Not For Sale.

Warning: heavy on ranting, heavy on sarcasm, heavy on ‘Jess is temporarily stunned into silence’ moments.

[Bolded sections are direct quotes.]

——

You know what’s really depressing?

Everywhere you look, relationships are portrayed as a sort of contract. A tit-for-tat. An exchange.

Example 1: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/02/sex_is_cheap.html

Example 2: http://www.csom.umn.edu/assets/71503.pdf

Let’s have a look at example 1, shall we? Thanks to Cliff Pervocracy, whose blog I initially stumbled across this via.

If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.”

Because ALL WOMEN want marriage and True Wuv Forever and Ever, don’tcha know!?

And it’s all thanks to supply and demand.”

…..Ughhhhhhh. Why do I feel like this is only going to get worse?

As Baumeister and Vohs note, sex in consensual relationships therefore commences only when women decide it does.”

Well, yes, but more accurately, consensual sex commences only when both (all) parties decide it does. That’s kinda the definition of consensual. Jeez, it takes two people with PhDs to figure this out??

We found that virginity is more common on those campuses where women comprise a smaller share of the student body, suggesting that they have the upper hand. By contrast, on campuses where women outnumber men, they are more negative about campus men, hold more negative views of their relationships, go on fewer dates, are less likely to have a boyfriend, and receive less commitment in exchange for sex.”

Virginity is the Upper Hand? Wow. I didn’t realise I had full control over men thanks to my virginity when I was fifteen, and am at some kind of major disadvantage now that I’m having sex. Thanks for clearing that up. Is it something to do with the fact that I can’t lure a man into marrying me by promising him the Sacred Gift of My Virginity?

Yes, sex is clearly cheap for men. Women’s “erotic capital,” as Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics has dubbed it, can still be traded for attention, a job, perhaps a boyfriend, and certainly all the sex she wants, but it can’t assure her love and lifelong commitment. Not in this market.”

“Erotic capital?” Seriously?

People, my vagina is not a commodity!

As the authors of last year’s book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality put it, “Societies in which women have lots of autonomy and authority tend to be decidedly male-friendly, relaxed, tolerant, and plenty sexy.” They’re right. But then try getting men to do anything.”

Here’s the thing: pretty much all the men I know, whether partners or friends or acquaintances, are in fact fully functional human beings, totally capable of accomplishing all sorts of things in life that have nothing to do with getting laid. Perhaps I’m reading this wrong, but it seems to be implying that men won’t do something if they can get access to sex without doing said thing. And that’s…. such a flawed idea I don’t even know where to begin!

I’d say this was sexist, but to be honest it’s pretty anti-women AND anti-men. These people seem to live in a world in which women are for sale (for the right price of love, commitment and a shiny diamond ring, of course) and men are the buyers. Ewwww.

This whole article is about how women trade sex for commitment, and men are now winning because women aren’t demanding marriage before taking their pants off.

So let’s go onto the second piece; the study by Baumeister and Vohs which apparently informed the train-wreck of a piece I’ve just unpicked.

A heterosexual community can be analysed as a marketplace in which men seek to acquire sex from women by offering other resources in exchange.”

Opening. Sentence. With a setup like that, I really have very little hope for this ‘study.’ It also makes me kind of sad wondering what the hell kind of relationships these people have had in their lives.

“[As a result] sexual intercourse by itself is not an equal exchange, but rather an instance of the man getting something of value from the woman. To make the exchange equal, the man must give her something else in return, and his own sexual participation does not have enough value to constitute this.”

The hell it doesn’t! If I have sex with someone, it’s because I want to have sex with them, not because I hope to get “something of value” out of it. Sex itself, sexual pleasure, spending time connecting intimately with my partner is a thing of value… of much greater value than the people writing this crap would seem to understand.

When sex happens, it will often be in the context in which the man gives the women material gifts, consideration and respect, commitment to a relationship as desired by her, or other goods.”

Sex in exchange for “material goods?” That’s not a romantic relationship, that’s basically prostitution. And I’ve been involved with far too many men who give me consideration and respect only when they think it’s going to get me into bed with them, then drop the act like a tonne of bricks when it doesn’t work quickly enough. I have no interest in being involved in that kind of transaction. How many women really want to be with a guy who will be nice to you, as long as it gets him laid?

