The Price of Sex and Success of Young Men

It’s not a great time to be a guy, and it has nothing to do with the #MeToo movement. Guys are earning less, have less education and for the first time in history they are outnumbered by women in the workplace.

In a recent Slate article, writer Mark Reqnerus states that “young men are failing to adapt to contemporary life.” Since 1971, men ages 25-34 are experiencing a 20% decrease in average yearly earnings and a decrease in college graduation rates (only 43% of college grads are male).

However, despite all of this, men are apparently having more sex.

While statistics indicate a decline in marriage rates for individuals age 25-31, the rapid increase in premarital heterosexual relationships resulting in a dramatic increase in STDs suggest we’re having plenty of sex. How could this be?

Sexual Economics

Let’s talk about sex … as a commodity. Like any standard commodity (oil, frozen concentrated orange juice, gold), sex is a basic good that has value determined by the free market. In most heterosexual encounters, from an economic perspective sex is a commodity owned by women and sought after by men.

And like commodities that are traded on an exchange, there is a “mating market,” and according to some prices are at an all-time low.

In fact, some believe the low market value placed on sexual encounters (along with the alarming rise in porn, fatherlessness, a host of other societal norms) may be correlated what researcher Phillip Zimbardo refers to as The Demise of Guys in culture.

Connecting the Dots

The premise behind the sex marketplace concept boils down to the basic concept of supply and demand and how a free market system operates on the exchange of wealth, goods and services. Contemporary culture would promote an equal exchange across gender lines, meaning the exchange is equal or both parties are seeking the same end, mainly pleasure.

Stated another way, both genders pursue sexual intimacy for the same reason and at the same frequency. However, ample publications exist to refute this line of thinking. So, what actually drives the price of sex or its availability in certain settings?

One potential contributor is the male to female ratio and competition. Studies done on college campuses indicate a higher prevalence of a hook up culture on campuses where the male/female ratio favors women. (Parents, protect your daughters by sending them to a male dominated university.)

The growing ratio of women to men on campus (and the early post college work force) has favored men in the sexual market. In this scenario, fewer men correlates to men being pursued, ergo women who are in competition with each other for fewer men, therefore driving the price of sex down-at least for the male. Whereas campuses favoring a more balanced gender ratio or even a higher male to female ratio report longer relationships, fewer breakups, and the best shot at finding a ‘committed relationship, boyfriend or life partner.’ This may be shocking – but, it does still happen.

Not Your Parents’ Sexual Marketplace

Previous generations operated within a system which seemed to function with women having the upper hand in setting the fair market value for sex.

The ‘price’ (previous norms) may have included anything from dinner and drinks to an expectation of relational exclusivity. Every wonder why your grandparents got married at 17? That was the literal cost of entry.

Some have even suggested that a return to this as a cultural ‘norm’ could be possible if women ceased competing against each other and formed an alliance. This may be referred to as a pact mentality or collusion. Of course, in the free market collusion is illegal, and many have stated there are disadvantages in the unregulated sexual marketplace like so-called slut shamming.

Even though marriage rates may be falling, some researchers are adamant in stating that it’s not because men are afraid of commitment. The gender imbalance and a split mating market appears to currently favor men. So, if a man is in the driver’s seat and he’s looking for a good time can, he’s in a favorable market.

The Shortfalls of Short-Term Investing

At this point, most men are thinking: “So, I don’t have to go to college, or make a lot of money, and I’m still getting laid? Sounds like a win-win to me.” Well, maybe it is, for now.

Here’s the thing about commodities – the value of a commodity rises, and falls, based on perceived value. Sure, right now your perceived value of sex is high, while the cost of sex is low. The market will change. As we age, other things become important – financial stability, education, earning potential, basic life skills like installing an outlet or changing a light bulb, children. Sure, sex is still in the mix, but it depreciates in value as the value of these other commodities rise.

Men, let me be frank. In 10 years, if you don’t have a college degree, and you’re not making any money, the perceived value for your sexual services will have a greatly diminished value in the market place. That’s economics, baby.


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