What if we had a way to talk about sex that all of us understood, something without the emotional baggage, something dry but just as common, something we think about all the time?
What if sex were money?
We chatter incessantly about money, but sex we dare not speak of. Universities churn out financial professionals, but sex researches few and far between. Financiers watch stocks rise and fall on six monitors, while sexual imagery is not-safe-for-work. You’re welcome to open wide the pink pages of the Financial Times in public, but woe to anyone with a book on sex. After half a century of thorough scientific research, human sexuality remains taboo.
That taboo has unfortunate side effects. We feel anxious around the opposite sex. Their actions seem foreign and injurious. Their motives appear to counter our own. If we have the same goals — procreation — why is it so hard to broker a deal?
When we apply the economic principals we know so well to the lurid underworld we don’t, men and women start to make sense.
Supply and Demand
A man produces 1,500 sperm per second. 4 billion sperm enter the marketplace each month, eager for placement. Headhunters work overtime finding a place for each of them, cold-calling coitus urgently, hourly, by the minute. The demand for sex is very high.
A woman enters the market as a long-term investor, looking for a suitable business partner. She starts with seed capital. It is finite. It is stored in a vault with a time lock. She can only invest when the vault opens, so she acts under a just-in-time model. Headhunters call constantly, but she only takes meetings a few days a month, if she sets one up at all. When they come in, she listens to the frantic pitch, brokers a deal, or doesn’t, and then closes up shop again till next month. In economic terms, supply of sex is very low.
When demand is high and supply is low, the product commands a high price.
If sex is money, sex is expensive.
A lack of what economists call “perfect knowledge” compounds this problem. Men aren’t privy to the woman’s meeting times. Worse, thanks to concealed ovulation, even women don’t get the memo. His headhunters compensate by working day and night, queueing outside her office, shouting out their sales pitch, texting, calling, and generally annoying her at the most inconvenient times.
High prices, low market awareness, just-in-time delivery with ambiguous deadlines. The female/male economy is a mess. Conflict is inevitable.
The Income Gap
If sex is money, consent is a contract. Nothing happens without a contract. Men can pitch, but sex relies on the woman’s signature. That signature power means women have almost no competition. Black market operations are tolerated, like gay clubs and massage parlours, but women remain firmly in control of the mainstream market. Prices soar, often well beyond the reach of most consumers.
But sex is not an iPhone, not a upgrade or a wish list item. Sex is fundamental. It is the key to existence. It is the meaning of life. Though not recognized as such in Maslow’s pyramid, it is as elemental as food, water, and shelter. And women control it.
When there is only one buyer, we call that a monopsony.
Because they hold a monopsony on consent, women are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. They hold the world’s assets. They are investors and banks and hedge funds all rolled into one. They are the ultra wealthy, and most don’t even know it.
If sex were money, men would understand why women don’t “give it away”. Women may be born wealthy, but they don’t produce wealth. She lives on a fixed income. What she has is all she gets. When she does sign a contract, she does so without an exit clause. Her assets continue to depreciate through the contract duration. She signs without even knowing the contract duration. It could be one night, or it could be 18 years. In some cases, the contract could lead to liquidation of all her assets and even bankruptcy. The salesman rarely discusses the terms, or even cares about them. For his part, he has an exit clause and reserves the right to terminate at any time. It’s hardly fair, but advantageous to him, and since his boss demands another 29 identical contracts this month, he’s willing to apply as much pressure on her as he legally can.
Men hustle and work and cajole and charm, but at the end of the day they get what they are given with no recourse.
Because men do not control consent, men are born destitute, homeless, jobless, and un-landed. Men are born into famine and exist in a near-constant state of starvation. Men are hungry morning, noon, and night, more in youth, mercifully less with age, but never safe from hunger. Their only safety net is women and what women allow them. If the lose a woman’s favour, they return to Skid Row.
Now the quirks in his behavior make more sense. Why he stares as she approaches, why he calls out as she passes, why he follows her when he has better things to do, why he seems distracted or not really listening, why he sometimes begs, and why he sometimes steals. It is why our semantics says he is “desperate”, why he looks at a woman with “hunger”, why he is ready to “ravish and devour” her.
Survivors of starvation will tell you they thought incessantly of food. When you need something, you talk about it often. It is this exchange of information — where to get it, how much it costs, the quality, the quantity — that helps you obtain it. So it is that men talk about sex all the time, in pubs, at work, with friends, in locker rooms, and sometimes around women who would rather not. When a man talks about sex, he probably isn’t getting any.
The wealthy don’t talk about their wealth. If you ask them their net worth, they’ll tell you they are “comfortable” or “okay”. Women don’t want to hear men talk about their sexual needs and desires. It is crass. Women talk about sex, too, of course, just as bankers discuss exchange rates.
If sex were money, we wouldn’t say “control yourself.” We can’t imagine ourselves saying, “Money is gross. Why do you talk about money all the time? Why are you watching videos of rich people on the internet? Why are you reading books on how to get money? Why do you keep begging me for money? It’s annoying. Is that all you think about? Don’t you feel any shame?” Unless you are rich. Then it is beneath you.
