Sex Is Cheap? A Crash Course In “Sexual Economics”

With women beginning to outnumber men in college and the workforce, a recent Slate Magazine article examines how this growing imbalance affects relationships.

“If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on. Instead, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (which collects data well into adulthood), none of these things is occurring. Not one.”

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Comments:

  1. 1
    D

    After reading this article, I wish I’d found a man to commit in college.

    I’m 28 and so far with no partner in sight. I was recently with a 35 year old man and I thought the signs were there for a future, but after a conversation he wanted to keep things as they were: sex without commitment.

    I definitely need to find these things out in some way before sex so that I’m comfortable, and the article, for me, seemed to confirm this. There’s not a lot of working going on by the men, and that’s happened with me because I didn’t require it.

  2. 2
    B

    This article and several other books/blogs, etc. that I have recently read all esentially say that you have to require more of a man to make him value you enough for commitment.  The feminist part of me thinks that is ridiculous, but the old fashioned in me thinks on some level it has some truth.  However, until ALL young women close their legs the only thing us ladies that are trying are going to get is dumped for the easier lay.

    Requiring more has so far in my experience gotten me the men that lie to you to get you in bed (he got me a toothbrush and everything!)…which for me is harder to take than just the guy who is honest up front and says he doesn’t want a serious relationship.  Either way, rock or hard place? 

  3. 3
    sharon

    I think this article sums up the importance settling and why women are so perturbed when it’s brought as an option. I think most women are looking for their equal. Similar career goals, similar levels of attractiveness, similar interests.  This seems fair but as we all know life is not fair. Love seems less about finding the one and more about leveraging your assets. And how Evan has pointed out men aren’t so much good or bad as they either inclined to be good to you or inclined not to be. The most significant leverage women have are age and appearance your cause (a relationship) is greatly helped by being younger and/or more attractive than your mate. Thus it’s not a matter of choosing good guys or bad guys so much as choosing someone low enough on the totem pole to  sufficiently want you. Butterflies and excitement on the part of ladies probably means the man is of an equal or higher echelon. And that does not bode well in terms of long term commitment.  So we have 4 options A man that treats you poorly because he estimates his self worth as greater than yours, A man that is kind to you because he estimates his worth as lower (so help you if your looks change or you get sick), many many causal relationships with desirable but unavailable men or a life or virtual celibacy.  Ah choices.

  4. 4
    Karl R

    I previously commented on a related article involving the author. (click this link)

    To reiterate my earlier comments, his theory shows little knowledge of economics.

    Example 1:
    “If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.”

    He doesn’t seem to realize that the value women place on marriage, short cohabitation, fewer partners and long relationships may have changed over the decades. College-aged women are much more likely to want to establish a career before marriage, not seal the deal by graduation.

    Fewer college-educated women are marrying young … because fewer of them want to marry young. The value of marriage has dropped.

    Women are having premarital sex with more men because there’s less of a stigma than there used to be 20 or 30 years ago. The social cost of multiple partners has dropped.

    He even acknowledges that the cost of sex has changed due to the Pill. And condom use has become widespread in the last 20 years also.

    He’s saying sex is cheaper, but everything he’s comparing it to has changed in value over the decades. Even if he’s correct, he’s failed to provide proof.

    Example 2:
    The author uses a “frequently cited study” to support his claim that women are the sole controllers of when sex begins in a relationship. That study took place about 30 years ago.

    Example 3:
    “An oversupply of women, however, tends to lead to a more sexually permissive culture.”

    Let’s look at the cultures that aren’t sexually permissive. The rules (for example, Sharia laws) punish the women for sexual misbehavior far more heavily than they punish the men.

    If a woman can get stoned for having sex (or become the victim of an “honor” killing), she’s less likely to have sex. That’s a bit more of a compelling motive than the law of supply and demand.

    If the cost of sex is falling, why didn’t the author look at the most obvious means of comparison … how much do prostitutes cost? If men can truly get no-strings-attached sex easily, it should drive down the price of prostitutes correspondingly. While the value of the dollar changes over time, those changes are constantly monitored and quantified … unlike the value of marrying young, social stigmas and other intangibles.

