Sex is Cheap and It’s a Buyer’s Market—If You’re a Man

Sex is Cheap and It’s a Buyer’s Market—If You’re a Man, by Rachel Lu.

What do we see when we look at the sexual landscape of contemporary America? … When he claims that sex is cheap, Regnerus isn’t pricing prostitutes. He’s assessing what a person (specifically, a man) must do to secure access to sex. Nowadays the answer is: not much. It has not always been so. …

How did sex become so cheap? Regnerus puts considerable weight on contraceptives and female careerism, both of which facilitated female promiscuity. When men can access sex without proving themselves as husbands and breadwinners, many will decide not to shoulder these onerous burdens. Pornography is another factor, which does seem to reduce men’s interest in romancing (or marrying) flesh-and-blood women.

In a more traditional world, everyone had strong inducements to get and remain married. Today, outside pockets of religious conservatism, marriage is no longer seen as the high road to sexual access. It is a pinnacle of relationship fulfillment and a seal of social respectability; unless and until people see those goods in the cards, they will shy away from marriage and linger in the netherworld of cheap sex.

For women, cheap sex means significant pressure to accommodate the expectations of men. In this book, we meet men who expect (usually with justification) that women will be willing to have sex with them after a single shared meal or a few drinks. We meet women who acknowledge that they would like to develop their relationships for a bit more time before getting to sex. It’s difficult, though, to swim against the tide of male expectation. Many women spend years hopping from one disappointing relationship to the next, while marriage lingers on the ever-receding horizon. …

Although women are more likely to want expensive sex, many men sorely need it to push them towards healthy and productive life habits. Marriage is also riskier for men nowadays, especially since modern women tend to have (sometimes unreasonably) high expectations for the quality of their marital relationships. Years of youthful promiscuity are poor preparation for that kind of test, and divorce tends to have a significantly negative impact on men’s health and happiness.

Is there an exit from this grim world of loveless copulation? … It’s clear enough that Regnerus sees a more traditional breadwinner-and-homemaker marital model as the obvious alternative to our male-centric dating market. When both sexes have something valuable to contribute to the sexual exchange, long-term commitment will be a good deal for all concerned. But that’s not likely to happen unless women pull back somewhat from the labor force, restrict men’s sexual access, and force would-be lovers to woo them with promises of fidelity and material support. Regnerus doesn’t see this happening anytime soon …

As a Catholic and a marriage traditionalist, I love expensive sex. Sex should be expensive, because it’s very significant, socially, psychologically and morally. When we treat sex as a triviality, people get hurt.

hat-tip Stephen Neil