Men have upper hand in sexual economy
January 18th, 2011
04:54 PM ET

Men have upper hand in sexual economy

It's not a new theory:  As women progress in educational and professional opportunities, their odds of finding a committed man appear to go down. Women in their 40s and 50s have long heard this, but new research finds it's true for women just entering adulthood as well.

That's one of the findings in the new book "Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate and Think About Marrying," by researchers Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker at the University of Texas at Austin.

They looked at the results from a number of national studies including the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the National Study of Youth and Religion, in addition to interviews with young people ages 18 to 23.

Researchers found that since women in the 18- to 23-year-old group feel they don't need men for financial dependence, many of them feel they can play around with multiple partners without consequence, and that the early 20s isn't the time to have a serious relationship. But eventually, they do come to want a real, lasting relationship. The problem is that there will still be women who will have sex readily without commitment, and since men know this, fewer of them are willing to go steady.

"Women have plenty of freedom, but freedom does not translate easily into getting what you want," Regnerus said.

The wide availability of pornography has also influenced the dynamics of relations between men and women, Regnerus said. A segment of 20-something men are content to have their sexual experiences by themselves, removing them from the pool of available partners. That means high-quality men - likely those who want monogamous, committed relationships - are still eligible for dating, but the overall dating pool has shrunk, meaning some women will be left unsatisfactorily single.

Researchers also found that marrying at or before age 20 constitutes the greatest risk for subsequent divorce, the data show. Early marriage doesn’t cause the divorce, but the partners are likely to be unprepared for the kinds of adjustments required, Regnerus said.

And here's perhaps some good news: Sexual behavior among this age group is less salacious than you might think. The "hookup culture" is most prominent when there is a Greek system present; otherwise, college students seem more inclined toward stable relations and have fewer sexual partners.

In case you were wondering, 16% of 18- to 23-year-olds are virgins, according to the surveys used in the book. In that age group there are more men than women who have never had sex. By age 27, the portion of virgins goes down to 8%.

soundoff (647 Responses)
  1. Doug

    A woman with a great personality and is kind and caring will have her choice of men, no matter what she looks like.

    If you are a man who is poor and refuses to ever abuse a woman, no American female is interested in you.

    I couldn't get the pshyical abuse part down, but I did learn to do it mentally and wow, American women reward you with their fake love. However, I couldn't go on being like that so I found a foreign woman who actually enjoys a man who treats her right and doesn't take advantage. Sorry, no American woman like this exists, go search, but you are wasting your time.

    January 19, 2011 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Crazy Azz N199A

    America is a failed society. Enjoy your ride on the downward spiral.

    January 19, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Mathew

    Why won't CNN ever let you post things, so many words banned.

    January 19, 2011 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. buffy

    It is a known fact that women grow up faster then men do ,,and i believe that we all play the games we play when it comes to relationships . Yes ,most men and women look for a partner that is solid in beliefs,morals and is true and honest ,but as we all know ,these people are very hard to find. As for women and relationships , most younger generations now ,go threw school ,get educated and get jobs so they have a stable life ,before going on with relationships and family . I think it is important for a woman to have the opportunity,and strength to know they need no man to support them . It is refreshing to see a woman go from the kitchen to the office !

    January 19, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kelly McCabe

    I am 26 years old and I have been in a steady relationship for almost three years now. I have a Bachelor's degree and my boyfriend has not even started school yet, despite being a year older than me. His being educated is probably the biggest and most recurring argument that we have. I know that I will be able to support myself without the help of a husband. I also know that we will not last if he doesn't raise himself to my level. I love him to pieces, and as hard as it is, I can imagine what my life would be without him.
    One thing this article does not address and I wish that it would, is how educated women can be in a relationship with a man who is not educated.

    January 19, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Pagan

    I am so sick of these tired old articles trying to get women to freak out about finding a man. Did it ever occur to you that some women may not want a man?

    January 19, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Klash

    To me is that was the true according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the National Study of Youth and Religion results .... that's what happening noways in huge amounts with the youths aamong community and epically in universities. married is becoming an old type of social life.

    January 19, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. TonyInNYC

    This article suggests that an equilibrium is being maintained, but that the ratios of the components changes (e.g. desire for financial security vs. desire for multiple partners without consequence vs. desire for serious lasting relationship). The ideal mix for anyone is probably not what is "perfect" but what is least unsettling.

