The 'Economics Of Sex' Theory Is Completely Wrong
Based on research from psychologist Roy Baumeister and created by the Austin Institute (AI) for the Study of Family and Culture, the animation supposedly provides economic insight into the world of sex and relationships.
But despite a cutesy veneer, it's bursting with false and blatantly sexist claims, like the ideas that men want sex more, women want marriage more, and the decline of marriage rates will destroy the world.Jezebel's Lindy West already tore apart the video from a feminist point of view. Even beyond that though, the economics of the video are simply wrong.Advertisement
The real economics of sexLet's start with the absurd idea that the market for intimate relationships behaves anything like the market for, say, lumber. The video argues that excess supply of sexually active women has lowered the "price" of intercourse to detrimental levels. Rather than paying for sex with marriage like in the past, men must now only hand over a couple dates, or even just a few drinks, for some time under the sheets.
But that doesn't work. An inversely proportional supply and demand relationship only applies to markets that include the exchange of money, according to economist Marina Adshade, a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics and the author author of "Dollars and Sex.""If I buy something from you, all I have to do is give you currency, and then I can give that currency to a third party if I want. That's not the way it works in relationships," she told Business Insider.
Adshade, instead, compares dating to bartering. People decide to start relationships by identifying a unique combination of traits, like sense of humor, kindness, or a killer body, that they want in a partner. It's a careful trade, not a business transaction."That makes the market really, really inefficient. Barter economies are difficult because trying to find somebody who is selling what you want to buy and is buying what you have to sell is complicated," she said. The traditional supply and demand model also assumes all "goods" on the market are the same.Advertisement
"The only way the story works is if women are all essentially identical and if women are all offering the same product," Adshade said.Advertisement
"If the market's not clearing, it's not because there's excess supply - which is what the video is arguing. It's simply because these markets are unbelievably complicated," Adshade explained.
After making the dubious argument that dating follows the laws of supply and demand, the video makes an even more ridiculous case for how women can increase their likelihood of marriage: collusion.Collusion occurs when businesses agree, usually underhandedly or illegally, to control the market by forming a cartel. The video suggests that women should "police" each other to prevent casual sex - as it claims they used to do in the days before birth control.Advertisement
I can't even begin to fathom the implications of women shaming each other into saving sex for well-behaved, marriage-minded men. Even the video artist's interpretation of these sex police looks like Hitler in a mini-skirt. But again, the economic theory swings and misses."In the market for love and sex, there are literally millions of people. It's a perfectly competitive market. It's not possible to form a cartel. Period. Without or without enforcement," Adshade explained.Advertisement
In other words, even if one group of women tried to restrict access to casual sex, an even larger number of women likely wouldn't participate. This concept of policing also revolves around the assumption that men - and I quote from the video - "only behave as well or as poorly as the women in their lives allow." Apparently, men became brain-dead scoundrels about the same time women turned into livestock, pedaling their own meat in exchange for monogamy.It's also worth noting that Baumeister, the man behind the slut-shaming, isn't even an economist. He's a social psychologist. "The fact that he keeps saying women should collude just shows he's not an economist. Because no economist would ever say that," Adshade said.Advertisement
In short, none of the economic theory in the ironically named "Economics of Sex" video makes valid points. And we haven't even addressed the unfounded scientific and political reasoning in the video.
Bad science and questionable politics
First of all, not all women require a ring on their finger. Researchers at AI might want to sit down for this, but I know single women of all ages not interested, or at least not actively seeking, a husband. Even more shockingly, we want sex, too. The fact that women seek it less often probably has more to do with social constructions than any differences in biology.For example, Daniel Bergner's book "What Do Women Want?" details some of sexual psychologist Meredith Chivers research. In her experiments, women were much more honest about their number of sexual partners when attached to a fake polygraph. Sometimes, the numbers were even higher than male averages. For whatever reason, women tone down their sexuality for public consumption.Advertisement
Similarly, not every man is a horny ruffian avoiding commitment as this doom-filled sacrifice. In fact, men often want serious relationships sooner than women. For example, 8% more men than women report they'll commit to someone they don't love, and 20% more men than women expect to live together after a year of dating, according to Match.com's annual Singles In America study, conducted by biological anthropologist Helen Fisher. The same study also found 8% more men than women report they've experienced love at first sight.
Aside from all the wildly incorrect assumptions, AI clearly adopted a conservative agenda for the video. As Brandon Watson of the Austin Chronicle pointed out, Mark Regnerus, the man infamous for research falsely concluding that gay parents harm children, partly runs the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.These are the guys who thought comparing birth control to pesticides was a swell idea, perhaps the most cringe-worthy part of the video:Advertisement
"How did the market value of sex decline so drastically? Economists often speak of technological shocks that dramatically alter markets. Take pesticides for example," the video explains in a chipper narration, which goes on to discuss how pesticides ruin the environment before bringing the comparison back to birth control. "While the original purpose of the pill was to prevent pregnancy, the data reveals an unanticipated side effect. The pill threw the mating market into disarray."
Before the pill, women were too scared of pregnancy to enjoy themselves outside of wedlock. But as soon as oral contraception came on the scene, the video insinuates, horny females starting jumping into bed with anyone with a Y chromosome. And that's when marriage rates started to drop.Beyond the abhorrence of the comparison, only the right-wing patriarchy would trash a technological innovation that supported an age of social and political progress for women.Advertisement
This harmful video preaches a return to the golden-age of chastity, before women possessed the social and financial capital to make decisions, especially regarding sexuality, for themselves. And just as insulting, it relies on illogical economic and scientific research to make that point.And besides, wouldn't you rather live and date in a world where women don't manipulate men into marriage using sex? Let's just admit we all enjoy it and move on.
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