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UT Faculty Affiliated with The Austin Institute and Controversial 'Economics of Sex' Video


by: Natalie San Luis

Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 01:03 PM CST


"The Economics of Sex," a video recently released by an Austin research group with help from UT faculty, is receiving media attention from the NY Post, Freakonomics, and Jezebel. The animation, which purportedly "pulls together some of the key sexual economics arguments made my social scientists," describes sexual relationships as a market in which women control the supply and men make up the demand.

Sexual economics isn't a new sociological concept, and many of the tenets of the theory make sense: Women, for example, often have more power than men in negotiating the terms of a sexual exchange.

However, the anti-contraception, pro-marriage conclusions reached by the Austin Institute's video are dubious and unsettling, particularly for a group that aims "to be a leading resource for tested, rigorous academic research on questions of family, sexuality, social structures and human relationships."

Even more disconcerting? The organization lists two UT faculty members on its staff as Senior Fellows, including Mark Regnerus, whose research on gay parenting prompted a scientific misconduct inquiry in 2012.

Read more about "The Economics of Sex" video and The Austin Institute after the jump.

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The video uses the heteronormative, often misrepresented theory that sexual exchanges are usually initiated by men, while "women are likely to have sex for reasons beyond just simple pleasure," including "relationship security."

According to the video, sex used to be an extremely valuable "resource" for women—until easy access to contraception loosened the ties between sex and marriage, thus "dropping the price" for sex.

"While the original purpose of the Pill was to prevent pregnancy, the data reveals an unanticipated side effect," the Austin Institute claims. "The Pill threw the mating market into disarray."

The result? Women are free to pursue sexual relationships with a smaller threat of becoming pregnant, allowing them to prioritize their own sexual interests and pursue educational and career opportunities. On the flipside, according to the Austin Institute, it's becoming increasingly difficult to lasso a man into a marriage.

"The Economics of Sex" explains:

Here's the thing: In the past, it really wasn't the patriarchy who policed women's relational interests. It was women! [Oh really?] But, this agreement, this unspoken pact to set a high market value for sex has all but vanished.... Economists say that collusion—women working together—would be the most rational way to elevate the market value of sex.... If women were squarely in charge of how their relationships transpired and demanded a higher market place for the exchange of sex, so to speak... we would see more marrying going on.

In other words, if women ever hope to engage in any mutually respectful relationship with men who value them for more than sex, they must stop having sex now—at least until the "market value" for a sexual exchange is a wedding ring.

The institute's conclusions are extremely outdated and surprisingly anti-contraception. But how surprised should we be? According to the website, several of the organization's staff members, including the director, report ties to either the Catholic Church or Church of Latter-Day Saints.

And Mark Regnerus, an associate professor at UT and the Institute's Senior Fellow in Sociology, has worked closely with conservative think tanks and religious organizations in the past.

After contacting two of the Austin Institute's staff members, I am no closer to figuring out who funds the research institute or what other projects are underway. Posts criticizing masturbation and gay parenting have already appeared on the site.

Natalie tweets from @nsanluis.



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