Since World War II , the patterns of American life have been changing at an ever-increasing pace. Economic, social, political, and cultural shifts over the past three decades have been impressive, from the still-inhibited Fifties, and the politically exploding Sixties, to the socio-sexual liberating Seventies. As we enter the decade of the Eighties, we are becoming more aware of the fact that the thrust of these changes has been an evolution from the old models of thinking, behaving, and feeling to a wider variety of socially acceptable lifestyles.
Nowhere has this process been more in evidence than in the arena of sexuality. The advent of the Pill, legalized abortion, the social and sexual liberation of women, newly emerging lifestyles, the gradual accept-ance of gay liberation, and the increasing depiction of open sexuality in the media have all combined to produce a dramatic and significant breakthrough in America's attitude toward sexuality and human relation-ships, especially traditional marriage.
No longer is the individual confined to the old norm of heterosexual monogamist sex-in-marriage. Today the choices are many, depending on the needs and attitudes of the couples and singles involved, i.e., living together, gay relationships and lifestyles, bisexuality, open marriage, swinging, triads, communal living, group marriage, intimate friendship, extended families, living alone, and of course, traditional marriage.
The appearance of the new possibilities for sexual choice has been regarded by some as an assault on the venerable institution of marriage. Steadily climbing divorce rates, the declining birth rate, and the stead-fast refusal of many to marry at all are seen as evidence of a collective fall from grace. What the statistics really do, however, is merely indicate change. They tell us that something is happening to the marriage norms of a generation ago, but not how or why.
Deciphering the meaning behind the numbers is the task of the social scientist. While moral decisions are outside his province, documenting behaviors and attitudes is well within it.Over the last twenty years, research has been conducted to unravel the mystery of marriage as it functions in America.
Attention has been paid to the changing social roles of men and women, to the new economic pattern of working wives, and to the more intimate topic of sexual relations. Among the latter is the question of coital exclusivity, or monogamy. This concept has been the...