    January 19, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Liz

    "We're a neurotic society that will do anything to avoid rejection from another human being" - that's what this article could have stated and saved the rest of us several minutes.

    January 19, 2011 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Nadia 11111

    This site seems to be "eating" the posts. None shows up! I wonder why?

    January 19, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Name* Enoch Muhwezi

    Women should acknowledge that marriage is a stage of human development; financial and educational achievements can not negate this fact.
    Also that a man is the head of the family whether or not a woman has more money or is more educated. A stable relationship will only flourish when partners understand their positions and responsibilities in that relationship.

    January 19, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. jcesatx

    Im so sick of this kind of article. Stop telling women that getting more educated is ruining their lives cause they'll never get married. Marriage is good for men not for women, if women were doing their homework they would know this already. At the current rate women will educate themselves out of equal partners. Im not too worried about it though. Women with self worth make demands for courtship and egalitarian relationships. Men will have to evolve or die. More educated women get divorced because they are financially free to leave an unsatisfying relationship. Don't be scared to be alone. That is men's cruel abusive way of saying, maybe you aren't good enough. Take the world by storm, stay single and happy. You'll have more money in your pocket, a cleaner house, and lot of peace and quiet. You can have children anytime, adoption is also a great service to the world. Just make sure you can afford them, alone, lest you fall into the trap of capitalist run poverty. This is a capitalist society woman. Don't do work for free, like cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. All of this work is highly valued and should be paid as such. No man would those three jobs, for any length of time, for no pay...Im sure their are tiny exceptions. See the future for what it is....ours. Men should work on trying to make themselves useful and better mates. Too bad they don't read self help books because they think they know everything.

    “But the female mind has demonstrated a capacity for all the mental acquirements and achievements of men, and as generations ensue that capacity will be expanded; the average woman will be as well educated as the average man, and then better educated, for the dormant faculties of her brain will be stimulated to an activity that will be all the more intense and powerful because of centuries of repose. Woman will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress.”- Nikola Tesla

    January 19, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. GrayWolf79

    Site data sources or I'll take this 'news article' as newsworthy as fox news.

    January 19, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Frank

    Kelly your marriage will probably end up in divorce because you have a BA and your husband does not. Thank you for pointing out how selfishly important it is for YOUR husband to be as educated as you are or you will leave him. Nevermind the fact that he could be a great house husband, take care of the kids, take care of your health, or take care of you emotionally. The important part is that he takes care of YOU and is as educated as YOU are or else he is a loser that should be replaced. Very interesting double standard.

    January 19, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Racelle

      I gotta agree with her. I most likely wouldn't stay with a man if he wasn't on my level either. My sister is college educated (bachelors) and is in school to become a nurse anesthetist, but her ex was a stocker at foot locker. That is tacky and a joke! For me it just seems like he's a loser, like he's not "the man" in the relationship. A boy and not a real man that stand up and handle his business. I don't think any woman in her right mind would want a weak "house husband". That's weak and feminine and unacceptable. But maybe it's because I'm traditional I have these views. I feel that men have become so weak. Are there any REAL men left out there?

      January 19, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse |
  15. Trash

    Men and women are exactly the same...there's men out there who want a steady relationship and there are also women who want one as well. Just as there are men who want to stay single and play the field and the same for women. Grant it women only get less good looking as time goes on and men just get better looking as they get older,but in my opinion thats what women deserve for being sneaky and vindictive because as time goes on their vanity catches up to them. Looking at my peers and their past relationships that have failed,very rarely has it been the man's fault. It was always because she was screwing around on him,she was lying to him,or both. And the sad part is that the guy will trust her word over his friends or peers,and then he'll find out later that,as everyone suspected,she was just a lying,cheating,hore.

    January 19, 2011 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Frank

    Question for the ladies. Why do you give men your phone numbers only to not return their calls on time and then expect the men not to do the same?

    The game cannot continue this way. Grow up because you have an earlier expiration date then men have.

    Hint: go to any nightclub and see which women are getting the guys and which guys are getting the women.

