Saturday, June 18, 2011

The invisible dick of Adam Smith.



It's been too long since we had a good episode of Someone Is Wrong On The Internet. In this case they're wrong in an actual print newspaper (albeit sort of a fake one), but I try to keep the number of tags down.

From the Washington Times: Economy of sex: It's cheap these days

See, if you say "all women are whores," you're a misogynist or something, but if you say "all women participate in the economy of sex," then it is a penetrating insight.

We put a price tag on sex. You might not think we ought to do that, but we do. Sex, at one level, is an exchange. … Each person gives the other person something of themselves. But it is typically a different something.”
Well... I give pussy, and I get cock. (I can also give pussy and get pussy--as per usual, gay people don't exist in this article--but it will be a different pussy, so that still counts.) And to be a little less crude, I give my unique talents and kinks and displays of sexual enthusiasm and affection, and I receive someone else's different talents etc. in return.

But all this presupposes that women would like sex for sex, and we can't have that. I'm not totally sure why we can't have that--it may have something to do with admitting that men and women have something in common, and something to do with admitting that sex is a textured experience and not a binary "sex or no sex" thing--but we can't.

Their conclusion is that, for young single Americans, modern rules of romantic engagement “clearly favor men” and penalize women who want to marry — especially those who want to save sex for marriage.
I'm a woman who wants to have lots of sex and not marry. Am I an honorary man, or a bizarre exception, or what? And it's important to note, I'm not just talking about casual hookups. It doesn't matter how close Rowdy and I are, doesn't matter what we do together or how we support each other--as long as we're not married, this article is going to treat it like a "wham bam thank you ma'am."

Anyway, as of 2010, about 83% of people had been married at some point in their lives by age 44. (US census data.) That means, according to Bizarro Logic, that 83% of women "won" and only 17% of men "won."

So what was the old “exchange rate” for sex, and how has it changed? Researchers have long recognized that male-female mating systems revolved around exchanges. Even in ancient times, men and women bonded because one could cook, sew, make a home and have babies, and the other could hunt prey and protect the woman and child,
Except for the "have babies," I'm pretty damn sure that either partner could do either half of that. And, in many cases, did. Men may have done more hunting and fighting, but since those make up a relatively small part of a person's life, Ye Olde Undefined-In-Place-Or-Time Tymes had plenty of men working on "household" tasks and plenty of women doing heavy labor.

Or should have. The fact that women (and men!) were sometimes genuinely restricted and pigeonholed in Ye Olde Tymes doesn't mean this was good.

Exchange rates sometimes involved real money or property, in the form of dowries or bride prices, she noted.
Yeah. Like this, for example. Please note, also, that neither dowries nor bride prices were actually given to the bride. Pretty much all she got out of the arrangement was "not being homeless."

A man who sought sex with a particular woman typically had to give her something of very high value in exchange — either marriage or at least a marriage proposal, he said.
But if I accept that marriage proposal, then I have to give him marriage, too!

You can construct this as a fair deal--we give each other sex for sex, and marriage for marriage. But to say it's a matter of "sex for marriage" implies that sex is indifferent or horrible for women, and marriage is likewise for men. Which is not just untrue, it's a sucky view of the world, one in which no one can be really happy and all sex and love is grudgingly given on one end or the other. It's a world in which truly mutual ecstasy in sex or happiness in marriage are not possible; how mutual can it be when you purchase a person?

The sexual market generally has more men than women in it, and rules of supply and demand operate, with the rarer sex wielding more power,
Whut.

...I know some women are asexual, but so are some men, and I don't think it's statistically huge numbers of either. This makes it sound like there are thousands of women just hiding somewhere in order to inflate the lady-price.

Say a young man wants to get to know his girlfriend of two months “more,” he said. If she says no, “then this tells the man, ‘The price is higher than you think.’ And he will have to figure out how high the price is: Does she need more time, more commitment?”
This is scary rape logic. It completely negates the possibility that a woman might not want sex at all with a certain person at a certain point in her life. (It also ignores the fact that she has a life of her own, and makes it sound like her choices only exist in relation to the man's actions.) If women can't say no to sex, but can only say "pay more," then rape is reduced to the level of shoplifting. Less, even, if a man feels that he's already "paid" enough and the woman is being unreasonable.

If "no" means "pay more," then "no" doesn't mean "no." And that's not just bullshit; it's dangerous bullshit.

College campuses and urban areas are often dominated by women, which means that men can and will decide how much — or how little — they will exchange for sex.
There are more women on some college campuses (more men on others), but I assume the statistics on there being more women in "urban areas" come directly from the United States Bureau of Pulling Things Out Of Your Ass.

Plus, it just doesn't work like that. People aren't commodities. At the very worst, people are artisan goods, where differences in quality matter. I wouldn't dump one Tim Minchin because I could get five Charlie Sheens. But really, people are people. Being in a polyamorous relationship doesn't mean I have to sexually "outbid" Sprite or take twice as much crap from Rowdy, because we're human beings who make an effort to treat each other decently just for decency's sake.

Men’s rules of engagement play to their interests of having sex often, with many partners, in a more sexually permissive environment, without romance or commitment, he said.
Why? BECAUSE. Because everyone knows this, right?

