Sunday, July 27, 2014

Feminists versus Economics

Earlier this year, The Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture uploaded to YouTube a video entitled "The Economics of Sex."

Briefly, the video begins by pointing out that marriage rates in the U.S. have hit an historic low, while annual revenue of the online dating industry is at an all-time high.  To explain why fewer couples are getting married, and later than ever before, the video begins by explaining that men and women have different motivations for engaging in coitus.  The higher sex drive among males means that the woman decides when copulation will occur: i.e., whenever she wants it.  Women have something of value that men want, badly.  Birth controls pills have profoundly altered the mating market by drastically lowering the price of sex.  This resulted in a split mating market: one dominated by men, where people are looking for sex;  and the other, dominated by women, where people are looking for marriage. The video continues:
...By nearly every measure, young men are failing to adapt to contemporary life.  When attractive women will still go to bed with you, life for young men, even those who are floundering, just ain't so bad.  In reality, men tend to behave as well or as poorly as the women in their lives permit.  Economists say that collusion, women working together, would be the most rational way for women to regulate the market value of sex.  But there is little evidence of this happening today.  At least not yet.  If women were squarely in charge of how their relationships transpired, and demanded a higher market price for the exchange of sex...we'd be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, greater male investment, longer relationships, fewer premarital partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.  For a woman to know what she wants in a relationship, and to signal it clearly, especially if it is different than what most men want: this is her power in the economy.  But none of these things seem to be occurring.  Not now, at least.  Today, the economics of contemporary sexual relationships clearly favor men and what they want, even while what they are offering in the exchange has diminished.  And its all thanks to supply, demand, and the long reach of a remarkable little pill.
Interestingly, some women actually praised the video, rather enthusiastically.  Naomi Schaefer Riley felt that the video "should be mandatory viewing for every woman between the ages of, say, 16 and 40."  Mrs. Riley wrote further:
...The economics of sex isn’t a new topic and has nothing to do with anything illegal. It’s the study of where the supply and demand curves for sex meet.  The nice thing about viewing sex in economic terms is that we don’t have to satisfy the goddesses of political correctness. Here’s how the video lays things out:
On average, men have a higher sex drive than women. Blame it on testosterone, call it whatever you want — but on average, men initiate sex more than women, they’re more sexually permissive than women, and they connect sex to romance less often than women.  Nobody’s saying this is the way it ought to be. It’s just the way it is. Women, on the other hand, are likely to have sex for reasons beyond just simple pleasure. Her motivations for sex often include expressing and receiving love, strengthening commitment, affirming desirability, and relationship security.
How refreshingly honest — in a way that parents of adolescent girls should appreciate. These moms and dads don’t have an easy task: Though they know (and the research confirms) that their daughters will be happier if they delay sex until at least 17 or 18 and limit the number of partners they have, these girls are surrounded by cultures that offer a different message. Pop culture says everyone around you is enjoying casual sex; elite culture insists that women and men are exactly the same in this regard.

Most parents, even moderately religious ones, don’t feel comfortable telling their daughters not to have premarital sex because of divine retribution anymore.

“I don’t flat-out say, ‘Wait to get married,’ like my mother did,” one Catholic mother of a 14-year-old in Scarsdale tells me. She advises her daughter to “not give herself away easily or too many times” and that “sex is better when you are married and in love, so waiting is always better.” She wonders, “Does that sound conflicting and-or confusing? Maybe a tad bit, eh?”...

...What many parents never get to, but should, is the next part of the video, which asks: “So in an exchange relationship where men want sex more often than women do, who decides when it will happen?” The answer: “She does, of course. Sex is her resource. Sex in consensual relationships will happen when women want it to.”...

...And this is where the economics matters. Because many more women than men are in the market for a serious relationship, the video explains, “men can be picky and can insist on extensive sexual experience before committing.” Women’s competition for those men has increased, and so the “price” of sex — what the man has to “deliver,” emotionally and commitment-wise — has gone down.

If girls did actually come to realize that they’re “in the driver’s seat” when it comes to sex (and if sisterhood really were powerful), they could change the market entirely, having sex only when they were ready and only when they saw a serious commitment on the part of their partner....

