Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers

Fri, February 2, 2007

Tackling these and other questions, Forbidden Fruit tells the definitive story of the sexual values and practices of American teenagers, paying particular attention to how participating in organized religion shapes sexual decision-making. Merging analyses of three national surveys of teenagers with stories from interviews with over 250 of them across America, Forbidden Fruit covers a wide range of topics, including sentiment about waiting to have sex until marriage, motivation to pursue sexual relationships, proclivity for same-sex attraction and behaviors, teenagers’ experience of virginity loss, and the frequency of several heterosexual practices.

Forbidden Fruit reveals the complexity of teenagers’ sexual decision-making, documenting that religion affects their sexual attitudes, but that it does not often motivate their decisions to act. Instead, religion often accompanies other “secular” reasons for delaying sex, like concern for safeguarding one’s educational future. Forbidden Fruit describes this largely religion-less “middle class sexual morality” in detail, and concludes with a new typology for documenting how religion shapes human action among adolescents and adults.

More broadly, however, Forbidden Fruit puts to rest inane fears about rampant teenage sexuality, concluding that most teenage sex is “traditional,” while pointing out new evidence for disturbing trends both in particular sexual practices and how teenagers learn about human sexuality.

1. Fashioning New Stories from Old Wisdom
2. Can Religion Cause Behavior?
3. Learning Sexuality
4. Motivating Sexual Decisions
5. Sexual Experience
6. Imitation Sex and the New Middle Class Morality
7. A Typology of Religious Influence
Unscientific Postscript
Appendix A: Regression Models
Appendix B: Research Methods
Appendix C: Interview Questions on Sex

This book is available from Oxford University Press. For more information or to order the book.

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