Or, at least, if we keep saying this, everyone will "know" it, and then we can really say "come on, everyone knows this!"

power shifts away from women as they move toward their 30s, Mr. Regnerus said. In other words, women have power when they are the minority in the sex market, but they lose power when they drift into the marriage market, where women outnumber men.
Are these markets in, like, separate places? Do they have separate ticker symbols? I mean, I guess there are people who've made up their minds to get married, but saying they're a marriage "market" is...

Oh. I know why I'm confused. It's because above, men were trading marriage for sex, but now we're talking like they're two separate markets. So I'm confused what exactly women are trading for marriage, if not sex (and not, you know, love or companionship or any of that happy horseshit). How can you be in the "marriage market" as a freestanding thing? Are you waiting for someone to offer enough goats?

The new sexual economy is especially disadvantageous to any woman who wants to remain a virgin until her wedding day, he said. These women essentially never enter the sex market, but instead “hold out for the highest price for sex, which is marriage.”
Wait, so women who reserve sex for marriage are... less likely to get laid? Well, yeah, but I think they're okay with that. Less likely to get married? Not from what I've seen.

There are men (really! I've met some!) who want to save sex for marriage, and they're unlikely to want to marry anyone but their female counterparts, so really, this isn't overpricing but a lucrative niche market.

“You can’t just decide that your house is worth $500,000 if everyone else is getting $200,000. … You can try for that price, but it’s unlikely you will get it.”
Fine, I'll run with that analogy. My house is large and in good repair and is in a nice neighborhood with easy access to transit. A buyer coming up to me and saying "I'll only pay $200K, because that's what houses cost" would get laughed out of any real estate office in the city.

Likewise, a guy would hopefully put some effort into romancing me because that's the only way he can get me, not because he just wants a woman, any woman.

But all this is buying into the mentality that people are to be bought and owned, or specifically that women are to be bought and owned. What I would really hope is that a guy would put some effort into romancing me because romance is fun and I am romancing him back.

A fundamental principle of sexual economics is that “sexual activity by females has exchange value, whereas male sexuality does not,” Mr. Baumeister and Ms. Vohs wrote in their 2004 paper.
Well, a fundamental principle of sexual reality is that cock is awesome and although I don't believe in "exchange" value, I certainly value it.

Let's put it this way: if I had the option to marry a man but never have sex with him, I would not be happy about this. If I had the option to have sex with a man but never marry him, I'd... well, I'm actually doing that right now.

Maybe I'm a freak. Any of my female readers who are just pining for a sexless marriage, please, speak up.

“When women collude to restrict men’s sexual access to women, all women tend to benefit,” he said, noting that “if women were more in charge of how their romantic relationships transpired … we would be seeing greater male investment in relationships, more impressive wooing efforts, fewer hookups, fewer premarital sexual partners … shorter cohabitations, more marrying … and more marrying at a slightly earlier age. In other words, the price of sex would be higher. It would cost men more to access it.”
Ah, the old Lysistrata gambit. Except that in Lysistrata, the women were (quite reluctantly!) withholding sex to end a war, and in this, women would be withholding sex to... have less sex.

Whoo.

However, he said, “none of these things are occurring today. Not one. The price of sex is pretty low.”'
Maybe the reason women aren't doing all the things this man thinks women should do is... women don't want to.

Maybe women love sex.

Maybe (heterosexual and bisexual) women even love men, for their bodies and friendship and companionship as well as for their marriage "value."

Maybe the world is not just different than is constructed in your weird little market ideology, but is better and happier and freer than you can even imagine. Maybe sex and love aren't matters of supply and demand, but humanity and joy.

Maybe a man and a woman in love aren't buyer and seller, but lover and lover.

65 comments:

  1. This, yes.

    Also (speaking as a 27-year-old woman): I've dated a guy who wanted to wait 'till marriage to have sex. I wish him all the best, but that's why I didn't keep dating him. Again, there's nothing wrong with that desire or that world view - it's just completely incompatible and wrong FOR ME (key distinction!)

    Similarly, there are some people who just don't enjoy sex at all and don't want it, which is fine and all FOR THEM, but for crying out loud don't extend that particular set of desires to everyone else!

    For that matter, I'd also appreciate it if writers stopped assuming that all men universally want sex all the time. Of all blatantly untrue assumptions...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Isn't it nice to be reminded that I am a vagina and nothing more?

    no man could possibly want anything other than my- what's that honey? oh, my personality! right.

    gotta go, some insane man wants my opinion on something because it's important to him.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Men’s rules of engagement play to their interests of having sex often, with many partners, in a more sexually permissive environment, without romance or commitment, he said.

    Welp, guess I'm a man then.

    Are you waiting for someone to offer enough goats?

    My father was offered 40 camels for my hand in marriage. No goats though. (No, I'm not joking)

    Ros said: I've dated a guy who wanted to wait 'till marriage to have sex. I wish him all the best, but that's why I didn't keep dating him. Again, there's nothing wrong with that desire or that world view - it's just completely incompatible and wrong FOR ME

    Seconded! This is very close to an experience I had. Ultimately that's not why we stopped dating, but it was related.


