Sales and Sex Ability
A recent Washington Monthly profile of Dan Savage draws this interesting* parallel between modern sexual norms and consumption patterns:
“Classical liberalism, however, may prove just as inadequate in the bedroom as it has in the global economy, and for many of the same reasons. It takes into account only a narrow range of our motivations, overstates our rationality and our foresight, downplays the costs of transactions, and ignores the asymmetries of information that complicate any exchange of love or money. For society as a whole, it entails a utopian faith in the capacity of millions of appetites to work themselves out into an optimal economy of sex—a trading floor where the cultural institutions of domesticity once stood. And for the individual, it may only replace the old sexual frustrations with new emotional ones. People who think they are motivated only by lust may end up feeling love; people who forswear any strings may feel them forming; and perfect transparency may prove an ideal no less unattainable than perfect monogamy. I think of a heartbreaking letter in 2010 that illustrated many of these problems at once. A man who saw a woman every other week for four months heard from her, two months after ending things, that she had gotten pregnant and had a miscarriage. Savage was all but certain that the woman’s story was false. But regardless, he said, “your emotional obligations to her ended when the relationship did, and your financial obligations ended with the miscarriage.” Savage’s advice may have been practical, but it had all the warmth of a legal waiver of liability.
* Note: By “interesting”, I don’t mean what people usually mean when they post something like this and call it interesting: i.e. “here’s something I agree with and want you to as well.” Instead, I mean something like, “Hmmm… I’m really not sure what to make of this argument. What do y’all think?” (You’ll notice I do that a lot here.)