    January 19, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Trash

      Amen brother,you speak the truth. Men in their 30s still get the young girls at the clubs while women in their 30s don't get anything at all unless they are one of those few real good lookin older ladies

      January 19, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse |
    • nickii

      OMG!! I AM LOST THEN HAHAHAHHHA, what a silly thing to say, since when having 30 is being old for women? Excuse me but now a days i know a lot of man that are 30 but they look 38 so i am sorry to tell you this NEWS FLASH FOR YOU, if you feel old (does not matter if you are man or women) You will look old for sure!!! Think a litlle guys , WOMAN are not so dificult to understand, its true you will not live or get married with some one tha did not even finish hihg school, why because most likely he or she is has no intentions of growing, thats why we wan t some one at least wih the same educa tion that we have, and if that is not the situation , at least some one that has GOALS in life, and planning to be better person evey day.If man can handle a woman that is seeking to have family but at the same time be a succesfull wife, and mother , NEWS FLASH FOR YOU AGAIN!! you coudl be a lil alone.

      April 2, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
  17. Racelle

    @John Doe

    January 19, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Phil100

    Does using a different username make this comment appear?

    January 19, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. meh

    There's something green in my crotch. I didn't put it there. Fortunately it smells nice.

    January 19, 2011 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Odalice yolanda feliz

    good to know....

    January 19, 2011 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Phil

    I met my wife when I was 21, she was 38. We dated for 54 days and married. We've been happily together with a 13 year old son for 15 1/2 years now.

    There was no "cougar" thing back then – if anything, I am the proprietor.

    January 19, 2011 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Frank

    Rachael: Does this mean that a man is not a real man because he is a house husband or works at foot locker? A man is "not on your level" (economicaly) so he is not your "equal" . You then contradict yourself by saying it's not about money.

    Pay attention to what Michele wrote: " Iam about to be done with my BA and off to a grad school. My issue with men is that they ALWAYS want to provide for me, and I DON'T want their money or support -I just want care, attention and LOVE. I want my husband to be my BEST FRIEND not a provider than he wants to be."

    That is the difference between a gold digger girl ( Rachael) and a real independent WOMAN (Michele).

    January 19, 2011 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Frank

    Ladies and Gentlemen..the reason for the entire article can be summized by this statement.

    Racele : "her ex was a stocker at foot locker. That is tacky and a joke! For me it just seems like he's a loser, like he's not "the man" in the relationship. A boy and not a real man. I don't think any woman in her right mind would want a weak "house husband".

    My prediction for 2011..Racelle will stay single for LIFE! If not, God Bless the man who marries that thing.

    January 19, 2011 at 23:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Enuf already

    The reason why people aren't marrying anymore is because they have been exposed to too many bad marriages. Adultery, domestic violence, constant arguing, complaining-these are the things that we as parents are exposing our boys and girls to. Men: Dont get married son, she'll divorce you and take everything you worked for. Women: Don't get married girl, he'll cheat on you and beat on you and treat you like dirt. No one is living up to their vows anymore. Before we can preach the whole "marriage is sacred "spill we need to prove it by treating marriage as sacred and make it something they (future generations) look forward to and not run away from.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Oops

    Note to CNN:
    I accidentally clicked the "Report abuse" button on someone because my mouse slipped. Here's a suggestion. You should have a confirmation pop up when someone clicks this, to make sure accidental reports don't happen. 😉

    January 20, 2011 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Joe

    What is a 'Greek system' ? Several people asked; no one answers, so that implies that few people know what it is.

    And apparently the author of this article does not read the comments. Way to go CNN, your quality continues to degrade.

    January 20, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      A "Greek system" means fraternities and sororities.

      January 21, 2011 at 00:29 | Report abuse |
  27. Upperhand

    "Researchers found that since women in the 18- to 23-year-old group feel they don't need men for financial dependence, many of them feel they can play around with multiple partners without consequence, and that the early 20s isn't the time to have a serious relationship."

    What man in his right mind would want sloppy seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths etc.?

    January 20, 2011 at 16:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Frank

    "FOR RICHER OR POORER..TILL DEATH DO US PART" Remember that you cheating, lying, b88tch

    January 20, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • soy sauce

      Those vows are very unrealistic, very very few people abide by them. Superficial wedding oaths.

      January 20, 2011 at 18:24 | Report abuse |
  29. soy sauce

    Meh. Even those who DO manage to find a husband after or before age 25...half of them will end up in divorce anyway. Are you guys suggesting that people who have been married for 20 years, and then get divorced, never find a new mate? Get real people. The real problem that faces the relationship-sphere today are unrealistic expectations. Girls, don't act so psycho and jealous if your man is checking out another beautiful woman. Guys, for god sakes, pay your child support, and don't act all psycho when your women checks out another handsome man. Also, there is nothing wrong with a little bit of cheating once in a while...that way you won't get bored with your marriage so quickly.

