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The Economics of Human Sexuality

This paper will explore how economic principles can be applied to Human Sexuality. The purpose of this first part is to introduce the "market" for sexual intercourse, and explore how certain limits. Some critics may claim that this paper dehumanizes the sex act, but they forget that this is a research paper. In order to treat this in a completely professional manner, we must use a sterile tone in order to apply the laws of economics to certain sexual activities]. Now, I do not want to make any normative statements in this paper, so they are consequently left out. Although something is efficient, we must remember, it is not necessarily right or wrong. Economics, after all, is innately amoral apart from the value judgements of economists.

Before we begin this treatise on human sexuality, one must define what the act of sexual intercourse is, in order to clarify our goals in this paper. Sexual intercourse (hereafter referred to in shorthand as simply "sex") is any type of sexual union between two (or more) consenting adults. (Adapted from American Heritage Dictionary) That covers every sexual act, not merely coitus (that is, heterosexual sex involving penetration of the vagina by the penis). Thus, this definition includes oral and anal sex, as well. Of course, nothing done by only one person (masturbation) counts, for there is no market for that. Nothing with animals counts either, 'cause that's just wrong.

Now that we have established our definition of what sexual intercourse is, we must then define what the basic aims of this sort of behavior is. Now, coitus usually leads not only to pleasure in both partners, but also in the conception of a fetus. Thus, we see that sex in a traditional sense is aimed toward conceiving children as well as for pleasure. In other forms of sexual intercourse, the conception of a fetus is impossible, so they are pursued only for the sake of pleasure. Another thing that men and women receive from sex is not merely a sexual but an emotional gratification, as well. This is what we term "love," or "intimacy."

Some may wonder why I am using sex to analyze economically. I do think however, that sex, as a commodity is very economical, since it benefits both parties. It is obvious that sex is a basic part of our lives. Sex between humans is perfectly normal in accordance to what the purpose of sex is. Humans have sex just like many other animals, yet what separates us from the beasts is our linking of something transcendent in its nature. Our abstract concepts of love and intimacy are welded to our sexuality. In addition, on a concrete level, we humans are amongst the few species on earth (such as dolphins) that has sex for pleasure. It is an obvious fact that humans are among the few species on earth that has sex for pleasure.

We can see here that there are three basic things which sex is able to provide, which are children, sexual pleasure, and intimacy or love. This makes sex very desirable, in that it provides basic needs that all human beings seem to need beyond food, water, shelter, and air. However, it must be noted that there are groups who value refraining from all sexual activity in order to remain in their belief systems "pure", i.e. Roman Catholic Clergy. Of course, this is a type of self-imposed limit on quantity supplied, the quantity being zero. I will touch on this subject later in this treatise.

The Market for Sex

Although it is highly heterodox to do so, I will refer to the billions of people offering sex as a "market" for sex. Although there is not any actual money involved, (except for prostitution) sex is usually given for something else. What is this something else? It depends primarily on the sexual partner. Many tentative sexual partners only have sex in a monogamous relationship of good standing. Others view sex "cheaply", and are willing to give it for a lower "price", that is, without as much love or understanding as other sexual partners. (Or, in the case of prostitution, money, which is easier to obtain than love or understanding) Thus, we find that the supply for sex varies in elasticity according to supplier. Even still, the supply curve, as an average is still probably relatively inelastic, as most women are not usually "slutty". In contrast, the demand curve for sex is very elastic, since as the price of sex lowers, people assume to pay less and less for it. However, the demand curve starts off steep, since usually the first time that sex is procured is the hardest, since that person has to impress the other tentative partner, or pay the prostitute an exorbitant amount to begin with, etc. Not only that, but since the suppliers of sex are also consumers of sex, and vice versa, the curves for sex are congruent, but in different directions.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to measure such things as "love" or "intimacy" or "understanding", so equilibrium pricing is very nebulous, and practically impossible. Nevertheless, that is merely because we lack a "unit" for which to measure this price. I will therefore invent a unit for love and intimacy to clear up things, as ridiculous as it may seem. I will call this unit an Erotica, to suit the matter, and I will use the letter E to represent the Erotica. Now since most people say that love is priceless, it may be quite peculiar to have a unit of pricing for sex. However, we must realize that everybody has a price. It may costs many Eroticas to obtain sex from one supplier, and perhaps less for another supplier. The Erotica must then be worth the time and energy spent trying to woo a partner into sexual intercourse. Now, on average, most prostitutes from Nevada (Nevada being the only state with legalized prostitution) charge on average 301 dollars for an hour of sex. Now, Nevada has restrictions on legal prostitutes, screening them for venereal disease and the like. Thus, the price is high, because of the restrictions set on it, and thus cannot be realistically what an Erotica equates. Thus, I shall use a more conservative figure of about 150 dollars, which will equate an Erotica. I can however, be very wrong. Perhaps the pricing is too high, or too low, for that matter. Even still, we shall use it, for the purposes of our investigation.

Limits on the Market

Now, here is the crux of our paper, which is how limits affect the market for sex. Now, there are two basic kinds of limits, price, and quantity. Now, limits on the price for quantity for sex are prevalent in our society. Take for example my earlier statement about the Roman Catholic Church's vow of chastity for Priests, Monks, and Nuns. None of these groups can have sex, or else they risk being defrocked. This sort of quantity control limits the "quantity supplied" to zero. Now, the devout religious beliefs of these Churchmen may lower their sexual desire, but even still, they have a desire, especially with the limitation of the Church. Now, since the quantity is limited to zero, we see that there is a rather large dead weight loss in the graph. If, theoretically, Priests limited from having sex obeyed the statute always, then the dead weight loss would consume both the Priest's consumer surplus and his potential supplier's consumer surplus. It is the same for societal pressures or legal pressures such as Age of Consent laws. They attempt to limit quantity of sex supplied, often resulting in a dead weight loss.

However, what about price limitations? Price limitations in our society on sex are nonexistent. There are no limitations, as the suppliers have complete autonomy over their price. Another reason is that the price for sex, as I have said earlier, is very nebulous, and any price control will ultimately be impractical and a very large obtrusion into the supplier's private life.

Even still, let us for the sake of argument postulate such a society. Now this society, if it must limit the price of sex, would have to assign sexual partners. One woman had to go with this man one week, and the next must be assigned to another man, or perhaps a woman. This would be an attempt at keeping the price of sex nearly free for the consumer. We thus see that by "limiting" the price for sex this imaginary society is destroying the market altogether, the result of which is that consumer and producer surplus are eliminated, in the face of a giant dead weight loss.


In conclusion, we see that the market for sex is a very large market, with a very large amount of producers and consumers. (Who play both roles in sex) We also see that restrictions on quantity and price produce inefficiency in sexuality, and eliminate consumer and producer surplus. By getting rid of sexual limits, we can increase the total consumer and producer surplus, and eliminate dead weight loss.

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