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Religion and Relationships in America
A new study reveals that religion still has a profound effect on shaping Americans views on sex, relationships and family. The Relationships in America study, produced by the Austin Institute, looks at “how social forces, demography, and religion continue to shape attitudes about family and intimate relationships.” Here are just a few of the many intriguing statistics in the report:
Americans Are Still Religious
Two out of every three (66 percent) Americans still identify with some form of Christianity, with Evangelicals comprising the largest subgroup of Protestants (8.7 percent of the population). Mainliners (3.2 percent) are now fewer than Pentecostals (3.3 percent). About 27 percent of Americans report attending church weekly (on average), and women still dominate: there are 115 women for every 100 men (ages 18-60) at the average Christian worship service.
Religion and Education
The survey finds that adults with more education are only slightly less likely to report a religious affiliation than their less-educated peers. Among Americans with less than a high school education, 77 percent claim a religious affiliation, while an equal proportion of high school graduates do the same. Among those who have some college education, that number drops slightly to 74 percent, and dips further—but only to 72 percent—among those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Sexual Promiscuity and Sexual Contact
The median heterosexual man or woman (age 18-60) reports somewhere between four and six opposite sex partners in their lifetime. Lesbian women, too, report about the same number of partners. The median gay man, however, has had many more partners—reporting between 16 and 20 same-sex sexual partners to this point in their lifetime.
Thirty-one percent of adults below the age of 60 report having had overlapping sexual relationships at some point in their lives.
Two-thirds of lesbians (70 percent) and one-third (30 percent) of gay men who report attraction exclusively to members of their own sex also report having had at least one opposite sex sexual partner in their lifetimes. On the other hand, among those who considered themselves exclusively (or “100 percent”) heterosexual, the share who had sex with someone outside of what their reported sexual orientation would predict were much lower: just three 3 percent of heterosexual men and five 5 percent of heterosexual women had at least one sexual partner of the same sex.
Forty-three percent of men and 9 percent of women reported watching pornography in the past week, while only 34 percent of men and 72 percent of women report not viewing pornography in at least a year, if at all.
60-year-old men are only slightly less likely to have viewed pornography within the past week than men in their 20s and 30s. Among women, 19 percent of women under age 30 report viewing pornography in the week prior to the survey, while only three percent of women in their 50s report doing so.
Religious affiliation itself is associated with moderately lower levels of pornography usage, though pornography usage is still common among male churchgoers: 27 percent of Christian male attendees report pornography use in the week prior to the survey.
Religious service attendance also matters for pornography use. Weekly church attenders are the least likely to report pornography use in the past week, while those who rarely or never attend do so at double the rate.
Increased religious service attendance is negatively associated with reports of premarital sex. Among married weekly religious service attenders, 65 percent reported first sex prior to getting married, compared to 88 percent who report occasional attendance and a full 96 percent of those who never attend religious services. Among Protestants, those that classify themselves as “liberal Protestants” report the highest levels of premarital sex while more conservative “evangelical Protestants” report the lowest levels.
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(For even more links, see the “Remainder Bin” at the end of this post.)
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