Hey Look, Some Sexist Bullshit at Slate. No Wai!

by Belle Waring on January 16, 2012

Oi, this is so dumb and irritating that I pretty seriously considered not writing about it at all, in part because I worry the comments thread will develop a fetor of glib ev-psych nonsense. Uplift the human race, people, and surprise me with your intelligent thoughtfulness and concern for the feelings of other commenters. Who, I would like you to note, are actual human beings. Ya Rly!

Moving on, Slate has proffered for your attention an article by one Mark Regnerus, if that is his name. It is entitled thusly: “Sex is Cheap: Why Young Men Have the Upper Hand in Bed, Even When They’re Failing in Life.” I’m actually concerned that the stupid is going to burn my screen, and that readers of the article should perhaps be provided with an old-timey screensaver to avoid this. Flying toasters, say.

To better understand what’s going on, it’s worth a crash course in “sexual economics,” an approach best articulated by social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs. As Baumeister, Vohs, and others have repeatedly shown, on average, men want sex more than women do. Call it sexist, call it whatever you want—the evidence shows it’s true. In one frequently cited study, attractive young researchers separately approached opposite-sex strangers on Florida State University’s campus and proposed casual sex. Three-quarters of the men were game, but not one woman said yes. I know: Women love sex too. But research like this consistently demonstrates that men have a greater and far less discriminating appetite for it. As Baumeister and Vohs note, sex in consensual relationships therefore commences only when women decide it does.

And yet despite the fact that women are holding the sexual purse strings, they aren’t asking for much in return these days—the market “price” of sex is currently very low. There are several likely reasons for this. One is the spread of pornography: Since high-speed digital porn gives men additional sexual options—more supply for his elevated demand—it takes some measure of price control away from women. The Pill lowered the cost as well. There are also, quite simply, fewer social constraints on sexual relationships than there once were. As a result, the sexual decisions of young women look more like those of men than they once did, at least when women are in their twenties. The price of sex is low, in other words, in part because its costs to women are lower than they used to be.

Ok, I’m game, I’ll call it sexist! I can’t believe he’s citing this study, which is so poorly designed that it defines conception. Do you know what women are warned against every second of every day? Going anywhere with a man who is a stranger. Say, to his house or room, without having first met him in a public place for an earlier date, and then later having told a friend where you’re going on the second/third/whatever date. Because despite the fact that most rapes are committed by people whom the victim knows, stranger rape does exist, and, more relevantly, is endlessly hyped to young women. Walk in lighted places! Carry your car keys bristling from your fist as makeshift brass knuckles! Have pepper spray! Learn useless martial arts!

Guess what women are unlikely to do? Go to a strange location with a rather odd young man who is much bigger and stronger than they are. Because, face it, he’s a little off; it’s not normal to just walk up to complete strangers and ask them to fuck. What if you were game for sex but then he started to do something that hurt or that you just didn’t like? He could overpower you. And what kind of rape defense would you have after the defense lawyer told the jury you agreed to have sex with a complete stranger? He could tie you up and keep you there for the next 48 hours raping you periodically, and really you’d have zero legal defense. She was into bondage! Could you really say beyond a reasonable doubt that a woman who would abandon her plans for the day to go have sex with a complete stranger might not also be into bondage?

I was at a Berkeley bus stop one time on a beautiful day, in the champagne air, with a cloudless bowl of cobalt overturned on the hills, and a guy pulled up in a cherry-red 60s convertible and asked if I wanted a ride. I told him where I lived and he said, fine, it was more or less on his way. So I accepted a ride. I told him I was married and he didn’t even bother to hit on me much, just got my email address and then never emailed. God, you cannot imagine the endless ration of shit I got from every single person I knew. I could have been killed! What was I thinking?! My psychiatrist interpreted it as a death-wish. For Christ’s sake, I could have jumped out of the convertible! He was just a normal guy who wanted to give a pretty girl a ride in his car. He saw me standing there in a lovely dress at the bus stop and thought, what the hell, I’ll ask. And I thought, sweet car: fuck it. I’m tired of waiting for the bus.

I’ve wasted too much time on this idiocy because the real problem is deeper: the economic model of sex. There are people who sell sex as a commodity. They are called prostitutes. I favor legalization of prostitution. However, almost all ‘actually existing prostitution’ is evil and, particularly here in SE Asia, involves actual slavery, kidnapping, and torturing and raping children. So not cool. I consider men who participate in this type of prostitution in, say, Cambodia, to have done something very wrong, and to be supporting some of the most truly evil organizations in the world today. But if in a hypothetically equal society grown women and men wanted to charge people to have sex with them, then, fine.

However, there’s another thing that happens, which is people have sex without charging one another. Here’s the crazy thing: this is not an exchange of a commodity but an activity that men and women both participate in, because it’s fun. People can and should have sex together, not just with enthusiastic consent, which I think doesn’t stray far enough from the commoditized model, but enthusiastic participation. Sex is not a thing than men do to women if the women say they can, and then the women just lie there like Snow White in the glass coffin, red as blood, white as snow, and black as the ebony in the window-frame.

Sex is an activity which two people can enjoy performing together. Now, I’m sorry that Mr.Regnerus has never elicited any such reactions from his sexual partners, but being a shitty lay doesn’t entitle you to make stuff up about how women feel. A feminist can perfectly well say it may be the case that women in our culture don’t want to have sex as often as men do, and are more picky (it is beyond difficult to imagine how one would figure this out with any scientific precision, because those people at the approval of experiments on humans thing are pretty strict nowadays). You know what? Women are not particularly encouraged to enjoy sex in our culture. Why? Because this economic model gets drilled into their head at every opportunity. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? Sex is not presented as something fun two people so together but as a dog biscuit you dole out at various times until get the behavior you want: a marriage proposal. Because God forbid you ever have sex with anyone whom you’re not trying to trick into marrying you. Because if you enjoy having sex with various random guys just for the hell of it, do you know what you are? A slut!

This stupid economic model of sex is so deeply embedded in our culture that we often don’t notice it enough to question it. Happily, Mr. Regnerus has dragged it out in all its tattered glory, so that we can marvel at the idiocy which animates it. He’s tacked on the additional moronic theory that porn is an acceptable substitute for sex with actual alive women, such that it competes with them On this theory, a young man might say to himself, “hm, I could have sex with this average-looking chick who seems totally down for it, or jerk off looking at porn-stars. Oh my stars and bars this is a difficult question!” I do not think I need to bother to conduct a study on how men feel about this.

Let’s all say it together again: people have sex together, with each person performing some physical activity, because it’s fun to have sex. Please note also that under the economic model, lesbians can’t exist, since they have nothing of value to exchange for sex, except for…um…sex? And since women only use sex as a means to an end, and exchange it with men; and since further, sex has been explicitly devalued to something cheap, well, hm. I submit that if you propose a model of human sexual behavior, and it positively forbids the existence of a whole class of people who nonetheless actually exist, then maybe there’s a problem with the theory? Just a thought.

Take it away, thoughtful, not-particularly-sexist CT commenters, who aren’t a bunch of assholes at all, and are not about to bust out some ad hominid, “back on the veldt” bullshit. I am unfortunately asleep during the time when US workers are procrastinating by commenting on CT, but rest assured I will ban the fuck out of any and everyone when I get around to it. Because feminists don’t believe in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

{ 177 comments }

1

Michael 01.16.12 at 10:20 am

Good rant! In my day job I used to try to get students to weigh all the different styles of thinking about one human behaviour or another, the headline topics being violence, warfare, and of course various takes on sex / marriage / mating etc. Both economistic and evo psycho explanations were always dependable fodder, marked by 1) surface plausibility and 2) ignorance of either history or present sociocultural conditions, aka ceteris paribus conditions. It was especially useful to be able to compare some hot new evo psycho offering with an article from the tabloid press on the same topic. I tended to leave it to the students to discuss whether it might not be cheaper in the long run just to buy The Sun or The Daily Mail rather than putting themselves through all this laborious and expensive education.

2

duck-billed placelot 01.16.12 at 10:23 am

I love the ‘enthusiastic participation’ model of sexy good times. Also, I hope you fired that psychiatrist.

3

Peter T 01.16.12 at 10:47 am

It’s crap, but it’s VALUABLE crap. Steven Levitt got a Nobel Memorial Prize for this stuff.

4

JDC 01.16.12 at 10:56 am

Yes to all that. Slate loves to troll its own audience. As an unrelated (I think) matter, what annoys me about this particular example today is that it’s almost a year old. Slate’s “most popular” list stretches back almost 8 years! I wish Dhalia Lithwick’s stuff was on full-feed RSS.

5

Ciarán 01.16.12 at 10:56 am

Shorter Regnerus: “I might let porn or terms of trade stand in the way of this sublime and funky love that I crave if the price is right.”

6

Salient 01.16.12 at 11:06 am

something to further hearten duck-billed placelot and others, yes means yes!

I submit that if you propose a model of human sexual behavior, and it positively forbids the existence of a whole class of people who nonetheless actually exist, then maybe there’s a problem with the theory?

Sex-with-contraception sort of positively forbids the existence of a whole class of people by design, but children nonetheless actually exist. Something something QED.

7

Alan 01.16.12 at 11:07 am

Apart from the Slate article, I don’t know anything about Regnerus. He sounds like a libertarian economist, though.

Also, http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201201/can-sex-ever-be-casual

8

Niall McAuley 01.16.12 at 11:08 am

My favourite bit of Regnerus’s article: Don’t forget your Freud

…and he’s not joking!

9

Latro 01.16.12 at 11:12 am

What a …

Lets assume for a second that the fear of rape disappears and that “random stranger just told me lets go and fuck” thing could be read as intended.

Unfortunately that does not end the “Ah, so you enjoy having casual random sex with strangers? If you are a man, then you are a winner. If you are a woman, you are a whore”, stuff that you would have to be ABSOLUTELY BLIND AND AN IDIOT to have missed as part of the culture you are studying in your “sexual economics” stuff.

Add the fear of rape and well, this gets the 2012 “I’ve not a fucking clue what I’m talking about but will carry on as if I’m an authority” prize and its just January.

The idea of “sexual economics”, per se, I dont think it is wrong, its an interesting approach. But well, this stuff looks like it came from the same school of economics that puts ideology over reality because who the fuck needs a model that takes into account reality, this one is pretty enough as it is and it always says I’m a winner.

10

reason 01.16.12 at 11:19 am

Alan 7

Hey, ever heard of google?
http://www.markregnerus.com/

11

Martin 01.16.12 at 11:21 am

I agree with almost all of the above, except for the part where you come to the economics of it:

“He’s tacked on the additional moronic theory that porn is an acceptable substitute for sex with actual alive women, such that it competes with them On this theory, a young man might say to himself, “hm, I could have sex with this average-looking chick who seems totally down for it, or jerk off looking at porn-stars. Oh my stars and bars this is a difficult question!” I do not think I need to bother to conduct a study on how men feel about this.”

At the margin this is point is certainly true. When there are two options, porn and an individual where the attractiveness of said individual can be denoted by “a” and “a” ranges from [-1, 1] where 0 is no attraction and 1 is ‘let’s get our clothes of right now’, it is perfectly possible that “a” is just not worth it. This is the case when “a” is less than 0, but this could also be the case when “a” > 0 and what you would forego wouldn’t be worth it.

For example, let’s say that what you get utility-wise from sex with someone with someone with a particular “a” is r(a) = a and let’s say that porn has a “b” that ranges from [-1,1] and that the utility you get from a porn is q(b) = b. Let’s say that there can be a cost ‘c’ to having sex with someone. Then the decision to have sex in the absence of porn has to satisfy the following constraint r(a) – c >0. In the presence of porn this decision has to satisfy the constraint r(a) – c > r(b). In case that r(b) > 0, the “a” has to be higher or the “c” has to be lower.

Now the “problem” is, that this goes for both genders so you simply cannot draw the conclusion that porn is beneficial to men because it increases their options. And the reason for this mistake is exactly in the assumption that he makes and you attack by (rightly) arguing that sex is about participation. All I can say about porn in this model is that – if “a” is under the control of either gender – that both genders will have to raise “a” or lower “c” when porn is introduced.

12

Walt 01.16.12 at 11:24 am

I hate to blame the victim here, Belle, but this is entirely your own fault. You went over to Slate to read Yglesias or Lithwick or something. You could have stopped there. But instead, you clicked on a link that was clearly labeled “I am contrarian bullshit that will annoy you, because this is Slate.” I saw that link, and I almost clicked on it. But I didn’t, because society drummed into my head that Slate is 90% contrarian bullshit, and society is right.

