The longer I live and the more I read and the deeper I fall in love and the less I give a fuck and the more patience I lose and the more perspective I gain, the more certain I become that the people who most aggressively try to define love for others have never actually experienced it themselves.
I don't mean that in some woo-woo cornball way, I mean it in a WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT way. My vagina is livestock? My boyfriend is a customer? I should charge men for my milk? Um, okay, Casanova. Clearly you're highly qualified to be making declarations in this field of study, as you've definitely "laid lots of times" with girls you met in Niagara Falls whose boobs felt like bags of sand. Got it.
Naomi Schaefer Riley, writing in the New York Post yesterday, penned a glowing paean to the latest incarnation of the old why-buy-the-cow metaphor: The Economics of Sex, a fun, kicky YouTube animation (for the youths!) about how women are stupid and all modern relationships are made of math. Marriage rates are down, you see, because slutty, Yaz-popping scarlet women are giving up too much of their vagina-supply, causing the wife-demand to dwindle and babies to go extinct. Or, in simpler terms:
MARRIAGE = GOOD.
BIRTH CONTROL = BAD.
EVERYTHING = WOMEN'S FAULT.
"The nice thing about viewing sex in economic terms," Riley gushes, "is that we don't have to satisfy the goddesses of political correctness."
Hey, lady, and anyone else considering using the term "political correctness" as a pejorative from this moment onward, kindly go ahead and SNIFF MY DONG. (Naomi Schaefer Riley is also responsible for last week's adulation of the "post-racial" hero Jerry Seinfeld, and she can sniff my dong for that too.)
The Economics of Sex is stunningly offensive—made even moreso by the lengths it goes to appear unbiased, scientific, and hip. It is folksy and twee. It is mansplaining incarnate (you might think you know what you want, but you're wrong!). It is the "one weird trick" that women are doing with their genitals to ruin society. It is the Pastor Mark Driscoll of condescending moralistic YouTube videos (out-Driscolled only by Driscoll's own collection of condescending moralistic YouTube videos). It treats the current status quo as a static inevitability instead of an evolving, culturally-imposed framework that is vulnerable to dissent. It never once mentions liking another human being.
The animation literally opens with a blank sheet of butcher paper and chooses to draw a world of regressive midcentury morality. You could draw anything. And you pick the past? Fuck you.
A few representative quotes:
On average, men have a higher sex drive than women. Blame it on testosterone, call it whatever you want—but on average, men initiate sex more than women, they're more sexually permissive than women, and they connect sex to romance less often than women.
Weird. It couldn't be the way that women are culturally conditioned (by videos like this one!) to view their sexual purity as their sole resource, and a finite one at that. It couldn't be the way that men are culturally conditioned to treat women like prizes to which they are entitled at the end of every movie, every video game, every dinner date. I can't imagine why women who are told from birth that sexual activity lowers their "market value" (ACTUAL QUOTE FROM THIS VIDEO) might be reluctant to initiate sex.
Sex is her resource. Sex in consensual relationships will happen when women want it to. So how do women decide to begin a sexual relationship? Pricing. Women have something of value that men want...badly, something men are actually willing to sacrifice for. So how much does sex cost for men? It might cost him nothing but a few drinks and compliments, or a month of dates and respectful attention, or all the way up to a lifetime promise to share all of his affections, wealth, and earnings with her exclusively.
I'm sorry. This is basically a family-values-conservative argument, right? And those people are against prostitution?
Before contraception, sex before marriage took place during the search for a mate—someone to marry. Sex didn't necessarily mean marriage, but serious commitment was commonly a requirement for sex. Sex was oriented towards marriage. Don't believe people who say your great-grandparents were secretly as casual about sex as your friends are. They weren't, because to mess around with sex eventually meant, well, becoming parents.
If anything, sex is less commodified now than when my great-grandparents were courting. Before divorce; before reliable, effective birth control; before women's advancements into the higher levels of the workforce; marriage was ALL about economics. Now that women are able to leave abusive and unhappy relationships, support themselves financially, and choose when/if to have children, we don't need marriage anymore. It's no longer an economic imperative, which means that people are free to be choosy about who they marry. So you're damn right marriage rates are dropping and people are marrying later. It's because we're getting better at it.
The "price" varies widely. But if women are the gatekeepers, why don't very many women "charge more" so to speak? Because pricing is not entirely up to women. The "market value" of sex is part of a social system of exchange, an "economy" if you will, wherein men and women learn from each other—and from others—what they ought to expect from each other sexually. So sex is not entirely a private matter between two consenting adults. Think of it as basic supply and demand. When supplies are high, prices drop, since people won't pay more for something that's easy to find. But if it's hard to find, people will pay a premium.
