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Cool Sex. To lay and professional observers alike, one of the most distressing aspects of teen sex is its frequent shallowness, particularly when the participants are still in high school. At that stage, Simon and Gagnon report, it is often the least popular students who engage in sex—and who find, especially if they are girls, that their sexual behavior brings only a shady sort of popularity and more unhappiness. Wisconsin Psychiatrist Seymour Halleck ascribes a "bland, mechanistic quality" to some youthful relationships, and Beverly Hills Psychoanalyst Ralph Greenson observes that, "instant warmth and instant sex make for puny love, cool sex."
His words seem to fit the experience of Judy Wilson. Recalling the day she lost her virginity in her own bedroom at the age of 17, she says blithely: "One afternoon it just happened. Then we went downstairs and told my younger sister because we thought she'd be excited. We said, 'Guess what. We just made love.' And she said, 'Oh, wow. How was it?' And we said, 'Fine.' Then we went out on the roof and she took pictures of us."
But among more mature young people, shallowness is anything but the rule. "Our kids are actually retrieving sexuality from shallowness," insists Sex Counselor Mary Calderone. "They are moving away from the kind of trivialization we associated with the Harvard-Yale games in the '20s when the object was to get drunk and lay a lot of girls." Los Angeles Gynecologist J. Robert Bragonier agrees: "Kids aren't looking for the perfect marriage, but they're idealistic about finding a loving relationship." Sarrel adds that he finds most student liaisons "more meaningful than the typical marriage in sharing, trusting and sexual responsibility."
Epitomizing this free but deep relationship is the experience of Yale Students Rachel Lieber and Jonathan Weltzer. Recently she wrote about it for a forthcoming book: "We had always assumed we'd marry eventually. We had lived together for two years and were growing closer . . . On our wedding night, Jonathan and I lay in bed, letting all the feelings well up around us and bathe our skins in warmth as the words we had said during the ceremony started coming back. We mixed our faces in each other's hair, and we looked at each other for a long time. So we spent our wedding night, not as virgins, but very close."
Informal liaisons often mature into marriage, and when they do, Yale's Coffin has found, many areas of the relationship are apt to be sounder than in less tested unions. This is especially true now that unmarried sex has largely lost its