Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why Feed the Pig When Sausages Are Cheap?

To get this post, you might want to read my earlier one "Why Feed the Cow When Milk is Cheap?" first. This one, too, is based on Mark Regnerus' thesis that what ails America is essentially uppity women and their slutty behavior, but here I wish to pay more attention to his prostitution thesis about heterosexual love. Regnerus:
To better understand what's going on, it's worth a crash course in "sexual economics," an approach best articulated by social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs. As Baumeister, Vohs, and others have repeatedly shown, on average, men want sex more than women do. Call it sexist, call it whatever you want—the evidence shows it's true. In one frequently cited study, attractive young researchers separately approached opposite-sex strangers on Florida State University's campus and proposed casual sex. Three-quarters of the men were game, but not one woman said yes. I know: Women love sex too. But research like this consistently demonstrates that men have a greater and far less discriminating appetite for it. As Baumeister and Vohs note, sex in consensual relationships therefore commences only when women decide it does. And yet despite the fact that women are holding the sexual purse strings, they aren't asking for much in return these days—the market "price" of sex is currently very low.
I have written about that particular study many times before! It consisted of total strangers coming to you in pure daylight and asking for sex, and I pointed out that the dangers of such casual hookups are quite different for women than men, given the greater levels of male sexual violence and given the possible risk of pregnancy (the study didn't control for whether the women asked were on the pill, for example). Others have pointed out that the study arrangements are NOT the way sexual hookups actually happen but almost a red flag for something being weird about the person asking. Combine that with sexual killers and such, and you WOULD predict that women are going to refuse the offers.

But these proximal reasons for refusing sex are not what the evolutionary-psychologists think the experiment shows. They argue that women are inherently less interested in sex with strangers than men, even if all other concerns (violence, the risk of pregnancy) were held constant. The distinction is an important one.

To see how important, consider a recent series of studies which takes off from the experiment described in the above quote:
Would you have casual sex with a stranger? How about a close platonic friend?
How about with Johnny Depp?
Getting more interested, ladies? If so, you’re adding to the evidence that some widely accepted beliefs regarding men, women and short-term sexual encounters may be significantly off-base.
In a newly published paper describing a series of studies, University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley asserts that “when women are presented with proposers who are equivalent in terms of safety and sexual prowess, they will be equally likely as men to engage in casual sex.”


In an attempt to learn if gender differences toward casual sex can be eliminated, Conley conducted yet another variation on the basic “Will you go to bed with me?” experiment. Only in this case, the scenario featured one very attractive and one unattractive suitor: Depp and Donald Trump for women, Angelina Jolie and Roseanne Barr for men.
The result: Women were just as likely as men to agree to have sex with the attractive celebrity. They were also “about equally likely” to reject the offer from the unattractive but famous individual.
This suggests a problem with the aforementioned Sexual Strategies Theory. If women were attracted at some deep level to men with the resources to care for them and their prospective children, The Donald would be a catch.
It’s worth noting that gender-specific biology, or at least psychology, does play into this equation. Conley notes that women tend to be more concerned about sexual assault, a fear that makes casual encounters more risky. It’s entirely possible that women, on average, get less pleasure out of casual sexual relations because they are more relaxed, and thus more receptive, when they are with partners they know and trust.
Still, it’s fascinating that when you remove that variable and give women the option of a casual encounter that is likely to be both safe and pleasurable, they are just as receptive as men. This research, Conley concludes, “suggests that women are more similar to men in their reactions to casual sex than would have initially been expected.”
It is that last paragraph which is of importance here, both for what it tells about various evolutionary-psychology theories and for what it tells about Regnerus' view of women.

And about his basic theory which equates heterosexual love as a market where women sell sex in exchange for an income and a marriage, pretty much. The real world is much more complicated than Regnerus' worldview.