    Why do people write this bullshit? O_o

    ReplyDelete
  4. I grew up in DC, and from what I gather when I go back home and pick up the papers and magazines floating around town, the "men are scarce" thing is accepted as a given in the dating world of white, hetero, politically-involved Washingtonians nowadays. I don't remember this as a feature of white, college-bound, teenage Washingtonians in the 80's, but everyone's demographic bubble is different: I assume that if there is any truth to it, it's because Washington internships are disproportionately filled by twentysomething women, and the folks who write for the Washington Times aren't terribly aware that there's anyone else in DC. The Times is even more myopic than the Post.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Okay, in case you were serious, woman who loves marriage-less sex here! Woman who loves sex that does not and never will result in marriage!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love that no mean not ever, or raise your bid and not, I totally want to fuck you, but I think I am coming down with something and my plans include a hot water bottle and chicken soup

    ReplyDelete
  7. Augh! The stupid, it burns!

    Did the author of this article seriously not think for a second that maybe women's traditional interest in relationships was because not getting married used to mean a life of grinding poverty at best? I'm not sure marriage is right for me, but if it were that or wondering how long before I starve to death without a man to bring home the wooly mammoth, I'd certainly get married as soon as possible.

    Given that simple and obvious explanation for women's focus on relationships, how can it be surprising that, since that women can now expect to make a comfortable living on their own, they do that and don't worry about racing to the altar before their 'value' (fuckability) depreciates and they can't get a quality man?

    Maybe, just maybe, the fact that women have sex when we don't absolutely have to in order to secure a man means we just like it.

    @Ros: hell and yes. The filthy lie that all men universally want sex all the time has been really hurtful to me personally, not to mention all the men who've felt like there was something wrong with them for ever just wanting to cuddle.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm really getting tired of us queers not existing. Am I an honorary man or what? Bah. Silly evo-psych.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "Men’s rules of engagement play to their interests of having sex often, with many partners, in a more sexually permissive environment, without romance or commitment, he said.
    Why? BECAUSE. Because everyone knows this, right?

    Or, at least, if we keep saying this, everyone will "know" it, and then we can really say "come on, everyone knows this!""

    God, so much THIS. I'm in a polyamorous relationship right now and it's my husband who's the monoamorous one and me who's the let's go have lots of sex with lots of people one.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Men’s rules of engagement play to their interests of having sex often, with many partners, in a more sexually permissive environment, without romance or commitment, he said.

    ---

    Huh. And here I thought that what I wanted was to have sex often in a sexually permissive environment with multiple partners to whom I am (to varying degrees) romantically committed. Shows what I know.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Dane - It's not even evo-psych, here. It's just a just-so story where men like sex and women like marriage because men like sex and women like marriage, ad infinitum.

    And I think they literally forgot that queer people exist, yep.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "When women collude to restrict men’s sexual access to women..."

    Shit! I knew I was forgetting something! I missed this month's Greater Midwest Women's Sexual Activity Budgeting Committee meeting! Now I won't know how much sex to distribute! This planned economy thing is hard!

    Seriously though, WTF? When you break up with someone, are you selling them back to themselves? Or, uh, breaking the lease? Do they sometimes not give your stuff back because you are in breach of contract? In this analogy, are your friends rival companies, or coworkers? Are your siblings like your parents' range of products?

    When I read something like this, the message I get is that the author recognizes that to have sex, human beings interact with each other, and attempt to achieve desired outcomes. But the author cannot conceive of any way for people to do that outside of an economic market. Which is actually really really sad.

    Even in her bullshit ye-olde-farmer-outside-the-bounds-of-space-and-time example, the people are not operating within a market. They have skills whose products they cooperatively exchange, without assigning them a monetary value, and are severely restricted in whom they can offer them too. The author couldn't even make up a sex market when she tried!

    Excuse me, I'll just be over here frothing at the mouth and hating economics.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yo Holly, awesome post: you're totally spot on, especially with

    "Maybe sex and love aren't matters of supply and demand, but humanity and joy. Maybe a man and a woman in love aren't buyer and seller, but lover and lover."

    There are heaps of folks being wrong on the Internet, but as long as you --- and other excellent, compassionate and thinking writers --- are out there being right on the Internet, I can keep getting out of bed in the morning. Kudos.

    ReplyDelete
  14. So I grew up in DC, and I think an important point here is that the Times is actually not a legit newspaper. They have not, in their entire existance, ever turned a profit (they have in fact lost about a billion dollars), and they're supported by Sun Myung Moon, of the mass-wedding-performing Moonies, because he thinks there should be a right-wing paper in DC. As far as I can tell, he does this for the lulz.

    Not to take away from the insightful analysis of this article, but I just want to point out that no one in DC considers the Times to be "mainstream media".