13

Walt 01.16.12 at 11:32 am

I think of all the cognitive biases that people have, confirmation bias may be the one that makes people the stupidest. I read about a study just like this (maybe the exact study) years ago in one of Pinker’s “cognitive science proves conventional wisdom right” books, and he draws the exact same conclusion. At the time, I completely believed it, because “everyone knows men like sex better than women”, right? But if you can manage just the smallest amount of skepticism, it’s completely clear that the study can prove no such thing.

14

Henry 01.16.12 at 11:34 am

Evolutionary psychology has such a bad rap it seems. My only suggestion is that people distinguish between capital E, capital P ‘Evolutionary Psychology’ and ‘evolutionary psychology’ as there are important differences:

E.P. – is based on a notion of specific, naturally selected modules in the brain that each solve one massive problem neatly and quickly (and unconsciously). Some modules are face recognition, or preferences for sweet tastes – but I feel that even ‘massive modularity’ is not a concept people understand when they deploy E.P. in conversation.

e.p. – however is the face of the modern discipline. In opposition to E.P. – evolutionary psychology considers that culture is a much stronger selective force than genes, how humans manage to have a culture that is cumulative, also that the brain has many general functions that might appear to be modular (bicycle riding).

You are right to resist glib evo-psych nonsense – but I hope to offer a glimmer that such glibness can be retorted as likely a misreading of a small subset of the whole field.

15

Belle Waring 01.16.12 at 11:40 am

12: Cold. Busted.

16

Belle Waring 01.16.12 at 11:48 am

12: further: I would like to mount the defense that Regnerus embodies a stupid theory that is important because it is so widespread, and that his is the purest, distilled form of this stupidity one is likely to find. On the other hand, your story of how I came to read the article is exactly correct. But maybe they’re paying Yglesias a lot more! I hope.

17

duck-billed placelot 01.16.12 at 11:49 am

@ Salient: Wouldn’t you say that sex-with-contraception forbids the existence of a whole class of people by non-design? The yes-means-yes blog (and book!) is certainly an excellent, paradigm-shifting resource, glad you linked to it. Belle’s evolution of the enthusiastic consent model to enthusiastic participation is, well, maybe lesson 2 for many an Internet commenter? Present company excepted, of course.

18

bexley 01.16.12 at 12:02 pm

@3 wait, when did that happen?

@4 I’m glad you pointed out the article is over a year old. Until then I was getting a serious case of deja vu. I realise now I must have read a similar smackdown whenever the article first appeared. Slightly depressing that despite the obvious stupidity it makes its way onto the most popular list.

19

Belle Waring 01.16.12 at 12:06 pm

I’m a little embarrassed to have been trolled by a year-old article. Bah.

20

marcel 01.16.12 at 12:50 pm

In re Levitt: He received the John Bates Clark Medal in 2003, but never (at least not yet) theNobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Anyway, back on the veldt, here, I see some cute springboks off in the distance. Those make for some hot, up and down action (IYKWIMAITYD), so I think I’ll go check them out. Catch you later!

21

David Steinsaltz 01.16.12 at 1:35 pm

About a decade ago at Berkeley I had the misfortune to attend a seminar talk in the economics department with a title something like Evolution, Economics, and Marriage. The speaker analysed women’s decision to marry in terms of a tradeoff between the benefit, which is access to men’s financial resources, and the cost, which is the loss of potential income from prostitution.

My disgust with the economics profession for its association with this speaker has taken most of the intervening years to subside.

22

Henry 01.16.12 at 1:41 pm

bq. But maybe they’re paying Yglesias a lot more! I hope.

Cosma and I recently found ourselves in the position of being published by Slate, not only without financial compensation, but without permission. _New Scientist_ syndicated a piece we had written without asking us, which was a bit awkward given that Cosma has previously expressed strong views on the latter publication’s editorial competence. Since we hadn’t signed a contract with _New Scientist_, let alone Slate, this was decidedly iffy – we thought about raising a stink about it, but decided it wasn’t worth it. Now back to your regularly scheduled,’Meanwhile, Back on the Veldt’ … (also NB that the ‘Henry’ talking about EP above is not me.

23

Barry 01.16.12 at 1:56 pm

reason @10:

” Hey, ever heard of google?
http://www.markregnerus.com/

Just from that odd bit of hair on his chin, nothing that he says should be taken seriously.

24

Watson Ladd 01.16.12 at 2:00 pm

@21: Never insult a Wunderlander’s asymmetrical beard. (He must be from Wunderland. Why else is he so disconnected from reality?)

25

AcademicLurker 01.16.12 at 2:04 pm

What’s extra annoying is that it’s not even remotely original trolling.

Magazine writers have been leveraging the whole “boy crisis” meme into “…and now you ladies who dared to achieve any degree of educational/professional success are doomed to end up alone unless you lower your standards and hook up with the first dufus who comes along…” for at least a year now.

With all the good writers out there who are hard up for work it’s annoying to think that someone’s getting paid decent money to just copy/paste the same old article with some minor changes.

Also, I second Walt at 12. It’s what you get for reading Slate. I quit reading Yglesias cold turkey when he moved there and I haven’t regretted it.

26

Yarrow 01.16.12 at 2:30 pm

From the blog Salient linked to, a long article about a study that’s an extensive take-down of the sex-with-a-stranger study.

tl;dr: Belle’s right. (But you knew that.) “Based on a number of findings from the current studies, it appears that the Clark and Hatfield paradigm is a casual sexual proposal that is uniquely repulsive to women being approached for heterosexual encounters, likely because of what it conveys about the male proposer’s sexual capabilities and safety.”

27

Just Dropping By 01.16.12 at 2:36 pm

He’s tacked on the additional moronic theory that porn is an acceptable substitute for sex with actual alive women, such that it competes with them On this theory, a young man might say to himself, “hm, I could have sex with this average-looking chick who seems totally down for it, or jerk off looking at porn-stars. Oh my stars and bars this is a difficult question!” I do not think I need to bother to conduct a study on how men feel about this.

When you falsely frame the question like that, you don’t need to do a study, but that’s not how the situation arises. In real life the question is, “Hm, I could spend months of time trying to convince this average-looking chick to agree to possibly have sex with me someday or go home and be jerking off within the next hour looking at porn-stars.” That’s a much closer question.

28

Dave Maier 01.16.12 at 2:41 pm

Yes, a year off, but good takedowns never go out of style, and this has plenty. Extra points for “fetor”, “cloudless bowl of cobalt overturned on the hills”, and “ad hominid, “back on the veldt” bullshit”, the last of which I am totally stealing.

29

AcademicLurker 01.16.12 at 2:52 pm

Ack!! I missed that it’s a year old. Serves me right for not paying attention to the comments.

So is this the ur-article that all the other glib sexist contrarians have been copy/pasting for the past year?

30

anitchang 01.16.12 at 2:52 pm

Interestingly even the authors of the 1989 study Regnerus cited to support his claims was aware of two of the points Belle raised… did he even read this one before referring to it?

“Of course, the sociological interpretation – that women are interested in love while men are interested in sex – is not the only possible interpretation of these data. It may be, of course, that both men and women were equally interested in sex, but that men associated fewer risks with accepting a sexual invitation than did women. Men may be more confident of their ability to fight back a physical assault than are women. Also, the remnants of the double standard may make women afraid to accept the man’s invitation.” (p. 52)

31

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.16.12 at 2:57 pm

…is uniquely repulsive to women being approached for heterosexual encounters, likely because of what it conveys about the male proposer’s sexual capabilities and safety…

Are there male whorehouses for women, with guaranteed safe environment and staff with proven sexual capabilities? I’m sure there must be, but I don’t think it’s all that common. How does the study explain this phenomenon?

32

Rich Puchalsky 01.16.12 at 3:10 pm

“surprise me with your intelligent thoughtfulness and concern for the feelings of other commenters. “

But…. everyone is bored by comments that agree, right? The only point in commenting is to be funny, to add something, or to argue. After reading that I don’t feel like being funny (though congrats to Walt @ 12), and have nothing to argue with — ultra-stupid sexist article is ultra-stupid and sexist.

Wait, I found sort of something to add:
“On this theory, a young man might say to himself, “hm, I could have sex with this average-looking chick who seems totally down for it, or jerk off looking at porn-stars. Oh my stars and bars this is a difficult question!” I do not think I need to bother to conduct a study on how men feel about this.”

I have in fact met men (if by “met” you mean “chatted on video game sites with” and if by “men” you mean “probable teenagers”) who purport to think that porn is better than sex with an unattractive person. Admittedly these comments are generally from people who insofar as I imagine them have little to no chance at sex with an actual person — but the theory is out there. Not that it means anything like what this article would claim, but this article reflects certain cultural stereotypes well enough so that maybe people shouldn’t be to quick to dismiss its implicit claim that there are a number of men out there who really do think of porn as an acceptable substitute for the sex that they probably aren’t getting anyways.

33

Bob Savage 01.16.12 at 3:14 pm

So sex is something one does with another and not to another. A concept seemingly foreign to a lot of men. Thanks for your reaction to yet another crappy Slate piece.

34

todd. 01.16.12 at 3:23 pm

I enjoyed every part of this, but my favorite was, “Oh my stars and bars.”

35

Aulus Gellius 01.16.12 at 3:26 pm

I think something that should always, always be mentioned when this bullshit is being tossed about is that the whole “men want sex more than women” thing is historically very new, and for most of history the assumptions went the other way: women are controlled by lust even more than by other passions, one cock can satisfy a dozen hens but not even a dozen men can satisfy one woman, etc., etc.

36

Jonathan 01.16.12 at 3:28 pm

I was teaching a first-year writing about literature course at an engineering university several years ago, and we were discussing Fowles’s somewhat porny The Magus, when I was somewhat surprised to hear a woman suggest that pornography was often better than the real thing. So, some people, even those not burdened by engineering coursework, apparently do feel this way, as remarkable as it may seem.

37

LizardBreath 01.16.12 at 3:29 pm

I’m sure there must be, but I don’t think it’s all that common.

Think of how ‘guaranteed’ would work. You’d need it to be a reputable business with a long history of satisfied customers willing to endorse it. That’s going to be at least really tricky, and I would actually think impossible, where prostitution is both illegal and socially frowned on.

38

Denise 01.16.12 at 3:30 pm

Maybe not “intelligent thoughtfulness” in terms of a comment to a brilliant rant…but I wanted to say that I am SO glad your blog was brought to my attention and that I have it in my roll. Certain points in your rant I have broken apart and explained in excruciating detail … seemingly to no avail (to members of both sexes) who are stuck in archaic thinking about the realities of sex and how much the media/hype plays into both positive and negative imagery for women…and how it has harmed everyone with respect to positive sex. Thank you thank you thank you for taking the time to rant this out. I love a good rant, and this one is outstanding. :-)

39

Steve Williams 01.16.12 at 3:41 pm

Rich@31

I can’t believe I’m about to actually write this here, under my real name (hi future employers! it’s alright, I didn’t really want the job anyway!) but when I was a mere student, I could well have been in exactly the demographic you are talking about. I had terrible acne, and hopelessly low self-esteem. I went a long time between sex, it’s fair to say. I wasn’t entirely unacquainted with porn either. And I can tell you right now, men do say the things you quote, but they’re lying. I think you’d find it hard to find a better example of a post-hoc rationalization than that.

40

piglet 01.16.12 at 3:45 pm

Since nobody has mentioned this, isn’t there a slight logical discrepancy in the Regnerus argument?
1. “men want sex more than women do”
2. “the sexual decisions of young women look more like those of men than they once did”

Sure one can create a narrative which somewhat plausibly integrates both of these claims. But such a narrative is easy to see as unscientific ad-hoc reasoning. The purpose of this narrative is of course, and this is a really old hat, to explain why real people don’t behave like the stereotypes of sociobiology/evolutionary psychology without giving up those stereotypes.

41

christian_h 01.16.12 at 3:57 pm

A very delightful rant, thanks.

42

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.16.12 at 4:00 pm

Think of how ‘guaranteed’ would work. …. where prostitution is both illegal and socially frowned on.

Could be a massage parlor, or individual yoga training, or something. The usual.

43

Antonio Conselheiro 01.16.12 at 4:04 pm

This study explains why it’s always men who wake up in a hotel room in Caracas with no kidneys.

44

Antonio Conselheiro 01.16.12 at 4:08 pm

Are there male whorehouses for women, with guaranteed safe environment and staff with proven sexual capabilities?

In Taiwan in 1984 there were, though outnumbered by the other kind. Whorehouses in Taiwan presented themselves as extra-special full service barber shops. There also were boring old second rate barber shops that just cut hair.

45

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.16.12 at 4:15 pm

I’m guessing barber licensing wasn’t required. I hear it ruins everything.