There’s also a particularly sickening “table” in which a bunch of factors are analysed in terms of whether they raise or lower the “price of sex.” The woman being young, attractive, having (or having a reputation for having) no or few past sexual partners all raise the price. The woman being unattractive (by who’s standards? I want to ask,) having “alternate access to resources” or a high sex drive of her own all lower the price. It also mentions “female collusion to restrict men’s sexual access to women.” Yes, all us women are in this together – there’s actually a mass female conspiracy to stop men getting laid! Whoops, you caught us!

They go on to offer support for a theory that marriages would last longer if custody of children upon divorce was automatically granted to the father, because… wait for it… it would reduce his chances with new sexual partners! Yes. Use children to make men stay in marriages, because they think they won’t get sex if they leave. That’s going to lead to millions of happy marriages and well-cared-for children.

In modern marriages, for example, resources are typically jointly owned by both halves of the couple, and so the woman already technically has claim to all of her husband’s resources. This limits what more he can offer her, thereby removing the basis for exchange or negotiation. Possibly her role is simply to give him enough sex to sustain the marriage.”

Does this really happen? Are marriages which are this cold and joyless really so common? Is it actually normal for women to get married so she can “claim her husband’s resources,” and to then be expected to put out regularly enough to keep him interested? Am I living on another planet in assuming that most marriages are in fact, at least in the beginning, based on mutual love and respect and commitment to building a life together?

To commence a sexual relationship with a particular woman, a man may have to offer her a fancy dinner, or a long series of compliments, or a month of respectful attention, or a lifetime promise to share all his wealth and earnings with her exclusively.”

I can’t even… I’m struggling to deconstruct this intelligently, when I’m just facepalming repeatedly.

If all the women [in a community] demand an engagement ring before giving sex, the man is more likely to agree.”

That’s the secret, ladies! If we all conspire together to not have sex until we get a big shiny diamond and a lifetime commitment… men will give us a big shiny diamond and a lifetime commitment! You don’t want those things? You actually just want to have sex with a guy ’cause you kinda like him or you’re just horny? Sssshhh, you can’t do that, you’ll lower the market value for all us good girls who wait until we’re paid what we’re worth. And we know marriage is your ultimate goal, whatever you say, because all women think exactly alike.

When the supply of eligible women (ie young, unattached female adults) is much larger than the pool of eligible young men, supply can be said to exceed demand.”

Clearly these people have never heard of polyamory. Or of anyone over 35 having sex. Or of the fact that the population is (more or less) an even split of men and women.

(On why women should oppose pornography and masturbation) “If pornography satisfies some of the male demand for sex, then it may reduce the total demand for her own sexual favours, and as a result the prices she can obtain will be lower.”

I…. fuck. I was fifteen the last time I seriously thought that my partner enjoying porn was a threat to me. Also, this would suggest women never masturbate. Of course we don’t, because we don’t actually have sex drives, right?

A rational economic strategy that many monopolies and cartels have pursued is to try to increase the price of their assets by artificially reducing the supply. With sex, this would entail having women put pressure on each other to exercise sexual restraint and hold out for a high price (such as a commitment to marriage) before engaging in sex.”

Haven’t we, y’know, moved on a little from the days when waiting for marriage was more or less the norm, and shaming a woman who ‘put out’ too early was not only okay but expected? It then goes on to talk about the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies. Yeah, anything that talks about petroleum exporting and sex in the same paragraph is something I’m absolutely likely to take advice from. God, this is almost so bad it’s hilarious at this point! Almost. Mostly it’s just frightening and kind of sad.

The more men desire a particular woman, the higher a price she can command.”

Look, I’m going to be blunt here for a moment. I’m young and not-horrible-looking. I’m not exactly short of offers from men. You know what this doesn’t make me think? It has never once made me think “oooh, I can command such a high price for my sex now! Awesome!” I turn most of them down, not because I’m conscious of keeping my market-value high, but because I only want sex with people I have a certain level of connection and intimacy with.

To some extent, this reflects the irrevocable fact of physical beauty.”

Physical beauty is not an “irrevocable fact.” Of course physical attraction plays a role in who an individual wants to have sex with, but our widely understood notions of beauty are culturally constructed and significantly narrower than the actual range of human experience and attraction and that ineffable thing called “chemistry.” Otherwise only thin blonde 18-year-olds with huge breasts would ever find partners.

Flirting, wearing sexy clothes and generally creating the impression that sex with her would be especially pleasant and satisfying, would be sensible economic strategies for a woman to pursue.”