    ReplyDelete
  15. you know what, in my mind, is evidence that this author (and all the others like them) makes no sense? If you trade sex for commitment, and men are only interested in sex, how come men get mad/sad/hurt when their wife/girlfriend cheats on them? As long as she's still having sex with them, what's the problem?
    oh yeah. Men care about commitment too.

    anyway there are a lot of other things wrong with this but the idea that men don't want relationships for all the non-sex parts too just makes me.... I don't know it's a combination of sad and mad.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I do feel like I need to point out that this author sliced up a bunch of words from a sociologist, who studies these things. I'm apt to believe that either the author of the article took a whole bunch of shit out of context, or the sociologist is describing the "traditionally held values" sociological construct that he's researching -- not those of us who have freed ourselves from that kind of repressive construct. The sociologist mostly being quoted isn't researching *us* -- therefore of course what he says will not apply to us.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Nathan - Very true. It's a print newspaper, but it is kind of a fake one. Still, this is hardly the only place I've seen "sexual market" logic, so the article works as a springboard to talk about that in general.

    ReplyDelete
  18. "...they're supported by Sun Myung Moon, of the mass-wedding-performing Moonies, because he thinks there should be a right-wing paper in DC. As far as I can tell, he does this for the lulz."

    Somehow I've lived in DC for almost two years now and never heard this. I do, unfortunately, know several people who think the Times is legit... >>

    ReplyDelete
  19. I hate people who don't understand evolutionary psychology. (Also the idea that all sex is trading, but Holly took care of that idea pretty soundly already.)

    Men are not somehow programmed to have sex more than women. There is no reason why evolution would not want both men and women to have sex about the same amount. Not even that women have a bigger investment in the baby. Protip guys: a SURVIVING baby requires about equal investment from both partners for 10+ years. It doesn't matter that the woman has to carry the baby for nine months because for the baby to mean anything evolutionarily it must survive to reproductory age, and a lone primate, especially with a kid to take care of, is almost guaranteed to die.

    Not to mention that among primates, sex is for bonding as well as reproduction. And you correctly identified this, and you of course ignored the problems it implied for the rest of your theory, but unfortunately you didn't realize that it works like that for BOTH SEXES. How could it not? That women could use sex to bond with men only but not the other way around implies that only men feel anything about people they have sex with.

    In short your article is a mess of contradictions and you should feel bad.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow! Awesome blog!

    You utterly obliterated that article with almost no recourse to academic jargon (although you clearly no stranger to theory).

    That Washington Post article was spectacularly obnoxious, so naturally I was going to be sympathetic to any kind of critique of it.
    But this is one of those rare pieces where I feel nothing has been left unsaid. I've had my world view presented with total clarity.

    You've really brightened my Sunday, Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yeah, I totally use sex as an exchange currency! That way, I get drinks and attention, AND sex! Win-win!

    ... Or maybe I just like spending time with people with and without having sex and treating people like people instead of objects to gratify my needs. And I don't even want to get married.

    The evolutionary psychology thing always strikes me as weird.. I mean, at some point back in the days it was probably really convenient to have strict male-female roles, but.. The world we live in now (well, western world, maybe) allows for anyone to live their lives the way they want to. They don't have to limit themselves to whatever their Hormones or Genetics dictate them. That's the beauty of it!

    So, sorry ladies, but I'm not witholding sex just so you can find better 'marriage material'. And sorry dudes, for not using sex as an exchange currency, but hey, how about I buy YOU a drink?

    ReplyDelete
  22. If any woman wants to marry me, I will offer you twelve goats.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I think that if I wrote in to this moron telling him about my wonderful erotic experiences with a male "harem" (my lovers' words)--and my experience with telling several of my men to back off on the whole marriage thing...his head would explode.

    But I can't do that, because it would cost me my teaching job. :/ (Also, iPod's autocorrect refuses to admit that the word "lover" has a plural possessive form, and keeps trying to move the apostrophe.)

    ReplyDelete
  24. I wouldn't mind a sexless marriage! It seems to me like that would be a good way to save money and keep property and visit someone I really care about in the hospital and all that good stuff that goes along with marriage, since there are people I would like that stuff with even if we weren't fucking (or romantically involved). I could see myself doing that with my best friend in another ten years. I'd probably want to fuck other people too, though, so I probably don't count. (I'm also female and primarily interested in pussy, so I probably don't count for a number of reasons.)

    Also, funny thing about Lysistrata--at the time it was written, the whole "women withholding sex" thing was considered a huge joke. Ancient Greeks thought that women were the insatiable ones who thought primarily with their genitals, hence lots of humor in that play coming from Lysistrata trying really hard to keep the various women in her plan from running out and fucking their husbands. Funny how it's now men who supposedly think with their dicks and women who are apparently frigid, huh?

    ReplyDelete
  25. http://www.amazon.com/Too-Many-Women-Ratio-Question/dp/0803919190

    ReplyDelete
  26. "We put a price tag on sex. You might not think we ought to do that, but we do. Sex, at one level, is an exchange. … Each person gives the other person something of themselves. But it is typically a different something.”

    I find it really interesting that people are obsessed with putting this economic exchange perspective on sex, but somehow see it as separate from other social interactions. Like, I called my best friend on the phone last week and we talked for 45 minutes. Were we undergoing some kind of economic exchange?

    And does it only count as an economic exchange if we're getting different things? Like, if two friends are cuddling, and both enjoying it, is that a transaction?

