Sexonomics- Women Sell, Men Buy

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John Allen Paulos in his latest ‘Who’s Counting’ column reviews this paper, ‘A Theory of Prostitution’ which tries to answer the puzzle: Why is it that prostitution is so relatively well-paid?

“Developing the consequences of their mathematical model, Edlund and Korn argue that the primary reason for the income differential is not the risk sometimes associated with the practice of prostitution but rather that prostitutes greatly diminish their chances for marriage by virtue of their occupation. Men generally don't want to marry (ex)prostitutes, and so women must be relatively well-compensated in order to forgo the opportunity to marry….the authors also conclude that prostitution generally declines as men's incomes increase…Wives and prostitutes are competing "commodities" (in the reductionist view of economists, that is), but wives are distinctly superior in that they can produce children that are socially recognized as coming from the father. ..Thus, if men have more money, they tend to buy the superior good and, at least when wives and prostitutes come from the same pool of women, tend to buy (rent) the cheaper good less frequently….Putting these two tendencies together suggests that if one wishes to reduce prostitution, increasing the incomes of both men and women is likely to be more effective than imposing legal penalties.”

Abstract of the paper;

"Prostitution is a profession that is low-skill, labor intensive, female, and well paid. This paper proposes the following explanation. A woman can be either wife or prostitute, but not both. If marriage is a source of income for women, then the prostitute has to be compensated for foregone marriage market opportunities. Hence, prostitution must be better remunerated than other low skill occupations. Furthermore, we discuss the link between income and prostitution, and show that prostitution may decrease not only in female income but also in male income, suggesting one reason why prostitution has seen a secular decline in developed countries. We point to the role of male sex ratios, and males in transit, in sustaining high levels of prostitution, and discuss possible reasons for its low reputation. Finally, we argue that recognition of prostitution as a female strategy may add to the understanding of the evolution of marriage patterns."


- Thinking about prostitution
- See earlier post Cost of Safe Sex

1 Comment

The absurdity is that women have so little choice but marriage or prostitution to make money, forced into an economic corner, relatively speaking.

In even a moderately equal world, women would not have to choose either as a method of survival, but would work as men do, and thus, have the funds to hire their own male prostitute, thus enabling them to satisfy whatever sexual appetite they have. In essence, this is the other side of the coin to the way society is currently configured. But, isn't that the idea of gender equality - that gender orientation of society is impermissible?


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on May 17, 2006 10:19 PM.

The Cost of Safe Sex was the previous entry in this blog.

Linguistics and Cultural Roots of Innumeracy is the next entry in this blog.

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