A response to “The Economics of Sex” at the Good Men Project

The Economics of Sex

 

Sometimes the universe decides I don’t have enough rage in my life.

 

This is the tone for the article and informs it as “opinion”.

 

OK, perhaps I should explain. No is too much. Let me sum up.

 

Haha, nice use of comedy.

 

One of the dating misconceptions that I tilt at regularly is the myth that women are the sexual gatekeepers and that sex is a transactional procedure where a woman only “gives it up” when a man meets her price; this is generally known as the commodity model of sex. The commodity model of sex insists that women are only worth the sex they don’t have; after all, if she “gives it away” too readily, then she is actively driving down her own value. Because apparently sex is a limited, non-rewnewable resource and once you’ve tapped that particular well, it’s dry forever.

 

This definition is wrong. For something to be a commodity (I read “good”) does not require it to be non-renewable. Sex fits with the definition of a good as it is something desired, in limited supply, and is the means to fulfill a human want. Sex is limited not because “once you’ve tapped that particular well…”, but because of self-ownership. Only each individual has the rights to his/her own body and the disposition of their actions and only their partner can grant permission for this activity. Without permission, e.g. non-consensual sex is rape.

 

Which brings new meaning to “WE’VE GOT A GUSHER!”.

 

Very poor joke, I’m kind of disgusted.

 

This is an idea repeated over and over again, from toxic Pick-Up Artists like Roosh “Once you’ve had sex with a girl 3 times, there is nothing interesting or useful she will give you for the remainder of the relationship.” V to the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. In fact, it’s the Austin Institute’s video “The Economics of Sex” that prompted today’s column with its supposedly “novel” variation on the commodity model of sex by insisting that women being too slutty devalues sex and thus deprives them of any chance of being married. After being directed to a glowing paean to the idea in the New York Post and then reading  Lindy West’s excellent takedown, I had to see this wonder for myself. Because apparently I don’t get nearly angry enough in my day to day life.

 

Using toxic words like “toxic”, “novel”, “commodity”, “slutty”, etc. does not make any argument. These words do however carry huge emotional ties and are being used here to carry forward the author’s opinion.

 

So I watched this 10 minute wonder and…

well…

“I feel a column coming on.”

All we have is the usual “if you give the milk away, nobody will buy the cow” argument, trying to use economics as a fig-leaf to give it the sheen of respectability. Too bad it’s complete and utter horse shit.

 

Bam! Strawman…

 

Let’s take this sucker apart, shall we? Pack a lunch, this is going to be a long one.

 
 

The (Bullshit) Economics of Banging

 

More toxic words.

 

“The Economics of Sex”1 is a self-consciously hip whiteboard-style talk in the style of Minute Physics, because nothing makes slut-shaming go down easier than cutesy rip-offs of popular YouTube channels.

The basic premise of the video is simple: marriage is on the decline in America and that’s terrible. People’s first marriages are happening later and later in life – with a median age of 27 for women and 29 for men – and this is also terrible. Why? Who knows; if the Austin Institute does, they’re not saying. However, the cause is abundantly clear: women are giving it up to easily. You see, sex – according to this video – is a commodity, which means that there’s a market price. Since men want sex more than women do, women are thus the gatekeepers of sex, controlling the sexual market with an iron vagina. Men, on the other hand, are the gatekeepers of commitment, which women desire more than men do. And so the presumed exchange is sex for commitment.

 

Sweet redefinition of the premise of the video. However the author’s opinions come through in what he sees. Viewing marriage from an economic view does bring judgment on the social aspect of marriage but seeks to explain why we see the market phenomenon we are seeing. This video does not address all of the motivations behind marriage but only those seen as significant to their point. It does unfortunately leave some glaring holes but it is a 10min video.

 

To quote straight from the video:

 

The “price” varies widely. But if women are the gatekeepers, why don’t very many women “charge more” so to speak? Because pricing is not entirely up to women. The “market value” of sex is part of a social system of exchange, an “economy” if you will, wherein men and women learn from each other—and from others—what they ought to expect from each other sexually. So sex is not entirely a private matter between two consenting adults. Think of it as basic supply and demand. When supplies are high, prices drop, since people won’t pay more for something that’s easy to find. But if it’s hard to find, people will pay a premium.

So apparently under ideal circumstances, the invisible free hand of the market would be quietly stroking everyone’s nethers and keeping the price of sex high. But because women aren’t standing in lockstep solidarity and universally setting the market value for sex at “marriage”, the result is that the “market price” for sex is low.

 

More toxic opinion. In a marketplace, there is no lockstep. There is only prices, set by individuals, and actions which set the market value. There is no grand conspiracy, somewhere in the background, which prices everything. What’s to say the price is “low” or “high”?

 

ACTUAL QUOTE TIME:

Sex is her resource. Sex in consensual relationships will happen when women want it to. So how do women decide to begin a sexual relationship? Pricing. Women have something of value that men want…badly, something men are actually willing to sacrifice for. So how much does sex cost for men? It might cost him nothing but a few drinks and compliments, or a month of dates and respectful attention, or all the way up to a lifetime promise to share all of his affections, wealth, and earnings with her exclusively.