46

Steve Williams 01.16.12 at 4:27 pm

‘I’m guessing barber licensing wasn’t required. I hear it ruins everything.’

Pretty much wins the thread. Also, the OP was great too.

47

William Timberman 01.16.12 at 4:35 pm

The first time through comment 6, I read sex-with-contraception as sex-with-contraption. There must be something wrong with my eyes this morning — at least I hope it’s my eyes. If anything else is going on, I don’t think I want to know about it.

48

Alex 01.16.12 at 4:37 pm

it appears that the Clark and Hatfield paradigm is a casual sexual proposal that is uniquely repulsive to women being approached for heterosexual encounters

This is worth the thread in itself.

49

Sumana Harihareswara 01.16.12 at 4:43 pm

Rich,

“But…. everyone is bored by comments that agree, right? The only point in commenting is to be funny, to add something, or to argue.”

“To add something” is an incredibly wide world; and besides, commenting isn’t just for the other readers, it’s for the original poster, too. “I agree with you” is a useful data point all on its own.

50

More Dogs, Less Crime 01.16.12 at 4:44 pm

How might the original experiment be replicated in a way that avoids such confounding factors?

51

Matt McIrvin 01.16.12 at 4:46 pm

The Slate article that annoyed me is this one:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/explainer/2012/01/are_smart_people_ugly_the_explainer_s_2011_question_of_the_year_.html

which gives the obviously correct answer to the question “Why are smart people ugly?” (answer: They’re not), and then completely ruins its own credibility by citing Satoshi Kanazawa. And then goes into the trouble with Kanazawa, but then does even more citing of Kanazawa.

52

krippendorf 01.16.12 at 4:51 pm

Aww, the US’s very own Satoshi Kanazawa. How charming. Next up: “why black women enjoy sex more than white women.”

53

Jason 01.16.12 at 5:03 pm

I completely agree with you regarding the failings of this particular study, but I think this might take the whole “humans are above evolutionary incentives” goes a little too far. The sexes of a species are essentially two co-evolved species to the point where fathers can carry genes for offspring development that are detrimental to mothers and mothers carry genes to counteract them (e.g. IGF2 and IGF2r in mice).

I submit that if you propose a model of human sexual behavior, and it positively forbids the existence of a whole class of people who nonetheless actually exist, then maybe there’s a problem with the theory?

I would say this a fortiori forbids a naive interpretation of evolution in the same way it forbids a naive interpretation of the “economic” model. It proves too much, and implies that gays and lesbians are evolutionary misfits rather than being part of a human species evolving under more complicated rules that are still fundamentally based on evolutionary incentives.

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Migeru 01.16.12 at 5:47 pm

“I submit that if you propose a model of human … behavior, and it positively forbids the existence of a whole class of people who nonetheless actually exist, then maybe there’s a problem with the theory? Just a thought.”

You just described orthodox microeconomics.

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Scott Martens 01.16.12 at 5:49 pm

Henri@30 and Antonio@41: Heidi Fleiss tried to open one in Nevada some years ago, and the “Shady Lady Ranch” in Tonopah hired a “prostidude” in 2010 – and fought a nasty licensing battle to do so – but he quit for lack of business. The legislation concerning mandatory cervical exams was a serious barrier. (Don’t ask why I know these things. Please, don’t.)

As for porn being better than sex… I suppose the appropriate answer is “not if you’re doing it right”, but look at it from a slightly less economic point of view: Having actual, interactive, tab-A-in-slot-B, sex with really-existing non-Photoshopped 3D women entails serious risks to one’s ego. Rejection, embarrassment, being a drooling dweeb… much the same considerations as the reasons one might stay home rather than go to a party where one will be uncomfortable. It is possible for a man to say that it isn’t worth it if the reward is less than the level of serious ego gratification you get from banging a total babe, and it is possible to see things on those terms without being indoctrinated into an “economic model” of sex.

It’s also stupid, but no one has ever accused people of any gender of lacking in stupid.

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G. McThornbody 01.16.12 at 6:23 pm

Yglesias should really find an editor and start his own magazine. Oh well. As long as we’re talking about old news, here’s an accurate expert opinion from 10-10000 years ago. Slate would be more credible if they hired this guy.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/todays-women-dont-like-it-when-you-come-to-them-as,10933

grismcthorn

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v 01.16.12 at 6:28 pm

Is Belle really going to ban any discussion of ev psych? Seems to me that that subject is the topic of her post. Hopefully, she was being ironic.

Regnerus’ larger point that there is a sexual market is pretty mainstream and even if both genders enjoy an activity that in no way implies that no economic/trading aspect can exist (e.g., the relative gains can be different spurring trading). Ergo, certain trends have the potential to either lower or raise the market price of sex (as Belle to be fair admits in her post).

I do agree that the experiment has flaws yet its conclusion is hardly so outside the pale of societal discourse that it deserves such an emotional post.

I would be more interested in whether Belle and the commenters here actually believe sexual bargaining power has changed to a significant degree within the last decade vs the decade prior to that.

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Tom M 01.16.12 at 6:32 pm

As for porn being better than sex… I suppose the appropriate answer is “not if you’re doing it right “…
FTFY
“right” doesn’t enter the equation.

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Antonio Conselheiro 01.16.12 at 6:36 pm

Is Belle really going to ban any discussion of ev psych?

Belle is charming and lovely, but she also knows how to put the fear into people. No trolling on this thread.

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phosphorious 01.16.12 at 6:49 pm

Regnerus’ larger point t. . .

Ahhh. . . for every cheapjack, dumbfuck evpsych argument that is ever made, there is a larger point that was trying to be made and shame on us all for not seeing it.

Shame!

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piglet 01.16.12 at 7:14 pm

“Next up: “why black women enjoy sex more than white women.” “

From a totally credible scientific source, statistically significant and all: black mens’ semen shoots out farther, on average.

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politicalfootball 01.16.12 at 7:22 pm

“evolutionary misfits”

This phrase from Jason really captures what I distrust about the popularized version of evo psych. Of course some common human behaviors are going to mis-fit evolutionary psychology, because evolutionary psychology doesn’t explain all common human behaviors.

Models of complex situations that allow for “misfits” are, I suspect, generally superior to ones that don’t.

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js. 01.16.12 at 7:27 pm

Martin @1:

You know, I’ve generally called it ev psych (as do most people I think), but “evo psycho” is so obviously superior, I’m adopting the usage herewith.

Also, awesome post, cheers. It’s painful how much is wrong with that piece (and with Regnerus’ facial hair decisions—for which cheers to reason).

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Henri Vieuxtemps 01.16.12 at 7:45 pm

I don’t think this is a matter of EP, but rather of social conditions, just like the post implies. Throughout history women with high social status have often been quite promiscuous; that should tell you something.

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Bruce Baugh 01.16.12 at 7:47 pm

v: With enough jiggering, you can make an epicycles model of the solar system that works well enough for actual astronomical predictions and such. This doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to do so. Likewise, you can, with enough jiggering, produce an economics model of the sort Belle is commenting on that rivals random guessing or even exceeds it, but that doesn’t mean that this is a smart or moral thing to do if what you want to do is get some insight into how and why people act the way they do. It’s much better to start off without bogus assumptions you have to negate or otherwise compensate for, and with some basic damn clues about what people (particularly women) are actually thinking and doing.

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dbk 01.16.12 at 7:49 pm

FWIW, I read somewhere on the internets (on Brad DeLong’s daily twitterstorm a month or two ago?) that MY left ThinkProgress for Slate to the tune of 80000 pa for 2 columns a week. I thought it was a joke, but then he showed up at Slate. Sigh. Nice work if you can get it.

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Antonio Conselheiro 01.16.12 at 8:18 pm

People should read Gary Becker’s theory of the family. (Not really). Families are child factories producing child-commodities for the child market.

[T]ime and goods are inputs into the production of ‘commodities’ which directly provide utility. These commodities [i.e., those produced in the household -- J.E.] cannot be purchased in the marketplace but are produced as well as consumed by households using market purchases, own time, and various environmental inputs. These commodities include children, prestige and esteem, health, altruism, envy, and pleasures of the senses.”

Gary Becker, A Treatise on the Family, Harvard, 1981, pp.7-8.

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Slex 01.16.12 at 8:29 pm

I don’t know why everyone here is so quick to dismiss the study linked in the Slate article. Yes, women factor in the risk of being hurt and this is a good explanation of the high rejection levels. However, the fact that man don’t consider that risk or simply ignore it and agree is telling of something. I personally would reject a sex offer from an unknown beatiful woman. There would be something fishy in the situation.

Attractive women don’t go around asking for sex random guys. My past experience tells me that my appearance doesn’t have such a stunning effect on women and I see no reason why it would suddenly change. And again, judging from experience, the same is valid for the majority of men. Unless you are a Brad Pitt or Ryan Gosling lookalike it is very unlikely that it will happen to you. Even Brad Pitt, if he is approached by beatiful women, owes it only partially to his looks and largely to his fame as an actor.

Belle writes that women are socially conditioned to beware of strangers, but then, how many times have you seen in movies some stupid guy who gets seduced by a woman just to divert his attention from something else?

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dsquared 01.16.12 at 8:49 pm

Belle writes that women are socially conditioned to beware of strangers, but then, how many times have you seen in movies some stupid guy who gets seduced by a woman just to divert his attention from something else?

that last paragraph really does cast an entirely explanatory light on the first sentence.

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MS 01.16.12 at 8:49 pm

It’s a stupid article but there is this strange aspect to high school and college age (and possibly older) sexual relations which is that males often seem to have much more control over what happens later. Men still do the proposing, for the most part. But more subjectively you do see women very concerned about what men think of them and I think men work collectively in groups like frats, at least in college, to reinforce this in ways that are unbelievably depressing and backward. The article’s moronic partly because I think it pretends that it is giving some explanation for that also. I don’t see that this has changed as much as you’d expect given all the economic changes and the greater parity between men and women there. Sexism explains it, of course but I’d love to know the specifics about how sexism operates there and why younger women can’t get free of it as much as they want to.

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Rob in CT 01.16.12 at 9:17 pm

Year old article or not, your rant was excellent.

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mpowell 01.16.12 at 9:28 pm

To be fair, for women wishing to exchange the promise of sex for marriage, modern society has surely lowered the value of their offer. I’m not sure how many such people are out there, but I believe they probably do exist. Why we should care all that much about their plight on the other hand, I don’t know. I don’t see how it’s relevant to the goals of feminism (though I think the reactionaries may be confused about this).

And by the way, that’s a great story about the car ride.

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Substance McGravitas 01.16.12 at 9:29 pm

Back when I had long lovely flowing locks I got a ride too. My driver was not impressed when I got in the car, but it was raining and a ride’s a ride.

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Slex 01.16.12 at 9:38 pm

@ dsquared
that last paragraph really does cast an entirely explanatory light on the first sentence.
Could you elaborate?

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mw 01.16.12 at 9:45 pm

A purely economic framing of human sexual relations is impoverished and absurd. But it’s also true that any perspective that ignores economics (or, more broadly, resources) is at least equally crippled. Resource exchanges (and attempts at deception) are seen in sexual relations in species as ‘primitive’ as spiders. For example, a male brings a food gift wrapped in silk and start mating while the female is unwrapping:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=male-spiders-scam-females-with-gift-11-11-21

Human are obviously not spiders (full stop) and human mating practices vary widely across history, culture, and individuals. With humans, you have high intelligence and cultural and behavioral flexibility along with long-term pair-bonding and high male-parental involvement (MPI) all of which makes humans quite an odd case. Human males, for example, are choosy about long term mates (which is rare — both the long-term mating and the male choosiness). BUT, despite the all the variability, resources play an important role in human sexual relationships in virtually every culture, and it’s usually (but, no, not universally) the case that men are the ones providing resources and women are the ones demanding them.

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Meredith 01.16.12 at 9:48 pm

I can’t imagine how anyone could ever construct an experiment to discern men’s and women’s relative enjoyment of sex (as a “biological” predisposition) which accounted for “social” variables (including what the terms “men” and “women” mean — weren’t we just talking about people’s complex gender identities on Belle’s last post?). Aside from social variables, there are possibly “biologically” inflected variables that this study ignores as it generalizes from fairly young people. Just to say, most women I’ve ever talked to about this subject (and it’s the kind of thing many women do like to talk about!) agree that some time in the mid-late 20’s their sex lives improved vastly. I’d say mostly because by that age they’d gained a more confident sense of themselves, their own desires, how to communicate those desires to sexual partners, and so forth — though who’s to know if there isn’t some biological something at work here, too, like the brain completing its maturation?.
Zeus and Hera argued about this a long time ago, each attributing greater sexual energy and desire to the other’s sex (gender?). Problem solved by, of course, Tiresias, who briefly had a stint in a woman’s body. His answer: women. Prominent social use to which his answer was put in most ancient Greek societies? Women need to be controlled (esp. by men). This story continued: Hera was furious with Tiresias’ answer, because she’d lost her argument with Zeus. Apparently, having greater sexual energy and pleasure wasn’t considered the highest good to be concerned about.

