Why do men make money? I know. We think it’s so they can have a comfortable living. But, I think it’s so they can have access to women. Sexy money! The price of sex.
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Welcome to Mating Matters. I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh. In this episode, “Sexy Money”, you’ll learn how the pursuit of money is really a pursuit of sexual partners for men. And that when women make a lot of money, it can hurt their reproductive opportunities, unless they live in a matriarchal society and have what’s called a “walking marriage”. But even in a patriarchal society, the price of sex goes up and down depending on cultural supply. And today, we’re in a high supply sexual economy. This is Sexy Money!
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Money, Money, Money – a song released by the Uber Famous Swedish pop group ABBA in 1976, basically sums up the dilemma of so many females working hard under a patriarchal system, but never seeming to get ahead. The dream of a Cinderella fantasy. It permeates our culture, a financial rescue.
Whether it’s Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born, or the many, many actresses who have tried on a glass slipper in all the remakes of Cinderella, female mating strategy seems to involve one of two choices; toil away and hope for true love or get a big time rescue by an alpha male. Of course, in the fairytale fantasy, it’s always both; true love and a financial windfall.
Here’s Julia Roberts as a lovable small town girl turned prostitute in the movie, Pretty Woman and Richard Gere negotiating the price of her company for six days. Spoiler alert, it turns out to be a lifetime of company when they fall in love or so audiences are led to believe.
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Movies aside, in real life, does sex have a price? I mean, we all know that some women charge for sex as professionals, but what about the sex that happens in relationships? I know it seems kind of immoral to think that love has a price tag or that women actually sell dating sex. But anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists believe that unconsciously, there’s a market value of reproduction. Whether one is paying for dates or displaying large wasteful resources like fancy cars and houses or buying absolutely wasteful gifts like diamonds, sex has a price.
Women realize that there’s a cost to reproduction. Let’s start with the risks associated with pregnancy or labor and delivery. Until the advent of modern medicine, many women died in childbirth. And oh yeah, there’s the cost of feeding and sheltering a child until they grow up. Thus, whether men know it or not, sex has a price. It may be monetary or it may be the very high price of care and commitment, but love is costly.
Here’s why. Human males generally want sex more than human females because the cost of sex is so high for women, especially if they choose the wrong sexual partner. For women, the clear risks are threefold. One, because of a female’s unique biology, women are more likely than men to contract a sexually transmitted disease. Two, because most women’s bodies produce high amounts of the bonding hormone, oxytocin, during female orgasm, women are more likely to fall in love through sex. Hint – ladies, men don’t fall in love through sex, they fall in love through trust.
And three, as I mentioned, women are far more likely to contract an 18-year case of parenthood. For men, the cost of choosing the wrong sexual partner is one lousy night that he can forget about quickly.
Amy Adams: “I can’t go to a big Ivy League school and I can’t run a company or be mayor. That’s just the way the world is for a girl. I need you. And right now you are a big fat piss soaked zero.”
Dr. Wendy Walsh: That was Amy Adams playing Lynne Cheney in the movie “Vice”. That was a woman’s angst in the early 1960s. Historically, women had to be choosy. Picking the wrong dude to mate with could result in poverty and starving children. That’s why if he wasted resources on her, she could be assured of his commitment and his ability to provide more resources if he ran out.
Now, think about this in behavioral economics terms. Remember, your economics 101 class? When something declines in supply, the price goes up. When something rises in supply, the price goes down. If women want less sex than men and are choosy with who they mate with, they keep the supply low and the price of sex is high.
Back in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the price of sex was about six months of courtship where men had to sacrifice a lot and compete with other men to win a woman’s favor. And then pay big time at an altar with a wedding. But in recent decades, sociologists have begun to notice a trend. The price of sex is going down. They suggest this is because of two factors. One, the physical risks of sex are reducing and two, female competition for mates is increasing.
How did sex get less risky for women? Well, let’s start with modern medicine that made childbirth less dangerous. And then in 1962, there was the introduction of the birth control pill.
Female: “This is my husband Mark. We’re going to have three beautiful children and live happily ever after in Paris someday. But for now, I’m on the pill.”
Dr. Wendy Walsh: Besides medical advances, another great thing happened in the 1970s and 80s. Women entered the workforce in droves and finally had their own money as a buffer against poverty. With that insurance policy in place in the 1970s and 80s, women began to enjoy the pleasure of their own bodies and have sex because it felt good and it was fun. And they worried less that motherhood would throw them into poverty. Thus, sex began to rise in supply and the price begun to drop.