...“Collusion — women working together — would be the most rational way to elevate the ‘market value’ of sex.”  Call it the OPEC of sex. If this collusion worked, we’d see “on average more impressive wooing efforts, greater male investment, longer relationships, fewer premarital partners, shorter cohabitations and more marrying going on.”...
Responses from the Feminists were predictably visceral and acrimonious.  From Lindy West:
Sex Is Not an 'Economy' and You Are Not Merchandise

The longer I live and the more I read and the deeper I fall in love and the less I give a fuck and the more patience I lose and the more perspective I gain, the more certain I become that the people who most aggressively try to define love for others have never actually experienced it themselves.

I don't mean that in some woo-woo cornball way, I mean it in a WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT way. My vagina is livestock? My boyfriend is a customer? I should charge men for my milk? Um, okay, Casanova. Clearly you're highly qualified to be making declarations in this field of study, as you've definitely "laid lots of times" with girls you met in Niagara Falls whose boobs felt like bags of sand. Got it.

Naomi Schaefer Riley, writing in the New York Post yesterday, penned a glowing paean to the latest incarnation of the old why-buy-the-cow metaphor: The Economics of Sex, a fun, kicky YouTube animation (for the youths!) about how women are stupid and all modern relationships are made of math. Marriage rates are down, you see, because slutty, Yaz-popping scarlet women are giving up too much of their vagina-supply, causing the wife-demand to dwindle and babies to go extinct. Or, in simpler terms:


"The nice thing about viewing sex in economic terms," Riley gushes, "is that we don't have to satisfy the goddesses of political correctness."

Hey, lady, and anyone else considering using the term "political correctness" as a pejorative from this moment onward, kindly go ahead and SNIFF MY DONG...

The Economics of Sex is stunningly offensive—made even moreso by the lengths it goes to appear unbiased, scientific, and hip. It is folksy and twee. It is mansplaining incarnate (you might think you know what you want, but you're wrong!). It is the "one weird trick" that women are doing with their genitals to ruin society...It treats the current status quo as a static inevitability instead of an evolving, culturally-imposed framework that is vulnerable to dissent. It never once mentions liking another human being.

The animation literally opens with a blank sheet of butcher paper and chooses to draw a world of regressive midcentury morality. You could draw anything. And you pick the past? Fuck you.

A few representative quotes:
On average, men have a higher sex drive than women. Blame it on testosterone, call it whatever you want—but on average, men initiate sex more than women, they're more sexually permissive than women, and they connect sex to romance less often than women.
Weird. It couldn't be the way that women are culturally conditioned (by videos like this one!) to view their sexual purity as their sole resource, and a finite one at that. It couldn't be the way that men are culturally conditioned to treat women like prizes to which they are entitled at the end of every movie, every video game, every dinner date. I can't imagine why women who are told from birth that sexual activity lowers their "market value" (ACTUAL QUOTE FROM THIS VIDEO) might be reluctant to initiate sex.
Sex is her resource. Sex in consensual relationships will happen when women want it to. So how do women decide to begin a sexual relationship? Pricing. Women have something of value that men want...badly, something men are actually willing to sacrifice for. So how much does sex cost for men? It might cost him nothing but a few drinks and compliments, or a month of dates and respectful attention, or all the way up to a lifetime promise to share all of his affections, wealth, and earnings with her exclusively.
I'm sorry. This is basically a family-values-conservative argument, right? And those people are against prostitution?
Before contraception, sex before marriage took place during the search for a mate—someone to marry. Sex didn't necessarily mean marriage, but serious commitment was commonly a requirement for sex. Sex was oriented towards marriage. Don't believe people who say your great-grandparents were secretly as casual about sex as your friends are. They weren't, because to mess around with sex eventually meant, well, becoming parents.
If anything, sex is less commodified now than when my great-grandparents were courting. Before divorce; before reliable, effective birth control; before women's advancements into the higher levels of the workforce; marriage was ALL about economics. Now that women are able to leave abusive and unhappy relationships, support themselves financially, and choose when/if to have children, we don't need marriage anymore. It's no longer an economic imperative, which means that people are free to be choosy about who they marry. So you're damn right marriage rates are dropping and people are marrying later. It's because we're getting better at it.
The "price" varies widely. But if women are the gatekeepers, why don't very many women "charge more" so to speak? Because pricing is not entirely up to women. The "market value" of sex is part of a social system of exchange, an "economy" if you will, wherein men and women learn from each other—and from others—what they ought to expect from each other sexually. So sex is not entirely a private matter between two consenting adults. Think of it as basic supply and demand. When supplies are high, prices drop, since people won't pay more for something that's easy to find. But if it's hard to find, people will pay a premium.
Oh, shut the fuck up.
We now have a split mating market: One corner where people are largely interested in sex, and one corner where people are largely pursuing marriage. And there are more men looking for sex than women, and more women looking to marry than men.
Okay. Wait. So women are banging dudes willy-nilly on the singles scene and it's lowering their "market value," but women are also "vastly" outnumbering men "in the marriage market"? Which is it? I'm confused.
Here's where women are wrong about men: Men are not actually afraid of commitment at all. While women are the gatekeepers when it comes to sex, the deal is that men are in the driver's seat in the marriage market.
Huh? So women do want to settle down, but they also want to be nonstop society-destroying sluts? And men don't want to settle down, but also they're fine with it? So, if men are so starved for sex in the casual-dating pool and they're not commitment-averse, then what's stopping them from tapping into the ocean of ladies looking for longterm partners and settling down with a nonstop slut for a till-death-do-us-part HUMPATHON?

