Teenage Sex: Letting the Pendulum Swing

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there are now 357 divorces for every 1,000 marriages, it is little wonder that children do not necessarily heed their parents' advice or consider marriage their ultimate goal. "There's a healthy disrespect for the fa├žade of respectability behind which Albee-like emotional torrents roll on," says Yale Chaplain William Sloane Coffin Jr.

Parents are not necessarily straightforward in their advice when they give it. Recalls Bob, a senior at the University of Pittsburgh: "When I was in high school, my father warned me about sex. It wasn't so much the moral part that bothered him; he was afraid I'd knock up a girl and have to get married and get a job. I think he knows I'm living with a girl now, but if it bothers him, he hasn't made any big deal about it. I guess he figures it will help keep me in college and away from someone who might have marriage in mind."

In the Sack. As with churches, some parents are following the lead of the children. One of these is a real estate executive in California, father of three sexually active teen-age girls. "I see sex being treated by young people more casually, yet with more respect and trust. This has had an effect on me and my wife," he asserts. In fact, he claims that it has transformed their 20-year marriage into "a damned exciting relationship." It has also led to a startling willingness to forgo privacy. One of the children recently asked her father at dinner: "Dad, how often do you masturbate?" And the children's mother confides: "Once in a while at breakfast Jim'll say, 'Gosh, we had a good time in the sack last night, didn't we?' ' According to her, the girls "get a kick" out of this sort of confidence.

Many sensitive teen-agers find such "liberated" parents worse than old-fashioned ones. "In an attempt to be hip," says a recent Bard graduate, "parents and teachers can often rob an adolescent of his own private times, his first secret expressions of love. Overliberal parents can make a child self-conscious and sexually conscious before he is ready. Sex cannot be isolated from the other mysteries of adolescence, which each person must explore for himself."

Disillusioned as they may be with their elders, teen-agers owe much of their sexual freedom to parental affluence. More of them than ever before can now afford the privacy of living away from home, either while holding jobs or going to college. The proliferation of coed dorms has eased the problem of where to make love; though such dorms are not the scenes of the orgies that adults conjure up, neither are they cloisters. A phenomenon that seemed shocking when it first appeared in the West and Midwest in the 1960s, two-sex housing is now found on 80% of the coed campuses across the country. At some colleges, boys and girls are segregated in separate wings of the same buildings; at others they live on separate floors; at still others, in adjacent rooms on the same floor.

Some behavioral experts claim that in these close quarters, brother-sister relationships develop, so that a kind of incest taboo curbs sex. Moreover, Sarah Warren, a June graduate of Yale, suggests that "if you've seen the girls with dirty hair, there's less pressure to take their clothes off." But Arizona Psychiatrist Donald Holmes

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