Sexual Economics Essay


A heterosexual community can be analyzed as a market place in which work forces seek to get sex from adult females by offering other resources in exchange. Societies will therefore define gender functions as if adult females are Sellerss and work forces purchasers of sex. Societies will indue female gender. but non male gender. with value ( as in virginity. fidelity. celibacy ) . The sexual activities of different twosomes are slackly interrelated by a market place. alternatively of being to the full separate or private. and each couple’s determinations may be influenced by market conditions. Economic rules suggest that the monetary value of sex will depend on supply and demand. competition among Sellerss. fluctuations in merchandise. collusion among Sellerss. and other factors. Research findings show gender dissymmetries ( reflecting the complementary economic functions ) in harlotry. wooing. unfaithfulness and divorce. female competition. the sexual revolution and altering norms. unequal position between spouses. cultural suppression of female gender. opprobrious relationships. colza. and sexual attitudes.

Sexual activity is frequently regarded as among the most private of activities. negotiated by two persons on the footing of their ain single desires and values. Ideal interventions describe the two persons as potentially equal and interchangeable. In this manuscript. we place sexual dialogues in the context of a cultural system in which work forces and adult females play different functions resembling purchaser and marketer — in a market place that is inescapably affected by the exchanges between other purchasers and Sellerss. In recent decennaries. two chief theoretical attacks have dominated the field of gender. One of these emphasizes biological determiners. particularly as shaped by evolutionary force per unit areas. The other emphasizes societal building. particularly as shaped by political forces. Both have proposed to explicate differences between work forces and adult females. The evolutionary attack stresses the different generative schemes of work forces and adult females and the difference as to what form of sexual response would hold led to the highest quality and figure of successful progeny. The societal constructionist attack. by and large based on feminist theory. has emphasized male subjection of adult females and how adult females respond to their laden place in society.

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Therefore. the subjects of biological science and political relations have been most outstanding in steering how psychologists think about sex. This article turns to a different subject. viz. economic sciences. in order to clarify a theory of sexual interactions. An economic attack to human behaviour was defined by ( subsequent ) Nobel laureate Gary Becker ( 1976 ) as holding four chief premises. First. the behaviour of persons is interconnected in market systems in which single picks are shaped by costs and benefits in the context of stable penchants. Second. scarce but desirable resources are allocated by monetary value displacements and other market influences.

Third. Sellerss of goods or services compete with each other ( as purchasers besides sometimes do. but non as much ) . Fourth. people seek to maximise their results. Although ab initio economic experts focused on stuff goods and stuff demands. many have begun to look at immaterial goods ( such as services ) and nonmonetary media of exchange ( such as clip or emotion ) . In following such an attack. our theory will hence be chiefly cultural in the sense that it looks at how single behaviour is shaped by the market and other facets of the corporate web. but merely as economic exchange is based on what nature has shaped people to desire and necessitate. natural motives and inclinations will supply a foundation for the sexual economic system.

Although using economic rules to sex may look novel. psychological science has invoked economic theories in other contexts. Social exchange theory has been used to analyse a wide scope of societal interactions ( e. g. . Blau. 1964 ; Homans. 1950. 1961 ; Sprecher. 1998 ) . based on the premise that each party in an interaction gives something and gets something in return. Analyzing the costs and benefits of assorted interpersonal behaviour furnishes a utile footing for doing anticipations about how people will believe. experience. and take to move.

In our position. old efforts to use societal exchange theory to sex hold neglected one important facet. which will be featured in this manuscript. Specifically. sex is a female resource. Put another manner. cultural systems will be given to indue female gender with value. whereas male gender is treated by society as comparatively worthless. As a consequence. sexual intercourse by itself is non an equal exchange. but instead an case of the adult male acquiring something of value from the adult female.

To do the exchange equal. the adult male must give her something else in return. and his ain sexual engagement does non hold adequate value to represent this. How much he gives her in footings of asexual resources will depend on the monetary value ( so to talk ) set by the local civilization and on her comparative standing on valued sexual features ( see Table 1 ) . When sex happens. hence. it will frequently be in a context in which the adult male gives the adult female material gifts. consideration and regard. committedness to a relationship as desired by her. or other goods.

