It’s Not You, It’s The Dishes, aka Spousonomics, is a newish book about how economics is the key to a happy marriage. Written by two reporters, Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson, who are notably not economists. Although I wouldn’t put it past an economist to write this kind of stuff either.
The basic idea is that sex is a normal good, meaning that as cost goes up, demand goes down, demonstrated by a downward sloping demand curve. See, look, this graph proves it!
The authors seem to argue that in order to lower cost, just throw it in your spouse at a moment’s notice with little need for coaxing or consent, basically. Szhuchman and Anderson reason that the costs that couples associate with sex, like effort when you’re tired, means that you should put less effort into it, but still get it done, thus lowering the de facto cost. They write on the Daily Beast, “when sex is dirt cheap, we’re much more likely to go at it like rabbits… keep it affordable.” Affordable means easy access, in their viewpoint. Also, quantity matters more than quality; “If they’re tired, they make it quick. Maybe they don’t even bother to take their shirts off. When one of them is in the mood, they say so.”
Another point the authors bring in from economics is transparency, or the idea of freely accessible information. This means less playing games and sly attempts to seduce your partner. Be upfront with what your desires are and when they happen. I was almost with them on this one, but isn’t their idea of “transparency” really just communication? As in the same concept that almost all marriage self-help books advocate for a better marriage? Then I really wasn’t with them when they use their evidence from surveying couples with good sex lives, who are openly communicative, by quoting this guy who says, “I usually put a condom on. That seems to give her the idea I want a little more than good conversation.” LOL or Barf. I don’t know which.
But as in many faulty economic analyses, correlation – cheap sex and more sex – is not necessarily causation – if sex is cheap, then more sex is had. Maybe is more sex is had, then the sex will be cheaper. If anything, using economic survey methods and analysis can’t quite get at the processes by which happy couples engage in regular sexual activity. Quick! Somebody call a sociologist!
This is like so much of the romance of economics (double entendre intended). Sometimes something can be presented so logically, in the mathematical sense, and so elegantly, that you get lost in it and forget that it actually is an absolutely nutso way to understand human relationships. The idea that sex is a normal good, or even a good at all that can be quantified in economics, is kind of bizarre. Sometimes it’s kind of fun to speculate the ways in which sex might kind of appear to be a normal good, but the abstraction and simplification required in economics for this most complex of human behaviors misguided, to say the least. I was serious when I wrote that someone should get a sociologist on this, if we really want to apply social science to sex.