This actually caused me to make a horrified noise out loud.

In fact, having sex with different partners would be a problematic strategy for a woman. As social exchange theorists emphasize, the value of any commodity rises and falls with scarcity.”

Please explain to me how having sex with more than one person means that sex is now a scarcity? This only makes sense if you buy into the idea that a woman is “ruined” after a certain number of sexual partners. In which case, fuck you and we have nothing more to talk about.

The amount a man would be willing to give to have sex with a woman would therefore differ according to her (perceived) sexual history.”

The kind of man who’d treat me differently according to my sexual history, whether I’d had one lover or a hundred, is exactly the kind of man I have no desire to associate with. It goes on to talk about how women should safeguard their “reputation,” and if they must engage in sex should keep it “secret and deniable” in order to hold on to the idea that her sexual favours carry high value. Especially because she may need the option to use sex as a bargaining tool to gain resources to which she otherwise has no access.

Forgive me, but it’s twenty-fucking-twelve. (Okay, this article was actually written in 2004, but whatever.) What is there, today, that a woman cannot get access to without the help of a man? Without saying it, this comes dangerously close to advocating “sleep your way to the top” as a sensible strategy for women.

Apparently women have a “mild sex drive.” I, um, feel that my partners may disagree with you on that.

There’s SO much more. I’m less than halfway through this train-wreck calling itself an academic article, but I have to stop now or my head is going to explode. Also, this is getting really, really long!

These were just two examples, but these notions are everywhere. What about all the advice given to women in magazines and the like, suggesting that we shouldn’t have sex on the first (or second or third) date, because we need to make the man commit to us first?

Reading all this and thinking about it, and how far away from my reality it is, this is the question I keep coming back to: where the hell does my relationship fit into this crazy system of manipulation games, supply-and-demand, virginity-for-commitment, tit-for-tat?

Take last weekend. We’d been to see a show, then returned and spent some time as a trio with Nomad’s other partner, so it was pretty late by the time my Beloved and I fell into bed together. Still, we stayed awake, and we snuggled and talked about all kinds of things, some silly, some serious. He made me giggle helplessly. I gave him a massage. We connected deeply. When we had sex, it wasn’t a “oh, he’s spent time cuddling and talking with me, now I owe him something in return.” It was more of a “this is where the mood’s taken us, here’s one more way to share this lovely connection.”

If sex is something I’m supposed to just tolerate in return for romance, then fuck, I guess all those times I’ve said ‘hey, I’m horny, want to play?’ were just out of a sense of womanly duty or something. (That, or trying desperately to lure him into a marriage I don’t even know I want…)

If romance is something he’s supposed to just tolerate in return for sex, then…. I guess those times he stayed up all night talking with me or surprised me with something nice or laid on a beach with me at sunset were all just sneaky tactics to make me owe him my body.

Yeah. I think not.

If, as a woman, I’m supposed to be the gatekeeper of sex…. when do I get to enjoy sex? If, as a man, he’s supposed to give just enough affection and commitment in return for my body… when does he get to enjoy the connection and commitment we’re building together?

Also, where do gay people feature in all of this!? By this logic, lesbians would never have sex, and gay men would never have loving relationships.

Where does love and silliness and the pleasure of just being together and the thousands of tiny, happy, beautiful moments, the shared jokes and experiences that make up a relationship, come into this joyless exchange?

I’m just saying, for all this “man buys dinner/gives flowers/provides cuddles/presents engagement ring, woman consents to tolerate sex until he gets off” …there’s a better way.

And I’m living it.

And it rocks.

16 thoughts on “Not For Sale.

  1. B.Minstrel says:

    A while ago I had a partner who was new to poly. Some of her friends and family were supportive, albeit in a “whatever makes you happy,” kind of way, but many were not. One of the frequent things she was told week in, week out, was “You’re selling yourself short. You’re worth more.”
    I tried not to let it bother me. They were here friends and she didn’t agree with them most of the time, but even so I thought the implications were frankly quite disgusting. She wasn’t “selling herself” to me or to anyone, and I hope she never, ever will feel she needs to.
    But it’s an insidious and pervasive message that even today is still absolutely common place in the most supposedly enlightened people. “Equality’s all well and good, but we all know that the reality is that women have to reluctantly sell their bodies to the men who will grudgingly support them in exchange for sex.”
    Ugh. Ugh.