Men cry inside when they hear, “I should be enough for you”, as hunger looms, as the doors of the bakery shut for another month.
If sex were money, you’d forgive masturbation. Masturbation is like rice: not a meal, only nourishing in large quantities, but enough to keep him alive.
The Marriage Contract
If sex were money, we would understand marriage. Her sexual capital provides some reproductive security, but she limits risk by entrusting access to only one man. He must work hard for the family, for the children, and for that she will pay him in installments. Give him too much, and he will feel confident to flaunt it, attracting predatory males. Too little, and he’ll seek supplementary income elsewhere, possibly accepting a better offer. That last risk gets higher over time as her account runs low. He is always in poverty, seeking the security of a wealthy patron. Knowing this, she will go to great lengths to appear rich, to live like new money, especially if the man she chose turns out to have been a bad investment.
If sex were money, it would explain why men follow younger women. Her trust fund just reached maturity. She is flush with cash and ready to spend it. She may not understand investments, may not read the fine print, may not want to think about compounding interest or annuities or long-term returns. For her, the market is still fun and exciting. She enjoys the swag, the free meals and drinks and theater tickets and gifts sent to her by the sales reps. She doesn’t mind signing a small contract here and there while she looks for the right business partner. Men follow her as money falls out of her pockets because she doesn’t stop to pick it up.
If sex were money, we’d understand ageing. Our bodies are depreciating assets. For women, every egg that drops is nonrecoverable. As their wealth depletes, older women claim to be “invisible” to men. Perhaps invisible is not the right word. Camouflaged is better. After menopause, women are poor, like men, and therefore blend in.
Don’t worry. You get used to it.
The Petty Crimes
If sex were money, women would understand the shrug men give to so many #metoo stories. The eye roll, the defensiveness, the alternate realities, the mansplaining, the whataboutism.
Women are so accustomed to wealth that they can be blind to male poverty. To men, #metoo stories sound like the woes of a wealthy traveler. She finds herself in a Brazilian favela. Whatever she says, whatever happens next, no matter how horrible, he wants to ask, “Didn’t she know?” He knows, because he grew up there. How did she not see the danger she was in? To him, it is so obvious.
Men are not as cavalier about #metoo as they appear. They empathize, and they agree it shouldn’t happen. But they also see the subtext. They see the poverty. They have roots in the neighbourhood she is gentrifying.
If sex were money, women might see it, too.
Ponzis, Pyramids and Murder
If sex were money, men would understand rape. Rape is embezzlement, home invasion, and assault rolled into one. It is second only to murder, and it might be worse for leaving the victim alive, then shaming them.
The man doesn’t just steal today’s funds. He depletes a lifetime supply, none of which he can ever use. The market is ruined. She enacts more restrictive regulations, rates go up, lending stops, investment criteria narrows, and she encourages other institutions to get on board. He not only cheats her, he widens the income gap all around.
Most poor people are not criminals, but most convicted criminals are poor. The same is true of men. Most men are not rapists, but most convicted rapists are men. This distinction becomes clear if sex is money.
The State Controlled Economy
If sex is money, slut shaming prevents men from becoming welfare kings… we think. The argument goes — when a woman gives out, it diminishes the economy of other women, reduces demand, lowers prices. As an act of protectionism, she is shamed by women and by the men those women employ. She must make him earn it, they say, work for it, or else he will become ruined, entitled, unable to earn, and possibly dangerous. Or so the thinking goes.
That thinking is as wrong for sex as it is for social welfare. And just as cruel.
If sex is money we see why sexual prohibitions fail. Restricting women from having sex lowers supply further, raising prices, driving more men into extreme poverty leading to more desperation, more crime, more deviancy, and even more sex. Sex already has a natural restriction — women’s choice. Like the Laffert curve, when society destroys this balance through forced marriage, honor killings, slavery, and prohibition it condemns itself to sexual poverty. Both men and women react negatively, but, to combat this, conservative societies double down with further controls on sexuality — modesty, celibacy, abstinence. You see this in conservative cultures like India, Sauid Arabia, and the United States.
There is no mystery in this — if sex is money. When women are not allowed their monopsony on the market, the market crashes. Want to avoid a rape culture? Acknowledge that women choose to have sex. Want to relieve poverty among men? Encourage women to choose often. Make the operating costs of their choice lower with free childcare, free healthcare, maternity leave, and paternity leave. Give women free condoms, lube, pills, and morning after medicine. Teach not just sex education but sex. Legalize prostitution. Give men coupons to brothels. Let them find sex where it is given, without shame or judgement. That’s how you shrink the income gap between wealthy women and poor men.
It really is that simple.
If sex were money, everything in the sexual sphere becomes crystal clear. Prostitution is sex for money. Men do only want one thing. Homosexual promiscuity is an economy of perfect knowledge. Women are buy and hold investors. Catcalls are advertising. Chastity is price gouging.
And if Sex were money, like Economics, there would be a Nobel Prize for understanding it. Your nomination is welcome.