    I guess, like you said, the whole notion of the transactional model for sex specifically comes from the assumption that women really don't want to be having much of that, so there must be SOME reason they do it - ah, yes, marriage! Everyone knows that!

    "Men’s rules of engagement play to their interests of having sex often, with many partners, in a more sexually permissive environment, without romance or commitment, he said."

    Sounds perfect to me. /straight female

    As for evo psych in general...here's what bothers me.

    Say I'm an evolutionary biologist, right? And I'm studying this trait, say, shell thickness in snails. And I notice that these two populations have different average shell thicknesses. Do I a) publish a paper explaining why it's evolutionarily obvious for these two populations to have different shell thickness via natural selection, or b) Do some more experiments to determine whether or not this is actually an adaptation or whether there is a developmental factor that causes each population to have different shell thickness?

    How about this: I'm an evolutionary psychologist, and I'm studying gender differences. I find that men are more likely to be sexually promiscuous than women. Do I a) publish a paper explaining why it's evolutionarily obvious for these two populations to have different levels of promiscuity via natural selection, or b) Do some more experiments to determine whether or not this is actually an adaptation or whether there is a developmental factor that causes different promiscuity levels?

    If I'm a good evolutionary biologist, I go for B*. Evolutionary psychologists usually go for A**.

    *I'm basing the shell example off of a talk I went to last year - not sure if/where the data has been published, but I can try to find it. Spoiler! It was a developmental feature, not a genetic one! A chemical produced by a predator crab species triggered thicker shell development! But logically, it would have made total sense for this to be an adaptation. So, just because you can come up with a logical explanation for why something might have happened...doesn't mean it actually happened that way.

    **The second one I made up, based on the tone of various evo psych papers I have read. If anyone thinks I am mis-characterizing evo psych as a field, please speak up - honestly, I would love to be wrong here.

    ReplyDelete
  27. @theLaplaceDemon:
    As you more or less say, A is not science.

    I am not sure how evolutionary psychology is done (although I could ask one of my friends who does it to chime in), science requires a disprovable hypothesis and an attempt to disprove that hypothesis.

    I was sorta assuming the "evolutionary psychologists" doing A were just people using "uh, because, uh, evo-psych!" as an argument who do not really know what they are talking about. Then again, I have not actually read any peer-reviewed papers in that field.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Ohmigod, I'm a sexual strikebreaker.

    ReplyDelete
  29. "I was sorta assuming the "evolutionary psychologists" doing A were just people using "uh, because, uh, evo-psych!" as an argument who do not really know what they are talking about. Then again, I have not actually read any peer-reviewed papers in that field. "

    Yeah, I mean, to be fair I haven't done any exhaustive review of the literature - the only big names I could give you off the top of my head are the famous ones, like Simon Baron-Cohen. And it's entirely possible that evo psych just gets a bad reputation from people doing crappy psychology, explaining it via natural selection, and saying "see, it's evo psych!" Meanwhile plenty of good evolutionary psychologists are minding their own business doing good research, but are getting overshadowed by the people doing methodologically flawed but sexy-to-the-media research.

    ReplyDelete
  30. OMG how I hate stupid articles like that...are these people (authors and editors) living in the present times in modern society like I am?!?

    I'm a 30-something woman with a high sex drive and no interest in marriage or babies. I have a hot and smart partner who shares my views and we are happily shacking up and having fun with our various individual careers and hobbies and shared interests. God, you would think this option would occur to more people...

    ReplyDelete
  31. I don't know a lot about the whole evo-psych field, but there are at least some people whose work doesn't constantly rationalize 1950's gender roles. The only people I know off the top of my head are Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, who did Sex at Dawn. They argue that everyone, but particularly women, are naturally inclined towards polyamory. Not sure how rigorous their research design is.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Emma - I've been meaning to look into that book - I've heard both really high praises and really harsh criticisms of their work, and one of these days I will have time to read it myself...But yeah, based on my superficial understanding of their argument, it sounds really interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hey, Holly, do you mind if I do an article about this post for NSWATM? You found it, so you get dibs, but I have some very irritated things to say here... :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. This!! "If "no" means "pay more," then "no" doesn't mean "no." And that's not just bullshit; it's dangerous bullshit." So true.
    At the beginning of our relationship as people fucking, BF was not highly respectful of my no. It wasn't that if I said "No, X, stop it!" he wouldn't stop, of course he would. It would be if I just said "no" in a conversational voice, or "stop" in a light tone, because I would've felt odd just bursting out into an intense "NO SEX RIGHT NOW." But it really creeped me out, and when I finally spoke to him, he said something that really bothered me on multiple levels.
    "Wow, I'm sorry, I didn't know that it scared you when I did that. I guess, and this is going to sound really awful, but I've never been in a situation where a girl has said no and really meant it. One of my old girlfriends used to always say no or stop like it was a joke, and if I listened to her and stopped kissing, she would get really annoyed. So I didn't really think when you said it that you meant it."
    And this really scared me because 1. ugh WHY would you be doing the playful no? It's fucked up! If you're going to play with consent, talk about it! Don't just say no because you feel like you have to. And because 2. he couldn't know whether all of his girlfriends were like that. Some of them could've been like me, who were serious in the "no" but not intense about it, where when he kept going for a bit then well I didn't really feeel like sex then, maybe my stomach was a bit upset, but he's continuing to go and I won't really mind.
    Ever since that talk he's been great about respecting my No, actually to the point where I realize I did (to a very tiny, rare extent, but still an extent) the playful no once and a while.
    But it's a really scary concept: that there are women (including me! unawares!) out there that are perpetuating the "no means try a little harder" idea, and that there are men who start believing it.
    Because if girls aren't supposed to want sex, of course she'll say no. But if they love sex, and say no, then they mean no. Frustrating.

