The Economy of Sex

Guys, tell me this has never happened to you.

You’re home with your wife – and The Mood strikes. Things are progressing, but then something happens and The Mood is gone.

You fight to bring it back but your wife is not interested. Nothing you say or do will bring the magic back. For tonight, for now, the prospect of having sex is gone.

Why does this happen? Because sex is powerful and women have the power.

Let me explain.

 It may seem a bit caveman-ish but human sexuality, like many things between people, is a matter of economics: how humans create fair exchange.

Universally, a man approaches the woman and it’s the woman’s decision to give the red, yellow or green light. Women are the ones who determine the cost of a sexual encounter – to get the green light, men must give up something in return the woman deems valuable.

Whether the payment honors a woman through security and love, or does not honor her through money or power, sex always comes at a cost.

That is what concerns me the most when it comes to Miley Cyrus performance at the MTV Music Awards. The price set for sex was slashed like a store going out of business. Not only was it slashed, but it was slashed in the spotlight of national TV.

The consequences of a low price for sex perpetuates the cycle of injustice against women. When the price is low, men win. We get what we want at a price that doesn’t cause us to make any sacrifices. We get sex without commitment, without honor, and without love. Of course, that’s what women get too: sex without commitment, honor and love.

Men need to fight for a high price to pay for sex.

When the price of sex is high – when the price costs men something – everyone wins. Women win a man who is motivated to work and lead. They get a better man. Men win a woman who is confident and secure. They get a better woman.

My friend Glenn Stanton recently said in a lecture series to employees at Focus on the Family, “Men who take sex by physical power are seen as the same in all cultures. In no culture are they idealized by either male or female. They are socially deplored and punished.”

Very little attention has been given to Robin Thicke and his role in Miley’s performance. As a man, shouldn’t he be held just as responsible for lowering (or maybe taking the low) price for sex? A man just doesn’t do those kinds of things even when a woman seems okay with it.

Stanton continues, “In every culture, sex is either granted by the woman, or taken by the male. This is humankind’s most important and consequential negotiation.”

When men value women, sexuality, and marriage, everyone wins.

That’s something to get twerked up about.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

--I'm revisiting this piece as a new video has been released by the Austin Institute on "The Economics of Sex". You can see it here -

@HParrow - I would like to clarify that the piece wasn't written with a marital relationship as its primary perspective. In fact, the only time the word marriage is mentioned is at the end: "When men value women, sexuality, and marriage, everyone wins." I complete agree with you when you say, "Both spouses should have equal 'power' in the relationship".

Holly Parrow More than 1 year ago

--As a woman I agree with some parts of the piece. But overall I find myself agreeing strongly with Nemo. The description of the marital relationship in the piece was making me feel a bit sick but Nemo's point number 5 describes my marriage and what I thought Christian marriage was all about.  The wife should be able to  initiate sex just as often as the husband without sacrificing the 'value' of the act.  Both spouses should have equal 'power' in the relationship or resentment is a sure thing.

Jules Nemo More than 1 year ago

--@Deacon Rick, "Nemo speaks as an academic riding a tired hobby horse. Sam is discussing sex from an economic viewpoint which is interesting, but his economics are sound and obviously true."

So which of these statements are not true?

   1) Long ago women were treated as property.

   2) This was bad.

   3) Over time that changed, in some places, and women became free to sell their sexual services to one man in marriage, sort of like prostitution. (This is the "economic" system that Mr. Hoover champions.)

   4) This is also bad.

   5) Some people are trying to change the system again, this time to a system where women and men engage in sexual and procreative activity as equals for their mutual benefit.

Simple Econ 101, the law of supply and demand. Anything that increases supply decreases cost and anything that increases demand increases it. So if Ms. Cyrus is decreasing cost then she must be increasing supply. That could be the case if she is encouraging young ladies to "put out" as it is crassly put. This is actually where it gets interesting. If she is encouraging young ladies to take control of their own sexual agency, to have sex when, but only when, they like then she might actually be decreasing supply. (On the other hand, one of the odd effects of the sexual revolution is that the price of prostitution services has plummeted. The wages of sin might be death but they are also going down.)

Rick Hoover More than 1 year ago

--From the comments: "Gifts don't come at a cost." But of course they do. It may not cost the receiver, but there is a cost in giving or granting that which the giver holds out. Sam is perfectly correct on this.

Nemo speaks as an academic riding a tired hobby horse. Sam is discussing sex from an economic viewpoint which is interesting, but his economics are sound and obviously true.

The root issue is what we are going to value and how we are going to protect that which we value.

Jules Nemo More than 1 year ago

--Mr. Hoover, your understanding of economics is as flawed as your understanding of the human condition. The system of sexual politics that you are describing is called the patriarchy. And it's very bad but it's not inevitable and many good people are working to get rid of it. Actually, what you are describing is patriarchy version 2. In patriarchy 1, the patriarchy of the Biblical patriarchs, women are property to be bought and sold or otherwise disposed with as the men decide. In patriarchy 2 the women get to decide who they will have sex with but societal and economic pressure make sure that the sex is exchanged for resources. In patriarchy 1 women are chattel.  In patriarchy 2 they are prostitutes. The good news of God in Christ, and Saint Paul's observation that in Christ there is no East or West, nor Greek nor Jew, nor male nor female, shatters these ideas. In this view women have sex simply because they want to. Under this view sexual pleasure is a gift from God for both sexes and both sexes get to peruse it.

And it turns out that patriarchy isn't inherent. Most of human history occurred before the agricultural revolution and before agriculture there was no patriarchy. ( See Sex at Dawn where the sexual practices of pre agrarian cultures are discused.)

As to economics, while Ms. Cyrus might be described by the least charitable among us as advertising sexual services she certainly isn't actually offering them for sale. (Please forgive this crude discussion, but you started it.) That means that she is putting pressure on the market to increase demand without increasing supply. Increase demand with steady supply means an INCREASE in the cost.

Tim Wieneke More than 1 year ago

--"Sex always comes at a cost."  There's something fundamentally wrong with that.  Gifts don't come at a cost.

Brinnon Dustin More than 1 year ago

--Possibly the most unfortunate part of this situation is that the behavior displayed is pretty much acceptable on a societal level. What you just spoke on is something we need to impress on the upcoming generations. Just because it has the appearance of being okay does not make it so.