    January 20, 2011 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Joe

    Here's another factor: If a woman spent age 18-23 sleeping around, the good, faithful man with the stable career looking for a lifetime commitment is going to view that as a HUGE red flag. I'm speaking from experience here. I'm 29, an engineer, looking for marriage, and not interested in anyone who gave it up to the entire Lambda Chi house in 2002. And yes, I've turned down girls like this who think that now they're done having "fun" it's their right to marry someone who didn't act the way they did.

    January 21, 2011 at 00:23 | Report abuse | Reply
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  32. Roberto

    To all of the well-educated, successful, accomplished, independent women out there I say: Congratulations, you've become men.

    January 23, 2011 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. bonnie

    What in the world is going on with this article? This is a terrible piece of journalism. I thought CNN was a news source and I thought news sources were supposed to be OBJECTIVE. This sounds like it was written by someone from Focus on the Family.

    January 23, 2011 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Dumolf Art

    Women with no education already think they know it all and refuse to listen. They go nuts with credit (like liquor to an Indian) and view their husband as a lazy know nothing. How could a marriage work with the one-sided feminist view? Add in a mortgage, kids, career fluctuations and it is practically impossible. They can remember everything HE did wrong for years (even what he was wearing).. never forgive an iota ... have a succession of headaches and backaches .. suspect everything as evidence of wrong doing .. complain incessantly. I cannot imagine what a man would not love that life.

    January 25, 2011 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. YoAdrienne

    Hey guys if you want long lasting happiness, marry a girl who is not physically perfect, they try harder. If you want good food, don't marry a skinny girl. If you want good lovin, marry a girl who's a little chubby but cute! We're better in bed...

    January 25, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Gwen

    Quote: "but the overall dating pool has shrunk, meaning some women will be left unsatisfactorily single".
    I can't believe you used the word unsatisfactorily. Some of us want to be single!!! Unbelievable.

    January 26, 2011 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BB

      You won't want to be single. I bet around age 30 you'll want someone to share your life with.

      March 30, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
  37. razzlea


    January 27, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Patrick S.

    As part of that 16% of men between 18-23 that are virgins, I feel honored. It's just crazy that I happen to know a couple other guys like me, and by choice and not because of religion, believe it or not. I'm educated, got a job, car, place to stay and put food on the table AND I'm part of an extremely small minority, I feel kind of special somehow.

    January 28, 2011 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Elizabeth

    What makes a marriage qualify as successful?
    Maybe it's just time to realize we may need more than one long term partner in our lives to be happy.
    That partner you have kids with is not necessarily going to be the one who is right for you when you are done raising kids and your world outlook has grown and changed.
    To me, a marriage is successful if you are loving and caring for each other and being honest and true. When that stops happening, you lovingly say goodbye, remain friends and find someone who loves the you that you have become.
    I believe in serial monogamy. I'd much rather have 3 or 4 happy relationships of 10 or 15 yrs than one long 30 or 40 yr miserable relationship, wouldn't you? But to those who find someone with whom to have a lifelong happy relationship, I'm envious.

    January 30, 2011 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Lori

    Maybe it isn't a good idea to generalize, and yes these statistics true, and maybe marriage is outdated, i don't know...is marriage natural, yes..kids can have two parents without them being married...I am interested in what marriage looks like in 20 years...lots of different ways to be in love marriage as we know it now is only once choice. what does everybody think?

    February 2, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jharri

    Conservative scare-mongering trying to get kids to stay chasted nothing more.
    I have to say I disagree with this theory though. Women control the sexual economy. We decide when it's done, how it's done, where it's done and with whom. Just try to force us into a sexual act we don't want to do and I garantee you'll see yourself locked up. Women like sex but me are practically blinded by their obsession for it (generally speaking). We are the gatekeepers. We decide if you get in or not. And that's why men retreat to their little online fantasy worlds where the women as submissive objects to be consumed and discarded and they get to feel like they have the power.
    That's my feminist rant for today...

    July 20, 2012 at 06:10 | Report abuse | Reply
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    smith i live in Australia,and I`m happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with two kids A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she did not love me anymore So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.voodoospiritualisttemple@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day what an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who did not call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster . So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {voodoospiritualisttemple@gmail.com},if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to "bringing your ex back. So thanks to the great spell caster for bringing back my wife

    July 8, 2013 at 08:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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