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Antonio Conselheiro 01.16.12 at 9:52 pm

Way back when I was young and good looking a got a short ride from someone who, I figured out after leaving the car, had had his hand in his pants the whole time. He was a stereotypical perv, fat with beady, shifty eyes, a little mustache ,and fat lips which he kept licking.

Slex: women are more aware of danger because this kind of thing is more dangerous for women, both because men tend to be bigger and stronger, and because murderers tend to be guys. It’s not about the comparative psychology of gender.

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xenides 01.16.12 at 9:54 pm

though everybody on this thread seems to be omni-potent people of the world and engaged in regular activities of the healthy type – or at least self-identified as such – not everybody likes sex that much. Porn may not be just the refuge of unloveable losers. When it comes to sex it is never wise to assume that your particular quirk is widely adopted.

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Antonio Conselheiro 01.16.12 at 9:56 pm

one of the problems with psychological and social scientific models of human behavior is that scientists’ education usual trains them to suppress their “common sense”, and the s-sciences sometimes seem to recruit dysfunctional people. Having a reasonably good naive understanding of human life helps frame experiments, even if the experiments end up invalidating the naive understanding.

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Jeffrey Davis 01.16.12 at 10:01 pm

What’s at stake in trying to prove such things one way or the other?

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js. 01.16.12 at 10:08 pm

Resource exchanges (and attempts at deception) are seen in sexual relations in species as ‘primitive’ as spiders. For example, a male brings a food gift wrapped in silk and start mating while the female is unwrapping:

This is a good example of what’s a little “psycho” about these kinds of explanations (again, apologies or cheers to Martin, as appropriate). First, we’re going to import the concept of a “gift” into some bit of spider-behavior. Does this make any sense? Who knows! But why stop to think? Then, we’re going to reapply what we seem to have already established as spidery “gift-giving behavior” to “explain resource-exchanges!” in human sexual relations (except of course that it turns out to not be an exchange at all, since women demand and men provide!).

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Henri Vieuxtemps 01.16.12 at 10:10 pm

I once gave a ride to a pretty woman in a nice dress. And, as it turned out, with very strong opinions. As it happens, strong opinions in a sexual partner is a turn-off for me, so I never sent that email.

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Slex 01.16.12 at 10:18 pm

@ Antonio Conselheiro

I don’t know if it is lack of awareness or just a decision to take the risk, anyway. Sex drive can bring down defense mechanism for men. In my opinion it’s not just that the risks for men and women are different. I think that men are more prone to taking risks in order to get sex.

When a beautiful woman approaches you on the street she may really want to have sex with you. And the Nigerian who wrote you an e-mail may really want to give you one million dollars. But it is unlikely. I don’t say that it will be she, who will physically attack you (you don’t know who’s waiting behind the corner) or even that it will be a physical attack and not something else. But a beautiful woman usually has so many opportunities to have sex plus more in her social environment, that it is practically unbelievable that she will genuinly want to initiate sex with a random guy on the street.

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Antonio Conselheiro 01.16.12 at 10:24 pm

Happens to me all the time. But as Jehovah Witness I am obliged to turn them down.

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rm 01.16.12 at 10:33 pm

Shorter v. At 57: Women are so emotional.

Serious response: it is absolutely useless to propose essentialist, biological explanations for gendered behavior when there are massive, overwhelming cultural and historical forces involved.

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mw 01.16.12 at 10:55 pm

First, we’re going to import the concept of a “gift” into some bit of spider-behavior. Does this make any sense? Who knows! But why stop to think?

OK — stop to think — of course it makes sense. The food ‘gift’ (or resource, or whatever the hell you want to call it) has value (or rather the female expects it to). It is costly for the male to provide (he has to find it and wrap it and can’t eat it himself). The female — if she discovers she’s been tricked and there’s no food in the package — sends the male packing. If this is not an exchange of food-for-sex, then just what the hell would you call it?

Then, we’re going to reapply what we seem to have already established as spidery “gift-giving behavior” to “explain resource-exchanges!” in human sexual relations

No, we’re not. What we’re saying is that males accumulating resources of some sort (food, territory, a finely constructed nest) to attract females is seen in various species. We cannot extrapolate this to humans in any simpleminded way (humans are too complex and too weird in assorted ways for that), but this is the most common pattern, and it is one that’s not exactly unheard of in humans, isn’t it?

That obviously doesn’t imply that resources-for-sex all there is to human mating (and that if you understand spider sex then you understand human sex), but the idea that it’s purely coincidental that ‘males providing resources to females they hope to mate with’ is the most common pattern both across species and human cultures seems…pretty far-fetched, no?

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geo 01.16.12 at 11:05 pm

Would facts about sexual physiology be relevant to the discussion? Assuming Tiresias didn’t settle the matter once and for all, what’s the current state of thinking about differential rates of frequency and rapidity of arousal, frequency and intensity of orgasm, etc?

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Peter T 01.16.12 at 11:12 pm

I stand corrected on Levitt – the Nobel remains untarnished.

Using economism to explain behaviour is like using hammers for brain surgery. The larger question is why so many people feel compelled to prise the top off the skull and whack away.

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The Fool 01.16.12 at 11:31 pm

I wonder why so much more porn is aimed at men than women?

I wonder why there are so many more strip clubs for men than women?

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The Fool 01.16.12 at 11:34 pm

I wonder why there aren’t lesbian bath houses?

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Jawbone 01.16.12 at 11:40 pm

I was once approached by a beautiful woman on the street in Singapore, outside Orchard Tower. She desired to accompany me back to my hotel room, where some activities featuring enthusiastic participation by both parties occurred. Upon her leaving in the early morning, she did, after looking in her purse, ask me for some “taxi money” to get her home. I guess taxis are quite expensive in Singapore.

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James Wimberley 01.16.12 at 11:47 pm

Just to get a discussion going against the paeans of agreement and righteous disgust with the target, but: “Women are not particularly encouraged to enjoy sex in our culture.” Evidence since say 1950? Ads, women’s’ magazines, pop songs, films, chick lit, middlebrow mainstream lit, hell, even boy lit like SF and thrillers, to me it all seems to be telling women loudly that they should enjoy sex a lot, and men that they should ensure this not to be sexual second-class citizens. Even disposable Bond girls come like anything. What they don’t get is any vertical consideration as human beings.

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js. 01.16.12 at 11:53 pm

OK —stop to think—of course it makes sense. The food ‘gift’ (or resource, or whatever the hell you want to call it) has value (or rather the female expects it to). It is costly for the male to provide (he has to find it and wrap it and can’t eat it himself). The female—if she discovers she’s been tricked and there’s no food in the package—sends the male packing. If this is not an exchange of food-for-sex, then just what the hell would you call it?

I’d think it matters considerably what you call it. The concept of a gift makes sense in the context of a whole host of other human concepts and practices (among them: ownership, contract, favor, etc. etc.). Indeed, it’s a quite specific concept that might not even apply given certain human societies—just because I someone something doesn’t make it a gift. So, no, I don’t think it makes sense to talk of spiders giving other spiders gifts.

Similar points apply to “exchange”, “value”, and “cost”. So really, you’re taking a whole lot of specific concepts that humans use to understand human behaviors and relations in the context of market-based or capitalist societies, and applying it to spiders fucking. And this is then supposed to yield some very general insight about human sexual behavior (with various qualifications added). This is not a promising methodology if the point is in fact to gain some insight into human sexual practices (whether highly historically specific or widely shared).

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js. 01.16.12 at 11:55 pm

…just because I give someone something… sorry.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 01.17.12 at 12:46 am

Talking about spiders: it’s well known that some female spiders just eat their male partners after (or even during) the copulation. Where’s the fun in this. So, fellows, bring them some gifts, please. For your own sake.

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faustusnotes 01.17.12 at 12:51 am

This “men like sex more than women” thing is a topic dear to my heart, indeed. I know a woman who does a lot of casual sex – often strictly single night jobbies – and consciously seeks out dates with men interested in casual sex. She has been astounded by the number of men who try to play emotional games, or just aren’t that interested in the act once the chips are down. In fact, in many ways men are just as fragile about sex as women.

And let’s not forget the additional “cost” to women of casual sex, beyond unsafe sex and violence risk: men can be pretty selfish lovers. It’s pretty easy for a woman to have a dud lay, and reasonably hard for a guy to have a dud lay.

On the “whorehouses” for women angle, there are actually brothels in Australia that service women – mostly it’s women doing the servicing, though. Also, in Japan there are two types of sex work that are very very common and aimed exclusively at women: host clubs and hairdressers. The former are officially about paying to flirt with men, but women do this in the hope that if they buy enough gifts they will get a root. As for hairdressers … hairdressers in Japan are very macho and trendy, not in the “gay” stereotype at all, and some hairdressers have a policy of requiring their male staff to make their private number available to clients. I have a friend whose boyfriend was her hairdresser, but she had to keep it secret because if his clients found out he had a girlfriend they would have stopped attending the salon. In my opinion much of the “esthetic” industry in Japan and Korea is about offering semi-sexual services to women.

Also, Japan has “happening bars,” which are basically like gay saunas for straight people.

I wonder how ev-psych handles these cultural differences…?

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mw 01.17.12 at 1:11 am

Similar points apply to “exchange”, “value”, and “cost”. So really, you’re taking a whole lot of specific concepts that humans use to understand human behaviors and relations in the context of market-based or capitalist societies, and applying it to spiders fucking.

I think you’ll find the human concepts of ownership and gift giving have been found in societies that were neither ‘market based’ or ‘capitalist’, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potlatch

I mean, how would you have it — that all other species except humans have evolved psychological natures? Or that we can gain NO insight at all into humans by studying the behaviors of other species? Or perhaps that we might gain insights in other cognitive domains, but never when it comes to mating? The notion of a hard separation between ‘man & beast’ reminds me of some of Franz de Waal’s discussions of anthropomorphism. This wasn’t exactly the one what I had in mind, but it’ll do:

http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/d/dewaal-sushi.html

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Barry 01.17.12 at 1:31 am

Simple – it ignores them.

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Slex 01.17.12 at 1:43 am

@ mw

I don’t think that you will find many people in agreement with you here, although I take exception.

For a lot of higher animal species males are more active in the mating process. Of course, how much we exhibit the same biological disposition is open to discussion, but in my opinion similarity with other species should be the default position, even though human consciousness and social dynamics can mitigate or enforce it.

It would not be correct to say that men like sex more than women – after all there is no way to know exaclty what is the psychological state of every man and woman, and women may desire it even more, however men’s desire more often translates into action (my observation, no data to back it up), especially when it comes to risky behaviour.

One can always find examples for the contrary, but I don’t see how it would invalidate the general tendency. If we are talking about exceptions, there are people from both sexes, who don’t think having sex is fun, but you can’t possibliy conclude from this that humans as a whole don’t like it.

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chris 01.17.12 at 3:15 am

in my opinion similarity with other species should be the default position

Which species? I think there’s a danger of picking whichever animal species happens to be convenient to the discussion at hand and assuming we should analogize ourselves to them. But we can’t resemble all animals; they don’t even resemble each other. Chimps and bonobos are even more closely related to each other than we are to either of them (or, obviously, any other species) yet they behave quite differently from each other and from us.

men’s desire more often translates into action (my observation, no data to back it up), especially when it comes to risky behaviour.

But men are more likely to engage in lots of forms of risky behavior, not just risky sexual behavior. (Whether this is testosterone-induced stupidity or learned may be arguable, but for present purposes it doesn’t really matter, does it?)

One of the things that makes this kind of issue so difficult to resolve is that so many general differences between men and women have a spillover effect in sex-related issues.