Remember the price of sex that used to be six months of courtship and a wedding back in the 1950s? Well, by the 1980s, the price of sex had dropped to the cost of the three expensive dates. It was an unspoken rule. It was called the “Three Date Rule”.
Male: I’ve been married for 33 years and the last time I dated was 33 years ago.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: That would have been 1986 when the price of sex was still three long evenings.
Male: There were a few times when I would go out with a girl and the first time, yeah, nothing would happen. The second time, you’d try to do something. Maybe you’d like, in the movies, you’d lean back and kind of yawn and put your arms out and put your arm around her. And then the third date, if you did that, she snuggled up with you, you would know, “Oh, this is going somewhere.”
Female: I’ve known my husband for 25 years. We have been together for 19 and we’ve been married for nine. The three date rule is you never wanted to have sex on a first date. I mean, that was my own thing too. Is I never wanted to have sex with anybody on a first date because I wanted to one, see what kind of person they were. And you couldn’t really tell that always from a first date. So, the second date was for me, used to kind of figure out even more who the person was. Like how did they react when I called back? Did they call me back right away? Did they give me that attention that I was looking for? And then by the third date, I think I felt I knew people well enough where if I wanted to have sex on the third date, I would have been very comfortable doing so.
Male: The three dates is kind of like the expectation that you spent enough time with this person, you’ve gotten to know them and now you want to see them naked. I think it was an expectation on both of our parts because we’re both there, we’re both into each other. We’re both at that third date kind of goal, I guess you could say. And we’re like, “Okay, this is the time to move on.”
Dr. Wendy Walsh: And I mentioned more competition from women. Here’s the other problem for women. When all the women lower their price for sex and enter a mating marketplace, that includes competition from online pornography and an endless stream of beauties on dating apps, the cost of sex drops to the bargain basement price of one, well-worded text. Here are the words that this young man in his 20s puts in a text in order to woo a woman.
Male: Come over – but maybe I would add something beforehand. Like, “Hey, what’s going on? What you’re doing today? You free tonight? Like, yo, come over. I want to hang out.” She usually knows what the deal is. I’ll say, “Come over.” And she’ll say, “Yeah,” and it’ll be an implied like booty call.
Female: I’m 30-years-old, single, living in Los Angeles with a dog and a pretty well-paying job and a ton of friends. Courtship has been a little nonexistent or has gotten more few and far between, I think with the men kind of in the dating scene, especially in LA. And it’s really kind of been boiled down to maybe a dinner, maybe a movie. And if you’re not willing to have sex at that point, then it’s kind of onto the next. I don’t think I’ve had a guy call me and ask for a date in probably six or seven years. A lot of it is through social media now, whether that’s Snapchat or Instagram, where they’ll just write you a message through your social media channel and compliment you and ask if you want to meet up that night.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: And women are apparently on call for cheap sex at almost any hour. When asked, what is the latest time the young man we interviewed would text a woman for sex, keeping with the times, he’s kind of shameless.
Male: Because like going out and drinking and stuff. The bar closes like two, so maybe like 2:30.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: Compare that to the 1980s when dating was expensive for men.
Male: In the 80s, you still felt like as a man or as a young man, that it was up to you to be the “provider” and when somebody else gave you the money, it’s just sort of, it almost took away the power that you had, I think. Because if you paid, then you kind of felt like she owed you.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: But looking at the new sexual economy, using an old lens, may sound like sage advice. However, it might not work if the female to female competition is high. If your friends are putting out and your boyfriend is exposed to an endless array of filtered beauties on Instagram, and many, many virtual sex partners on porn sites, this is who your new competition is. And the old advice may not work anymore.
Female: I think that’s maddening for them not to connect that because they had sex on a first date that this is why a guy doesn’t want to commit. I hear this from lots of friends, especially when I was younger, who would be like, “I can’t get this guy to call me back.” It’s like, “Well, you had sex with them on the first date. What do you expect? He doesn’t need to call you back. He already got what he wanted and when he wants it again, that’s when he’ll give you a call because you’re waiting for him to call.” They think they’re trying to get a relationship, but they’re doing all the wrong things.
Mark Regnerus: My name is Mark Regnerus. I’m the professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. And I’m the author of Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy. We’re talking about the price of sex here. So, when the price of sex diminishes via a form of technology – and so, the book talks about the birth control pill, pornography, online dating, all three kinds of technologies. When those diminish the price of sex, men are more able to sort of command kind of the price that they want, right?
