Newsweek‘s current cover story, “Sex and the Single Boomer: The New World of Midlife Romance,” offers further evidence that an embrace of deep sexual confusion has become something of a national passion. In the age of no-fault divorce laws, Viagra, and multiple “lifestyle” choices, middle-aged adults are negotiating amidst promiscuity while they seek a romantic passion that their own choices make incredibly difficult to find — and to maintain.

From the article:

The 77,702,865 Americans born between 1946 and 1964 came of age in the era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And while the last two may have lost some appeal over the years, sex and relationships remain front and center as the oldest boomers turn 60 this year. That’s largely because more boomers are single than any previous cohort of forty to sixtysomethings. According to the Census Bureau, 28.6 percent of adults age 45 to 59 were unattached in 2003, compared with only 18.8 percent in 1980. (Of those, 16.6 percent were divorced, 2.9 percent were widowed and 9.1 percent had never been married.) And many of these singles are on the prowl. In a recent AARP survey, up to 70 percent of single boomers said they dated regularly. Of those between 40 and 59 years old, 45 percent of men and 38 percent of women have intercourse at least once a week.

In the 1970s and ’80s, gay men and women who didn’t have the option of marriage pioneered this pattern of evolving social connections. But for boomers in 2006, the issues have shifted. Gay or straight, they worry about the effect on their kids, especially if they became parents late in life. It’s one thing to get an all-clear from a 23-year-old son or daughter but quite another to date around when you’ve got a preschooler in the house.

Having dismantled respect for marriage within the culture (along with the legal protections that buttressed this respect), we are now reaping the inevitable results — millions of persons who find themselves unmarried (and unhappy) at midlife. It says a great deal that this is the cover story Newsweek chose for display on newsstands on Valentine’s Day.