If you’re a woman reading this story, there’s about a 50 percent chance you’re not married. No judgment here; it’s just the way things are these days. You’re smart, world-savvy and probably have a budding career and a long list of interests you’ve developed over the years. You’re happy waiting for your perfect guy. And you’re like many young women today … which is why it’s so interesting that once upon a time, a woman putting off marriage was seen as no less than a sin: St. Paul cautioned of the temptations of the flesh and how carnal weakness would lead to condemnation. “It’s better to marry than to burn,” he said. And even some folks in modern times still hew to St. Paul’s views. Like Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, who put it bluntly: “If you’re 17, 18, 19, 20, in your early 20s—what are you waiting for?” It’s a softer message, but the subtext is the same: Being single when you’re “of age” to marry is a sin.
Of course, not everyone feels that way. But single-and-fabulous or not, there is a valid question in there: What are young people waiting for? More to the point, what are young women waiting for? Historically, men have always tried to delay marriage for as long as they could, while still enjoying the benefits of sexual intimacy. By the 1950s and early ’60s, young women had begun striking a kind of bargain with men: They agreed to have sex, but only within the context of a committed, long-term relationship and promise of marriage. But since that progressive decade, young-adult sex has become so widely practiced that the guarantee of eventual marriage can’t be assumed. These days, the marital equation has shifted: Increasingly, young women have gotten behind the wheel.