Honestly, guys. How can I trust you to know what's best for my genitals when you can't even work out the internal logic of your own 9-minute video? It's almost as if your entire philosophy is just garbagey word-salad pseudo-science. Weird....

...I'm just so bored of being lied to by stupid people. I'm so bored of being forcibly confined by someone else's bullshit narrative. Because it's simply not true. Human lives are simply not so simple. I know, because I have one, and everyone I know has one, and right-wing lawmakers (the keepers of that narrative) have them too, and every single one of those lives is messy and complex and unpredictable.

Oh, but, of course, it's just about numbers. These are just the averages we're talking about. "Nobody's saying this is the way it ought to be. It's just the way it is."

Yeah, well, we aren't the numbers. The numbers are us. They don't dictate what we do, they reflect it. That is the entire point of activism—to change the numbers, to change the shitty, blatant, measurable ways we marginalize one other.

So stop telling me—"family values" traditionalists, shitty rom-coms, and Zales commercials—that it is my biological imperative to trap a complete stranger into a lifelong contract based entirely on how many diamonds he's willing to buy me with. Stop telling me that when you're choosing someone to sleep next to every single fucking day until you die, your personalities and goals and aspirations are irrelevant. Stop telling me that my lived experience is "nothing" compared to some numbers cooked up by a repressed bigot with an agenda.

And I literally do not give one shit if you disagree, because this is not a debate. My human agency is not one side of a thought experiment—it is an objective fact...

...I reject all of this stupid, boring, outdated shit. I reject your numbers. I reject the idea that my personality is a negligible variable in the equation of my happiness. I reject the implication that you understand my relationship better than I do. Do not insult my intelligence by telling me that the best way to avoid divorce is to marry a stranger when you're too young to even know yourself. Don't try to bluff me into swallowing your lie that a world with more marriages is objectively a better world. You cannot trick me into believing that divorce is a failure of society and not a grand fucking triumph, and you will not drag me and the rest of society into the past with you.

It's no coincidence that the people most concerned with clapping a chastity belt on the entire earth and swallowing the key are the people currently (and historically) in power in our country. And it's also no coincidence that the people with the most to gain by maintaining "traditional" family structures—by keeping women dependent and docile and shutting everyone else up—have the least nuanced understanding of how actual human beings interact with one another romantically. It's almost as if they've never known what it's like to really connect with someone as a human being—to love a partner as an equal, not as a bank account or a body. What a pathetic, lonely life that must be.
 Christina Sterbenz, who possesses a dual degree in journalism and public affairs from Syracuse University, criticized the video's economic analysis:
The 'Economics Of Sex' Theory Is Completely Wrong
Society is crumbling because women can't keep their legs closed, driving marriage rates to an all-time low — at least that’s what a popular new video claims. 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.
The real economics of sex
Let'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 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.  "The only way the story works is if women are all essentially identical and if women are all offering the same product," Adshade said.Let me be clear, I'm not a new car, a gallon of milk, or a pricey pair of jeans. Labeling women (and men for that matter) as commodities ignores the complexity of human interaction.

For the sake of argument though, if women were goods, the market would contain far too much variety for a simple correlation between supply and price. Regardless of the cost, men will always have vastly different preferences — and options.  "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.