Female: I mean, men can kind of get by with the happy hour budget or a couple of cocktails, really. Maybe a dinner. I’m newly dating someone and even just getting him to take me out to a movie has been a challenge.
Mark Regnerus: I mean, we’re speaking about very economic terms. We can slather on top of that all sorts of romance and wooing, etcetera. But when it comes right down to it, men have not changed fundamentally for a very, very long time. What has changed and fairly recently, is the ease with which they can access what we call high-quality sexual experiences.
Female: You can attract a woman through Tinder. You can attract a woman through just four or five photos of yourself. You don’t really need to have all of the glitz and glam. It’s just, are you relatively good looking, are you bangable.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: And when men can access high sexual experiences, Dr. Mark Regnerus says they lose the ability to commit. After all, men don’t have a fertility window. The advantage in the race to procreate now lies with men.
Mark Regnerus: It really pushes women in a corner of like, they’re the ones who have to compete with each other for his attention. Even though his quality sort of objectively speaking, maybe notably lower than in the generation before them. And I think it’s arguable that men have not improved lately, and that this sort of lowering of the cost of sex has not improved men, it’s turned them more boorish, and at the same time maddeningly, it gives them control over the pace of the relationship.
Female: No, I definitely feel a pressure to have sex early on because of that fertility window. I’m 30-years-old and haven’t had a child at this point in my life, and I feel that if I don’t present myself in a way sexually that’s desirable early on, then they’ll get bored. They’ll move on and find somebody else.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: Anthropologists have long known that when women are economically disadvantaged, marriage rates go up. More children are born into wedlock, virginity is coveted and oh yeah, prostitution rates go way up too. That’s because when women are economically disadvantaged, they’re forced to negotiate with their most valuable asset – their vagina. So, they either maintain their virginity and ask a man to sign on the dotted line and agree to support them and any offspring in a contract called marriage, or they rent it by the hour.
Here’s another scene from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts plays that lovable prostitute and her colleague played by Laura San Giacomo discuss the power they feel when negotiating for sex.
[Movie Clip Playing 00:16:45 to 00:17:00]
Dr. Wendy Walsh: But in a high supply sexual economy, according to Regnerus, women have lost their bargaining chip.
Mark Regnerus: So, when you think about technology, she gets control over fertility with the advent and the uptake of contraception. So, she gets the control over how many children she has and when. He gets control in exchange for how quickly is sex introduced into this relationship.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: And the latest research shows that the dream of fertility control with the birth control pill is also starting to crumble.
News Anchor: “In this morning’s health watch, birth control pills and blood clots. The hormones and oral contraceptives are what makes them work. But over the years, side effects have become a big concern. Now as Dr. Jennifer Ashtyn reports, one particular type of the pill, maybe linked to some new problems. Problems that can be deadly.”
Dr. Wendy Walsh: Technology certainly adds to the problems for women. Pornography and online dating have made finding a suitable mate tricky.
Mark Regnerus: And then you introduce sort of high technology digital porn, which is like, “Wow, now I can have an almost sexual partner right in the same room with me. I can be in one relationship in reality. I can be in virtual relationships in the sort of unreality at the same time.”
She wants his monogamous attentions. He’s like, “You have my monogamous real life behavior with a real human being.” She’s like, “No, that’s not good enough.” He’s like, “Well, that’s what you’re going to have to settle for.”
The advent of pornography and its increasing digitalization and quality sort of really provides competition for her.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: And all this competition means dating becomes expensive for women. Even when the prize is an immature boy who fails to man up.
Female: I get my nails done every other week. So, that’s about $80. As far as hair, hair is about $400 every six weeks. The budget, probably a good 200, $300 a month. I would say my dating budget between Yoga classes and shopping in upwards of $1,000.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: As for single men, the one we interviewed says he spends not more than 30 to $60 a month on dating. And that’s the odd movie. If he has to take a date out.
Male: To be honest, it’s usually not like that. It’s usually just like come over. Maybe I’ll have drinks at the house if that’s what they ask for. If they request like, “Yo, you got anything to drink? I would love to have a drink when I come over.” Like okay, I’ll go buy a drink. I don’t want to sound like a perv or like a mean dude, but that’s usually just how it goes.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: So, is there a way to game the new system? Here’s an idea. What if women had total economic power and men needed us for support? We’re certainly seeing a culture of young men who seem to be failing to launch.
Mark Regnerus: When we think about online dating as another technology, I mean who would have ever thought of people sending pictures of their genitalia, men sending pictures of their genitalia to women and thinking this is somehow attractive?
