However, a distinct split in attitudes concerning the acceptability of premarital sex was observed between developed and developing countries Figure 1. The rise in premarital sex in China is particularly noteworthy. In addition, the percent of adolescent women using contraceptives has increased markedly in many countries over the past several decades. In addition to social disapproval, moral sensitivities and the desire for personal privacy, premarital sex is unlawful in a number of countries , including Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Sudan, and was unlawful in some developed countries in the recent past. Traditional attitudes and behavior of men and women with respect to premarital sex have changed relatively rapidly worldwide over the past half-century. A major factor in the worldwide increase in premarital sex is the improvement in contraceptive technology that occurred over the past half-century. In some of those countries, including Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the majority of young couples were not married, but cohabiting. Increased levels of cohabitation have also been reported among Latin American countries.
For example, the gaps between median ages at first sexual intercourse and first marriage for men and women born between and are11 and 7 years in the United States and 8 and 5 years in Great Britain. The trend towards later marriage in many countries is another factor that has contributed to the rise in the prevalence of premarital sex. In sum, based on the available evidence attempts to regulate the premarital sexual behavior of young men and women in hopes of returning to the abstinence-until-marriage era are unlikely to succeed, which will consequently necessitate adjusting to the realities of the sexual revolution that is continuing to spread worldwide. In some of those countries, including Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, the majority of young couples were not married, but cohabiting. According to recent surveys, more than 90 percent of women aged 15 to 24 years know about at least one contraceptive and most are familiar with more than one. Delaying marriage to older ages increases the temporal opportunities for premarital sex. Whereas a generation ago, 15 percent of Chinese reported having premarital sex, recent surveys find that about 70 percent admit to having sex before marriage. The globalization of mass media, most recently through the Internet, has also contributed to transforming traditional normative values regarding sexual behavior, including premarital sex. The rise in premarital sex in China is particularly noteworthy. The gaps between ages at first sexual intercourse and first marriage have become substantial, especially for men Figure 3. In addition to social disapproval, moral sensitivities and the desire for personal privacy, premarital sex is unlawful in a number of countries , including Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Sudan, and was unlawful in some developed countries in the recent past. Among the 28 members of OECD , for example, the average percent of young couples aged 20 to 34 years who were cohabiting in was more than 40 percent Figure 2. In addition, young men and women are increasingly having sex prior to marriage as well as cohabiting before deciding whether to marry or not. Even in traditional Asian societies, such as China , India , Iran and Japan, increasing numbers of young couples, especially in urban areas, are choosing to live together before deciding whether or not to marry. And in Japan, Russia and the United States the proportions of those who said premarital sex is morally unacceptable were less than one third. Increased levels of cohabitation have also been reported among Latin American countries. In France, Germany and Spain, for example, less than 10 percent said that sex between unmarried adults is unacceptable. While governments, religious groups and social conservatives may continue to insist on abstinence until marriage, global trends of premarital sex over the past half-century suggest otherwise. The use of modern contraception, such as the oral pill and the intrauterine contraceptive device IUD , has virtually eliminated the fear of an unintended pregnancy. Modern urban life styles, including more years of schooling, career development, independent living, tolerance of diversity and greater degree of anonymity, have also contributed to the rise in premarital sex. The migration to urban centershas rapidly transformed many historically rural developing countries, such as China, Indonesia, Iran and Turkey, to predominantly urban societies. Among the explanations for the rapid rise of cohabitation is that it allows individuals to assess compatibility with a partner while keeping future options open. Among developed countries minorities considered sex between unmarried adults to be morally unacceptable. However, a distinct split in attitudes concerning the acceptability of premarital sex was observed between developed and developing countries Figure 1. Traditional attitudes and behavior of men and women with respect to premarital sex have changed relatively rapidly worldwide over the past half-century. In developing countries, in contrast, large majorities continue to consider premarital sex morally unacceptable.
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