Oh, shut the fuck up.
We now have a split mating market: One corner where people are largely interested in sex, and one corner where people are largely pursuing marriage. And there are more men looking for sex than women, and more women looking to marry than men.
Okay. Wait. So women are banging dudes willy-nilly on the singles scene and it's lowering their "market value," but women are also "vastly" outnumbering men "in the marriage market"? Which is it? I'm confused.
Here's where women are wrong about men: Men are not actually afraid of commitment at all. While women are the gatekeepers when it comes to sex, the deal is that men are in the driver's seat in the marriage market.
Huh? So women do want to settle down, but they also want to be nonstop society-destroying sluts? And men don't want to settle down, but also they're fine with it? So, if men are so starved for sex in the casual-dating pool and they're not commitment-averse, then what's stopping them from tapping into the ocean of ladies looking for longterm partners and settling down with a nonstop slut for a till-death-do-us-part HUMPATHON?
Honestly, guys. How can I trust you to know what's best for my genitals when you can't even work out the internal logic of your own 9-minute video? It's almost as if your entire philosophy is just garbagey word-salad pseudo-science. Weird.
Here's the thing: In the past, it really wasn't the patriarchy that policed women's relational interests. It was women.
Here's what the video thinks "the patriarchy" looks like, by the way:
Could someone please tell the Wizengamot to stop oppressing me?
I'm just so bored of being lied to by stupid people. I'm so bored of being forcibly confined by someone else's bullshit narrative. Because it's simply not true. Human lives are simply not so simple. I know, because I have one, and everyone I know has one, and right-wing lawmakers (the keepers of that narrative) have them too, and every single one of those lives is messy and complex and unpredictable.
Oh, but, of course, it's just about numbers. These are just the averages we're talking about. "Nobody's saying this is the way it ought to be. It's just the way it is."
Yeah, well, we aren't the numbers. The numbers are us. They don't dictate what we do, they reflect it. That is the entire point of activism—to change the numbers, to change the shitty, blatant, measurable ways we marginalize one other.
So stop telling me—"family values" traditionalists, shitty rom-coms, and Zales commercials—that it is my biological imperative to trap a complete stranger into a lifelong contract based entirely on how many diamonds he's willing to buy me with. Stop telling me that when you're choosing someone to sleep next to every single fucking day until you die, your personalities and goals and aspirations are irrelevant. Stop telling me that my lived experience is "nothing" compared to some numbers cooked up by a repressed bigot with an agenda.
And I literally do not give one shit if you disagree, because this is not a debate. My human agency is not one side of a thought experiment—it is an objective fact.
When someone who is no one to me—someone stupid and shitty like Rick Santorum or Glenn Beck or Professor Anonymous Pick-Up Artist Internet Coward, Esq.—insists on forcibly applying their self-serving moralistic garbage fantasy to my life, all I hear at this point is, "BABY-MAN BROKEN." Wouldn't want to let women have agency and financial independence—then you'd have to rely on who you are as a human being to attract a partner, instead of just buying one. Wouldn't want to relinquish any control. Wouldn't want to risk any vulnerability. Wouldn't want to acknowledge that trans people exist, and gay people exist, and open relationships exist, and polyamory exists, and non-binary concepts of gender exist, and asexual people exist, and happily single people exist, because then the numbers on your cute little faux-objective thought experiment might not be so clear-cut. Whoops, there's that vulnerability again. There go those numbers again.
I reject all of this stupid, boring, outdated shit. I reject your numbers. I reject the idea that my personality is a negligible variable in the equation of my happiness. I reject the implication that you understand my relationship better than I do. Do not insult my intelligence by telling me that the best way to avoid divorce is to marry a stranger when you're too young to even know yourself. Don't try to bluff me into swallowing your lie that a world with more marriages is objectively a better world. You cannot trick me into believing that divorce is a failure of society and not a grand fucking triumph, and you will not drag me and the rest of society into the past with you.
It's no coincidence that the people most concerned with clapping a chastity belt on the entire earth and swallowing the key are the people currently (and historically) in power in our country. And it's also no coincidence that the people with the most to gain by maintaining "traditional" family structures—by keeping women dependent and docile and shutting everyone else up—have the least nuanced understanding of how actual human beings interact with one another romantically. It's almost as if they've never known what it's like to really connect with someone as a human being—to love a partner as an equal, not as a bank account or a body. What a pathetic, lonely life that must be.
Image by Jim Cooke.