Dr. Wendy Walsh: In fact, some sociologists say that when men don’t have to work for sex, they lose career ambition. Could women pick up the slack? Research shows that there are a couple problems with the “Sugar Mommy” ideal. The first is that when men make less money than their wives, they’re more likely to cheat.
In the movie Crazy Rich Asians, a rare Hollywood take on a matriarchal family system, the wealthy and beautiful Eris Astrid played by Gemma Chan hides most of her luxury purchases, including expensive jewelry so her husband who has far less money can still feel manly. But it doesn’t work. She discovers he’s having an affair anyway.
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The second problem for the “Sugar Mommy” ideal is that women tend to not to choose men who make less money than them. Researcher Fiona Moore from the University of Abertay Dundee is a sociologist and coined a term called the “George Clooney” effect. Her study showed that the more education and money a woman has, the more she wants her man to be even older, wiser and richer like George Clooney. I mean, we all want a date George Clooney, don’t we?
This of course has angered many men, many good men who might be considered to be lower status mates. You could suggest that this trend has given rise to a group of violent men who call themselves “involuntarily celibate” or “incels”.
Male: “In 2014, Roger murdered six people in a killing spree near the campus of UC Santa Barbara. Before the attack, Roger recorded a video saying he wanted to punish women for rejecting him.”
Dr. Wendy Walsh: But what would happen if all the men could make the same amount of money? Who would women choose? While a study like this would be kind of impossible to stage in a human society, monkeys can be researched.
A group of researchers from Germany; Barbara Tiddi and Michael Heistermann, the UK, Brandon Wheeler and Nigeria, Martin Fahy, set out to study resource-based mating systems. That means a mating system where the males defend and protect the resources needed for mating. In other primates, that might mean nesting sites and food. In homo sapiens (that’s us) that means money. Men protect their money from women.
The researchers used a primate cousin of ours, wild capuchin monkeys. You know them as the famous organ grinder monkeys. The studies monkeys were living in the wild in Iguazu National Park in Argentina. The researchers had a question. What if lower ranking males had equal ability to procure and share food with females? Would females prefer a different kind of guy than the standard alpha male? But in human terms, what if a nice guy, trash collector earned the same amount of money as say, a professional athlete?
The researchers manipulated the environment of one community of capuchin monkeys. They limited the access by alpha males to some resources and increased the ability of lower ranking males to procure food and nesting sites. Think bank accounts and nice houses, ladies. What the researchers found is that even though all the males became equally rich, the females still preferred the alpha males to have sex with.
Hmm. Let’s think about this. Certainly this could be because this preference for alpha dudes is hardwired in female DNA (at least in capuchin monkeys) and it may take many generations to evolve out of women. In other words, since capuchin females showed a super strong preference for yummy alpha males in their anthropological past, and even just before the study was mounted, they may lack something that evolutionary psychologists call “behavioral plasticity”.
Changes in ingrained behavior take time, often many generations. But the researchers think there’s another thing at play here too. Another study on this same group of monkeys found that alpha males are the most socially integrated. They are the big man on campus, and when women hang out with them, besides food, they get community wide protection from predators. In other words, don’t mess with the CEO’s wife. Keep her safe and it’ll help you rise up the ranks.
Of course, human beings are different. We have a wide range of mating strategies. Plenty of guys are able to obtain sex and long-term mates by just being a good person. Offering care and commitment.
Male: A date is not an exchange of goods. It’s an exchange of communication. It’s an exchange of experience between you and another person. It’s not something that you’re trying to say, “I think you’re worth $100 lobster dinner.” It’s, “I think you’re cute. I think you’re cool. Let’s go out and talk and see if there’s anything more to this.” That’s how I’ve always felt myself as far as dating is supposed to actually be.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: So, if making all men rich doesn’t fix the sexual economy, what about making all women rich? Think about it. If women owned the resources, men would have to be nice so they could survive and have sex. And women wouldn’t need to hope for a wedding and an altar for their survival. It’s called a matriarchal society and yep, there are a few on the planet today.
For instance, the Mosuo who live near the border of Tibet. These people live in large family households. Children take the mother’s name and they always remain in their mother’s care. Property is passed down between females. These women have something called “walking marriages”. Women choose their partners by literally walking into a dude’s home when they want to have sex.
In the Nagovisi people of New Guinea, if a couple of just hangs out enough and the man helps the woman in her garden, for all intents and purposes, they’re considered married. All this makes me think is modern western culture becoming more matriarchal? If women can’t get men to commit his time and resources to his offspring, then the village needs to change the rules.
