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Getting What You Want: Using Sex as Money

This article was written by in Featured, People. 34 comments.


College students, professionals, and married couples are familiar with one of the oldest systems of bartering known to humans: bartering using sex. According to a survey of University of Michigan undergraduate students, 27 percent of unattached men and 14 percent of unattached women offered a service or gift, like laundry or football tickets, in return for sex. Sex is often used as a motivator, the carrot designed to entice someone to take care of something you’d like to be completed.

An older article from the Los Angeles Times indicates how sex can be used in a bartering system.

The exchange of sex for things desired, whether it is good behavior, a new car or takeout dinner of one cuisine over another, is one of the oldest games played out between the sexes. But it is a game in which women have the upper hand–even in relationships where sex is frequent and satisfying, even when women have economic parity with their mates and even when women have their own lusty sex drives… “It works for me because my husband loves sex so much that I usually get what I want,” said a 29-year-old Santa Monica mother of two. She said she has bartered sexual favors to get a sewing machine and a minivan.

A more recent article from CNN describes how a tourist used sex to gain an experience she desired in Brazil:

While she was studying in Brazil during college, the one thing Stephanie Gerson longed to do before leaving was spend time in the thick of the Amazon rain forest. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find a tour that would take her past the forest’s edge. So, when a college-aged busboy at a resort she was visiting began flirting with her, she asked him if he thought a tourist could survive alone in the jungle… Although she wasn’t attracted to the guy, Gerson flirted right back in the hopes that he would be her jungle tour guide. It worked. The busboy wormed his way out of work, and the two headed into the rain forest.

“It was amazing,” Gerson says of her adventure in 2000. “We built our homes out of palm leaves, I saw animals I’d never seen before, he taught me the medicinal properties of all the plants, we picked fruit off the trees, we swam with and ate piranhas. And, of course, we had sex … for almost two weeks.”

When all the money in the world eventually becomes devalued, and when there is no need for commodities once considered valuable like gold and silver, there will still be sex. Sexual satisfaction and its biological impetus, procreation, is a baser need than wealth and shelter. Sex will always have a value that could be placed on an economic scale.

That’s not to say that sex is immune from inflation. Today, there is more access to pornography. Society is increasingly desensitized to sexualization, especially of younger adults. The Internet brings people who have the same sexual interests closer together. These all contribute to the idea that as a community, people need to go further to get the same satisfaction. The same aspects of sex that might have been considered kinky two hundred years ago are commonplace and unexciting today.

Call it crass, sexist or gender stereotyping all you want, but there are thousands of years of biological programming at work here, says Dr. Chris Fariello, director of the Institute for Sex Therapy at the Council for Relationships, a nonprofit relationship-counseling group based in Philadelphia. Plain and simple, a partner who provides more resources — wealth, shelter, home repairs — is seen as more attractive and stands to reap more sexual rewards.

Stephanie Gerson, in the example above, did not feel uncomfortable with her arrangement. Do you or would you use sex as a bartering tool?

Los Angeles Times, CNN
Photo: Andréia

Published or updated March 11, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar DonnaFreedman ♦2,448 (Dollar)

I disagree that women always have the upper hand. I and other women of my acquaintance have been in relationships where we had little power or say as to sex. We were bullied, coerced or physically forced to have intercourse.
So for every stereotypical henpecked hubby who will buy his wife jewelry so she’ll sleep with him there are plenty of women who are having sex whether they like it or not.
That said: Of course some people will barter sex for stuff, whether that’s dinners out or a wedding ring. I have to say that I feel sorry for the woman who says her husband “loves sex so much” that she usually gets what she wants. Myself, I’d prefer a relationship where you wanted sex with your partner because you were in love with him/her, not because you thought you would benefit. Otherwise, it becomes not just a chore but a dishonest one: You pretend desire, and you wind up cheating not just your partner but yourself.

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avatar nimrodel ♦42 (Newbie)

I never use sex as a bargaining tool with my boyfriend. I feel like if a couple does that, it’s too easy for it to become a point of contention. I want my boyfriend to do things for me because he wants to help me out.

I do occasionally reward him for doing things for me with neck messages ;)

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avatar Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter

WOW, What a post!

I wouldn’t use sex as a tool either. I would rather use other skills and knowledge I have to get a deal. To me, making a deal for sex would be like smacking all of my other attributes in the face. Everyone loves sex so getting extra isn’t anything special. You find someone with some real awesome qualities and you have something special.

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avatar SteveDH

Since I’m faithful and not brutal I can only relate what I’ve known through 43 years of marrige – She controls 50% of the money and all the fun!

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avatar krantcents

Looking at this objectively, I would never barter for sex. I would like to think my wife of 42 years would not also. As I reflect back, does my wife or I pick our moments to suggest things when everyone is in a “good” mood? I don’t know! If true, the decision would not be different in the cold light of day.

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avatar Ceecee ♦796 (Dime)

No, it’s just a bad idea.

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avatar Pat S.

Scandalous… but interesting none the less. You might be the first one to write these facts down!
Pat S.

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avatar Sustainable PF

I sure would! Thing is, Mrs. SPF wouldn’t care.
On a more serious note – it is unfortunate that women feel, or are put in a place, where this sort of tactic needs to be employed. A healthy relationship should mean a woman would not need to do this.

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avatar Evan

This is one of those things that I feel like have been around since the beginning of time (sort of like prostitution), but people are shocked are still shocked it exists. It will literally NEVER change, although I love the inflation argument.

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avatar Anonymous

I think anyone who uses sex as a bartering tool is disrespecting themselves, and will probably feel awful and unfulfilled.

