Red Sex, Blue Sex

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The New Yorker

Conservative Christians’ reactions to Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s announcement that her unwed 17-year-old daughter was pregnant were starkly different from the shocked responses among liberals of all denominations. Many evangelicals focused on what they saw as the positive side of the story: Bristol Palin’s decision to keep her baby and marry the young father. Such reactions reflect the prevalence in “red” Republican states of evangelical teenagers who – despite their vocal support for abstinence – are more sexually active, initiate sex earlier, have higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases and are less likely to use contraception than teens in “blue” Democratic states. Experts say that while religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, it’s a poor indicator of sexual behavior. A more reliable indicator is how “embedded” teens are in their networks of friends, family and institutions (including churches) that reinforce their goal of delaying sex and that offer alternatives to America’s hyper-sexed culture. Nov. 3,