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.  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.

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...
...These are the guys who thought comparing birth control to pesticides was a swell idea, perhaps the most cringe-worthy part of the video:  "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.

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.
Miss Sterbenz is correct that the market for sex is not the same as the product for lumber.  With sex, there is a great deal more product differentiation.  Many women go to quite a lot of effort to objectify themselves sexually, with the make-up, hairstyles, push-up bras, high-heeled shoes, polished poise, diets, etc., to market their wares at the highest price possible.
A product differentiation strategy that focuses on the quality and design of the product may create the perception that there's no substitute available on the market. Although competitors may have a similar product, the differentiation strategy focuses on the quality or design differences that other products don't have. The business gains an advantage in the market, as customers view the product as unique.
 Ben Franklin famously pointed out: every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement...
The reality of the situation is that one vagina might serve a man's purpose as well as any other.  The packaging is largely what establishes the price.  Daryush Valizadeh, who is better known by pseudonym Roosh V, and who is renowned for his writings on seduction and antifeminism, laid out a score system for evaluating individual women.  With regard to Miss West's objection to the video:
...I reject your numbers. I reject the idea that my personality is a negligible variable in the equation of my happiness. I reject the implication that you understand my relationship better than I do...
people need to understand that social-science analyses are usually dealing with averages or trends across large groups of people.  Such analyses wouldn't necessarily constitute useful guidance for an individual man or woman to decide what he or she should do.  Each person needs to take stock of his own situation, and his own desires, in embarking upon a plan of action.  Mr. Valizadeh's scoring system might serve as a functional benchmark for individual men.  Various grocery-store magazines provide advice of a similar nature for the ladies.
Miss Sterbenz's assertion that "an inversely proportional supply and demand relationship only applies to markets that include the exchange of money" is false.  In prisoner-of-war camps, cigarettes, rather than money, became a basis for exchange.  Supply and demand relationships may become established anywhere that an exchange of goods and/or services place.

With regard to Miss Sterbenz's complaint that "the traditional supply and demand model also assumes all 'goods' on the market are the same...The only way the story works is if women are all essentially identical and if women are all offering the same product": economists (and other social scientists) always have to make simplifying assumptions in order to study anything, and the video makers were remiss in not pointing this out up front.  Still, the video makers did not produce any specific estimates that relied upon a traditional supply and demand model.  They did point out that we do seem to have a split mating market: one dominated by men, where people are looking specifically for sex;  and the other, dominated by women, where people are looking for marriage.  The video attributes this phenomenon to a supply shock caused by new contraceptives, which dramatically reduced the cost (to women) of casual coitus, which led to a drastic reduction in the cost in the price admission for men.  Which seems reasonable.

If we look at the mating market where people are looking for sex: this segment does indeed seem to be dominated by men.  The beginning of the video mentions that the online-dating industry is bringing in more than a billion dollars annually.  On top of that, for the gents in this segment of the mating market, there is a huge and growing Pick-Up Artist (PUA) industry, that offers everything from YouTube videos (for example, the entertaining Simple Pickup channel) to what seem to be some rather intensive bootcamps.  A lot of Feminists and others (for example, Tom Chivers) are rather critical of PUAs.  According to this young lady, though,

acquiring some basic PUA skills may be quite useful for a gent.  Still, in this segment of the mating market, there are a lot of men who experience sexual frustration as a result of the discrepancy between their interest in sexual activity and their actual exploits.  One, Elliot Rodger, went on a killing spree, ostensibly because he couldn't get any. 

So far, I haven't heard of a Feminist whining because she absolutely could not find a bloke who was willing to give her a good stiff poke.  On the contrary, the typical Feminist complaint is that she can't leave the house without some Patriarch objectifying her sexually.  Hence, the Feminists have created a number of memes and slogans, such as "Sex is NOT an Entitlement!" and "Rape Culture!", to shame less-desirable men away from pursuing them.  The woman will spread her legs for whomever she wishes.  She gets to choose, from among the many, many, many offers that she is likely to encounter during the course of a day.  And, it is usually the same, high-status men who see most of the action, again and again.

For the other mating market, there are plenty of books, advice columns, etc. geared towards telling women how to hook and keep a husband.  There is no similar market for advice for men on how to hook and keep a wife.  Melissa Kite wrote an article where she blamed selfishness on the part of men for women putting off making babies until it is too late.