There are two chief parts to this manuscript. The first will dwell of an drawn-out expounding of the theory. We shall try to develop and lucubrate the economic analysis of sex from an exchange position every bit exhaustively as we can. even widening to facets and anticipations that are non to the full testable against extant informations. The 2nd subdivision will so reexamine published empirical findings about many forms of sexual behaviour. as a manner of measuring the exchange theory’s capacity to account for what is known.

Social Exchange and Female Resource Theory

Social exchange theory analyzes interactions between two parties by analyzing the costs and benefits to each. Interactions are merely likely to go on if each party additions more than it loses. Crucially. the exchange analysis assumes that in each societal interaction each individual gives something to the other and additions something from the other ( hence the exchange ) . The value of what is gained and exchanged depends in portion on the penchants of the persons and in portion on the broader market. By using economic rules to societal wagess. one can do anticipations about how societal behaviour will continue. How much person pays for a banana. for illustration. depends partially on that person’s hungriness and liking for bananas. but besides partially on the switching balance between the local community’s supply of bananas and its demand for them.

The cardinal point to our societal exchange analysis of sex is that sex is basically a female resource. When a adult male and a adult female have sex. hence. the adult female is giving something of value to the adult male. In that sense. the interaction is nonreversible — unless the adult male gives the adult female something else of comparable value.

Although the societal exchange analysis will raise a societal system to explicate sex and is hence basically a cultural theory. ironically its most celebrated advocator came from evolutionary theory ( although Cott. 1977. developed a similar line of analysis in a feminist historical context ) . Symons ( 1979 ) observed that “Everywhere sex is understood to be something females have that males want” ( p. 253 ) . By “everywhere” he meant in all civilizations and historical epoch. although to be certain he merely presented observations from a smattering of these. Indeed. he offered comparatively small in the manner of empirical grounds for his theory. a lack that the present article seeks to rectify ( aided by the significant sum of empirical informations on sex that have been produced in the decennaries since Symons’ book was published ) . Symons besides did non happen it utile to see how economic theory might lucubrate his basic observation. However. his work deserves acknowledgment for holding put forth the observation that sex is basically something that adult females provide and work forces desire.

Although non many others have explicitly discussed sex as a female resource. we believe that that position is inexplicit. though frequently unexpressed. in many Hagiographas. For illustration. James Q. Wilson ( 2001 ) has late published a widely influential sociological analysis of the diminution of matrimony in Western civilizations. in the class of which he found it necessary to raise unsupported premises such as “If the civilization offers sexual entree and does non necessitate in exchange personal committedness. a batch of work forces will take the sex every time” ( p. 15 ; although no beginnings or grounds were cited to endorse up this averment ) .

Subsequently he speculated that if the authorities wanted to do matrimonies more lasting. the most effectual policy intercession would be to necessitate that male parents retain detention of kids after divorce. because this would cut down the men’s ability to pull new sex spouses — the inexplicit premise being that divorces are caused because hubbies but non married womans leave their partners in order to derive entree to new. more exciting sex spouses. In consequence. this policy would cut down what the divorcing hubby could offer another adult female in exchange for sex. Therefore. once more. the position of sex as a female resource was inexplicit in his logical thinking. but he did non hold any scholarly footing for measuring that position. Our hope is that an unfastened statement and assessment of the female resource theory of sexual economic system can enable such analyses to hold a strong. expressed footing in research findings. including blunt acknowledgment of its restrictions — and we think that would be preferred to trusting on feelings and stereotypes. as many authors presently must.

Sexual activity as Female Resource

A consideration of the cultural economic system of sex goes beyond the simple acknowledgment that work forces want sex from adult females. Insofar as that is by and large true. the societal web will acknowledge it and form the behaviour of persons and twosomes on that footing. Treating sex as a female resource means that each civilization ( we define civilization as an informationbased societal system ) will indue female gender with value. unlike male gender. Women will have other valued goods in return for their sexual favours. Male gender. in contrast. can non be exchanged for other goods. Put another manner. adult females become the providers of sex. whereas work forces constitute the demand for it and play the function of buyers and consumers. Even though in one sense a adult male and a adult female who are holding sexual intercourse are both making similar things. socially they are making rather different things.