    ReplyDelete
  35. They give economists a bad name! There are some economic principals that can be applied to relationships in interesting ways (generally ones that are more to do with co-operation and co-ordination than competition and bargaining), but this is just a mess.

    Also it completely ignores the awesome bit in sex and kink where you're *giving* to another person and how cool that is, and how wonderful it is to share these moments with someone.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Heh. PENETRATING insights. heh.

    That's seriously all the energy I am willing to put into this "economic sexual markets" bullshit. Because lemme tell you, the only thing I'm "exchanging" sex for is SEX.

    Speaking of which, I think my boyfriend is getting a raw deal... after all, I usually get multiple orgasms, and he only gets one! Looks like he is totally the losing party in our sex marketplace, of economics.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I think one of the many problems with the "analysis" that the Post article uses is that they fail to discern that all economic behavior is social but not all social behavior is economic. Economic behavior is a subset of social behavior, one of many ways in which humans interact. However, it's appealing to simplistic thinkers because economics can be quantified and measured and we humans tend to like numbering things. Love and friendship cannot be measured or quantified and sometimes that is unsatisfying "How much do you love me? Are you better friends with me or with X? You always loved my brother more..." etc.

    Same as with the substitution of test scores for education...it's a terrible mistake that does not capture the essence of an unquantifiable concept.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I see a lot of Holly's readers aren't really marriage minded individuals lol. But seriously getting married only for sex is not a recipe for a healthy marriage anyway. Any guy who wants sex but isn't getting it could get themselves in a miserable place by doing this. The only "sexual economy" that exists is one that involves prostitution otherwise sex is just a social activity.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Englishthorn -

    True, there are economists who don't see markets everywhere. They just don't shout as loudly!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Sex At Dawn, sadly, isn't much more on the level than the other evo-psychs; it drives primatology and anthropology people I know insane based on pretty much the exact same kind of sloppy logic, not bothering with facts, and gross assumptions about both primates and hunter-gatherers rather than real information, just used to justify "natural poly" rather than "natural Leave It To Beaver.

    If you want some rigorous and relatively sound evolutionary analysis, read (dated but very accessible) Why Is Sex Fun by Jared Diamond, who... actually is an evolutionary biologist and not psychologist, and has actually studied nonhuman primates. Or, (very recent and exhaustingly thorough but extremely dense and potentially inaccessible) Genial Genes, by Joan Roughgarden, again a real evolutionary biologist whose work is primarily aimed at other biologists.

    The most general conclusion both come to- with real live extensive science and assumption-testing and research and more- is that humans are neither naturally monogamous nor naturally any other mating strategy, but that multiple different ones are fit strategies for different reasons.

    ReplyDelete
  41. "Did the author of this article seriously not think for a second that maybe women's traditional interest in relationships was because not getting married used to mean a life of grinding poverty at best? I'm not sure marriage is right for me, but if it were that or wondering how long before I starve to death without a man to bring home the wooly mammoth, I'd certainly get married as soon as possible." <--This. So much this. The lucky ones would have family that would pass them around.

    I guess I'm all wrong in this guy's view as well, as I don't really intend to get married. I feel the government should step out of it anyways, other than to allow you to declare who it is you want control over hospital decisions and who gets to visit--and you have to update it every year and it's easy to update. It can be a friend, a neighbor, family or (an) SO(s) and on. Then again, I want a lot of perfect things for the perfect world.

    ReplyDelete
  42. No marriage, sex, or kids for me. A sexless, long-distance marriage would be fine. I don't really care to live with other people.

    The "no sex" part probably makes all the gender essentialist weirdos go, "ah-ha!" But the rest elicits a lot of stammering. "B-b-b-but you're a woman!! All women want babies and marriage!!"

    ReplyDelete
  43. well, true story, I have had more partners than my boyfriend has had. do I hate sex? hahaha yeah, i just hate it. i hate it so much i come on command.

    ReplyDelete
  44. The point at which the prescriptive "Humans always behave such-and-such way for such-and such reasons because evolution, damn it!" argument breaks down for me is this: Hasn't it been our ability to think, react, and adapt our behavior to suit our environment that's allowed us to have such a successful career as species?

    I suspect that if our behavior was really as rigid and thoughtless as some would claim, either we'd have died out eons ago, or the modern world would look absolutely nothing like it does.