Lori Gottlieb, famously advised women who were approaching the end of their residual reproductive value to "Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling 'Bravo!' in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics...settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year."  There are no similar recommendations for 40-year-old men.  Indeed, a man who was serious about reproducing would be better off seeking a nubile, hot young blossom, rather than risking it all on a middle-aged hag whose residual reproductive value was quickly approaching zero.

Regarding the video's suggestion that women form a cartel to reduce the supply of pussy, and thus drive up the market price, Adam Smith's famous quote from The Wealth of Nations comes to mind:
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice.
Perhaps the authors of the video were inspired by Aristophanes' comedy Lysistrata, where the women of Athens conspire together to withhold coitus from the men, to persuade the men to end the decades-long war against Sparta (I heartily recommend the 2002 Spanish film Lisístrata, which was based on Aristophanes' play).

In the present scenario, women would be withholding sex, primarily to benefit the women who were in the market for a husband.  From the Wikipedia:
A cartel is a formal, explicit agreement among competing firms. It is a formal organization of producers and manufacturers that agree to fix prices, marketing, and production.  Cartels usually occur in an oligopolistic industry, where the number of sellers is small (usually because barriers to entry, most notably startup costs, are high) and the products being traded are usually commodities. Cartel members may agree on such matters as price fixing, total industry output, market shares, allocation of customers, allocation of territories, bid rigging, establishment of common sales agencies, and the division of profits or combination of these. The aim of such collusion (also called the cartel agreement) is to increase individual members' profits by reducing competition.

Game theory suggests that cartels are inherently unstable, as the behaviour of members of a cartel is an example of a prisoner's dilemma. Each member of a cartel would be able to make more profit by breaking the agreement (producing a greater quantity or selling at a lower price than that agreed) than it could make by abiding by it. However, if all members break the agreement, all will be worse off. The incentive to cheat explains why cartels are generally difficult to sustain in the long run...Whether members of a cartel choose to cheat on the agreement depends on whether the short-term returns to cheating outweigh the long-term losses from the possible breakdown of the cartel. (The equilibrium of a prisoner's dilemma game varies according to whether it is played only once or repeatedly.) The relative size of these two factors depends in part on how difficult it is for firms to monitor whether the agreement is being adhered to by other firms. If monitoring is difficult, a member is likely to get away with cheating (and making higher profits) for longer, so members are more likely to cheat and the cartel will be more unstable...
The video's suggestion that women form a sex cartel is completely absurd.  One important externality not mentioned by the Feminists (if the ladies ever did form such a cartel): men who are already facing a hard-enough time in the free-love market would find their economic plight to be even more discouraging, which might lead to an increase in the  number of men following Elliot Rodger's example.

Women are known to withhold sex from men for various reasons: anger, boredom, a desire to be assertive or manipulative, etc. "Women withhold sex because men let them get away with it. It’s pretty clear it’s the one thing that most guys can’t live without and that they’ll do pretty much anything to keep it coming on a regular basis."  However, this is after a couple has an established "relationship", and an implied entitlement to exclusive coitus exists.  On the open mating market, if a man is dissatisfied with the services of one woman, he may seek a more satisfying experience with one of her competitors.  After the wedding, the wife is the one who holds the cards.

The "Economics of Sex" video seems to have been based to some extent on the article Sexual Economics: Sex as a Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions, by Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs.  The authors proposed analyzing a heterosexual community as a marketplace in which men seek to acquire sex from women by offering other resources in exchange, and defined gender roles of women as sellers and men as buyers of sex. Societies endowed female sexuality, but not male sexuality, with value (as in virginity, fidelity, chastity). The article didn't get into the nonsensical cartel proposal, though.  True to form, Laurie Rudman and Janell Feterolf recently published something of a rebuttal:  Gender and Sexual Economics: Do Women View Sex as a Female Commodity?
In the study reported here, data from implicit and behavioral choice measures did not support sexual economics theory’s (SET’s) central tenet that women view female sexuality as a commodity. Instead, men endorsed sexual exchange more than women did, which supports the idea that SET is a vestige of patriarchy. Further, men’s sexual advice, more than women’s, enforced the sexual double standard (i.e., men encouraged men more than women to have casual sex)—a gender difference that was mediated by hostile sexism, but also by men’s greater implicit investment in sexual economics. That is, men were more likely to suppress female sexuality because they resisted female empowerment and automatically associated sex with money more than women did. It appears that women are not invested in sexual economics, but rather, men are invested in patriarchy, even when it means raising the price of sexual relations.
It seems odd that a journal (Psychological Science) that wished to be taken seriously would publish articles that included silly Feminist buzzwords like "vestige of patriarchy", "mediated by hostile sexism", and "resisted female empowerment" in the abstract.  But, as I've noted, prestigious professional journals do tend to publish a lot of ridiculous crap.  So, the Battle of the Sexes is proceeding in the scientific literature.

