by Max Brantley
Great article in the latest New Yorker on sex in red states and blue states. (Arkansas is a red state in this analysis, based on the last presidential vote.)
The article takes off on the higher rate of unwed pregnancy among evangelical teens. In short, religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but not sexual practices.
The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents—seventy-four per cent—say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage. (Only half of mainline Protestants, and a quarter of Jews, say that they believe in abstinence.) Moreover, among the major religious groups, evangelical virgins are the least likely to anticipate that sex will be pleasurable, and the most likely to believe that having sex will cause their partners to lose respect for them. (Jews most often cite pleasure as a reason to have sex, and say that an unplanned pregnancy would be an embarrassment.) But, according to Add Health data, evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual début”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.
You've seen much of this before. Red state people tend to marry younger, divorce more often, have the highest teen pregnancy rates, are more reluctant to use contraception and are more susceptible to sexually transmitted disease. Abstinence-only sex education doesn't work so hot.