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Economy of sex ... how much are your orgasms costing you?


Peter Antonioni, co-author of Economics for Dummies, examines the cost of love Photo: Pat Moore

Peter Antonioni, co-author of Economics for Dummies, examines the cost of love Photo: Pat Moore

Peter Antonioni, co-author of Economics for Dummies, examines the cost of love Photo: Pat Moore

Think the best things in life are free? Think again. A leading economist has taken to Ireland's annual Kilkenomics festival this weekend to argue that your mind blowing orgasms are costing you more than you think.

Peter Antonioni, co-author of Economics for Dummies, has joined high-profile speakers including Yanis Varoufakis, Rory Sutherland and Martin Wolf - to speak on the pecuniary theories behind the world's favourite leisure activity.

The Oxford graduate described how people weigh up how much an orgasm is worth to them before and after the event - without even realising it.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr. Antonioni explained: "Have you thought of the opportunity cost of the time you are spending whilst pursuing your pleasure? If it is not costing you money for resources, then it is costing you in time. That is not even economics, that is actually physics. So on a basic level there is nothing in the world that completely comes for free. Albeit it's a cost that people are happy to pay," says Antonioni.

"The interesting thing is that people never calculate their individual cost. What they do is they work out what they think is best for themselves [in the overall order of things] and go for that. But they never sit down and make a formal calculation. The way economists put it is that people don't really calculate [the cost of sex] they just act as if they do."

The economist cited a number of cost factors on the road to sexual fulfilment including the hours spent away from work, petrol and dinner and on the woman's side: the cost of maintaining a desirable physical appearance.

Speaking about the differences between the sexes, he said: "On the woman's side there are things that make you desirable and on the man's side there are things that give you social value. [For him] that might include things like pursuing a career which might involve a lot of work but gets him into a position where he is able to meet suitable partners.

It might include a bachelor pad in a nice part of town, for example, so dating costs are just costs at different points. It costs the participants in different ways.

"I know this is a really brutal and cynical way to look at it," he said, adding that he was looking at sex purely as an economist.

Applying the law of elasticity to sex he add: "In terms of the degree of sexual needs, it varies from person to person, day to day and moment to moment. So I suppose if you want to pursue a date you have to think about how important it is to give other things up."

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He explained how many people in today's dating world are confronted with the harsh reality of counting the cost of a sexual partner:

"A friend of mine [who works in the financial sector] went on a date with an American investment banker and she puts him through due diligence. Over the course of the night she asked him where he lives, what he is earning and what his prospects were."

At the end of the date the economists friend sent him a blunt text to say he has just been hoist with his own petard."

She had entirely used economic analysis for his worth as a person. He was looked at in the same way as he looks at other people," Antonioni says, "and he hated it."

He warned: If you think about people in those kind of utility terms, it leads to a lot of mistakes.

"The passage in the bible that says 'you can't love God and Mammon', there's a kind of truth in that."

The best-selling author also hit out at the idea that Tinder was driving down the value of sex and people through the basic law of supply and demand:

"I don't think that is necessarily a good way to think about it. I think that people should own their desires. This idea that Tinder is a dating apocalypse seems like a silly thing. It seems like you are trying to judge the average case by the most outrageous.

"We all want different things at different times. A friend of mine told me recently that before he was shacked up in a long-term relationship, he was spending all of this time and energy chasing the women around. Now he's shacked up all he wants is a nice cup of tea in the evenings.

"Economics is a little bit Buddhist about reserving judgement on things. Because we can't walk around with brain scanners the whole time working out what's going on in people's feelings or souls.

"We can only make some rough assumptions about the situation to get an understanding of what is going on in the world around us."

"You have to remember that when anyone ever talks about the law of economics, they are not talking about the law of gravity, they are talking about something that has plenty of loop holes."

The University College London lecturer also described how legalising sex workers, while criminalising their clients was akin to the economics of a banking crisis.

Antonioni explained that the move is not for the good of sex workers. "It is the kind of thing that is justified under feminism [but] takes over the lives of some of the most vulnerable people and places them in a worse situation.

"Supposedly there are two types of people who visit a sex worker. Some of them are your semi-psycho drunken guys with violent tendencies and some of them are generally quiet nice people who would actually worry about getting caught and getting a criminal offence for it because remember its criminalising buyers not sellers.

"So if you are in the nice guy category [and paying for sex is criminalised] you are probably not likely to take the risk or at least at some level you are going to be less likely to do so.

That then leaves in the market only the customers that the sex worker would prefer to reject. Because half of their customers have dropped out of the market they are now under pressure to take anything available."

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