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Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers Hardcover – March 1, 2007
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"A nuanced sociological treatment of the complex relationship between US teenage sexuality and religiosity. ...Regnerus brings large statistical surveys and secondary sources to life with personal interviews, and his clear prose and frank discussions make the book accessible. This up-to-date sociological study is a shining example of well-articulated research methodologies, statistical interpretations, and explorations of alternative explanations."--Choice
"Regnerus does an excellent job of combining large-scale survey results with vivid interviews to provide a comprehensive portrayal of how sexuality and religion are related in the lives of American adolescents. The book shows how sexuality and religion interact in complex and sometimes surprising ways. It addresses important topics few other books on either sexuality or religion in adolescence have addressed, such as masturbation and Internet pornography. Anyone interested in the lives of today's young Americans should read this book." --Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties
"Forbidden Fruit is an iconoclastic book that shatters the sexual pieties of the religious right and the secular left. Mark Regnerus shows that churches and Christian parents--especially evangelical ones--have failed to steer their kids clear of sex because they hold out no compelling vision of the sexual good life. But he also shows that the secular left's faith in 'healthy' teen sex is chimerical: adolescents who have had sex look worse on all the outcomes that scholars and parents care about. This important book is bound to get parents, pastors, and scholars talking." -- W. Bradford Wilcox, author of Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands
"I've waited for this book my entire ministry. It used to be that only skeptics and mystics noticed the interplay between sexuality and spirituality in young people--but Regnerus confronts the parallels head on as a sociologist, and dares the church to do the same. Forget "forbidden": Forbidden Fruit should be required reading for anyone who loves young people." Kenda Creasy Dean, parent, pastor, professor and author of Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church
"An eye-opening read for those who share concerns about adolescent health and well-being." --Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
About the Author
Mark D. Regnerus is Associate Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Research Associate in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
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I'd have preferred a study on the impact on sexuality of religions with structures designed to exert high levels of social control (Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Amish etc.).
Forbidden Fruit is broad in its analyses of nationally representative survey data and rich in its conversations with real people. The writing is clear, crisp, and engaging, and should appeal to parents and educators alike. It's also fun to read but avoids a frivolous or overly playful tenor. There are many refreshing turns of phrase in the presentation of arguments that make this book enjoyable. In sum, the author talks about serious matters in a disarming way, one that is respectful to religious traditions, and doesn't lend itself to easy politicization or demonizing. The stories about evangelical youth (who seem sexually "traditional" in word more than in deed) and the emergence of a "conservative" middle class sexual morality that has little to do with religion are fascinating. I think the author is right: most religious groups in America don't know how to address adolescent sexuality; in turn they hold out no compelling vision for their teens in how to be both devout and sexual. In sum, it's an outstanding contribution.
As "obvious" as a previous reviewer may have thought the book was, I think they are terribly mistaken. Sure, we know some teens have sex and are religious, or have sex and are not religious, etc. but Regnerus does a great job of trying to understand why they chose what they chose. As an engineering major, it was important to me that it is also well-written and easy to follow.
The title of this review is my objection to this book. The first chapter contained some remarkable excerpts from interviews conducted during Mr. Regnerus's research. I was expecting what Mr. Wilcox stated this book would deliver on his blurb on the back cover, namely, "shattering the pieties of the religious right and secular left." In other words, I hoped the book would contain genuine insights into religion and sexuality among American teenagers.
Regrettably, the book is too academic for its own good. It is bogged down by its own weight. Reading the second chapter almost gave me a headache because it was so dull. Mr. Regnerus may be a skilled social scientist, but his writing skills need some polishing.