Female: And I’m someone who is relatively open-minded when it comes to traditional versus nontraditional. I mean traditional is safe, but nontraditional works fine too. But I think all in all, that’s just kind of the way that society is moving where women can adopt and should they choose to have a family, they can do it on their own and because they’re financially more stable, a man isn’t really needed and thank God for sex toys.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: More than 40% of American children are born out of wedlock. That’s been going on for a few decades. And one in four children are being raised by a single mother. If she is to survive, she needs help from the village. Look no further than our current women’s rights initiative, the fight for women’s reproductive rights; equal pay, subsidized childcare, and even the MeToo Movement. They’re all designed to reduce the financial burden of motherhood.
And while you may think that men fear this kind of female power (equal pay free childcare and complete control over their reproductive rights), think again. Could you imagine a world where sex was plentiful and low cost for men and they never had to work? I think some men might like this – “Walking marriage, anyone? I’ve got a garden I need some help with.”
Of course there’s another solution. Men could learn to slow down the pace of the sexual relationship in order to get the benefits of a whole relationship. Remember the man who was last dating during the 1980s when the three date rule was the social norm? Well, now he’s a father of sons in their 20s.
Male: In today’s hookup culture, I think young men are missing out on the opportunity to get to know somebody and get to know the quirks that really make life fun. And that’s one thing I try to tell my boys. It’s like, “You need to spend time to make a foundation.” So, I think you’re missing out on building a foundation when you’re just looking at a woman, as just a vessel for sex.
Mark Regnerus: We’ve been so socialized today to expect like, “Oh, now what do I have to do if I’m a woman? Like I have to nurture his ego. I have to please him somehow. I have to give back for the investment that he’s doing in this nascent beginning relationship.” And I don’t think she has to do any of those things. He should be the one who’s doing the wooing.
So, it’s not so much that she needs to change. She needs to sort of live into what she has long wanted, which is to be treated well with respect and dignity and security. And if she expects that from him, some men will give it. Not all men, but some men. And she’ll more quickly go through the process of figuring out which men those are because they’re still out there.
Male: I just feel like when you’re on that app for the sole purpose of sex, that’s all you’re ever going to get out of life. You’re not going to get any kind of love. You’re not going to get any kind of companionship. You’re not going to get any kind of like the little things that make having a relationship actually worth it beyond the sex. Sex is fun, but that’s like 10% of your relationship.
Female: A relationship life plan? I’d like to say that I do, but I really don’t. I really don’t. I mean, sure, I have relationship ideals, but at the end of the day, I’ve kind of let go of any expectations because I feel like it’s safer to let go of those expectations than it is to kind of be clawing at something that may or may not happen.
Mark Regnerus: We have to kind of reacquire the sort of idea of a cartel among women. We hang together or we all hang separately, right? It’s power in numbers where we can sort of demand better treatment for men.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: Human beings have survived because we are amazing problem solvers, and we are constantly solving the problems presented to us by our environment. In our ancient past, those problems could have included a drought that led to a famine. In today’s times, the problem presented to many, many women is that we are in a high supply sexual economy, and there is an oversupply of successful women and an undersupply of what many would consider to be marriageable men.
How are women solving these problems? They’re doing it all kinds of ways. They’re becoming single mothers. And we know that more than 40% of American babies for the last few decades have been born out of wedlock. They’re doing it in same sex relationships. They may be adopting babies, they may be freezing their eggs to expand their fertility window a little bit longer, but some women are solving the problem simply by raising the price of sex with them. That means they’re charging the highest price possible for sex, and that is care and commitment, and men will pressure to obtain sex. They’ll say, “Well, if I don’t get it from you, I’ll get it from somebody else.” I would venture to say that a woman’s response every single time should be, “I don’t think you can get sex with me from somebody else.”
When a guy leaves because he’s not willing to do the work of building an emotional connection with you, then you should count your lucky stars. Because the process of finding one good partner is really a process about eliminating hundreds of them. Love is as much about strategy as luck.
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Thanks for listening to Mating Matters. Up next; Survival of the Gayest! Is gay an identity or a behavior? How do we evolve to have gay people? I’m Dr. Wendy Walsh.
Mating Matters is coproduced with iHeart Media. It is produced, researched, and written by me, Dr. Wendy Walsh, and it is edited and produced by Brooke Peterson. You can follow us on social media at Dr. Wendy Walsh. Please share this podcast with a friend. It’s the only way that people find out about podcasts. So, please tell somebody about it if you liked what you heard. And don’t forget to write a review, it makes a big difference, and it’s really good karma.