    Speaking of marrying young, the author of the article is a proponent of it. Is it that surprising that he views young marriage as the standard against which the “value” of sex should be measured?

  5. 5
    Ellen

    The article is correct and the same sexual-economics conundrum exists for middle-aged women as for twenty-somethings: a man has many choices of women who won’t insist on commitment as a requisite for bedding her. This imbalance is breeding selfish, non-giving, lazy men who do not rise to the potential that they were designed to and, therefore, contribute to a weakened society. With the help of the poisonous media, we can’t hope that women, as a collective, will set higher standards (see “Cameron Diaz Loves Porn”). Promiscuity is promoted and rewarded. So… all any individual woman can do is insist on and demand more for herself, personally, and hope to inspire some surprised male, who will feel his natural inclinations kick in and will work to win the girl. On a one-at-a-time basis, discriminating women can breed better men – and it will be good for both genders.

  6. 6
    Steve

    Ellen, you are correct that women not insisting “on commitment as a requisite for bedding her” is creating selfish and lazy men.  That is definitely true of the men who are on the receiving end of the sex.
     
    However, this behavior among women is also causing damage among the men who are not the recipients of much of this sex – it definitely breeds resentment among the men who are otherwise professionally successful but for whatever reason are overlooked by women.  Many of those men end up being very cynical and distrustful of women.  A lot of those men probably would have been good husbands if they had been snatched up when they were in their 20s, but instead they saw many of their female peers sleeping around with bartenders or other types of men who don’t seem to have much going for themselves.

  7. 7
    Ana

    If you think about it, some men take more care of their cars, than they do some women. Expensive cars are hard to get and some men cannot afford to replace them. Women on the other hand can be replaced, and in a sense are cheaper to attain and replace.

  8. 8
    Ellen

    As a 62 yr old vibrant and active women, I notice exactly the same behavior in older men……some don’t even want to be friends with benefits, they just want the benefits…..and are not afraid to ask for the benefits directly…..I suppose that they think we should feel lucky that they even ask!  Why should they value me if I don’t value me.

  9. 9
    Diana

    Evan, very interesting. I read this article in our local paper a few days back and wondered whether you’d seen it. I think I read too much of this stuff sometimes. I showed it to my 21 year-old daughter, and it just confirmed what we already knew and believed. If you devalue yourself, guess what?
     
    To Ellen #5, I agree wholeheartedly.

  10. 10
    Cheryl

    sigh.

    Oh, Ellen. As a 41 year old woman, your last comment is depressing. :(

  11. 11
    Jadafisk

    Sharon: That’s what I gather from all of this “just so” knowledge, which… takes the luster off of marriage for women who don’t feel a biological imperative…. they’re supposed to intentionally select someone less attractive than themselves to sleep with and less intelligent than them to talk to… so they can do both of those things with him for the rest of his (and probably only his, since he’s significantly older) life? Also, it may not work as stated, because opinions vary widely. If the woman thinks he’s less attractive/appealing than her/the men she used to date, and he thinks he’s about equally appealing (a belief bolstered by her acceptance of his overtures) or even more so, there’s no leverage to be had, and she “loses” all around.

    Karl: Additionally, a lot of those marriages were precipitated by the unavailability of birth control. If a young woman is forced to choose between single motherhood in a time where career options for women were even more limited and single mothers and their children were seriously stigmatized, giving the baby up for adoption and never seeing it again, or becoming a young bride to whatever man a 17-23 year old decides to choose as a boyfriend, she picked the latter. If fewer women are forced to make that choice by unplanned pregnancy, that shouldn’t be decried.

    Steve: But doesn’t it prove that women are less concerned about money/power than is commonly believed, and isn’t that a good thing? Also, were these men interested in becoming husbands in their 20s? I know young men who can’t get casual sex to save their lives, but they definitely don’t want to marry… they want to stay single to leave themselves open to the opportunity of one day being able to successfully have casual sex with a variety of women before they marry one day, when they’ve gotten their fill/what they believe to be “their fair share” of it. Also, the men that you’re talking about typically spend their 20s going to school full-time and career building, moving from place to place, doing internships, putting in crazy hours to build a foundation for later success - they’re in no position to set up families during that time, in addition to having little desire to do so. Some of them even use that as a reason - they say that med/law/b-school takes up too much time to maintain a non-marital relationship, so they hang a nicely engraved “FWBs only need apply” sign out.

