What Is Sex Worth?
It really is hard to make an indecent living. Straight male prostitutes, like the protagonist of HBO’s Hung, have to face hard facts: The odds that a woman has visited one are only 1 in 100. Good luck getting her to hire you. By comparison, men are far more inclined to pay for sex; 1 in 6.67 has paid for sex
That males lay out more for sex than females do is a general rule in the animal kingdom. Fruitfly suitors cough it up directly, regurgitating droplets of food to compensate their mates for copulation. Decorated crickets ejaculate, along with their sperm, a gelatinous mass that the female removes and eats. Tropical cockroaches offer their dates nutritious anal secretions. Balloon flies give less useful gifts: shiny bubbles they weave out of silk for the female to play with during intercourse. The praying mantis sometimes pays with its life.
Biology’s standard explanation for male munificence is that sperm are cheap, eggs are expensive, and sex (except for making babies) is a waste of time. A male has more kids the more he copulates. A female—particularly a female insect, which can store enough sperm from one fling to fertilize all her eggs for the rest of her life—only needs to have sex once. By this logic girls should be chaste as the ideal Victorian of Charles Darwin’s day.
They aren’t. A female chimpanzee might sleep with 8 different males in a quarter hour. The lioness demands 100 copulations for every conception. A rat won’t get pregnant unless she’s been properly stimulated. Since field biologists got their hands on paternity tests in the 1980s, we’ve learned—in species after species—that female animals have all kinds of sex for all kinds of reasons. Girls sleep around—and from the sand lizard to the prairie dog to a fish called the slippery dick, they benefit from it. “As a rule, loose females have more and healthier children,” says evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson, author of Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation. “Natural selection, it seems, often smiles on strumpets.”
Join 25K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.
Does pornography hurt a relationship?