Therefore. the first anticipation based on the societal exchange theory of sex is that interpersonal procedures associated with sexual behaviour will uncover a cardinal difference in gender functions. Work force will offer adult females other resources in exchange for sex. but adult females will non give work forces resources for sex ( except possibly in extremely unusual fortunes ) . In any event. the bottom line is that sexual activity by females has exchange value. whereas male gender does non. Female virginity. celibacy. fidelity. virtuous repute. and similar indexs will hold positive values that will be largely absent in the male ( see Table 1 ) . Put another manner. it will count more to the formation and continuance of a relationship whether the adult female is a virgin than whether the adult male is ; whether the adult female engages in sex with another spouse than whether the adult male does ; and so forth.

Why a Female Resource?

Why would sex be a female resource? Symons’s ( 1979 ) original reply focused on generative schemes shaped by development as the ultimate cause. In his history. the minimum male investing in parentage is about nothing. whereas for a adult female it is significant. Therefore. he proposed. sex for a adult male is all benefit with small or no cost. whereas for a adult female the possible cost ( possible gestation. with hurting and perchance decease go toing childbearing ) is significant even if the pleasance is rather high. The hazard of high cost will be an inducement for the adult female to keep back. and so the adult male must offer her some benefits to countervail this. However. Symons besides acknowledged ( p. 261 ) that human existences do non needfully care about these ultimate causes. and so the immediate psychological factors that lead people to handle sex as a medium of exchange require farther account.

A slightly different account for why sex is a female resource can be deduced from motivational differences. Social exchange theory has featured the “principle of least interest” ( Waller & A ; Hill. 1951 ) . Harmonizing to that rule. a party additions power by virtuousness of desiring a connexion less than the other wants it. For illustration. Waller and Hill proposed that the individual who is less in love has more power to form and act upon the relationship. because the 1 who is more in love will be more willing to do via medias and offer other incentives in order to maintain the relationship traveling. If work forces want sex more than adult females. hence. work forces would hold to offer other benefits to carry adult females to hold sex. even if adult females desire and enjoy sex excessively.

Is it plausible that work forces desire sex more than adult females? A literature reappraisal late examined the inquiry of gender differences in sex thrust by comparing work forces and adult females on behavioural indices of sex thrust ( Baumeister. Catanese. & A ; Vohs. 2001 ) . On every step. work forces were found to expose greater sexual motive than adult females. Specifically. work forces think about sex more frequently. hold more frequent phantasies. are more often aroused. want sex more frequently ( both early and tardily in relationships. and outside of relationships ) . want a higher figure of sex spouses. masturbate more often. are less willing to predate sex and are less successful at celibacy ( even when celibacy is supported by personal spiritual committednesss ) . bask a greater assortment of sexual patterns. take more hazards and use more resources to obtain sex. originate more end directed behaviour to acquire sex. decline sex less frequently. get down sexual activity Oklahoman after pubescence. hold more permissive and positive attitudes toward most sexual behaviours. are less prone to describe a deficiency of sexual desire. and rate their sex thrusts as stronger than adult females. No findings indicated that adult females had a stronger sex thrust than work forces on any step.

Although surely there are some adult females with high sex thrusts and some work forces with comparatively low 1s. these are exclusions. and moreover these exceeding types do non look to organize mismatched twosomes really frequently. Byers and Lewis ( 1988 ) found that half the twosomes in their big sample disagreed about sex at least one time a month. and without exclusion all of the dissensions involved the adult male desiring sexual activity while the adult female did non. Likewise. a big sample of twosomes studied by McCabe ( 1987 ) found that the class of partnered persons who wanted sex but were non holding it ( “reluctant virgins” ) consisted about wholly of work forces. Therefore. the sexual dialogues of twosomes appear to focus on around the men’s attempts to bring on the adult females to hold sex. and non the contrary.