And since everyone knows that men won’t get married unless bribed into it by being granted access to a woman’s hoo-haa, men are reaping the benefits of the low-cost sex available to them. This is, of course, unfair to women because men can get boners forever, whereas women lose their fertility at 40 and thus become completely and utterly undesirable in any context and are thus without any sexual capital.

 

More of the straw man. More toxic words. More opinion.

 

A scene from the upcoming “MILF of Wall Street”

Oh and also, part of the reason for this market disruption was the ability to have sex without consequence. So the pill has disrupted the sexual marketplace. Also: it literally compares the birth control pill to bees and compares the Sexual Revolution to the effects of DDT. And why is this bad for the “cost” of sex? Again: an actual quote from the video.

 

After the introduction of the pill was there a change? DDT? Aggriculture? Marrriage? This is a metaphor because there are similarities.

 

Before contraception, sex before marriage took place during the search for a mate—someone to marry. Sex didn’t necessarily mean marriage, but serious commitment was commonly a requirement for sex. Sex was oriented towards marriage. Don’t believe people who say your great-grandparents were secretly as casual about sex as your friends are. They weren’t, because to mess around with sex eventually meant, well, becoming parents.

Of course, this is bad for everyone because having low-commitment sex means men simply won’t grow up because why should they. So this is bad for society all around and thus women need to band together to perform a Lysistrata-esque pork-out and thus artificially dry up the supply, allowing the “natural” market price of sex to rise. And if it does, then we’ll see more “improved wooing”, fewer premarital partners and shorter co-habitations and – most importantly – “more marrying going on.”

 

Yep. Let’s put those cookies back into the cookie jar.

 

Facts? Who Needs Facts?

So let’s start with the most obvious: the idea that women are “the gatekeepers of sex” because they don’t want sex as much as men do. The Austin Institute is quick to insist that women are less sexual than men because “men initiate sex more than women, they’re more sexually permissive than women, and they connect sex to romance less often than women.” This, we are supposed to believe, is just biology; “blame it on testosterone,” suggests the video.

 

Sweet, insistence on observed actions. Can’t wait for the refutation.

 

Bullshit.

Women actually have a greater capacity for sexual desire than men do… society has just trained them out of acknowledging it.  The idea that women are less sexual than men is not only cultural, but recent; before the Age of Enlightenment, western society from the Hebrews to the Greeks to Renaissance Europe tended to view women as almost overpoweringly lustful and needing to be reined in by marriage, lest it drain men of their life’s essences.

 

Aww, link to another feminist opinion piece. Wait! That piece does cite a study! Aww, guess what, in that study they found men subjectively rated desire for sex greater than women despite women having a greater physiological desire than men. Prices are based on subjective value!

 

It wasn’t until the 19th Century, when (ironically enough) the early Feminist movement and the rise of evangelical Christianity coincided with redefining gender attitudes towards sex, labeling men as bestial and lustful and women as the sacred and angelic guardians of virtue and purity. Up until that point, men were considered to be the pure ones, who had to resist the temptations of women and control their sexual natures for them.

 

Citation needed. Oh wait, this is an opinion piece.

 

Of course, it doesn’t help that most studies into human sexuality, especially with regard to libido and sexual desire, take it for granted that women don’t like sex as much as men, letting confirmation bias color over bad methodology and shoddy research. For example: while the video itself doesn’t cite any sources (natch), a downloadable companion piece from the Austin Institute’s website references the infamous Clark – Hattfield study that erroneously concluded that women were just flat-out less interested in sex than men. The methodology of the Clark-Hattfield – reproduced later by Hald and Høgh-Olenson – involved literally just walking up to strangers and saying “hey, want to fuck me?” an approach that nobody actually uses to get laid. In fact, a later series of studies by Terri Conely found that women were very interested in casual sex… provided they thought the sex would be worth it. The approach in the Clark-Hattfield study betrayed a significant lack of social skills and set off alarm bells for women’s concern for their personal safety as well as an indication that the sex with person askingprobably wouldn’t be worth the attendant risk.

 

Worth…e.g. price.

 

(It certainly doesn’t help that one of the senior fellows is Mark Regnerus, someone synonymous with shoddy researchbad methodology and biased conclusions unsupported by the data. But hey, why let facts get in the way of an agenda?)

 

Whoa…guilt by association.

 

But then, our culture tends to vigorously (and sometimes violently) resist, even repress, any research that goes against the accepted wisdom. Alfred Kinsey, after all, had his lifedestroyed because Sexual Behavior in the Human Female diverged so greatly from the cultural narrative. The exact size and anatomy of the human clitoris had to be discovered twice– once in 1998 and then again in 2009 because the medical community couldn’t be bothered to care the first time; until recently, many anatomical texts would leave the clitoris out entirely.

