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As for the Pill, nearly all laymen consider it a major cause of the new freedom, but a majority of professionals disagree. Because most girls dislike seeing themselves as on the lookout for sex, few go on the Pill until they are having intercourse regularly. Even then, because they are worried about its side effects, almost half choose other means, if indeed they use contraceptives at all. Just the same, Hartsdale, N.Y., Psychiatrist Laurence Loeb believes, the very existence of the Pill has important psychological effects because it means that pregnancy is avoidable.
Then why so many illegitimate births? A principal reason, say behavioral experts, is unconscious ambivalence about pregnancy—both wanting and not wanting it. According to Planned Parenthood, teen-agers may see pregnancy as a way of remaining childishly dependent on others or, conversely, as a step toward adulthood. Besides, adds Chicago Youth Counselor Merry Allen, "it's still a way to get married, if that's what you want."
According to popular opinion, the drug culture is yet another spur to sexual activity. "Once you've taken drugs and broken that rule, it is easier to break all the others," says a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. "Drugs and sexual exploration go hand in hand," insists Charlotte Richardson, a lay therapist in Atlanta. But many doctors doubt that drug use increases sexual experimentation (whether marijuana increases sexual pleasure is even a matter of some dispute). Stanford Psychiatrist Donald Lunde, among others, believes that drugs do not lead to sex but that depression causes many teen-agers to try both sex and drugs; each, he says, is a "temporary way of feeling good." Some kids actually use drugs to avoid sex. Says Daniel X. Freedman, University of Chicago professor of psychiatry and one of the most respected drug researchers: "You can't blame rising nonvirginity on drugs. A lot of adults do so, just as they blame pornography, when the real issue is how their children regulate themselves."
What about Women's Liberation?
During the '20s, the feminist drive for equal rights for women was partly responsible for an increase in premarital sex even greater than the present acceleration. Today's extreme militants, who believe that the new wave of permissiveness is a conspiracy to exploit them, want to put a damper on sex. But for the vast majority of women, the movement stands in part for a new freedom in sexual matters.
Over the past four years, Philip and Lorna Sarrel, sex counselors at Yale, have asked 10,000 students to fill out anonymous questionnaires on sexual knowledge and attitudes. Once it was easy to tell which answers came from males