    ReplyDelete
  45. "... as *a* species?", I mean.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Labrat -

    Jared Diamond of Guns, Germs & Steel?! I will definitely check that out! Apparently he's a professor of both geography and physiology. He's such a BAMF.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Yep, that Diamond. He's sadly moved on from that as a focus, and the book is like I said dated, but it's still MILES better than most of what's out there in being genuinely thoughtful and genuinely more based on evidence than trying to fit a pet set of sexual/gender mores.

    ReplyDelete
  48. "Apparently he's a professor of both geography and physiology. He's such a BAMF. "


    I like the way you think.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I was waiting for him to also blame gay marriage for ruining the "market"...

    ReplyDelete
  50. Aw. And I'm a bisexual monogamous cuddleslut who always fantasized about getting married and having babies.

    I don't exist either. :( *goes to have invisible sex*

    --Mac

    ReplyDelete
  51. EEE got it in a nutshell. For feminism to succeed, we (men and women) need to move past the nebulous consent issue. No more "he's hot and I want his penis inside of me, but I don't want to look like a schluuuuuuuut!", bubbling, no more "Der, well my last gf loved it when I pinned her down when she said no, so pinning down my next gf should be alright!", BS. There are way too many feminists (old sciool, yes, but still) who honestly believe that men are omniscient oppressors/manipulators, and it ruins life for the 90% of us who haven't entered a gender studies class.

    Tl;dr

    If you're a woman who likes orgasms, don't use non-consensual BDSM tricks to get off (yes, playing the coquetry to "convince" your lover to break through your defenses is a trick and leads to a stupid amount of false rape accusations if he doesn't call the next day), and guys should always pull back when a woman does anything more than whisper a "No/I can't do this."

    P.S. I know a few women who refer to themselves as Schlutts, sorry for imposing my kink-laden sex life on vanilla.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Developers! Developers! Developers!June 21, 2011 at 3:45 AM

    Economics is filled with abstractions and vastly simplified models, simply because it's not really possible to enumerate and consider the actions of every single player. These models ALWAYS leave out some detail and they will almost always fail on edge cases. Yet, they can still be useful tools, if you acknowledge their limitations.

    Ya'll might be right about modeling all romantic relations as a trade of "sex for marriage" as being too crude as to be useful. However, pointing out flaws with a market model with only these two variables doesn't necessarily invalidate the idea of a market in the area of romance.

    A market can an effecitve analogy to describe reciprocity in relationships, provided you consider enough variables. We all want something of our prospective partner. All of our prospective partners want something of us. Out of that "something" we want, there are many many different traits, some of which may even be contradictory. We place different levels of importance on these traits when evaluating someone else. All the while, the other person is doing the exact same thing.

    There's a catch: I cannot marry my clone. I'm not sure that I would want to if I could. We are not all looking for exactly the same thing and we do not all posses the same thing. However, this doesn't mean that all traits are equally valuable in this marketplace. Preference over the population makes value. In this thread, I couldn't get a date because I believe in delaying sex until marriage. In this population, my chastity has negative value. This means that I have to provide something else to get what I want.

    Now, the whole market analogy starts to fall apart after this. You can't really measure most of these traits. There are no units commitment, of happiness or of honor. There may be units of sex or chastity, but these may represent vastly different things. You can't count or calculate a damn thing as an individual! Unfortunately for us engineering types... Our normal approach is useless here.

    "This is scary rape logic. It completely negates the possibility that a woman might not want sex at all with a certain person at a certain point in her life. (It also ignores the fact that she has a life of her own, and makes it sound like her choices only exist in relation to the man's actions.) If women can't say no to sex, but can only say "pay more," then rape is reduced to the level of shoplifting. Less, even, if a man feels that he's already "paid" enough and the woman is being unreasonable.

    If "no" means "pay more," then "no" doesn't mean "no." And that's not just bullshit; it's dangerous bullshit.
    "
    You... um... just accused a story promoting chastity of defending rape? This is pretty close to a textbook description of a strawman. They say nothing even slightly resembling what you take them as saying.

    You know how to argue better than this.

    "Maybe (heterosexual and bisexual) women even love men, for their bodies and friendship and companionship as well as for their marriage "value.""
    Isn't this a good description of that their marriage value is, at least to a whole lot of people? I should certainly hope so.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Developers - They're not pro-rape. But they're pro-buying and selling people, and when you feel that you've fairly bought someone and they refuse to pay up... it's definitely a recipe for an unpleasant situation if not a dangerous one.

    ReplyDelete
  54. "A man who sought sex with a particular woman typically had to give her something of very high value in exchange — either marriage or at least a marriage proposal, he said."

    in the biblical era, having a husband meant the difference between life or death, so i can imagine in that context that marriage would have been a commodity that men give to women. i give you the gift of not starving to death! please have sex with me.

    fortunately for those of us in the first world, women are allowed to join the labor force, own property, and generally participate in society in any way we see fit. we now have economic gifts to bestow on dudes, and they us. marriage is one way to formalize that economic and romantic partnership -- key word being PARTNERSHIP.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Yeah, the Lysistrata was pretty fun actually, a bunch of women/people getting together to make the *ultimate sacrifice* towards a pretty impressive end. (And in the process, the play gets to say sex stuff again and again - fun.)

