According to a Salt Lake Tribune article, citing a survey conducted by a retired BYU sociology professor, only “1 percent to 3 percent of students say ‘making out and intense kissing’ are acceptable in a ‘hanging-out’ relationship.” No report on what percentage considers screwing like bunnies (or at least having oral intercourse) acceptable.

This whole article made me laugh. Having been a BYU student, and having spoken to more than a few former BYU students, I can confidently proclaim that this survey is total crap. Because why would students ever lie on a survey about sexual behavior when sexual behavior is grounds for being dismissed from the university, and possibly disciplined by or removed from the Mormon church, which generally results in community ostracization? I see no real motive to under-report sexual behavior, even on a survey that was presumably supposed to be anonymous.

I freely confess that a couple things could cloud my judgment on this: 1) BYU has, supposedly, tightened up the “ecclesiastical endorsement” process, by which students are vetted for their spirituality and loyalty to Mormonism as a condition of acceptance and continuing attendance at BYU, so maybe, and I stress maybe, BYU students as a group are more virtuous than in days of yore (though I seriously doubt that, young people being young people); and 2) I will accept that any random sampling of BYU students interviewed by me, then or since, is likely to be skewed in favor of at least liberal and possibly rebellious behavior (another hallmark of young people, I might add). Even given those adjustments, I pronounce the survey results to be completely and utterly silly. Just how old (and gullible) was this retired BYU sociology professor, anyway?

My other favorite line from the Trib article: “However, hooking up, which involves pairing off and some type of physical intimacy, is less common.” Thanks for defining “hooking up,” Ms. Orellana. I was a little confused on that point. Maybe the key problem in the article, and the survey, is the limitation of sexual activity that involves “pairing off.” If you count activity amongst three or more people, the trend spikes.


Loves to read books. Frequently does so. Currently lives and works in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

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11 Responses

  1. profxm says:

    Chadwick is elderly, but he has done some good work. You may be right that there is response bias in the survey results, but I wouldn’t impugn Chadwick’s character. He is a well-published, reputable scholar (whether biased or not).

  2. dpc says:

    Because why would students ever lie on a survey about sexual behavior when sexual behavior is grounds for being dismissed from the university, and possibly disciplined by or removed from the Mormon church, which generally results in community ostracization [sic]?

    I may be wrong, but generally these surveys are done so that the participants cannot be identified. In fact, I think it is a breach of professional ethics if the participants can be identified.

    But as far as making out is concerned, I don’t see any reason why someone would lie about that. It’s not like you can lose your membership in the Mormon church just because you were engaging in some passionate kissing.

  3. Guy Noir Private Eye says:


    again, I say: there are little if not NO ‘controls’ on the use of church discipline!!
    Q: If local leaders want to ‘clamp down’ on something (passionate kissing)…What’s to prevent them from x-ing someone as an example? A: NOTHING
    you see, SLC/COB/GAs have given so much autonomy to local leaders… why – how would they intervene when ‘local rule’ is the precident?
    With few exceptions, people including leaders are mostly unchecked – never reigned in regarding being ‘over-zealous’.

  4. qzed says:

    profxm: While I do think the results of this particular survey are silly, I’m not trying to impugn anyone’s professional career. Scout’s honor.

    dpc and Guy: I’m not trying to suggest that people would get disciplined for making out (unless it were making out with someone of the same gender). I’m trying to make the point that generally speaking, BYU students have very good reasons to downplay all sexual activity, even to themselves.

    I guess my point is that the survey doesn’t even ask the right questions. The claim is that very few BYU students casually make out, but what’s not being asked (and wouldn’t be honestly answered) is how many BYU students fool around under any circumstances (including those who consider themselves to be in serious relationships). How many have sex? How many have oral sex? I don’t think you could get honest figures about this at BYU, no matter how much you promised that the results would be anonymous. Why? Precisely because people are too fearful about being judged, disciplined, or possibly expelled from the university.

  5. profxm says:

    qzed… We have pretty good data on this generally for Mormons: While about 80% of people generally in the U.S. have pre-marital sex by age 20, about 50% to 60% of Mormons do. Here’s the reference: Heaton, Tim B., Stephen J. Bahr, and Cardell K. Jacobson. 2005. A Statistical Profile Of Mormons: Health, Wealth, And Social Life. Edwin Mellen Press.

  6. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    “Wait a Sec”:

    It continually amazes me how much effort regarding the minutia, the trite, the banal LDS focus on…
    With all the Hatred/Dishonesty/Violence there is in the world: studying kissing & ‘making out’ on a college campus???
    Oh my gosh….

  7. I think the key words that skewed the results (if the kids didn’t intentionally hide their truth) are “hanging-out relationship.” Because I can vouch for the prevalence of NCMO at BYU in “dating relationships,” at least in the early 1990s when I was there. I can’t imagine that it’s suddenly declined to only 1-3% of the students doing this.

    I reminisced about NCMO at BYU here.

  8. CWC says:

    Bruce Chadwick is lovely, and really knows his stuff. That said, the days of the anonymous mail survey are over, IMO. And that is a favorite old school method.

    Tim Heaton (damn his snarky ass) is an ass, but his demographics are airtight and you can take his data to the bank.

  9. Hellmut says:

    Interesting arguments all around. Having said that, anonymity does not eliminate response bias.

    Some respondents will still try to impress the interviewer, present themselves in the best possible light, or attempt to meet the expectations or perceptions of their peer group.

    I agree with qzed that everyone at BYU makes out. By everyone, I mean straight white males (mea culpa, mea culpa). In reality, there are a lot of folks who do not get to make out at BYU but if you are a straight white male at BYU and you are not making out on Friday night, you need help.

    You are either pathologically shy or you have a personal hygiene problem. I have seen some of you but since it’s sex and sex is a drive, your numbers are quite limited.

    There may be some respondents who report that making out is sinful and who have not been able to make out at BYU but that would be because they are jealous.

    And yes, I do know of two couples who claim that they have gotten married unkissed. Mind you, I am a pretty extroverted guy and know a lot of people.

    Having said that, I find the results to that survey question fascinating, precisely because of the response bias. It says more about our culture and the Mormon way of life than any essay ever could.

    I promise, I don’t mean to be critical. In fact, I find it kind of cute.

  10. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    I think married/unkissed is sad.
    ‘Normal’ isn’t just a setting on the dryer.

  11. Heaton Student says:

    Heaton is painfully inflexible in both his teaching style and grading. His tenacious observance to a self righteous teaching agenda has stripped him from understanding his students personal circumstances. The material covered in his classes are enlightening and energizing. Having him as a teacher is like doing something at work that you love doing but under a boss with terrible management skills.

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