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Jenna Moran 01.17.12 at 3:21 am

Another example from the natural world is trees and the wind. Often when a tree wants to mate with the wind it will expend considerable biological resources to generate a dead leaf “gift” which it detaches to swirl in the wind. (The opportunity cost is mostly genetic, since a single modern tree has very limited control over how fast its leaves die, but over time their mating behavior with the wind has selected more for leaves that die more quickly than they otherwise would. Note that those leaves, if they did _not_ fall off to allow the wind to blow them around, would have helped the tree consume energy from its secondary polygamous association with the sun; blowing dead leaves around, which doesn’t actually add much directly to the wind’s survival prospects, can be looked at as a signaling behavior where the wind requires the tree to make a biological commitment to it—“if you liked it you should have put dead leaves on it,” as it were—in order to secure a relationship and demonstrate a certain baseline health and strength.) Afterwards, the wind or the wind’s descendants will carry the tree’s pollen or seeds this way and that—it’s like those male spiders that will carry around the female spiders’ offspring on their back to impress potential future mates, or like a woman carrying around a hunter’s credit card on the savannah. Interestingly, though, when trees are not looking you will often see the wind carrying around the gifts of dozens of trees, blowing them about in a circle to decide which trees to have further pollen-wind-sex with in the spring. I think you can probably extrapolate this basic behavior to polygamous and monogamous relationships throughout the animal, vegetable, and elemental kingdoms.

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Belle Waring 01.17.12 at 3:41 am

One thing one might wish to consider is what the actual economic/social conditions were like back in the Environment of Early Adaptation? Well, the real answer is that we have no fucking idea, but a not totally implausible answer is that the most similar existing societies are those who live in relatively small bands of hunter-gatherers, such as the !Kung, and less exciting! tribes in the Amazon. In such tribes everyone has notable more leisure time than in agricultural societies, though of course their reproduction rate is much, much lower.

Generally, the gathering (mostly done by women) provides 80% of the average adults calories and the hunting (mostly done by men) 20%. That’s on average, and the protein is obviously important, so… Now, being the hot-shit best hunter in the tribe can convince lots of laydeez to have sex with you. Is this because they want your resources? No, because every motherfucking-body shares the food, Holmes. Shares the motherfucking food. They don’t want your resources—though they probably wouldn’t say no to you getting the oyster off that roast wild turkey for them. They want your hot body. Why are you so good at hunting? You’re in the pink. A fine physical specimen, keen of eye, etc.

If you are very, very good, I might allow you to construct a loooong chain of argument by analogy, in which being the best hunter=social capital, and monetary capital today=social capital, but note that you will be forced to leave out all the bits about “providing” for the offspring and so forth, and be left with something more along the lines of birds that do stupid dances to garner sexual attention, and the great engines of modern capital will turn out to be the baroque construction of a thousand bower-birds working at cross-purposes.

“No but food’s important,” I hear you cry. Yes. Food. Totes important. We’re all together on this one. So maybe fucking the best hunter does get you a bit of extra food. (Note that everyone’s far from starving or they could just put in a little more time looking for food, which they do not, because they’d rather hang around poking the fire with a sharp stick or creating oral epics and so on.) Then maybe you’d want the best hunter to think your kid was his so your kid would get extra food too. But life is short, and being the best hunter doesn’t last forever, maybe you better fuck that likely young up-and-comer with the blue feather in his hair. And then again, truth be told, strength isn’t everything, and that guy who used to be the best hunter a few years back knows a trick or two, if things were to get rough, might be useful. You know what you should really do here? Fuck every last member of the tribe who isn’t your dad or your brother, and convince each and every one of them that he is your special little schnookie-boo, and separately at various times of the day give each of them a blushing, downcast look which indicates he is the still point of your turning world.

And that explains why women are total sluts to this very day, and why people who think that the veldt predisposes women to sleep with old men who have lots of stuff appear to have forgotten about the perishability of food items and the non-utility of almost all others and the fact that there was no money then. The End.

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JanieM 01.17.12 at 5:01 am

Aiming to bore Rich P. by agreeing, among other purposes:

Jenna Moran @100: great stuff. I love watching wind+tree sex. That must make me some kind of weird voyeur.

Belle @101: I am in awe. :)

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Peter T 01.17.12 at 5:23 am

Belle @ 101 – you said it much better than I could. BTW, I think you have described the female chimpanzee outlook (and we’re all just chimps without the fur, aren’t we (sarcasm marker).

Another just-so-story that gets me is “man the killer ape”. Hullo, anyone noticed that we were mostly dawn-time lunch? Only Barbara Ehrenreich (Blood Rites), AFAIK.

105

js. 01.17.12 at 5:46 am

I was going to respond to mw, but after Jenna Moran and Belle, nothing to say really. Slate needs to get on dead-leaf gifting post-haste!

106

Meredith 01.17.12 at 5:52 am

Jenna Moran and Belle, thanks for bringing the poetry back.
those winds (like Boreas), and bees and honey, all that

107

Sebastian (2) 01.17.12 at 6:16 am

I actually came here for the voyeuristic pleasure of watching the train-wreck that threads somehow related to evo-psycho almost invariably end in.
Instead I got “”if you liked it you should have put dead leaves on it,” – that made me very happy.

108

Belle Waring 01.17.12 at 7:01 am

I feel as if we haven’t looked enough at the reproductive strategies of those worms that live at the bottom of the ocean next to geothermal vents. There may me much to learn there! And also lichen.
106 is seconded; all praise Ms. Moran

109

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.17.12 at 7:07 am

we’re all just chimps without the fur, aren’t we

No, we aren’t, not when it comes to procreation. Our females have concealed ovulations, theirs don’t. Which makes it a completely different game, if you think about it.

110

Tedra Osell 01.17.12 at 7:18 am

Seriously, anyone who didn’t follow the link Yarrow posted in #26 needs to. Sample quote:

“Likewise, Donald Trump and Carrot Top could each provide plenty of material support for offspring, so SST predicts that women would be interested. They were *ahem* not.”

111

Salient 01.17.12 at 7:29 am

Does the Jenna Moran who gave us that gem of a comment happen to be the same Jenna Moran who gave us Nobilis? That would be all kinds of cool.

112

Peter T 01.17.12 at 9:06 am

HV

and reduced sexual dimorphism, and small canines, and upright posture (with attendant narrow pelvis, earlier birth stage), and much greater social bonding and….In short, we are an evolutionary package of our own, just like most other species.

113

Martin 01.17.12 at 9:44 am

Peter T:

“Using economism to explain behaviour is like using hammers for brain surgery. The larger question is why so many people feel compelled to prise the top off the skull and whack away.”

As much as I do like the one-liners, it’s rather worthless without elaboration. Look economics is a framework to think about how people make choices, it is therefore rather appropriate to try and explain how people make certain choices with it. Now there is good economics and bad economics, just as there is good medicine and bad medicine, let’s therefore not conflate the latter with the former and draw conclusions about both.

My point earlier at 11 – I believe – was that sure you can make a model where porn, sexual attraction are traded off against one another. What that model will tell you however is that what the author (in Slate) says (tbh I couldn’t be bothered to read it, I am going by Belle’s description of it) requires an additional (limiting) assumption to come to that particular conclusion about sex, porn and women. An assumption Belle correctly identifies as mistaken. Making that assumption is bad economics. The model itself is not necessarily bad economics though, I can imagine if you keep all other relevant factors constant, that there is a trade-off between sex and porn and that it has an effect. Whether this effect has an economically significant magnitude in the real world? I don’t know that’s an empirical question, can’t really answer that.

Who knows though? That effect might even be less relevant than the geographical proximity of IKEA on a Sunday morning when it comes to the prospect of sex on a Saturday night. And the reason why the dominant conversation is not about the geographical proximity of IKEA and sex, but rather about porn and sex, is that in our current context that is the ‘plausible’ assumption to make. Once women and men start to picket IKEA’s because of the resulting lack of sex, models will pop up about the geographical proximity of IKEA’s and sex.

114

Jack Strocchi 01.17.12 at 10:05 am

Belle Waring shrieked:

This stupid economic model of sex is so deeply embedded in our culture that we often don’t notice it enough to question it. Happily, Mr. Regnerus has dragged it out in all its tattered glory, so that we can marvel at the idiocy which animates it.

I don’t really want to enter into full-frontal debate with BW on the political-economy of sex as I am no match for her in the invective stakes and partial crudity might offend. FTHistoricalR, evolutionary biology is pretty much grounded in economics, at least when it comes to inter-organism relations, whether they be be regulated by macro-economics of special selection or the micro-economics of sexual selection.

So if you want to debate the economics of ecologics you will have to take it up with some heavy intellectual hitters.

Darwin, in the Origin of the Species, pretty much acknowledged this when he credited Malthus (“stupid economic model[ler]“!) with the basic principle of natural (ie special) selection. Remember that dusty old bit of Victoriana, the “economy of nature”? It was forever tripping off Darwin’s lips. No surprises there, the idea of competitive struggle for existence was already in play for the economy so it was a no-brainer in biology.

But economics is embedded even deeper into evolutionary biology, through the analytics of game theory. This was a micro-economic technique originally cooked up by von Neumann and Morgenstern to analyse Cold War strategy, which did great service in helping to save the world from the twin evils of both communist totalitarianism and nuclear annihilation. Nash [“marvellous idio[t]“!] took it further, it was no accident that he applied it first to optimal pick-up strategies in a bar. Eventually game theory found a permanent home in evolutionary biology when Maynard Smith [another “idio[t]“!] used it to work out the economics of sexual evolution.

No doubt its a regrettable sign of the times that economics has mounted a successful take over bid of evo-psycho. But the professor in his ivory tower, no less than the common man in the street, can hardly be blamed for following the money once they got wind of the intellectual toxic waste dump that is feminist cultural theory.

115

Henri Vieuxtemps 01.17.12 at 10:42 am

@Peter T, 111. Nah, I suspect the concealed ovulation is a prerequisite for all those other things.
I believe that was the mutation that created the human species.

116

Martin 01.17.12 at 10:52 am

Strocchi does make a fair point about economics and evolutionary biology having exerted a good amount of influence on one another.

Let’s however also not forget the differences, evolutionary biology – if my reading of Dawkins is correct – explains behavior as the result of gene selection. The competition that is sexual selection is described as competition for genes. The explanation that economics offers however is in terms of individuals and competition is between individuals. This is an important difference, for this limits evolutionary biology – in terms of economics – to (some of) the preferences of individuals. Preferences can be explained in terms of genetic selection and economics is in the business of explaining (some of the observed) behavior in terms of preferences.

The assumption made however is that all preferences are explained in terms of genetics and that all behavior is explained in terms of economics. I think the former is definitely and obviously false – try explaining a preference for not only condoms but also the type of condom in terms of genetic selection – and the latter is defensible as the application of rational choice where rationality is interpreted broadly as purposeful behavior.

117

Uncle Kvetch 01.17.12 at 11:37 am

Belle Waring shrieked

And did so hysterically, at that. Asshole.

Now, with that out of the way, I join with Sebastian (2) above in celebrating what has turned out to be a gem of a thread. Kudos to all involved.

118

Belle Waring 01.17.12 at 11:44 am

Late to the game, Jack, but we all know you did the best you can with what you have, bless your heart.

119

Walt 01.17.12 at 11:54 am

Jenna Moran’s post is quite beautiful. It’s almost hard to laugh at it because it’s so poetic at the same time. I’ve never read anything else quite like it.

120

Slex 01.17.12 at 12:23 pm

@ Marting 116
The assumption made however is that all preferences are explained in terms of genetics and that all behavior is explained in terms of economics.

No, the assumption is that there is biological basis to human behaviour and not all of it is explained by culture.

121

Slex 01.17.12 at 12:26 pm

@ Jenna Moran 101

The medicine and cosmetics people use are tested on mice and monkeys, not trees and wind.

122

Walt 01.17.12 at 12:36 pm

Slex, don’t try to peddle that bullshit. Almost everyone would concede there is a biological basis for human behavior (it’s a big world, so I’m sure there’s someone who doesn’t). The argument is over the jump from the anodyne comment that almost no one would dispute to very specific claims that are not borne out by the evidence.

123

Jack Strocchi 01.17.12 at 12:48 pm

Shorter Strocchi: sex-ratios set the parameters for the sexual “market”.

Long-winded Strocchi:

In the Occident, the excess supply of eligible women AND the lower costs of female promiscuity (looser definition of fidelity, control of fertility, acceptance of illegitimacy and treatable infections), means the supply of cheap female sex will be greater. Reported female relationship satisfaction appears to have declined, unless you are Madonna or some other equally implausible feminist role model.

In the Orient, the situation is reversed with the one-child policy generating a deficient supply of eligible women, so women are holding out for a better deal. And getting it, going by the lonesome cries of desperate and dateless “Angry Asian Guys” on sundry forums. The NYT points out that Chinese men are out of the dating game if they don’t have a car and apartment to bring to the table:

largely overlooked is the collateral damage to urban young professionals, especially men, who increasingly find themselves lovelorn and despairing as a growing number of women hold out for a mate with a deed.

The marriage competition is fierce, and statistically, women hold the cards. Given the nation’s gender imbalance, an outgrowth of a cultural preference for boys and China’s stringent family-planning policies, as many as 24 million men could be perpetual bachelors by 2020, according to the report.

