A review of mine on Mark Regnerus’ recent book, Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy has just been posted over on The Gospel Coalition website. Within the book, Regnerus describes and seeks to explain the shape of contemporary sexual culture in the West. It is a worthwhile book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to delve into these issues:
Regnerus draws our attention to the readily demonstrated (yet controversial) fact that the mating market is naturally asymmetrical. In the relational dance, men are primarily pursuers, while women are primarily the “recipients of sexual pursuits” (53). Men naturally have a more pronounced sexual appetite than women (there are exceptions to this pattern, and women clearly want sex too, but the pattern of greater male sexual appetite is a clear and crosscultural one), while women naturally bear the greatest costs of procreation. Women historically had great need for men’s protection and provision, while men needed women to have children and satisfy their sexual appetites.
While women formerly controlled access to sex—collectively keeping its “price” high in order to defray the costs of bearing and raising children and to select for provident and committed husbands and fathers—with the advent of contraceptive sex, the price of sex no longer has to be high (this article by Timothy Reichert helpfully describes some of the “market” dynamics at work). Contraception proved to be a great trade-off: women gained the means for greater economic independence from men and increased sexual autonomy, while losing their power as sexual gatekeepers as the price of sex plummeted. “Women want men but don’t need them, while men want sex but have more options now” (60).