Joe reports that most teenagers aren’t sexually active in America today. In his Bancroft Prize-winning biography of Jonathan Edwards, George Marsden provides some historical contrast. Here is the skinny on pre-marital sex in eighteenth century Puritan New England:
“Bundling,” which was supposed to be a way of getting acquainted without sexual intercourse, did not always work as advertised. Pregnancies before marriage were rising dramatically in New England… Premarital sex was commonplace. Even when it resulted in pregnancy, so long as the couple married, there was no longer much stigma involved. Alluding to that new attitude, Jonathan [Edwards] perceived another alarming decline. “And there is not that discountenance of such things as there formerly used to be…. Formerly, things were accounted such a wound as a person never could get over as long as he lived…. Now they are so bold and impudent, that they are not ashamed to hold up their heads.”
Edwards’ preaching may have been ineffectual in his day. But times have changed. The National Survey results can only mean that finally, after centuries of struggle, we have burst the shackles of oppressive Puritan sexual morality.