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The big new development is the oral contraceptive pill, widely used and even more widely discussed both at college and at home. A considerate boy asks a girl politely, "Are you on pills?" If not, he takes the precautions himself. Current joke definition of a good sport: A wife who keeps taking the Pill even when her husband is away.
In spite of all this, the number of illegitimate children born to teen-age mothers rose from 8.4 per thousand in 1940 to 16 in 1961, in the 20-to-25 age group from 11.2 per thousand to 41.2. Some girls neglect to use contraceptives, psychologists report, because they consciously or unconsciously want a child, others resent the planned, deliberate aspect; they think it "nicer" to get carried away on the spur of the moment. College girls have been known to take up collections for a classmate who needed an abortion, and some have had one without skipping a class.
Girls Aren't Things. Still, by and large, campus sex is not casual. Boys look down on a "community chest," meaning a promiscuous girl. Sociologist David Riesman believes that, far more so than in the '20s, boys treat girls as persons rather than objects: "They sit down and really talk with them."
Not that talk is universally appreciated. When New York girls speak of a date as N.A.T.O., they mean contemptuously, "No Action, Talk Only." Some find the steady affair on the dull side. One Hunter girl told Writer Gael Greene: "Sex is so casual and taken for grantedI mean we go to dinner, we go home, get undressed like old married people, you knowand just go to bed. I mean I'm not saying I'd like to be raped on the living-room floor exactly. But I would love to just sit around on the sofa and neck."
The young seem to be earnestly trying to construct their own code, and are even rediscovering for themselves some of the older verities. "They are piecing together lives which are at least as whole as their parents," says Lutheran Minister Martin Marty. They marry earlyprobably too earlyand they give the impression of escaping into marriage almost with a sense of relief. Often they are disappointed by what marriage brings.
Serial Polygamy. For the dominant fact about sexual mores in the U.S. remains the fragility of American marriage. The institution has never been easily sustained; "forsaking all others," in human terms, represents a belief that in an average life, loneliness is a greater threat than boredom. But the U.S. has a special concept of marriage, both Puritan and romantic. In most Eastern societies, marriages are arranged by families; the same is true in many parts of Europe, and there, even where young people are free to choose, they often choose for purely practical reasons. In arranged marriage, it is expected that love may or may not come laterand remarkably often it does. If not, it may be found outside marriage. The church, of course, does not sanction this system, but in