ISU community reacts to marriage, sex survey

Manni Balignasay

Sex, money and independence are the words used instead of love, trust and commitment to describe the relationships of today’s 20-somethings, according to a national survey.

The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University conducted a study, “Sex Without Strings, Relationships Without Rings,” released earlier this month by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe.

The report surveyed heterosexual men and women ages 21 through 29 who are living in Northern New Jersey, Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles. The respondents are neither married nor enrolled in college.

The purpose of the survey was to gather descriptions of the contemporary dating scene from non-collegiate men and women and to explore the reasoning behind their views on mate selection, cohabitation and future marriage.

The study, which found nearly identical relationship goals among men and women, showed the trend was to view marriage not as wealth-building but as an economic risk, Popenoe wrote in the report.

Carolyn Cutrona, ISU professor of psychology and author of the book, “Social Support in Couples: Marriage as a Resource in Times of Stress,” said she thought the report’s findings sounded accurate.

“Given people may know that 50 percent of marriages fail, this is very reasonable,” she said.

Another finding concluded women in their late 20s were becoming more serious about finding a partner than their male counterparts.

“Women are conscious about having children — their biological clocks are ticking — men can father children at almost any age,” Cutrona said.

Men and women expect their future marriages to last a lifetime and fulfill their deepest emotional and spiritual needs, but their mating culture may not be conducive to making these goals a reality, according to the report.

ISU students who were asked about the survey said they expect their marriages to last.

“I believe a marriage should last a lifetime,” said Amanda Camp, senior in elementary education.

Cohabitation was favored in the study as a way for partners to gather vital information about each other’s character.

Tim Hennemann, senior in electrical engineering, said he believes cohabitation is a reasonable means to building a relationship.

“I’m fine with cohabitation. Both my brothers did it, and I probably will, too,” he said. “It would actually be easier financially.”

Not everyone is a fan of cohabitation, though. Camp said she would never live with a significant other outside of the marriage bond.

“I think you could learn a lot, but I wouldn’t do it — call me old-fashioned,” Camp said.

Other topics included in the survey were single motherhood, which was considered acceptable by about half of the women surveyed, and work distribution between the sexes.

The study is part of a larger study devoted to the health of marriage in America, the “State of Our Unions: 2000.”

Both studies are available online at