The term "commodity" applied to coitus seems to be a rather sensitive issue for the Feminists. According to the Wikipedia:
In economics, a commodity is a marketable item produced to satisfy wants or needs. Economic commodities comprise goods and services. The exact definition of the term commodity is specifically used to describe a class of goods for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. A commodity has full or partial fungibility; that is, the market treats its instances as equivalent or nearly so with no regard to who produced them. "From the taste of wheat it is not possible to tell who produced it, a Russian serf, a French peasant or an English capitalist."...
Sex would certainly fit the service definition:  if I can legally pay someone to rub my feet in a pleasurable manner, I see no reason why other forms of pleasurable personal service should be forbidden to buy and sell.  As mentioned in a prior post, women have been in the business of providing sex (regarded as "the primitive task of womankind") for men at least since the time that The Epic of Gilgamesh was written.  I think that Feminists like to emphasize their qualitative differentiation across the mating market, which is more flattering than operating from the assumption that one vagina is as functional as the next.  The International Labour Organisation (ILO) affirmed in 1944 that "Labour is not a commodity."  The ILO and the Feminists share a similar abhorrence for the word, which is only a word.

Women, however, as previously mentioned, are quite vulnerable to advertising, propaganda and social engineering.  If they see a situation displayed on a television drama, then they are likely to form the idea that "society" wants them to copy (in their own lives) what was presented on the show.  If corporations decided that they were going to collude together to persuade women to remain chaste before marriage, then, of course, the women would obey and do what they thought "society" was commanding them to do.  However, there seems to be much more money to be made from selling sex (or the desire for sex) than from selling chastity (or the desire for chastity).  In fact, sex seems to form the basis of our economy.  Huge amounts of money are spent on dating websites, on pornography, on learning seduction techniques, on a plethora of things intended to make people appear more sexually-appealing to the opposite sex (fashions, make-up, status symbols, etc.), on jewelry, on dates and other wooing efforts, on weddings, on divorces, and on sex tours:

The pursuit of sex, the procurement of sex and the consequences of sex may actually account for the greatest share of the Gross National Product. Without sex, we wouldn't be producing new generations of citizens to work and pay taxes to support the government, nor to buy the crap that our corporate masters want us to buy.  Why was homosexuality recently decriminalized?  Because there is plenty of money to be made off of gay romance and gay marriage.  Why is prostitution still illegal?  Because, if prostitution were a legal option, then the price of sex would be driven down, pretty close to its actual value.  "You're going to pay for it, one way or another" is a true aphorism.  Getting it for "free" can easily end up costing more than paying as you go.  The Economics of Sex video complained about the unimpressive wooing efforts on the part of young men these days.  Make legal neighborhood brothels available, and wooing efforts will pretty much disappear.

Moreover, sexual imagery is extremely important to advertising and marketing, as described in the post about the Skyy Vodka posters.

Vodka, of course, is very much a commodity.  There really is no difference between one brand of vodka and another.  One brand will cause you to be dizzy and delirious as quickly as the next.  All vodkas are very effective at causing headaches, nausea, vomiting, liver disease and brain damage.  Operating a motor vehicle while under its influence may result in a deadly crash.  Mentioning the real consequences of using vodka isn't going to do a whole lot to boost sales.  Persuade people to associate your brand of vodka with an image of a woman pleasuring herself with the bottle, and you'll be raking in the dollars.  Vodka and sex are both examples of commodities where the sellers seek to use clever marketing and packaging to differentiate their products from others.  To quote Jesus' guardian angel in The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis:

Only one woman exists in the world.  One woman with countless faces.  This one falls, the next one rises.  Mary Magdalene died.  Mary, sister of Lazarus, lives and waits for us, waits for you.  She is Magdalene herself, but with another face...


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