  12. 12
    Ruby

    Karl R #4
     
    Thanks for your intelligent critique. I did think it odd that the author is talking about 20-21-year-olds being so ready for marriage, but it makes sense if he’s a strong proponent of early marriage. Ironically, we’re always being told that twenty-something women are so highly valued by men, but this article is telling us that even they cannot get men to commit. As Karl R stated, I think that many of these very young women are delaying marriage and focusing on their careers.
     
    I’m thoroughly sick of reactionary “studies” like this with their skewed and biased “science”. Plus, I was even more disgusted when I read the comments after the Salon article by several men that were very rancorous and sexist. Not the kind of men most of us would want to marry, am I right?

  13. 13
    C.

    This article is not very scientific at all and is just another piece trying to scare smart young women. Like we don’t have enough to worry about, now apparently we all sluts with no self worth. Baloney. Despite (supposed) higher rates of promiscuity, college educated women are still more likely to get married vs. non-college educated women. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/10/06/Pew.reversal.college.marriage.gap/index.html
     
    So so what if you didn’t have a committed boyfriend at 21?

  14. 14
    KAREN C

    Good Evening Everyone: 

    I don’t normally respond to Evan’s Blogs.   However, this is most fascinating!    I am a 59 year old woman – still vital, good looking and very broad minded.   I am now encountering men of my age who have had relationships with  young woman in their 20′s/30′s and have fathered babies!   These young women are viewing the older men as cash cows!!

    Now these lovely gentlemen have to care and support the children until the babies reach 18 years old.  For some reason, they think that the older woman will gladly become surrogate grandmothers for these babies they have.   Yikes, I am so surprised when this information comes up in conversation as we are dinning at a lovely restaurant  (of course, they never mention it online).    Needless to say – that ends the relationship between my lovely date and myself.

    What in the world is going on?   This is mind boggling!!!

    PS:  EVAN!  STILL CONTINUING TO VOTE FOR YOUR EVERY DAY!  CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU AND YOUR WIFE ON YOUR NEW BABY GIRL!!   I  WISH YOU MANY MORE BABIES IN THE FUTURE!!   (:

  15. 15
    starthrower68

    This article is yet another sign that civilization is going to hell in a handcart. 

  16. 16
    Steve

    Jadafisk: many women today probably don’t place much emphasis on a man’s money/power when they are dating around, but I do think this is something women want when they are looking to settle down.  The problem is that some women play this dating game for too long only to find that it isn’t quite as easy as they thought it would be to snatch a good marriage prospect.
     
    Whenever I see an otherwise educated and professionally successful woman dating a guy who seems like a total loser, I question what is wrong with her for being with that guy.
     
    I think you are incorrect about the men in medical, law, and b-schools looking for lots of casual sex.  I know lots of those types of guys who just wanted a girlfriend, not a FWB.  But I can tell you that the guys who aren’t having the casual sex sure as hell don’t want to settle down with a woman who had a lot of it.

  17. 17
    Jadafisk

    I said “some”, there. My generalized statement was/is that the majority of highly educated (post undergrad) and career-oriented men tend to postpone marriage for practical reasons. Do you believe the guys you know would have married someone if they had the opportunity, or would they have had an exclusive girlfriend for a protracted amount of time in a relationship that probably wouldn’t have ended in a marriage? (which is part of what the article is talking about)

    *If it doesn’t, she’s thirty-something and unmarried all the same, even though she made the “right” choice to be in a long term relationship for years, because the relationship was ultimately “unsuccessful.” How do those guys percieve those women, or do they just lump them in with the ones whose actions they resent because they’re in the same age range?

  18. 18
    Annie

    @ 6

    I’ve noticed that too. Some very angry and bitter men who get passed up by women when they are young, while the women go for different kinds of men.

