A new study shows that people have more sex in countries with higher gender equality, according to USA Today. In addition:
[C]ountries ranked higher in gender equality also generally had more casual sex, more sex partners per capita, younger ages for first sex and greater tolerance/approval of premarital sex. Rankings were by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, 2006; the USA ranked 16th.
I always take study findings with a big grain of salt when they’re reported in mainstream media, but I could potentially like this news. Of course, the study’s author Roy Baumeister manages to make the most tired possible argument about what the results mean. He says women use sex for power, and when they have more power they’re more willing to, well, give it away:
“If women don’t have many opportunities to make money on their own, they need the value of sex to be as high as possible,” Baumeister says. “When women don’t have other opportunities, sex is the main thing she has to offer.”
This is, of course, predicated on the assumption that sex is something men want and something women use, which Baumeister pretty much comes out and says. It sounds like the worst of evolutionary psychology, though in this case economics are being given the credit, so I guess it’s economic psychology.
A complex conversation about the relationship between sex, gender, and economics is certainly worthwhile. This ain’t that conversation.
As Anna North points out at Jezebel, the data’s probably self-reported, so people may be less willing to admit having sex in countries with less gender equality. Plus there are so many other, probably better explanations than just sex = women’s currency. Like, maybe people feel less stigma and shame about sex in countries working for gender equality. Maybe they receive better sex education, are more comfortable learning how to be good at sex, so they have more good sex and thus more sex. Maybe women feel more free exploring their sexuality in countries where they’re taken seriously in other aspects of their lives. And maybe, just maybe, the decision to have sex doesn’t always rest in the hands of women alone.
Maybe one simple, pat answer based in one of the most overhyped, bullshit ideas about men, women, and sex isn’t enough.