    This is like a horrible blend between a god-awful dry journal article you have to read for class and The Fountainhead - except with out the architecture and coercive sexuality. Oh wait - the almost rape-y stuff is still there.

    I know I'm not taking this as seriously as it deserves.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Developers, excellent summary of how economic modelling works, thanks. Those abstractions are dangerous things though - always helps to have a good argument (preferably with empirical data) to back them up.

    I've actually read the article now - interesting that all the experts are sociologists except for one economist of questionable expertise (http://inastrangeland.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/dr-pell-and-the-pill-of-evil/). Sometimes the line between sociologist and economist blurs, so before I make any judgements I should do some more research into the invidual academics concerned. Having said that, I'm going to be a massive snob and say that for the most part non-economists talking about economics is a risky business and should always be taken with a massive pinch of salt (mind you, that often includes listening to bona fide economists too).

    I'll stop geeking now.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Oh and what's the chance that Linda Waite and Maggie Gallaghe didn't use any data and/or didn't look into problems of endogenity and unobserved heterogeneity.

    Huh, all the decent quality studies of marriage that I've looked at have had pretty inconclusive results about marriage because of the massive endogenity problem - identifying causal effects of that marriage certificate is going to be fraught with problems because the people who get married probably already have certain characteristics which mean they do better, or whatever, anyway. It's like the debate in the UK over the Tory govt's proposed benefits for married couples (currently mothballed as far as I know).

    (OK I promise to stop geeking and throwing the jargon around now.)

    ReplyDelete
  58. Developers! Developers! Developers!June 27, 2011 at 3:10 AM

    I think the fact that people are trying to moralize this shows that they don't understand what the socialists are trying to do. It's a bit like saying that evolution is evil because the Nazis used social Darwinism to support their evil policies. Almost anything can pass the "this information/technology/idea can be used for evil" test. The real question is 'how well can this model be used to predict behavior within a population?'.

    Of course, the sensationalist mass media story that this post links to doesn't really help.

    @englishthorn
    I'm starting to wonder exactly what their claims are in this story. It's not exactly well written and of course they do not really preserve any citations Mark Regnerus can do a much better job of presenting his arguments on his own. Of course, that doesn't have the whole catchy "economy of sex!!11one" headline.

    ReplyDelete
  59. "A fundamental principle of sexual economics is that 'sexual activity by females has exchange value, whereas male sexuality does not,' Mr. Baumeister and Ms. Vohs wrote in their 2004 paper."

    So, I see a lot of reasonable analyses here backed up by human psychology, the science of sexuality, anecdotal evidence and just plain common sense. I'd like to put my two cents in as a University of Chicago Economist who has had contact with the people actually studying this stuff. So, right off the bat, I don't think I found anything, in the Washington times article under discussion, that the Chicago School of Economics would agree with.

    Economists like to talk about value. Now, notice how I said value there. We specifically DO NOT like to discuss money or market value in the (micro-economic) decisions of individuals, at least not until we have some grounding in common sense.

    Here's why: Let's imagine a situation in which men and women value sex equally in every way, but men don't really care about money. They don't value it. Well, men would spend millions of those little worthless sheets of paper to get even a little sex, not because they are desperate for sex, but because it's a better use than wiping their ass with the things.

    So, what does this prove? Well, it means that if you don't have a concept of value, as the writers of this particular article clearly don't, you might say that how much a person values something intrinsically has anything to do with the amount of money he will pay for it.

    For the record, economists will often use monetary value as a research tool. However, they will say it in the same way that people say, "there was unemployment during the great depression." It's important, but it doesn't really explain anything.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Your post was spot on about the whole buying and selling view of sex and relationships being very screwed up, but what struck me the most was this:

    "I wouldn't dump one Tim Minchin because I could get five Charlie Sheens."

    SO TRUE. I wouldn't dump one Tim Minchin for five hundred Charlie Sheens.

    ReplyDelete
  61. @LabRat: Have you actually read the book since the last time you said that? Because as I remember you were criticizing the book from press realizes.

    I am not an expert so I can't say for certain that all your criticisms are wrong, but I do know that they answer some of your criticisms of the press releases inside the book.

    ReplyDelete
  62. “When women collude to restrict men’s sexual access to women, all women tend to benefit,” he said, noting that “if women were more in charge of how their romantic relationships transpired …

    I love how he contradicts himself right here, telling us how we should be using our bodies and then telling us we should be more in control of them.

    ReplyDelete
  63. "Well, a fundamental principal of sexual reality is that cock is awesome.."
    Yes. Just yes.
    You have no idea how happy I am to have found that at least ONE other woman likes sex because it is sex! I've tried to explain this to other women, and they are ALL of the opinion that sex is something you have to do for your man once every month...or four...or ya know what? Let's make him wait half a year in between lovings...Sadness for their menfolk reigns supreme in my brain.
    Seriously though, I am so pleased to have found your blog! I feel like Dug from "Up"; "Hello, I have just met you and I love you!"

    ReplyDelete
  64. Sorry to poke this when it's so old, but shouldn't it be tagged "someone is wrong on the internet" rather than "someone is right on the internet"?

    ReplyDelete