    The problem with this however, is that these men seem to be under the same entitlement complex that so many of the players have. Why are they upset? Do they think they are entitled to these women?  Why are they blaming or getting angry at the women? It is after all the womens choice , nothing surely to get angry over.

    I really hate articles like these. I’ve seen women on other sites, argue and say that its all the ‘sluts’ out there, that stop them from getting boyfriends. It seems women are really looking to shame other women into submission.

    If all you really have to “offer” a man is sex, then yeah, they will turn to some-one else that offers it more quickly and easily. But I am not fooled. There are plenty of men that want to be with a woman for more reasons than just that.  There just has to be more to you, as a woman than your sexual enticement.

    This will either screw up society, or if we push through these shallow entitlement times, it will make us all try harder and become better people. We’ll see.

  19. 19
    JerseyGirl

    You know what I got from this article? Not that women are failing, despite the amount of less commitment minded men, but that men sadly are failing. Men are drones to what “feels good short term”, they are drones to pornography, they can’t even accomplish anything for themselves in their own lives as far as their careers. Men aren’t just commiting to women less, they are committing to themselves less. They are lazy and self indulgent all around in their own lives. And I’ve learned when someone lacks the abliity to committ to anything, to be lazy and self induglent, they don’t even respect or like themselves. So what are we really saying here? That there seems to be an increase of men that really don’t have much pride and respect for themselves so they certainly aren’t going to have it for women.
    That is if any of this is really true or just based on personal opinion and “bits” of science here and there.

  20. 20
    BloggyDaddy

    This article is interesting, but I wonder how this would apply to the older range brackets as well.  I just turned 40, was divorced two years ago, and just recently started dating again so my own experiences are probably not long enough to have an informed opinion.
    I’m sure that women in the age range I am interested in dating (mid-thirties to mid-forties) have many different factors than the young women that contribute to their attitudes about sex and relationships.  Most have been through several relationships at this point and may have been married or had children.  Careers are probably well established.
    It would be interesting to see similar studies or findings with that criteria in mind.

  21. 21
    MilkyMae

    I’ve run into a few angry men and others who seem beaten down buy the relationship process. I recently dated man who I would describe as decent. A few good dates together but no intimacy yet. However, after being tied down with work and a night class I was taking, I was unable to date for about two weeks. He responded by saying, “Let me know when you are free.” That basically spells how relationships unfold for me.  Why doesn’t he try to find out when I’m free? Needless to say, that was the end of that. Men are no trying to win women over anymore. When you are seeking a committed relationship, men become mutual daters. I know this attitude is a little entitled but I wish men would try harder.

  22. 22
    Karl R

    MilkyMae asked: (#21)
    “I was unable to date for about two weeks. He responded by saying, ‘Let me know when you are free.’ [...] Why doesn’t he try to find out when I’m free?”

    It sounds like he tried to find out when you were free for two weeks. After that, he assumed you weren’t interested. If you had been interested, you would have either been making time for him, or you would have been telling him every bit of free time you had.

    Some women will tell you that they’re not interested. Other women won’t tell you … they’ll just make excuses and never accept a date. (Men do similar things.) So if you went two weeks without accepting a date, why would a man assume that you’re still interested. You weren’t acting like a woman who was interested.

    In Evan’s mirroring advice, he says that it’s a man’s job to ask you out, and it’s your job to accept if you’re interested in him. Notice how those two are associated. And since you stopped accepting his dates, he stopped asking you out. That man was properly mirroring. You weren’t.

  23. 23
    Jadafisk

    JerseyGirl, despite the hemming and hawing, most men in this much-discussed and focused-on subset of the population (college-educated, white-collar men) are going to marry, because they want children, and the women that they want to mother their children largely refuse to intentionally have an out of wedlock pregnancy. In addition to that, they are women who have regular access to and are diligent with/willing to employ the most effective birth control measures. For most men, adoption as a single male isn’t a choice that they’d want to exercise or is readily available to them (admittedly due to gender bias and/or socialization), so it kind of works like a cartel system, where for them, the “price” of fatherhood is marriage, and it’s really a matter of “when” more than “if.”

  24. 24
    C.