The gender difference in sex thrust applies both to new and established relationships. Therefore the rule of least involvement might foretell that work forces would go on to give resources for sex throughout the relationship. Within established relationships. nevertheless. the regulations of exchange may be blurred by several factors. In modern matrimony. for illustration. resources are by and large jointly owned by both twosomes. and so the adult female already technically has claim to all her husband’s resources. This limits what more he can offer her. thereby taking the footing for exchange or dialogue. Possibly her function is merely to give him plenty sex to prolong the matrimony. The exchange may besides be concealed or complicated by other facets of long-run matrimony. such as worsening sex entreaty with aging. and the decreased freedom of both partners to seek other spouses and thereby guarantee that they get full market value.

A last position on why sex is a female resource would raise the economic subjection of adult females in society. In hunter-gatherer and subsistence agriculture societies. work forces and adult females already had separate functions and domains of activity. both of which made critical parts to survival. The development of a broader domain of economic and political activity occurred chiefly from the male domain. nevertheless. and so as wealth and power were created in society. they were created by and owned by work forces. go forthing adult females at a disadvantage ( see Wood & A ; Eagly. 2002 ) . Sexual activity was one of the few resources adult females had with which to barter for entree to these new. societal resources ( and the material resources that frequently depended on the societal resources ) . The societal exchange environing sex may hence be particularly associated with civilizations and periods in which adult females lack avenues other than being a provider of sex for obtaining stuff and societal resources.

The Local Sexual Marketplace

Most theories of sex have acknowledged that local norms exist to steer behaviour. and even that people are funny to larn about the sex Acts of the Apostless of others as a manner of larning what those norms are. The exchange theory endows those norms with much greater power and importance. nevertheless. One important characteristic of the societal exchange analysis is that all the sexual activities within a community are slackly interconnected as portion of a sexual market place. Sexual activity is hence non wholly a private affair between two accepting grownups. Rather. sex becomes portion of an economic system. merely as the sale of a house is non strictly a dealing between two parties but is tied in to the local economic system and lodging market. Stated this manner. our analysis is compatible with recent dynamical systems attacks to gender differences in mate choice.

A comprehensive paper stressing emergent societal norms during mate choice ( Kenrick. Li. & A ; Butner. 2003 ) noted that male and female mate choice does non happen in a vacuity but instead that work forces and adult females act upon each other’s sexual picks. This reciprocal-influences attack is similar to our position. in which the local cultural market place influences the behaviour of persons. which in bend alterations local norms and outlooks. which rhythm about once more to act upon individuals’ behaviour. Hence in our theoretical account. the local civilization and the persons therein impact one another in a recursive manner.

The societal exchange analysis emphasizes that sex is a female resource. so that work forces must offer adult females other resources in exchange for it. But how much? The monetary value of sex ( so to talk ) may change widely. In order to get down a sexual relationship with a peculiar adult female. a adult male may hold to offer her a fancy dinner. or a long series of regards. or a month of respectful attending. or a lifetime promise to portion all his wealth and net incomes with her entirely. This monetary value is negotiated between the two persons in the context of the monetary values that other. similar twosomes set.

Sexual norms therefore constitute a sort of local traveling rate as to the appropriate monetary value for sex. Across civilizations and across different historical periods. the traveling rate may change widely. Within a given community. nevertheless. it likely varies much less. Market forces will be given to stabilise this rate within a community ( but non needfully across communities ) . To exemplify. say a peculiar adult female demands excessively high a monetary value for sex. such as if she refuses to hold sex until the adult male has promised to get married her and has given her an engagement ring. Her suer may abandon her and turn his attending to another adult female – but merely if other adult females in the community will offer sex at a significantly lower monetary value. If all the adult female in her community demand an engagement ring before giving sex. nevertheless. the adult male will be more likely to hold.

A related anticipation is that a low monetary value of sex favours work forces. whereas a high monetary value favours adult females. Therefore work forces will be given to back up enterprises that lower the monetary value of sex. whereas adult females will by and large seek to back up a higher monetary value. Political orientations of “free love” ( that is. sex unaccompanied by any other duties or exchanges ) will appeal to work forces more than adult females.

