CHEAP SEX:The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy By Mark Regnerus

Mark Regnerus argues that interpersonal relationships have been transformed by three technologies: the Pill, high-quality pornography, and online dating services. These factors, according to Regnerus, “slow the development of love, make fidelity more challenging, sexual malleability more common, and have even taken a toll on men’s marriageability.” With sex so cheap and easily available, men tend to behave badly. Marriage suffers. Long-term relationships suffer. Mark Regnerus reviews several large national surveys. He interviewed more than a 100 men and women for this book. Changes in dating patterns, sexual appetites, and sexual behaviors are all explored in this revealing book. If you wonder why dating and relationships and marriages are so difficult for your children and grandchildren, the answers are within these pages. GRADE: A
Acknowledgements ix
Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Chapter 2: Cheap Sex and the Modern Mating Market 22
Chapter 3: Cheaper, Faster, Better, More? Contemporary Sex in America 62
Chapter 4: The Cheapest Sex: Trends in Pornography Use and Masturbation 107
Chapter 5: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy 144
Chapter 6: The Genital Life 193
Appendix A: Regression Models 217
Notes 223
Index 257

19 thoughts on “CHEAP SEX:The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy By Mark Regnerus

  1. Deb

    I must admit, this book’s subtitle is puzzling me: are women not also being transformed by the hookup culture and the general availability of pornography? It almost sounds as if the book assumes women are not changed (whether for better or worse) by these vast cultural shifts and that they’re still frozen in some mid-1960s landscape waiting to get a ring on their finger. As a mother of three millennial females, I can tell you young women today are simultaneously more cynical about marriage than I was at their age (they already have friends who’ve been married and divorced at least once and/or who’ve had babies out of wedlock) but also more hopeful that they will find a compatable life partner.

    1. Deb

      I’ll also add that the book seems to argue that men only behave “appropriately” when sex is somehow rationed or made difficult to achieve. That seems an awfully regressive argument and, again, seems to deny women both the right to sexual agency or that they would want sex for any other reason than to get a ring on their finger.

      1. george Post author

        Deb, Regnerus shows that the current social climate affects both men and women. Love is harder to find and sustain. Sex is just a swipe on an iPhone away.

    2. Jeff Meyerson

      Totally agree. My first thought was the empowerment of women especially in the Trump Era, and the exposure of so many weak men is why change is happening. I am sad that young people are having such a hard time forming strong, loving, long lasting relationships , but perhaps with true equality, that will come in the future.


      1. george Post author

        Jackie, I agree that we’re in a Change Moment with regards to sexual harassment. But I still think Roy Moore will win the election in Alabama.

      2. Todd Mason

        Yes, but Moore will win because he’s making a carpetbaggers argument, not because anyone actually likes him or his attempts to get next to teens. Anti-abortion/anti-“weirdness” pseudo-righteousness will out. I suspect the author would tend to vote for Moore.

  2. Patti Abbott

    Deb as usual poses an interesting question. Surely women’s attitude has changed too given the ability to engage in sex without fear of pregnancy. Certainly marriage is less common among many than it was. We blamed it on welfare Moms for a long time but it shifted into the lower middle class in general and then into the next generation as a whole.

    1. george Post author

      Patti, The Pill changed the whole social fabric when it was introduced in the Sixties. But, the availability of high-quality pornography on computers and smartphones as well as online dating services transformed social interaction.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    So it’s all on Steve Jobs?

    I’m with Deb and Patti. I have noticed, however, how few of our nieces and nephews (and the children of our friends) in their 20s and 30s are married or in a long-term relationship. But surely it goes way beyond porn and the hookup culture.

    And don’t call me Shirley.

    My brother’s son has a child but he and the mother are not together. His half sister is (sort of) married with a child.

    Jackie’s sisters have two kids each. Only one is married with a child.

    My sisters’ kids are younger.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, you’re right about The Pill, porno, and online dating apps contributing to a “hook-up” culture. Regnerus points out the availability of cheap sex can erode relationships. And web sites like Ashley Madison (a Canadian web site specializing in adultery) further erodes the bonds of marriage.

  4. Deb

    I’ve always maintained that when the history of the late-20th century is written, the focus will be on convenience and the lack of consequences for failing to plan or think ahead: the pill, the atm, the microwave. Disparate items, but all contributing to the convenience and consequence-free environment of the last fifty years or so.

  5. Cap'n Bob

    Men have always been randy, groping pigs! It took the decent of women to their level to create the modern dating/marriage scene!

  6. Todd Mason

    There is a Hell of a lot to unpack here. I haven’t read this book, but I’ve heard this kind of argument before, and it does seem to usually come from those with a rosy view (a distorted rosy view) of a past where love was in the air for everyone, that no marriages were hasty, ill-considered, driven by the consequence of lust or by extraneous survival matters, or cesspools of bad behavior, both between the married couple and toward and with others.

    Pornography does attract men, and not only men. It is easier to see all sorts of porn today than it has ever has been previously, and this has shaped certain sexual expectations and divorced sexual gratification from Getting Very Lucky in one’s marriage…a requirement that led to remarkably few having a good sex life, and a thriving cheating and prostitution culture through the centuries. I’m not sure a hookup culture is the Vastly Worse result of modern convenience. A different sort of problems and choices to be made have arisen…I’m really not convinced that the world is worse-off for it, than in the days in which rape was That Much More the victim’s fault in most circumstances, whether than victim be woman, man or child. And no one should speak of it, except when there was a lynching party to round up, or a hasty wedding to shotgun. I’m not sure I’m oversimplifying more than the author might, and certainly most of those I’ve seen have done when making similar arguments.

    1. george Post author

      Todd, Regnerus argues that The Pill, high quality pornography, and online dating services have changed men’s behavior. His evidence in CHEAP SEX swayed me.

      1. Todd Mason

        I’ll have to read his book to see what I make of it. But I don’t expect to be remotely convinced. It isn’t an uncommon argument, and when made by others does tend to oversimplify and whitewash The Good Old Days.

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