Among the qualities they seek in a mate, 50 percent said that financial considerations ranked above all else, with good morals and personality falling beneath the top three requirements. (Not surprisingly, 54 percent of single men ranked beauty first, according to the report, which surveyed 32,000 people and was jointly issued by the Chinese Research Association of Marriage and Family and the All-China Women’s Federation.)

My anecdotal observation of female Chinese students is that they come to town with a fairly lofty sense of entitlement and are in for a rude shock when as they adjust to thee changed sex-ratios. But they seem to adapt fairly well, going by the high frequency of older Caucasian male-younger Asian female couplings.

124

Jack Strocchi 01.17.12 at 12:51 pm

Shorter Strocchi: sex-ratios set the parameters for the sexual “market”.

Long-winded Strocchi:

In the Occident, the excess supply of eligible women AND the lower costs of female promiscuity (looser definition of fidelity, control of fertility, acceptance of illegitimacy and treatable infections), means the supply of cheap female sex will be greater. Reported female relationship satisfaction appears to have declined, unless you are Madonna or some other equally implausible feminist role model.

In the Orient, the situation is reversed with the one-child policy generating a deficient supply of eligible women, so women are holding out for a better deal. And getting it, going by the lonesome cries of desperate and dateless “Angry Asian Guys” on sundry forums. The NYT points out that Chinese men are out of the dating game if they don’t have a car and apartment to bring to the table:

largely overlooked is the collateral damage to urban young professionals, especially men, who increasingly find themselves lovelorn and despairing as a growing number of women hold out for a mate with a deed…The marriage competition is fierce, and statistically, women hold the cards. Given the nation’s gender imbalance, an outgrowth of a cultural preference for boys and China’s stringent family-planning policies, as many as 24 million men could be perpetual bachelors by 2020, according to the report…Among the qualities they seek in a mate, 50 percent said that financial considerations ranked above all else, with good morals and personality falling beneath the top three requirements. (Not surprisingly, 54 percent of single men ranked beauty first, according to the report, which surveyed 32,000 people and was jointly issued by the Chinese Research Association of Marriage and Family and the All-China Women’s Federation.)

My anecdotal observation of female Chinese students is that they come to town with a fairly lofty sense of entitlement and are in for a rude shock when as they adjust to thee changed sex-ratios. But they seem to adapt fairly well, going by the high frequency of older Caucasian male-younger Asian female couplings.

125

Slex 01.17.12 at 12:56 pm

@ Walt

The only bullshit is the strawmen that has been attacked in 100+ posts in the thread. Who claims that ” all preferences are explained in terms of genetics“?

But then, on the other side, we have the implicitly stated position that differences in the behaviour of men and women in relation to sex are entirely socially constructed. What else, may I ask, is also socially constructed? Is the maternal instinct a purely cultural phenomenon or it is grounded in our biological nature? If the latter, how do you explain it, and in what way is your explanation less of a “just so story”?

126

Walt 01.17.12 at 1:07 pm

Notice how you jump from the anodyne to the specific. Apparently in your mind, once we accept that human behavior has a biological basis, we also have to accept all of your additional specific claims. Nice work if you can get it.

127

Neville Morley 01.17.12 at 1:23 pm

Sincerely wish I was knowledgeable and funny enough to make a decent contribution to this wonderful thread; all I can offer is the thought that of course you *can* always describe things in terms of other things, the key questions are why you’d want to and what the effect is of doing so. To rewrite a bit of Marx:

“The physical transfer of objects from one living creature to another is found everywhere, from mating spiders to venture capitalists. If, therefore, I label it ‘exchange’, in the confident knowledge that ‘semper aliquid haeret’, then I have proved that the existence of capital is an eternal law of nature of biological existence, and that the spider who presents his mate with a dead fly is just as true a capitalist as Herr von Rothschild. I could prove with equal facility that the Greeks and Romans celebrated communion because they drank wine and ate bread.”

128

Slex 01.17.12 at 1:34 pm

@ Walt

I do notice you nudging a simple question. Resorting to empty generalisations works as an evasive strategy.

129

Rich Puchalsky 01.17.12 at 1:48 pm

“I’ve never read anything else quite like it.”

Read this! You probably want to start from the beginning, but it’s not necessary.

130

fish 01.17.12 at 1:49 pm

You went over to Slate to read Yglesias or Lithwick or something. You could have stopped there. But instead, you clicked on a link that was clearly labeled “I am contrarian bullshit that will annoy you, because this is Slate.”

I am afraid in the case of Yglesias, A=B.

131

Martin 01.17.12 at 1:55 pm

Slex,

“No, the assumption is that there is biological basis to human behaviour and not all of it is explained by culture.”

That’s lovely, doesn’t explain a thing, what are your other assumptions? If you’re going to explain behavior in terms of biology, you need more than just the assumption that there is a biological basis to it. What does ‘biological basis’ even mean? We’re made of atoms, good luck applying physics to love, or as Einstein said ‘Gravity cannot be blamed for people falling in love': what makes genes special?

132

Jim Henley 01.17.12 at 2:23 pm

@Salient: It is the same Jenna Moran who gave us Nobilis on the Veldt. Also the same Jenna Moran who gave us Hitherby Dragons, Unclean Legacy and Invasion.

133

fish 01.17.12 at 2:43 pm

FTHistoricalR, evolutionary biology is pretty much grounded in economics, at least when it comes to inter-organism relations, whether they be be regulated by macro-economics of special selection or the micro-economics of sexual selection.

Ugh. A wheelbarrow full of crap here. Bacterial adaption to antibiotics has nothing to do economics nor does it matter one whit whether Darwin was “influenced” by economics. Evolution stands on 150 years of scientific research. Econ sits on a 150 year pile of bullshit.

134

Slex 01.17.12 at 3:11 pm

@ Martin 131

Slex,

“No, the assumption is that there is biological basis to human behaviour and not all of it is explained by culture.”

That’s lovely, doesn’t explain a thing, what are your other assumptions?

This specific sentence wasn’t meant to explain how the biological basis of a specific human behavioural trait came to be, but to expose a strawman to which no one here subscribes. Go to posts 116 and 120 to see it in context. It makes no sense to claim it does not do what it did not intend to, anyway.

Regarding the specific claim that women tend to be more selective when it comes to sex and to be less likely to engage in random sex because of (among other things) a biological predisposition, the explanation is no other than that given in chapter 9 of the “Selfish gene”. Genes are the unit of selection, according to Dawkins, but the actual selection process works on them by way of the attributes and behaviour of the individual and its interaction with the environment.

Short Dawkins:
Regarding land mammals, females bear disproportionally higher costs than men in leaving progeny. The costs are incurred both in pregnancy and in subsequent raising of the newly born. As this is the result of sex, they become more selective as to who they mate with. Just to clarify that while this sounds as an intentional decision of the female, this is not. It’s simply the case that females who don’t do this are less likely to have their genes passed down to future generations and their genes decrease in the gene pool. Being selective in mating becomes a genetically selected trait.

There are two ways in which it happens. The first one is a long and costly courtship imposed by the female on the male. The male bears the costs of foregone sexual intercourse with other females and this is an indication of his seriousness. Chances are that males like these will be engaged in parental investment after the birth.

The second strategy for the female is not to look for someone “responsible”, but for someone who is fit. Females become selective for males who are stronger and faster. Even if such males don’t take care of their offspring, their offspring has a better chance of survival than the offspring of males who don’t have these traits.

Dawkins regards this as a trend, not one-and-for-all fixed behaviour. A population can be infiltrated by promiscuous males and females, but it will result in unstable equilibria and in the long term females being choosy is the dominant behavioural trait.

The communal child-rearing practice of the !Kung people, mentioned by Belle Waring, will render the first female strategy obsolete, but not the second. The other point to consider is that even if natural selection had completely stopped at that point (regarding sexual behaviour of males and females), human evolution did not start with hunter gatherer societies with communal economies, but earlier, and most of those traits were already selected for.

There is no reason why the biological differences, underpinning sexual behaviour of men and women, would disappear. Yes, contraceptives, welfare benefits and cultural trends can often make them irrelevant when making conscious behavioural choices in the 21st century, but that does not eliminate them from the gene pool, nor do they completely suppress their effects.

135

Martin 01.17.12 at 5:28 pm

Slex,

All you are doing in the above post is providing an explanation why people have certain preferences (selection). You’re however using the rational choice model to explain why people make certain choices based on those narrow set of preferences. Now whether or not people are conscious of said choices that is besides the point, but you’re giving an economic explanation based on a very narrow set of preferences without explaining why you assume that other preferences are irrelevant to those choices.

Now if you argue, as you seem to in the final paragraph that these preferences are not very relevant to today’s society, then I don’t see why their biological basis is constantly brought up. It seems rather pointless to explain choices in terms of preferences that are not that terribly relevant. Yes, the sky is blue, so what? The existence of such models about humans in the discourse constitutes the true puzzle then.

Now if you want to argue that behind all those choices are those preferences that have been selected for because of such and such, then you need to come with a bit stronger evidence than some anecdotes. “The plural of anecdotes is not data”, but anecdotes is basically all you seem to have in support of the significance of a biological basis in human (sexual) preferences. Hence my previous point, why not explain it in terms of atoms and physics? What makes genes so special?

If you look at Belle’s assumption for example that sex is about ‘enthusiastic participation’, why make the ‘biological basis’ assumption then? Obviously it’s there and the sky is still blue, but what more does it tell you? It’s far-fetched, unlikely to be significant, and it is often framed in a way so as to explain female sexual choices to men which makes you overlook what both have in common. Which brings me back to my puzzle, why are we even talking about sexual choices in these terms?

136

clew 01.17.12 at 5:49 pm

It’s historically anomalous to assume that women don’t improve their mating chances by accumulating resources and skill in provision. Dowry, paraphernalia, hope chests, brewing and distilling (including medicines), cheesemaking, just being a good preserver and cook: the reproduction of labor was difficult and valuable for most of history and women did at least half of it.

Industrialization gave rich countries a Veblenesque fantasia of useless rich women. It is foolish to ret-con that into a biological universal.

137

Slex 01.17.12 at 6:36 pm

Why people have certain preferences is important in understanding their choice. Of course, the preferences are expressed in a specific environment, which may give the choice one direction or another.

Women are biologically predisposed to be more selective than men. Men are predisposed to take the initiative and be less discriminate in their sexual choice. It doesn’t show so much today, but it shows. And it can’t be explained completely with cultural influences.

People have instinct for self-preservation. But then, there are some who commit suicide. Are we then to say that such an instinct does not exist?

Maternal instinct is very strong. Yet, depending on the situation, women can resort to infanticide.

You say that all I have is anecdotes. But you have nothing better.

People did not come into existence out of nowehere. They are the product of millions of years of evolution. I see no reason to dismiss its effects lightheartedly. Besides, the explanation in my previous post is anything but anecdotal. Not only is it falsifiable, but we have the opportunity to actully check it out and validate it. We can’t expect such type of sex role behaviour in species where the female doesn’t bear the high costs of pregnancy. And we don’t see it – water animals with external to the body fertilisation do not have it.

I asked a question which no one seems to want to answer. Is maternal instinct biologically determined? And if yes, how did it come about? I have the suspicion that many of the people who criticize the position I defend have no problems embracing biological explanations of human behaviour, as long as it is not about sex differences.

138

rm 01.17.12 at 7:02 pm

Slex: But then, on the other side, we have the implicitly stated position that differences in the behaviour of men and women in relation to sex are entirely socially constructed.

I think not. Instead, I think the claim is that when there are so many overwhelmingly obvious cultural and historical factors, no one should think they can have any confidence that any behavior “can’t be explained completely with cultural influences.” Why not? This is like the “intelligent design”-ers who are sure that biological complexity can’t be explained completely by natural selection. In your case, it is common-sense-plausible that there are biologically hard-wired behaviors. But good luck taking any specific culturally-embedded behavior out of its context in order to settle this chicken-and-egg question. You can always count on there being a cultural context to complicate things. Frustrating, isn’t it? Maybe behaviors can’t be explained in such reductionist ways.

Why do these explanations prompt such a strong response when they are about sex differences? Maybe because when they are about sex difference, the methodology is always ridiculous and the conclusions always map conveniently onto established cultural narratives.

139

Ken Houghton 01.17.12 at 7:15 pm

“the article should perhaps be provided with an old-timey screensaver to avoid this. Flying toasters, say.”

Hey! No insulting the Flying Toasters! Rather deal with them than have to pretend that an ev-psych “researcher” should be taken seriously.

140

mds 01.17.12 at 7:36 pm

More Dogs, Less Crime @50:

How might the original experiment be replicated in a way that avoids such confounding factors?

