5 unintended consequences when world governments got involved in sex policies

Moldova babiesA woman pushes a baby stroller by electoral posters advertising the candidates of the Socialists' Party, in Chisinau, MoldovaVadim Ghirda/AP Photo

  • Historically, governments have used various methods to control people's sexuality in an attempt to boost their economies.
  • From subtle persuasion to draconian manipulation, political and business leaders continue to wield numerous measures to try to influence how people have sex.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

To many people, economics is the about the least sexy topic imaginable. However, economics and sex have a strong relationship.

While putting together my book "Sex Weird-o-Pedia," I was bewildered by the varied tactics that countries have used to control people's sexuality in an attempt to boost their economies. From subtle persuasion to draconian manipulation, political and business leaders continue to wield numerous measures to try to influence how people have sex. What became clear during my research was that laws about reproductive and sexual issues have prompted many unintended consequences.

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1. China's One-Child Policy Affected Savings and Crime Rates

1. China's One-Child Policy Affected Savings and Crime Rates

Following the implementation of its one-child policy, China's crime rates rose as its gender ratio became increasingly unbalanced. A study published by the Institute of Labor Economics found that China's "increasing maleness" may have accounted for a third of the increase in its crime rate.

China's one-child policy also influenced the country's savings rates, according to a study in the Journal of Political Economy. The anti-natalist policy influenced savings rates because families with boys saved more of their income to make their sons competitive in a dating market that statistically disadvantages them. The study estimated that about half of the increase in household savings in China was driven by parents saving more money to make their sons attractive to women.

"We found that not only did households with sons save more than households with daughters on average, but that households with sons tend to raise their savings rate if they also happen to live in a region with a more skewed gender ratio," said the study's author.

2. Economists believe Social Security affected American families' approach to family planning

2. Economists believe Social Security affected American families' approach to family planning

Social Security seems like a bland policy that has no relation to sexuality or reproduction. But Social Security has affected the way US residents approach family planning.

Read more: The millennial 'sex recession' is part of an even bigger sex drought among Americans

Before Social Security was in place, people expected their children to help take care of them in old age. But by rewarding residents the same amount of retirement payment regardless of whether or not they have any children, this incentive for having children has diminished. Economists believe that Social Security helped reduce fertility rates in the US.

3. Japan's Slow Adoption of Birth Control Pills

3. Japan's Slow Adoption of Birth Control Pills

In the US and in other countries, organizations that provide abortions also typically advocate for making contraception cheaply and easily accessible. Post-World War II Japan did not take this approach.

Read more: A quarter of straight men and women under 40 in Japan are still virgins, and the number seems to be rising

During its post-WWII occupation by US forces, Japan legalized abortion in the late 1940s before many other industrialized countries. But it took another 50 years before the country legalized birth control pills in 1999. Some of the biggest opponents to legalizing oral contraception in Japan were abortion doctors who worried that widespread use of the pill would reduce the number of abortions they perform, which could threaten their livelihoods.

"While in most other countries abortion was still illegal when the pill came on the market, in Japan abortion was legalized before oral contraceptives were invented," wrote Tiana Norgen, a scholar who has researched abortion politics in Japan. "This unusual circumstance led to the creation of groups with a vested interest in abortion, and these groups viewed the pill as a threat to their established practices."

4. Holidays That Encourage Baby Making

4. Holidays That Encourage Baby Making

There is a group of demographers and economists who believe that if birth rates don't pick in industrialized countries, there will be a catastrophe because countries with aging populations will have too few young workers to sustain themselves. In an effort to boost birth rates, countries have created holidays and events aimed at getting people to make babies. Russia has been particularly active on this front.

According to Jonathan Last, a journalist who has written about demography, one holiday Russia created was "Family Contact Day" where workers were encouraged to leave the office to go home and bang. Another holiday was "Give Birth to a Patriot Day" where women who birthed children nine months after the holiday were eligible to win prizes like TVs and SUVs.

5. Phone Sex Funding Telecom Systems

5. Phone Sex Funding Telecom Systems

In the 1980s and 1990s, phone sex companies were locked in a legal battle against US lawmakers who were trying to regulate them. Instead of risking getting fined, some phone sex firms began operating in other countries.

Legal analyst Fred Lane estimates that in 1993 the island São Tomé brought in $5.2 million worth of sex calls made by Americans being redirected to operators in São Tomé. The island's government used its share from these proceeds to revamp its telecom infrastructure.

Ross Benes is the author of "Sex Weird-o-Pedia: The Ultimate Book of Shocking, Scandalous, and Incredibly Bizarre Sex Facts." His previous book "Turned On: A Mind-Blowing Investigation into How Sex Has Shaped Our World" explored how sex indirectly influences economics, politics, and religion. You can reach him at rossbenes@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @RossBenes.

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