    Steve says,“I can tell you that the guys who aren’t having the casual sex sure as hell don’t want to settle down with a woman who had a lot of it.”
    Well why not? Who cares if a person has more sex than another person? There are so many differences between people. Geez, Americans have such rigid views. I bet if any Europeans read this article and comments they’d be amused at the neurosis we have regarding sex. Its totally natural to experiment in college..plus, sex is a great way to relieve school-imposed stress. And if you weren’t “getting any” then you were probably busy doing other things that benefit your future… so whats there to be bitter about?
    I agree with Annie, men who resent women who have more sexual experience are no better than the non-committal man-boys. The secret is to date the guys with a healthy mindset about women/sex AND are mature enough to commit.
    @17, Jada, I totally agree. I actually DID have a college boyfriend that lasted a couple years after graduation, and we broke up to persue the different life tracks we found ourselves on.
    Now I am 30 and unmarried, and I don’t blame ‘sluts’ for it as other women seem to, that’s just silly.

  25. 25
    Michael17

    Steve #6, you know already that unless a guy has “game”, he won’t be able to attract women no matter what else he has going for him financially. (Well pretty much.) A young woman is a lot more likely to fall for a charismatic slacker who lives in Mom’s basement than she is for some corporate drone with a nice-paying job.
     
    Just as a woman who is “below average” in looks hardly ever gets asked out for a date, even though she might turn out to be the most loyal, giving, and *drama-free* woman you could ever hope to meet. (Isn’t that what we guys say we want? A woman who doesn’t bring drama? And yet we often fall for troubled young beauty.)
     
    My point is that life is not fair, dating sucks and “makes no sense” sometimes, and c’est la vie.

  26. 26
    Michael17

    By “game” I mean charisma perhaps with some looks thrown in.

  27. 27
    E.

    I am a 31-year-old woman, and I have always found the men I date to be respectful of my relatively conservative sexuality with one exception. I waited until I was 21 to have sex (because I didn’t want to have sex until I could handle a possible accidental pregnancy) and I have only had sex with men who I dated seriously. Men have in general treated me respectfully and most of them were up front about being interested in marriage as a long term goal, and maintained that interest. We always broke up for various incompatibility reasons.
    I live in New York City, and I’m always hearing that it’s hard to find a respectful guy, that guys just want to have sex without commitment, that men don’t want to get married, and I believe that it’s a common experience, but I just haven’t experienced that. (I’ve been hit on at bars, but I don’t count that.) I think maybe I give off some particular vibe, or I’m just very up front that I’m not interested in casual sex, and that I do want to eventually get married and have children?

  28. 28
    Lance

    Sex is cheap for both men and women and that’s a good thing. It makes it very easy to identify people who only want sex and people that are actually interested in a relationship. Dumbass guys who don’t know what they’re doing will say anything to get laid, and that includes lying about being in love. I imagine there are still dudes who get into marriages to get laid even though they don’t truly love and understand their partner. It’s ridiculous to put sex on pedestal when so much is at stake. Many a marriage collapses because of the sex thing.
    If sex were completely free, men and women would be able to spend the extra time and energy in self-awareness and self-improvement and really take the time to identify truly compatible partners. Give it away freely and it becomes a non-issue. Just be safe and use condoms!!

  29. 29
    InsertPseudonymHere

    @Lance
    Sex is an important bonding activity between two people who love one another.  I think engaging in it with someone you care about brings you closer in a way that other activities do not. If it becomes just another pleasurable activity, then it loses that power and becomes no more important to the relationship than enjoying  good movie together.
    Sex has emotions tied up in it. Casual sex is only truly casual for the few psychologically damaged individuals who are unable to meaningfully bond. For others casual sex becomes a training ground for learning to suppress the emotional bonding generate by this most intimate of activities. Either way, I think the individual who engages in this frequently will find it much more difficult to experience true intimacy with their long term partner. People heal.  The emotional value of sex is something that could be recovered in time, slower for some and faster for others but for some maybe never.
    Be safe physically, but take care of your emotional and spiritual safety too.
     
     

  30. 30
    starthrower68

    @Lance 28,

    Wow, I agree with you for once.  Sex certainly is cheap.  Or perhaps cheapened.

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