    • missamaranth says:

      Oh, Gods, yes – I get told that, as well! And I hate it! Told that I’m “worth” marriage and sexual exclusivity, and shouldn’t give myself away to a man who won’t give me those things. Regardless of whether or not I actually want them.

      It’s a bit frightening how pervasive these notions are in our culture. “Ugh” is about right!

  2. Amused says:

    I can’t even deal with all the misogyny on the Internet lately. As far as your post, I am especially floored by one argument you quoted, that women have more power when they have NO power. Insane.

  3. Pablo says:

    This one I couldn’t read. The parts in bold were revolting. But there’s no reason to get depressed Jess. The world is a big place with lots of different kind of people, you can still find people that believe the world is flat.

    The same way it does to you, the Internet gives them voice. That doesn’t mean they represent the majority, but most important, that doesn’t mean they represent the view point that is being adopted by the world.

    Nobody I know wants a subservient partner. I believe it’s common sense to most people that the world ins enjoyed more with a partner by your side, that under.

  4. Kerran says:

    Damn you Jess. Now I’m going to have to read that paper, if only because I feel I ought to fully comprehend a report before I start insulting the authors…..

  5. Dragonmamma says:

    Before we go into lambasting the authors here , a couple of points occurred to me.
    1)if you go back a generation or two these were honestly held beliefs and from a society wide point of view there is a sort of sense to them. The general laws of supply and demand do apply to all things in life in various ways. (Dont get me wrong, there’s a lot more to relationships that they are completely ignoring and I’m not saying that I agree with their basic hypothesis, but assuming that you did there is logic here of a sort)
    2) Not all communities believe in equality between the sexes and sexual freedom.and in a more restrictive (less ernlightened) community these things would matter in this way.
    Logiically if you value virginity and sexual purity in a partner then the fewer sexual favours they have enjoyed the better..
    So what I’m saying is that the basic hypothesis seems to be incorrectly applied to much of our western society as attitudes , freedoms, and independeces have changed. But in a society where things havent changed then this would probably still be true.
    (And maybe I dont find it quite so appalling as you do, because I can remember when those attitudes were quite normal)

    • Kerran says:

      True (I’m taking a break before I get too annoyed with the paper) but their theory frequently makes assumptions that these are the only factors driving the interactions. So the only reason you would want a partner as a female is for resources, the only reason you would want a relationship as a male is for sex. In fact through several sections of the theory the effective assumption is that “relationship” = “Sex”

      While they do technically make some valid points, they generally aren’t points that need making unless you are very very stupid.

      For instance.

      “By and large, the prostitution industry reflects the core principle of sexual exchange theory: Men give women resources in exchange for
      sex”

      It would work as an opening statement. The fact that it took them nearly half a page of text to come to the conclusion that prostitution = sex for resources is just depressing.

      There’s a reason real scientists keep a healthy distance from social psychology. It’s only one step up from Evolutionary psychology…

  6. Sophia Gubb says:

    I’d already read that post by Cliff. I can’t believe that sort of dumb article (the one you both ripped apart) actually exists, but it’s actually disturbingly common. and i think this whole “sex as a trade” thing underlies a lot of the most unhealthy and common patterns in the relations between men and women in our society.

    hence, i love the concept of slutwalks! i want to go on one :)

  7. Dragonmamma says:

    Yes, it is a bit bizarre that it took a whole scientific (?) paper to state the obvious (i.e. obvious given the primary hypothesis).
    it doesnt seem to add much to the sum of general knowledge and doesnt even seem to be partcularly useful research as any findings and conclusions they have reached seem irrelevant in the context of modern western culture.
    But hey! I bet they got paid well for it.
    Just goes to show that you shouldnt base your opinions of the world around you solely on what you read in journal reports!!!

  8. Vicky says:

    For me, the annoying thing is that they do all the describing without criticising. I’ve read “The Traffic in Women” by Gayle Rubin, which is a radical feminist text that covers something similar, but from a critical standpoint. It´s the lack of criticism that is disgusting here.

    In general, I think both miss the point completely by making it about sex. In our society I believe heterosexual relationships do not resemble a market, but a feudal contract. Women exchange power for protection. The protection is physical, economical, etc. And when they give up their power that includes sexual power. A lot of us want to create relationships in which we come together as equals and stay together as equals. I don’t think there is any theory out there that accounts for the complex mix of people who believe and practice the old system and for people who try to carry out the new system, to varying degrees and the people in between and their interaction.