The monetary value of sex is non restricted to money. of class. Our wide conceptualisation of resources ( as money. material gifts. regard. love. clip. fondness. or committedness ) is consistent with statements that adult females do non choose their sex spouses on the footing of material goods entirely. A recent analysis ( Miller. Putcha. & A ; Pederson. 2002 ) noted that during much of humans’ evolutionary history. people lived in little groups. Typically. a group of work forces brought back meat for the group and all the meat was shared. Miller et Al. argued that this agreement obscured single hunting ability. and hence adult females could non easy utilize gifts of material resources as a mark of long-run mate potency. With a broader conceptualisation of resources. nevertheless. it would still be possible for a adult female to observe the desirableness of single work forces within her community because she could see how much attending. fondness. or clip each gave to her.

In short. we may see a local sexual market place as a loose community in which work forces and adult females act as single agents seeking to happen an advantageous trade. Men will move like purchasers who want to acquire good sex or plentifulness of sex without passing excessively much ( in footings of clip. attempt. money. or committedness ) . Women will move like Sellerss who want to acquire a high monetary value for their sexual favours. Each twosome may negociate its ain monetary value. but whether this monetary value is a better trade for the adult male or for the adult female depends on how it compares to the traveling rate within their community.

Because much sexual activity is conducted in secret. there is likely to be considerable ambiguity about what the existent norms are. Another anticipation is hence that work forces and adult females will seek to convey different feelings. Men would be probably to seek to make the feeling that many twosomes are holding sex at a low monetary value. Womans are more likely to stress that sex is unusual outside of serious. committed relationships. Male conversation may have and overstate sexual activity. whereas female conversation should hide and minimize sex.

Supply and Demand

The Torahs of supply and demand can be substantiated in all kinds of market places. and there is no ground that sex should be an exclusion. With sex. the female resource hypothesis depicts that adult females constitute the supply and work forces constitute the demand. Forms of sexual activity should alter drastically with the balance between supply and demand. such as the sex ratio. When the pool of eligible adult females ( that is. immature. unattached female grownups ) is much larger than the pool of eligible work forces. supply can be said to transcend demand.

The monetary value will therefore bead. which means that work forces will be able to obtain sex without giving or assuring much in return. In contrast. a deficit of eligible adult females relative to work forces means that demand outstrips supply. and so the monetary value is likely to be high. Therefore. contrary to any simple position that power in the market place depends on holding a bulk. the monetary value of sex will be given to prefer the minority gender. More exactly. work forces will give adult females more resources for sex when work forces outnumber adult females than when adult females outnumber work forces.

Another common consequence of deficits of coveted goods is that low-priced replacements become available. Prostitution and erotica may be regarded as low-cost replacements for the preferable option of holding sexual dealingss with a particular. coveted spouse ( e. g. . Cott. 1977 ) . The economic sciences of the sexual market place would propose that such low-priced options will be targeted for work forces and to changing grades will be welcomed by work forces. In contrast. adult females should by and large oppose them as if they represent a menace to adult females by and large — which they do. in an of import sense.

Put another manner. why should a adult female attention whether work forces in her community purchase adult stuffs and masturbate? But if erotica satisfies some of the male demand for sex. so it may cut down the entire demand for her ain sexual favours. and as a consequence the monetary value she can obtain will be lower. Assuming that most work forces would prefer to hold sex with fond female spouses ( as opposed to cocottes or by masturbating while watching erotica ) . the adult females in a community would potentially hold a monopoly if they could band together to cut down competition among themselves.

A rational economic scheme that many monopolies or trusts have pursued is to seek to increase the monetary value of their assets by unnaturally curtailing the supply. With sex. this would imply holding the adult females put force per unit area on each other to exert sexual restraint and keep out for a high monetary value ( such as a committedness to matrimony ) before prosecuting in sex. Economic history suggests that such attempts. as in the instance of OPEC ( Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ) are merely intermittently successful and may frequently be undermined as persons seek to underbid each other. Still. monopolies are sometimes sufficiently successful that most developed states have found it necessary to ordain Torahs against them. It would therefore non be surprising that economic opportunism would on occasion drive adult females to work together to keep the handiness of sex.