Information on the respondents' background characteristics is to be found in Table 2.
To summarize the sample, the total number of respondents to the questionnaire was 352. There were 167 males and 185 females. Approximately half the group went to college and/or obtained graduate degrees; 30% of the women and 54% of the men characterized themselves as in either professional/ technical or managerial occupations, and only 24.9% of the women were out of the work force. Close to half of the respondents (44%) were Protestant, while 20% indicated no religion at all; 68% were considered to be unreligious in practice, as they indicated attending services only "rarely" or "never." Although no questions specifically geared to measuring sexual liberality were included in the survey, the method of data collection via Forum suggests that it may be a characteristic of this sample.
In attempting to determine trends in the respondents' monogamous and extra-monogamous sex (EMS) behavior, it is most instructive to begin with a consideration of their EMS rates in relationships prior to their current one.
Table 3 represents the behavior of those 293 respondents who reported previous relationships, that is 87% of the women and 78% of the men in the total sample of 352.
While the 46% EMS figure for men does coincide with Kinsey's 1948 estimate, it is indeed higher than any other subsequent survey's results. Athanasiou's liberal young population yielded a rate of 40% for men, versus Johnson's Midwestern 20% and Hunt's 40%. It is speculated that the high percentage in this survey may be reflective of the sexually liberal bias of the sample, rather than of any change in the population. As Athanasiou has noted, the variable of liberality is a crucial one in determining willingness to go beyond established norms in all types of sexual behavior.
The differences between the sample here and others were more visible in the case of women; their rates for past EMS were higher than any other studies. Kinsey recorded 26% twenty-six years ago, Wardell Pomeroy estimated 40% in his article in Forum, April, 1980, while somewhat later Athanasiou's liberals rated 36%, Johnson's conservatives 10%, Hunt 18%, Bell 26% and Levin 30%.
These figures probably reflect the sexually liberal nature of the sample, but they do seem to imply that among this group, the sexual revolution has led to a considerable liberalizing of behavior. The point has now been reached, among this sample at least, where women are approaching equal EMS rates with men. If it is considered that 50% of Levin's Redbook population anticipated EMS at some point, the approximation of this rate here in actual practice suggests that the EMS behavior of female Forum readers may reflect desire (as for men), rather than the effects of social prohibition.
Although the questions included variables such as religion and age, they elicited information on the readers' status at the time of the survey rather than at the time of the previous EMS behavior. An examination of some correlations does provide insights into their earlier patterns.
As seen in Table 4, the percentage of age 35+ respondents who indicated that they had had a previous relationship was 76%, compared to an average rate of previous relationships for all age groups of 83%. This higher percentage of reported lifetime exclusivity to one partner among the older cohort would seem to place this group among the more sexually conservative of the sample. This speculation is strengthened by a 38% rate of previous EMS for those 35+ who had had a relationship, versus an average of 43% in Table 5.
Age as a factor in EMS rates is a complicated issue. On the one hand, greater age today means that the individual was socialized during a time which reflected an older morality. Women, especially, would be subject to the prohibitions against EMS so much more in force then. On the other hand, some studies have shown that greater age leads to more EMS, as marital dissatisfaction--a crucial variable--rises in proportion to the length of time married. Since among the respondents the variable of age seemed to work against past EMS, it can be postulated that for this sample, at least, the prohibition factor may have been operating more strongly than the dissatisfaction one.
Respondents who attended religious services one or more times per month have lower than average rates of both previous relationships (63% versus 83%), and of past EMS (37% versus 43%-Table 6).
These data appear to bear out the Kinsey et al (1948) observation that sexual conservatism is associated with religious practice. He states:
To judge from those few groups on which religious data are available, extramarital intercourse seems to occur much more frequently among those who are less actively concerned with the church. Furthermore, in Kinsey's view, the combination of age and religious beliefs is especially likely to lead to conservatism:
The lowest incidence of extramarital coitus had occurred among those who were most devoutly religious, and the highest incidences among those who were least closely connected with any church activity ...The differences in incidences were well enough marked in the younger age group, but they become even more striking in the older Protestant group. It is worth noting in this connection that 50% of the least EMS active 35+ group also attended services more than once a month, and thus would fall into Kinsey's "high monogamy" category.
Although a connection may be postulated between religious attendance and monogamy, nominal religion also appears to have had some effect on previous EMS rates. Those indicating no religion at all, for example, had lower monogamy rates than the respondents designating themselves Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. In addition, they had lower rates than the overall average (Table 7).
Some possible implications of data breakdowns for nominal religion will be discussed under the section on current behavior and religion.
The variable of education seems to have had little effect on previous EMS rates (Table 8).
While Athanasiou (1970) found that greater education is positively correlated with sexual liberality, the small differentiation here between high school or less and college groups suggests that the relationship between the two variables may be more intricate than proposed by other researchers.
CURRENT MARITAL STATUS
Table 9 presents the breakdown of previous monogamy or EMS by marital status at the time of the survey.
The most liberal group appeared to be those respondents currently living together, with a 66% past EMS rate versus the average of 43%. It can be speculated that those individuals' present adoption of an open lifestyle may be a continuation of a pattern of sexual experimentation that had begun at some earlier point in the past. In contrast to those living together, the highest percentage of previously monogamous behavior comes from individuals now single (72%),. or divorced, separated or widowed (70%).
Reasons for Previous Behavior
As considered earlier, other researchers have tried to identify motivations, or predisposing factors, for the monogamy or non-monogamy of their samples. Among the variables discussed have been marital satisfaction (Bell, 1974; Glass and Wright, 1977; Knapp, 1976; Johnson, 1970); romanticism (Athanasiou, 1970); alienation (Whitehurst, 1969; Maykovich, 1976); search for variety (Bell, 1974); and strength of conscience (Neubeck, 1962). While these factors are important, what has been researched in the respondents' behavior here was rather the role of the old ideal of monogamy as the only appropriate sexual mode in committed relationships such as marriage or durable coupling. The question was then two-fold:
--first, how many people previously believed in this identification of monogamy and commitment?
--second, how may people allowed this belief to constrain their behavior?
One method of trying to define the respondents' attitudes in these regards would have been to include independent scales to measure them as a part of the questionnaire. To avoid the limitation of a forced choice of pre selected attitudes, and to facilitate spontaneous rationale for their behavior, the free response format was chosen. This choice had the negative effect of making data more difficult to collect and tabulate, but did lead to respondents giving direct statements of their own beliefs and reasons.
In order to tabulate the free expressions of the sample, the replies were coded into various categories for those monogamous and non-monogamous in past relationships. These groupings were based on typical themes brought out by the respondents. Table 10 summarizes the results for those individuals who gave reasons for being monogamous in previous relationships.
Although it is a temptation to declare that all those individuals actually practicing monogamy were thus allowing their beliefs to dictate their behavior, the role of opportunity in determining EMS behavior (Levin, 1975; Johnson, 1970) indicates that attitude cannot automatically be deduced from practice. For this reason, it cannot categorically be stated that the 57% of our sample who had past monogamous relationships were really committed to monogamy as being necessary to those relationships. Only 70% of those monogamous in past relationships chose to share their reasons for monogamy, and it is that group which is examined here.
Of the 70% who offered explanations, it is noteworthy that 36% stated "marriage" (category one) as their reason. For this group, at least, marriage by definition seemed to be considered an adequate reason for monogamy. These individuals then, probably did adhere to the traditional idea of monogamy as being inseparable from the commitment to live and work together that is the other element of such relationships.
Another 20% in category two (in love) cited the "romantic" reasons...