With contraptions. Ideally at a barbershop.

141

kharris 01.17.12 at 7:38 pm

I realize that evolutionary psych is in bad odor these days (thanks for the “fetor”), and that we are all meant to cheer for a rant and that a rant that involves “Slate” is even better, but I have to protest. Yes, voluntary, eager participation in sex is a good and (we hope) common norm. However, in order to argue that an economic model of sexual choice is a bad thing, you have tacitly denigrated economic exchange in its other forms.

Have you been shopping? Have you seen the eagerness with which the buyer anticipates the purchase and the seller anticipates the sale? Do you not like the bakery that provides you with the fresh-baked bread of your choice? Does the baker not relish the opportunity to sell you bread?

No, the badness, lowness, commercialness of mutually-agreed upon exchange cannot be the reason that the wonderfulness of sex cannot be thought of in economic terms, because exchange is not bad or low (OK, it is commercial). Sex can be thought of in economic terms. It annoys you, perhaps, when people do it. Probably it really annoys you when they do it badly, as in the current case. Doing a good job of describing sex in economic terms might ease the annoyance, so Slate has made the situation problematic. There is an absence of romance or volition or feminist theory in an economic view of sex which may trigger dislike. There is also an absence of romance in an economic view of Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t make an economic view of Valentine’s Day wrong. Slate’s view is, of course, wrong, but that isn’t the same as the economic view being wrong.

142

vacuumslayer 01.17.12 at 8:02 pm

I’m confused about the porn angle. Is the takeaway supposed to be that young women walk around worried they’re competing with porn ladies, thus they better make themselves more sexually available? ‘Cuz I’m guessing…no. No woman anywhere is doing that.

143

Slex 01.17.12 at 8:13 pm

@ rm

I agree that there is no way to separate cultural from biological factors for experimental or observational purposes and that this where the problem is. After all, humans don’t exist in a no-culture environment. But this thread is not an expression of the agnosticism on how to draw the boundary where the first ends and the second begins. Instead the tone of the OP and most of the comments is that any attempt to use biology in explaining differences in sexual behaviour is completely outlandish and unfounded. When it’s not – for the very same reasons mentioned above.

If we apply the same criteria, used to dismiss the biological basis of sexual behaviour, we will end up dismissing all biological influences on human behaviour with the exception of sleeping, eating and drinking. Which seems to me to go against common sense.

144

Substance McGravitas 01.17.12 at 8:25 pm

If we apply the same criteria, used to dismiss the biological basis of sexual behaviour, we will end up dismissing all biological influences on human behaviour with the exception of sleeping, eating and drinking.

What’s being objected to is the making of myth; watching a spider and grafting our ideas on to it isn’t far removed from any other kind of magical thinking.

145

js. 01.17.12 at 8:34 pm

Instead the tone of the OP and most of the comments is that any attempt to use biology in explaining differences in sexual behaviour is completely outlandish and unfounded.

See, here’s the thing though, and I’ll add some emphasis for you:

I can be a strict biological determinist about human behavior, and still think evol. psych. is horseshit. Because the project of explaining human choices, preferences, whatever, in terms of bio-chemical processes (whether wholly or partially) does not commit me to the bogus methodology of ev-psych, and because in order to do this I don’t need to worry about what went down on the fuckin’ savannah. (Metaphorically) flailing your hands in the direction of “Nature” can obfuscate this point, but it doesn’t change it. So, the point here is not what our biology can or cannot explain about us, it is that ev-psych cannot really explain anything (because of course it can explain everything!).

Moreover, if you were to actually read the OP, you might notice that the target there is an economic model of sexual practices.

146

ezra abrams 01.17.12 at 10:33 pm

To the author of the Post:
You do realize that slate is a *for profit* venture, and that the 20yearoldmale demographic is esp favored by advertisers ?
To put it another way, back in the day, Playboy paid more for articles – a lot more – then any other magazine in the US
Which is why so many serious writers had so many good articles in Playboy

147

Martin 01.17.12 at 10:42 pm

slex,

“Instead the tone of the OP and most of the comments is that any attempt to use biology in explaining differences in sexual behaviour is completely outlandish and unfounded.”

Sure you can use biology, however as earlier, is it really significant? Again as earlier, I can try to use physics to try to explain human behavior – we’re all atoms after all – however we all would hopefully agree that that kind of reductionism would be silly. What makes trying to explain human behavior in terms of biology or genetics any less silly? Sure it’s less reductionist, but viewed from the moon we’re all ants anyway, the question is what is the proper perspective?

Personally, I would go with economics, at least the unit of analysis is the individual human being there, some might argue that economics has the wrong focus, but at least that moves the debate a bit further.

js.

“Moreover, if you were to actually read the OP, you might notice that the target there is an economic model of sexual practices.”

a bit misguided view of what an economic model is though.

148

Slex 01.17.12 at 11:52 pm

@ Martin

Fear and love also come as earlier, but it does not make them irrelevant to human behaviour. You can try to find an explanation in physics but it will not be even remotely as plausible as the evolutionary one. Actually, this is one of the reasons to dismiss physics as a level of analysis.

149

Peter T 01.18.12 at 12:14 am

Martin

I used “economism” as a short hand for “explaining everything as [mutual] exchange”. It’s a uselessly simple as Slex’s stories about biological predispositions, because it pays too little attention to what is the appropriate level of analysis, largely ignores social structures and their effects on accompanying individual dispositions, and tries to work forward from some weak underlying generality to some overall conclusion without (usually) paying much attention to the strength or otherwise of the evidence and the length of the chain. In short, just another bunch of people convinced they have found the answer to life the universe and everything, and it really is 42.

I can accept biological predispositions, but I don’t use them to explain the evening news. And yes, there is good economics and bad economics. Unfortunately the latter is much more common then the former, and even the former only explains a little of what goes on, and that contingently.

150

Serge Boucher 01.18.12 at 1:57 am

I couldn’t agree more. I’d just point out that, in the original paper Regnerus is citing, authors go out of their way to say that their results could just as well be explained by women’s deeper reluctance to follow complete strangers than by any difference in sex drive. This is less about a badly designed experiment than it is about a journalist quote-mining research papers to make a point that isn’t actually made in the scientific literature.

If you’re interested, I wrote my own rant on this, from the perspective of a (male) engineer who’s tired of people pretending sexism is a thing of the past and it’s okay to assume any gender difference we see in the world can’t possibly be caused by prejudice.

151

Slex 01.18.12 at 2:05 am

@ Peter T

I wouldn’t use biology to explain unemployment. But I would use biology to explain aspects of sexual behaviour. We have a concrete example. No one is trying to explain everything, the evening news included. And it’s not like I have ignored social structures. I simply take issue with the view that once you identify social factors at work, you can dismiss the influence of biology. Whether or not biology and evolution play a role merits its own evaluation.

As far as the appropriate level of analysis goes, you can’t know it in advance. If you ask me, any level, at which plausible explanations can be produced, is appropriate. The more the explanation can be confirmed by reality, the better.

Regarding economic explanations of human behaviour, they do not try to explain everything as exchange. After all, a lot modelling is dedicated to Robinson, who, as we know, has nothing to exchange with anyone, because he is alone on the island.

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DM 01.18.12 at 2:31 am

People can and should have sex together, not just with enthusiastic consent, which I think doesn’t stray far enough from the commoditized model, but enthusiastic participation.

Can you please elaborate why you think enthusiastic consent “doesn’t stray far enough from the commoditized model [of sex]“? I don’t quite follow what you mean.

153

Pinko Punko 01.18.12 at 4:29 am

Someone is twistin my melon, man, and it ain’t Shawn Ryder.

154

stubydoo 01.18.12 at 5:27 am

Regarding the romance between the trees and the wind – it was the inspiration for this tender love ballad…

155

stubydoo 01.18.12 at 5:27 am

sorry, link fail. Anyway, here’s the URL

156

Belle Waring 01.18.12 at 6:46 am

152: Can you please elaborate why you think enthusiastic consent “doesn’t stray far enough from the commoditized model [of sex]”? I don’t quite follow what you mean.

Enthusiastic consent still sounds like sex is either a thing man do to women if the women give consent (however enthusiastically) or a good which is exchanged if the seller, the women here, consent to sell at a given price. Whereas “participation” correctly indicates that sex is an activity which people do together.

slex et al: don’t make straw blank slate adherents. The big bad wolf will blow them away. Obviously biological impulses which evolved over millions of years still animate us in some ways today. However, human have complicated things by making their own environment. I am happy to concede that sex is an area particularly likely to be sovereign to various instinctual, evolved drives. I just contend that we don’t really know what exactly they are, and it seems almost impossible to imagine how we could figure it out. As has been pointed out, taking sexual relations from modern industrialized society and ret-conning them onto the environment of early human development seems a particularly unpromising methodology.

And look: queer people. Just wanderin’ around, existing. Pretty obviously pursuing a failed reproductive strategy, but coming up with relationships often very similar to straight ones as determined by our culture. What’s going on there? I submit we have no fucking idea. To the extent that they resemble straight relationships (i.e. marriage) they are pretty obviously totally culturally determined. But is the cultural determination only for gay people? No, probably not.

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Jack Strocchi 01.18.12 at 7:19 am

fish @ #133 said:


Ugh. A wheelbarrow full of crap here. Bacterial adaption to antibiotics has nothing to do economics nor does it matter one whit whether Darwin was “influenced” by economics. Evolution stands on 150 years of scientific research. Econ sits on a 150 year pile of bullshit.

Read what I wrote not the clapped out version of post-seventies Leftism which still seems to be floating around in your head. I wrote “evolutionary biology is pretty much grounded in economics, at least when it comes to inter-organism relations”. “Bacterial adaptation to antibiotics” is pretty clearly an intra-organism adaptation and therefore fails to launch as a counter-point.

Roughly simplifying, so far as humans (and perhaps some higher-order mammals) are concerned, evolutionary socio-biology can be divided into two basic categories:
Intra-organism: instinctual preferences (micro-biological)
Inter-organism: institutional processes (macro-sociological)

More generally, all evolutionary biological states can be reduced to a simple dialectic:
adaptive phenetic embodiments
are a function of the interaction of:
selective ecologic environment
inheritable genetic endowment

Its not to much of a stretch to say that eco-logy and eco-nomics, having the same etymology, refer to similar processes when it comes to inter-organism relations. Although obviously the currency is different depending on organism (basically it boils down to energy transfers).

BTW, thanks for reinforcing my stereotype of cultural constructivists as ignorant and stupid yobs who don’t know what they are talking about, especially when abusing those who do.

158

Jack Strocchi 01.18.12 at 7:29 am

fish @ #133 said:


Ugh. A wheelbarrow full of crap here. Bacterial adaption to antibiotics has nothing to do economics nor does it matter one whit whether Darwin was “influenced” by economics. Evolution stands on 150 years of scientific research. Econ sits on a 150 year pile of bullshit.

Read what I wrote not the clapped out version of post-seventies Leftism which still seems to be floating around in your head. I wrote “evolutionary biology is pretty much grounded in economics, at least when it comes to inter organism relations”. “Bacterial adaptation to antibiotics” is pretty clearly an intra organism adaptation and therefore fails to launch as a counter-point.

Roughly simplifying (sorry for auto-didactic tone) so far as humans (and perhaps some higher-order mammals) are concerned, evolutionary socio-biology can be divided into two basic categories:

Intra organism: micro biological (instinctual preferences)

Inter organism: macro sociological (institutional processes)

More generally, all evolutionary biological states can be reduced to a simple dialectic:

adaptive phenetic embodiments

are a function of the interaction of:

selective ecologic environment

inheritable genetic endowment

Its not to much of a stretch to say that eco logy and eco nomics, having the same etymology, refer to similar processes when it comes to inter-organism relations. Although obviously the currency is different depending on organism (basically it boils down to energy transfers).

BTW, thanks for reinforcing my stereotype of cultural constructivists as ignorant and stupid yobs who don’t know what they are talking about, especially when abusing those who do.

159

Jenna Moran 01.18.12 at 8:12 am

Sometimes I think that people come up with the most amazingly complex explanations of what’s going on in other people’s lives so that they never have to worry about actually listening to or honoring others’ perspectives, their experience of themselves, and their subjectivity. It’s like, what would you rather know about why a woman makes the decisions she makes in life and love: (a) what she’s thinking or (b) our current guess as to the mating strategies of her evolutionary ancestors?

I think a lot of people like to pin down the latter because they don’t want to know about the former. They don’t want to accept that it’s meaningful.

