More gender equality = more sex

feet in bedA 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.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • Kara

    I wonder what the STD rates are for the countries that are ranked higher in gender equality? My guess is that the rates are lower, even though they have more casual sex and more partners, just because there is less stigma surrounding sex. Have there been studies about that? (My guess is yes).

    • Trish

      I’m curious about what ~Kara brought up too. I would think that rates would be lower for STIs in countries ranked higher in gender equality, because of potentially better sexual education/health going on in those countries as well.

  • A Viescas

    Sex as a commodity that men want and women use isn’t “evolutionary psychology.” It’s the reality for millions of men and women. It’s a basic, commonly-observed behavior whether we’re talking “sleeping on the couch” or the awesome crossed-legs protest.

    Some people think this behavior exists because we’re born different: the evolutionary psychologists.

    Other people, like this economist, think it’s because of the imbalance between men and women embedded in socioeconomic structure.

    You know, this little thing called the “patriarchy”? But I guess that’s now “hackneyed bullshit.”

  • Divas

    My opinion is that there’s nothing moral about sex. what i wonder is that even most of the feminists fail to understand that.
    For my detailed opinion plz visit:

  • Freya Duquesne

    Personally, I think it’s a matter of confidence. A person who considers herself equal to her partner is going to be more likely to communicate her needs and wishes, and have more confidence in what she is doing.

    But there may be something to the idea of power being a factor as well. Not the part about women using sex for power–I’m sure some do, but what a tired trope that is. But many of the traditional sex taboos arose from (mostly male-dominated) cultural efforts to control women’s sexuality and fertility. Women were taught to be ashamed of their sex drives because of this. As this shame goes away, it’s no wonder women are feeling freer to express their own sexuality and go after what they want with more confidence.

  • Tara

    As a completely unrelated comment, I’m a Psych major and Roy Baumeister works at my school ^_^ I’m trying to land undergrad research with him – lol!