Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Not That Many Women are Sex Workers

Alan addresses the question of men's incentives to be "suitable" for an LTCR post-sexual revolution and concludes that in fact men's incentives to be "suitable" were not weakened by the sexual revolution. Why? Because while the sexual revolution may have decreased the supply of men in the LTCR market, it also decreased the demand for men, by creating career opportunities and economic independence for women.

The problem is that the sexual revolution did not obviously create any real career opportunities for women. True, some women found employment in prostitution or pornography, but it is very difficult to believe that these jobs account for more than a small fraction of women's economic empowerment. Rather, it seems likely that expanded career opportunities in manufacturing, services, medicine, law, business, and technology account for the vast bulk of women's increased economic self-reliance.

So while the sexual revolution seems to have reduced the supply of men in the LTCR market, it does not seem to have brought about any non-negligible reduction in the demand for men (at least, not through the channel Alan identifies). Of course, women's economic opportunities have expanded greatly over the last 50 years, but to give all the credit to the sexual revolution and none to the women's liberation movement seems, well, crazy. The question is not whether the last 50 years have been good for women - of course they have - but whether the sexual revolution has been on balance good for women. That is a closer question.


Blogger Alan said...

I never said the sexual revolution deserves credit for women's greatly expanded economic opportunities. But I think the sexual revolution was largely temporally coextensive with women's general liberation (and largely a result of the same trends), which obviously did open up career opportunities for women. And the issue of credit doesn't matter to my argument; all that matters is that women are more economically empowered today than they were before the sexual revolution.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Sarang said...

It is worth mentioning that the sexual rev. and women's lib are naturally correlated in any demand-based story (such as Alan's or mine or Steph's) -- obviously demand for a husband is weaker if you can earn/raise kids on your own.

12:25 PM  
Blogger James said...

I continue to be puzzled by this line of argument. Imagine that I claim that the war on drugs has been, on net, bad for young men in the United States, because so many young men have been imprisoned. I don't think it is much of a response to say something like, "Actually, young men's lives have improved dramatically as smart phones have come on the market. So in fact, the war on drugs has not been bad for young men."

My point being, one wants to hold other things constant. No amount of technological progress would turn the war on drugs into a good policy.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Sarang said...

I simply cannot imagine SR happening w/o women's lib (the other way round is conceivable but implausible); it is a nonsense hypothetical, like asking what happens if you hold the mass and acceleration of a body constant while gradually increasing the total force acting on it.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Alan said...


Also, I'm not arguing that that the sexual revolution has been good for every single person's sex life (or even every single person's). I'm just questioning your claim that men invest less in suitability than they did before the revolution came.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

In other words, I'm not arguing that the sexual revolution had no costs (I don't think any of us is), I'm just saying I don't think one of those costs is that men invest less in suitability than they used to.

1:52 PM  
Blogger James said...

Can I assume that you agree with me that the sexual revolution has been devastating for the environment? (See my next post.)

2:05 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Alright, so I think I was off track when I implied that it's irrelevant whether the sexual revolution and women's empowerment are causally related. I was too caught up in the issue of men's investment in suitability before and after the revolution, but really the only thing I should be talking about are the effects of the revolution on men's investment in suitability. My bad.

That said, I think my argument is totally fine, because the sexual revolution is inextricably intertwined with women's economic empowerment. Basically, among other things, contraception decoupled sex and procreation, so women could afford to invest in good careers without worrying about getting pregnant and having to leave the labor force (and enter the labor force). In other words, contraception was a primary common cause of both the revolution and women's empowerment. And this is just one aspect of the causal linkage between the two phenomena.

So the sexual revolution was inherently about more than just loosening sexual mores; it was inherently, to some extent, about women's empowerment (per More's Law, mores don't just loosen on their own). So it doesn't make sense to exclude women's empowerment from an analysis of the sexual revolution. It makes sense to exclude increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and I'm not sure where exactly to draw the line, but I feel like women's empowerment shouldn't be treated as part of the "all else" in an all-else-equal analysis.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Quick note regarding James's first comment: You're pointing out that one shouldn't confuse correlation and causation. But wasn't your initial argument about the evils of SR that "it" has made women less happy? Because some survey says women are marginally less happy today?

...There is no more proof of causation in this case than there is in drug war/ smart phone case.

11:39 PM  
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