When you’re young, I think, it’s easy to look at the emotions that other people stir up in you and see that as something they’re doing. Because when you’re young the ego is a very fragile part of your head and emotions and reactions are very strong. That’s actually also true when you’re not young, I think, but one does get better at living with it. ^_^

And it’s nice to come up with a theory that organizes all those other people and thus all those incoming moods. It’s nice to get a sense of cognitive mastery over what’s going on with that, to build an ideological picture of what’s going on that severs you from having to model each individual person out there. Particularly if you can arrange to only really need to model half the human population before you get down to making harder empathize-or-dismiss choices. But in some sense, when it comes down to it, it’s not how “women” or “men” behave that is wanting for an explanation; it’s how we let ourselves lose so much track so frequently of other peoples’ fundamental and elemental personhood.

Sometimes these arguments read like somebody shooting somebody else and then frantically trying to explain it with a ballistics lecture.

Best wishes,

Jenna
“you see, the heated gunpowder expands, forcing the bullet out the muzzle of the gun at high velocity at angle X . . .”

160

Martin 01.18.12 at 8:23 am

Slex

“Fear and love also come as earlier, but it does not make them irrelevant to human behaviour. You can try to find an explanation in physics but it will not be even remotely as plausible as the evolutionary one. Actually, this is one of the reasons to dismiss physics as a level of analysis.”

You’re conflating sounding plausible and being plausible here. Evolutionary explanations sound plausible because they supposedly tell us something about our ‘nature’ and our ‘nature’ supposedly determines our behavior to the exclusion of everything else.

The comparison to physics is then easily made: a few centuries ago mechanistic explanations were fashionable and one went even as far as to claim that given the laws of the universe, human behavior too was determined.

Why not treat humans qua humans and not as consisting of atoms or the vehicles for genes?

Peter T.

Social structures are analysed in economics as – to use Hayek’s words – ‘the result of human action, but not of human design’. Hayek however also argued that we cannot always understand the function of certain social institutions/structures/orders, not because these are outside the scope of analysis, just because they are so very difficult. Good economics is about trying to make sense of stuff like that.

Now I don’t want to go forth and make the ‘no true scotsman would’ argument, but you seem to have a fairly narrow view of what economics is. Economics broadly conceived is about human behavior and cooperation. Human beings are weak, frail and often seem to make little sense, yet for some reason we have all these social structures through which we do make sense and are capable of cooperating.

Sex as enthusiastic participation to me fits easily into that broad conception of economics. We’re maybe weak, frail and stupid, but we have developed certain dating rituals to make sense of things and find someone we’ll enjoy spending time with. How do you know someone is fun to talk to, if you’ve never talked to them over dinner? How do you know if you’re comfortable to be silent with someone when you’ve never taken them to a particular movie? etc.
Again I am not saying we do these things consciously and rationally, but for some reason we have these dating ‘rules’ so that two strangers can learn a bit about one another. Trying to understand this type of behavior is economics.

161

Martin 01.18.12 at 8:26 am

On a further note, I do understand why economic explanations rub people the wrong way, they often devolve into pseudo-scientific justifications for a sexist belief. It’s an easy jump from ‘women are whores’ to ‘money exchanged for sex’.

In that case however no science will be of any use as it is always contingent on the mindset with which you approach these problems.

162

Peter T 01.18.12 at 9:20 am

Martin

That seems to make rather a large claim for economics. Can you point to any economics books which try to explain social structures? Not Becker or Levitt – I can’t judge all of their arguments, but on those where I have even a minimal expertise they come across as silly – a mess of simplistic assertions and unacknowledged assumptions.

163

Martin 01.19.12 at 12:43 am

Peter T,

One field within economics (and law), the Law & Economics movement, applies the tools of economics to the field of law to analyze and evaluate its purpose from the perspective of economic efficiency. Cooter & Ulen’s “Law and Economics” is a good example of the approach used.

Arguably you could also have a look at Hayek’s later work for example “the fatal conceit”, where he explicitly discusses the social order as the result of an economic/evolutionary process.

Another example of where rules are analyzed is Vernon Smith’s work in experimental economics. Here is a summary of his Prize Lecture: http://wikisum.com/w/Smith:_Constructivist_and_ecological_rationality_in_economics that might give you a bit of an idea what I mean.

All three are examples of the analysis of rules that people use to cooperate with one another. As long as there is cooperation and there are rules, traditions, rituals, laws etc. economics is an appropriate mode of analysis.

164

Martin 01.19.12 at 12:46 am

One book that just came to my mind as I posted: Leeson’s ‘The Invisible Hook’, it’s short, it’s fun and it gives you a very good example of the power of economics. http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8850.html

165

The Irony Goggles! They do nothing! 01.19.12 at 4:26 am

JS @ 153
“BTW, thanks for reinforcing my stereotype of cultural constructivists as ignorant and stupid yobs who don’t know what they are talking about, especially when abusing those who do.”

That’s coming from someone who’s first words on this thread were

“Belle Waring shrieked:”

166

Peter T 01.19.12 at 5:36 am

Martin

thanks.

Peter

167

Slex 01.19.12 at 2:33 pm

@ Peter T

To add to Martin 163 has written. Robert Cooter has made available at his website an older edition of his book “Introduction to Law and Economics”. You can download it here
http://works.bepress.com/robert_cooter/56/
as a scanned pdf, which is not very e-reader friendly, but one can’t complain, provided that it costs nothing.

Another less-technical introduction to the subject can be found on the web at:
http://www.iea.org.uk/publications/research/the-economics-of-law
This is a book by Cento Veljanovski, which can be ordered from the website but is offere also as a free pdf download.

Another non-technical introduction to the same subject is given by David D. Friedman. An earlier draft of his book “Law’s Order: An Economic Account” can be found on his website here:
http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Laws_Order_draft/laws_order_ToC.htm
If you browse the website you can find an article called “Economics and Evolutionary Psychology”. I haven’t read it, so I don’t know what it’s about, but in the context of the discussion so far it is worth mentioning.

Regarding Peter T. Leesons’ “The Invisible Hook” – you can google for his website. He has several lengthy articles on the topic which can probably give you an idea about the arguments in his book.

Hayek’s explanation of social structures relied heavily on the idea of group selection, which has largely fallen out of favour from evolutionary biology since the 1970s, which has probably affected the acceptance also of Hayek’s point of view.

A modern proponent of group selection as an explanatory tool for processes in society is Geoffrey Hodgson. His books are too expensive for me, but the majority of his articles are freely accessible. He is also the editor of the “Journal of Institutional Economics”. An article in the journal called “Comparing Theories of Institutional Change” gives a good overview of several of the explanations of social structures in economics. If you google the title you will be able to find a version, which is not behid a paywall.

Having said that, economic analysis usually operates within a given institutional framework, which is taken as a given. However, my personal opinion is that there has been a trend in recent years to try and explain the development of not only formal, but also informal institutions.

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Mandos 01.19.12 at 2:38 pm

Its not to much of a stretch to say that eco logy and eco nomics, having the same etymology, refer to similar processes when it comes to inter-organism relations. Although obviously the currency is different depending on organism (basically it boils down to energy transfers).

BTW, thanks for reinforcing my stereotype of cultural constructivists as ignorant and stupid yobs who don’t know what they are talking about, especially when abusing those who do.

OMG, someone plays the etymology gambit and complains about “cultural constructivists” being ignorant and stupid yobs.

Double irony goggles.

169

Mandos 01.19.12 at 2:38 pm

The second paragraph above also belongs to the bloq-quotes. *smaqs forehead*

170

OhReallyNow 01.19.12 at 6:16 pm

At risk of taking this ridiculous article (and the study it cites) far too seriously, it occurs to me that there is a further flaw in its logic. Belle correctly notes that there are lots of cultural reasons (and perhaps also legitimate safety reasons) why women might be less likely than men to have casual sex with strangers who approach them at random. But even if we set that aside, such a study could, at most, inform us about men’s and women’s relative predilection for casual sex. The Slate article, however, is talking primarily about sex within the confines of a committed relationship, which involves a different set of motivations and impulses. It may be the case that people who want lots of casual sex also tend to want more sex within relationships, but I see no a priori reason that should be true. Casual sex is mostly about physical pleasure, perhaps with some psychological benefits (feeling attractive, “the thrill of the chase,” etc.). Relationship-sex is about some of those things too, but also lots else (emotional connection, feelings of intimacy, pleasing your partner). Plus, at least for most people I know, relationship-sex tends to be better on purely physical terms as well. It’s hardly a stretch to think that people who are uninterested in casual sex might be interested in having (lots of) relationship sex. And I know plenty of couples where sexual roles have shifted over the course of a relationship—where the person who pushed the relationship forward physically in the early days becomes less likely than his/her partner to initiate sex once the relationship becomes more developed. So even if you accept the economic model of sex (which I don’t), and even if you accept that women hold more “erotic capital” when it comes to casual sex or early-in-a-relationship sex (which I definitely don’t), you’re still left with the problem that that analysis tells us nothing about erotic capital within the confines of a committed relationship.

171

Kalkaino 01.19.12 at 6:56 pm

I liked the story about the guy in the red Vette. It reminded me of Annie Lennox, who says more cogent things about sex in three-minutes-forty, than David Buss’ whole Austin crew in decades:

Love is a Stranger

172

JW Mason 01.19.12 at 7:18 pm

Jenna Moran’s comment @159 seems really remarkably insightful, one of the best I’ve seen on this whole topic.

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Helen 01.20.12 at 12:09 am

@75: “resources play an important role in human sexual relationships in virtually every culture, and it’s usually (but, no, not universally) the case that men are the ones providing resources and women are the ones demanding them.”

What an offensive statement. Women don’t “demand”, they earn, worldwide. And “in virtually every culture” – well, outside the developed world, they are equally likely to be, for instance, agricultural labourers. This comment also discounts the huge amount of unpaid labour performed by women who don’t “work” in the Western-approved definition of the word, but that’s a discussion for another day.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 01.20.12 at 8:23 am

Jenna Moran’s comment @159 seems really remarkably insightful

What, you prefer the ‘agency’ approach over the ‘structure’ one? Now, that’s surprising, I must say.

175

a 01.20.12 at 8:54 am

Well, I’m glad to read the Belle has (or had) a psychiatrist. Alas, he is clearly not a very good one.

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Antonio Conselheiro 01.21.12 at 2:57 am

Dear a: You are completely out of your league. Just quit. (Or return to the WWF threads you came here from).

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Adam 01.22.12 at 11:42 am

In (reluctant) defense of this article, the fact that college-age males are 100% more likely to engage in sex with a completely random stranger than females can have a meaningful consequence on society-wide sexual dynamics without it having to be the case that the reason for this fact is that men enjoy sex more than women. It can be that men are simply more confident in their ability to fend off attack, are less stigmatized for taking risk, or even that on average women do enjoy sex without love less, but only because the Catholic Church and mainstream television tells them to. Regardless of the reason, it can still have an impact on larger mating patterns.

For the record, I’d guess women actually enjoy sex more than men do, thanks to the greater surface area of super-sensitive parts they have down there and their better orgasms, and are at least physically capable of having more of it, thanks to their lack of a refractory period. That doesn’t mean they want it quite as much as men do, though, especially at that age, when men are still experiencing a hormone surge that women are not.

All of that said, though economic modeling is not completely useless if one party does indeed desire something from a partner more than the partner does from that party and some type of exchange takes place, I think you’re definitely right that this type of thinking tends to very poorly model behaviors in which two people share a mutually pleasurable experience. You’re both right in a sense. At least some sex, but not all, is best described as at least two people sharing a pleasurable experience without asking for anything from anyone else involved other than sex. On the other hand, at least some sex, but not all, is still very well described as an exchange between one person who wants sex much more than the other, and one person who wants something other than sex the other person can offer. The existence of the latter might be offensive to those who engage only in the former, but that type of sex still exists.

Anyway, I’d say the worse part about extrapolating from this study the way the author does is that, though you can safely conclude from the fact that college-age men require literally no introductory period at all prior to being willing to have sex does mean they want it earlier than women, so there is going to some level of exchange-type behavior happening for at least some of them, the ones who don’t want a deeper relationship and don’t otherwise enjoy the getting to know you phase (even if just two hours of it). The problem is the author isn’t using this study to draw conclusions just about how long it takes guys looking for one-night stands to convince women they’re not serial killers; he’s using it to draw conclusions about long-term relationship dynamics. It’s a hell of a leap and a stupid and archaic view that when women and men couple in college, it’s because the woman wants marriage and becomes willing to exchange sex for it. That’s going to result in both terrible sex and a terrible marriage.

On an unrelated note, it’s a sad commentary on the state of sociology that the internet is so appalled that this guy writes for Slate, not that he teaches at the University of Texas.

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