Of course, this is if you want to be strictly heteronormative about this. The video’s insistence that women are the gatekeepers of sex and men only give commitment in exchange for sexual access rather neatly ignores the existence of gay men and lesbians. Presumably gay men – men, after all, preferring low-cost, no commitment sex – would never get married while lesbians would almost never have sex, ever. And then you have the issue of just where trans men and women fall into this spectrum of “sex” and “commitment”…

 

Big words make me look smart. 10min video people.

 

But just as the video gets the science wrong – with an air of “just trust us on this, m’kay?”, it gets history wrong too. One of the most egregious examples, from the video:

 

But just as the video diverges from my opinion… Go out, find the studies…oh wait…

 

Here’s the thing: In the past, it really wasn’t the patriarchy that policed women’s relational interests. It was women. But this agreement, this unspoken pact to set a high market value for sex has all but vanished.

Ok… when exactly was this magical time when women were in charge of sexual roles and behaviors? Any time within, say… the last 60 years? 100 years? 1000 years? Trick question: women have never been the gender police. The closest you can come to anything resembling a woman-dominated sexual marketplace (to use their metaphor) requires going back to pre-agricultural society; the only contemporary examples are stone-age tribal units that have been cut off from the world. Men have long established and regulated what is considered “acceptable” sexual behavior in men and women and continue to do so today. The ones empowered to set social and sexual standards were men; men were the heads of the religions that dictated morality. Men were the heads of government that enforced laws regarding sex and sexuality. Women having positions of actual authority outside of the running of a household is a recent development… and even now, pretending that they have somehow taken over, even covertly, is laughable. When a woman in 2014 can’t cut her hair without men lamenting on how it makes her less sexually appealing, it’s hard to swallow the idea that women were traditionally regulating sexual relations and somehow charging a “higher market price”. That “unspoken pact” was unspoken because it didn’t exist in the first place.

 

Sweet, another citation to an opinion piece. Answer let’s all get back to that grand conspiracy “Patriarchy”. That “patriarchy” was unspoken because it didn’t exist in the first place.

 

Then again, this willful ignorance of actual history is par for the course. In insisting that sex was was traditionally and predominantly aimed at commitment, the Austin Institute ignores vast swaths of history, focusing instead on misty fantasies . In colonial America, pre-marital sex was ostensibly a no-no, and yet it happened anyway; the concern was less about who was sleeping with who and much more about whether the young lady would get pregnant. In the 1920s – the time when the video insists our great-grandparents were really all about marriage – casual sex and cohabitation reached all-time highs.

 

Feminist history.

 

In Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Kinsey found that half the women who weren’t virgins before marriage had slept with more people than their eventual spouses. From the 1950s onward, the social stigma against casual, pre-marital sex was already on the downward swing before the advent of hormonal birth control.

And while the pill helped, it certainly was never the only form of contraception out there. Historians have evidence of condom use as far back as ancient Greece (usually animal bladders or intestines). The first commercial condom factory opened in 1897, and by the 1920s (when your great-grandparents were equating sex with pregnancy, remember), latex condoms came on the market. When people wanted to have some child-free fucking, there were plentyof options for them.

The sexual revolution wasn’t just about the ready availability of condoms; it was also about women’s greater economic opportunities and the de-stigmatization of divorce. Now that marriage wasn’t intrinsically bound up with financial security and sex didn’t mean pregnancy, women were free to actually enjoy their own sexuality… suggesting that the “market price” that the Austin Institute waxes rhapsodic about was artificially inflated under the best of circumstances.

 

I’m sure these topics could have been covered…if this wasn’t a 10min video.

I’m bored so… skip to the end

 

Keynesian Concern Trolling

The internal logic of “The Economics of Sex” is dubious. The video spends a great deal of time simultaneously slut-shaming women and insisting that they’re somehow less sexual at the same time –  Schrödinger’s Sluts if you will.

 

More buzzwords. We cannot compare this to what’s going on to the marketplace because we’re gonna call names.

 

Hell, as the blog Lady Economist points out, it’s not even good economics! I mean, shit, even if we were to concede the idea of sex as a commodity, there’s more that influences the market value than just simple “supply and demand”. Even if the supply of a particular item is high, there will be other factors that influence price ranging from desirability to perceived quality. Bespoke fucks3 are going to be going at a premium regardless of how much sex is floating around.

 

More economic fallacy. Supply and demand doesn’t set prices, subjective value does.

 

But in the end, the cold, hard fact is that outside of sex-work, sex isn’t a commodity and equating a woman’s willingness to have sex with her “market value” just hides the implication that one believes that this is all a woman has to offer. All this is is an attempt to give the authors’ Madonna/Whore complex a gloss of legitimacy by pretending that it’s about the numbers, not the authors’ attempts to impose their world-view on others. Like other attempts to rationalize slut-shaming women, this is just concern trolling. The false note of solicitude, the tone of “hey we don’t like it, but this is just the way it is” and the crocodile tears shed for women standing in solidarity just makes it more insulting.

 

Unlike your own servitude to your agenda and unwillingness to entertain any ideas which differ from your own.

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