    As a piece of advice, I would say it’s useful when people express how they view things candidly, as it gives you a clearer view of that and potentially how a lot of things work. And often both (their view point and reality) suck completely, but if we want to change things we need to know the situation of what we are changing. A different instance is when they are trying to build society in the way they would like it, which is when I am merciless. In any case, it’s best to be dispassionate and not take it personally. I focus my passion on creating what I would like to see in the world rather than on fighting what I don’t want to see in it. The difference seems subtle, but one destroys you and the other one nourishes you and gives you more energy to go on.

  9. Feel I should play devil’s advocate here. The report (which I too, have issues with) IS making assumptions, however not entirely unfounded ones. Many of my female friends, women on television ( I know, still counts) and even certain magazine authors don’t; for lack of a better term: ‘give it up for free’ not in the hooker sense but in expecting dinner, flowers etc; those ‘material goods’ or even the ‘commitment’ (compliments sense of security’ before having sex. We all do it. Even those who wait for love you’re still waiting for ‘something’ instead of just sex like the report is suggesting.

    In other news in all honestly that part of the report was the only part I remember because it seemed like allot of generalizations and stuff I already knew. Men like pretty women, well hot damn! men prefer women with less past sexual partners, bit of traditional slut-shaming, etc. Incidentally example 1 click on the authors name found he wrote another article on gay parents and premarital sex. example 2 – there is no hope for you sir.

    Actually question to anyone. What exactly was the point of these articles? I honestly didn’t get it. apart from incurring the wrath of our beloved blogger.

    • missamaranth says:

      No, I think what you’re saying is very true – there will always be certain “standards” or criteria in place that must be met before someone will have sex with someone else (I think this is true whatever your gender – despite stereotypes, men aren’t completely indiscriminating in their choice of partners either!) The difference is that the authors of the article seem to think that it’s all a transaction, that it’s all cold and emotionless and sex can be “bought.” I mean, I wait for love before I sleep with someone…. that doesn’t mean they’re purchasing my body if they tell me they love me! It just means that I’m more likely to want to have sex with someone if that level of emotional connection is there. If that makes any sense.

      I have no idea what the point of these articles was. The first one I think was a guy wanting to bitch about “OMG women are such sluts!!!” and the second one, well… I don’t want to know how much these so-called “academics” were paid to come up with this crap!

      Hope you’re well :-) xx

      • Kerran says:

        Having slogged through the entire “scientific” article the basic point as they put it was

        “This article had two purposes. First, it sought to elaborate a theory of sexual interaction based on social exchange, with sex as a female resource. Second, it sought to review empirical findings relevant to the theory.”

        Which translates as:

        “Hey, you can explain a lot about relationships if you define Sex as something men want from Women.”

        Holy Crap. It’s a good thing we have Social scientists to tell us these things.

        I also liked this section.

        “Inevitably, some findings can support more than one interpretation. We recognize that sexual behaviour is complex and multiply determined. To prevent this article from becoming unworkably long and rambling we decided not to present every possible interpretation of every finding”

        Or in other words, they decided to use the explanation that fit our ideas, because discussing the ones that didn’t would just.. y’know. Make the article all messy.

        Can’t have messy articles. That would never do.

      • Vicky says:

        The point of the article I believe is to say “things are the way we have always thought for a good reason”. Basically, to maintain the status quo.

  10. graduate2012 says:

    In a 1st for me I’m going to post on your blog x

    Even in a non-poly environment (the only one in which I truly have much experience) these so called assumptions and beliefs which hold that women have a value and use it as trade, as if a women’s ‘worth’ which is a bad enough term as is, is reduced by her enjoyment of sex ?

    Surely a woman’s ‘worth’ has no intrinsic link to sex unless you choose to apply it to it ( if that makes sense). A woman has her own shortcomings and virtues, and this would give you a far more accurate view of her ‘worth’, thus enabling you to achieve a more rounded view of her, than how many time she has engaged in intercourse.

    If you wish you may ignore this comment Jess you may as I have no knowledge of whether this is the same in poly circles as it is in non-poly, however I will assume that it is, and that a woman should not be judged on her enjoyment for sex, rather she shouldn’t be judged at all in an ideal world!

    Also I showed my deeply ideological sister this, without telling her who it was from, and she had a good old bitch at the articles, talking about mysoginism and the judgment of women, *god I love getting her riled up :p *.

    Hope you had a good birthday anyway hun and I’ll see you in November.

    Rant over

    x

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