with delay. Only 15% of women in 1968 had a permissive attitude toward premarital sex. At the time, though, about 40% of 19 year-old females had experienced it. The number with a permissive attitude had jumped to 45% by 1983, a time when 73% of 19 year olds were sexually experienced.
They fail to understand that you can’t just send young men and (especially) young women out into the world, unmarried, and expect them to easily resist sexual sins. A century ago those young women, before they were married, were not let loose into the world. Nearly all of them would have been staying with their family, and would have had few opportunities to be waylaid by temptation. Quoting from that study again:
The idea is that young adults will act in their own best interest when deciding to engage in premarital sex. They will weigh the benefits from the joy of sex against its cost, the possibility of having an out-of-wedlock birth. An out-of-wedlock birth has many potential costs for a young woman: it may reduce her educational and job opportunities; it may hurt her mating prospects on the marriage market; she may feel shame or stigma. Over time the odds of becoming pregnant (the failure rate) from premarital sex have declined, due to the facts that contraception has improved, and more teens are using some method. Figure 2. The cost of engaging in premarital sex fell, as a result. This leads to the paradoxical situation where, despite the fact that the efficacy of contraception has increased, so has the number of out-of-wedlock births.