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avatar tbork84 ♦1,867 (Half-Dollar)

Sex as leverage is a dangerous game with no real winner. Besides if you are in a relationship, then there is more at stake than getting what you want.

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

certainly not the post i was expecting to read…but interesting nonetheless. i do not really know what to add to this conversation, but as it was presented in the post, nothing good can come from using sex in that way.

i was really shocked to read the michigan statistics. as someone who has lived in certified party college town for too too long and had much much more than my share of fun, those numbers still surprised me.

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avatar Shaun

I’m surprised to see so many people say that they wouldn’t use sex as a bartering tool. I don’t know if you have a really skewed sample here, but if you took it to the streets I’d say the numbers would be pretty damn high (as your post stats have indicated) if people were truly honest with themselves.

Sex sells and it is everywhere, perhaps people are so used to it they don’t realise what they are doing. Really it doesn’t even have to be the act, often subtle flirting will get you what you want and I doubt there is a person alive that hasn’t at least tried that method of persuasion!

Great post by the way ;)

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avatar Billy Gee

I’m not sure if I’m put off by this article, or if I want to move to Brazil and start an Amazon Tour Guide business! WOW!

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avatar Billy Gee

I think the second! ;)

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avatar Sarah

Ha! You win for best comment!

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avatar Billy Gee

Thanks Sarah! I’m glad someone was entertained!

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avatar Darwin's Money

There’s something kind of lame about a wife bartering with her husband using sex. Shouldn’t she “want” to have sex with her husband too? I don’t know how into the relationship I’d be if I knew it wasn’t mutually desirable.

The woman in the rainforest story? Complete fruitcake.

Flirting in the workplace? I’ve seen it backfire all too often. The women I know that do it never get any respect – or very far in the company. They appear to be immature and trampy and other women, especially, resent them.

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avatar Financial Samurai

Hey, good point on the wife wanting to get busy too! Equality!

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avatar gotr31 ♦224 (Cent)

I don’t know how people who do that have any self-respect.

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avatar Jess

I don’t really get married couples using sex to barter with, either. If you’re doing it right, both parties should enjoy sex equally. If both enjoy sex, then there’s not really anything to trade. The idea of bartering is that someone does something they don’t enjoy so they get something in return that they want.

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avatar Yana ♦218 (Cent)

I don’t agree with Jess’s assertion that bartering is based on doing what one doesn’t enjoy. It would be really horrible to barter with sex if you didn’t enjoy it. Not worth anything received in return.

I don’t use sex as a bartering tool, as I am married and don’t see it that way. However, marriage the legal agreement has sex in the terms thereof. As it is now, I can’t imagine a better relationship than the one I have, but I can see if a woman could not have a relationship to her liking that a marriage of convenience could be a bartering arrangement. If I didn’t have what I have, I could possibly do that. But if I were single, I would not use sex as a bartering tool.

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avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

While I can understand the use of sex as a form of payment, part of me finds it distasteful and part of me finds that there are people who think of it as just another commodity as long as they are doing it willingly(no pun intended). As for me, I’ll tease the boyfriend but I usually have every intention of following through whether or not he works on the house or shovels the snow out of the driveway.

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avatar TakeitEZ ♦549 (Dime)

I am not really surprised at the findings in the article. Despite the majority of those responding negatively to this type of persuasion, I believe it is a widely accepted means of getting what you want in the world.

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avatar faithfueledbennetts ♦264 (Nickel)

Wow, what a sick and twisted world we live in, as if we were not already aware of this. I think it is quite sad that people have degraded the power of sex to a bargaining chip rather than an expression of passion. No, I would not use sex as a bargaining tool because than it becomes as easily devalued as the ‘almighty’ dollar. Call me old fashioned, but some things are to remain sacred. I value the relationship with my husband much more than I do a business transaction.

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avatar Evan

“Wow, what a sick and twisted world we live in”
- Using sex as a bargaining chip is the same thing as prostitution and there is a reason It is called the oldest profession in the world. I understand why you would want to hold yourself up to a higher standard but this has NOTHING to do with the world we live in today.

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avatar Miss J

I really get upset when young girls sleeps around for the sake of money,

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

Looks like sex is a universal currency where the exchange rate remains constant regardless where you are…

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avatar Kathryn C

Women use sex everyday to get what they want. Not sex in the way you reference above, but women smile, look you in the eye, they know how to be engaging, empathetic, and they often get what they want as a result. Guys have a different set of sex tools that they use; they’re charming, chivalrous (some) and protective. It’s the way the world works. Whether or not the actual act of sex takes place takes just these things I listed above a step farther, and to each their own. But everyone should realize that both men and women flex their respective sexiness everyday to get what they want, and that’s OK. So yes, it should be used as a bartering tool then if people want to, as long as it’s legal of course.

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avatar 4hendricks ♦248 (Cent)

I for once am just not sure what to say – I have been married for 23 years, and have never bartered for sex. My first thoughts are gross, use a condom, my second thought… if you can live with it, your choice, just because I couldn’t doesn’t put me in a position to judge.

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avatar Julie

I’ll be honest, absolutely. Though not with a spouse. I do not think withholding sex is fair in a relationship, it’s manipulative and controlling. Outside of one, Using sex as a means to get something you need, well desperate times call for desperate measures. Sex is not so awful as ones situation may be. What if yourself or child needed medical treatment?

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avatar Yana ♦218 (Cent)

@Julie The amount of sex one would have to have to pay for medical treatment might be impossible to perform – even by a super-nympho. One might be able trade a trick for an office visit.

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avatar Julie

How’s the tour guide business? Or are you entertaining for free?

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦2,448 (Dollar)

@Julie: It kind of gives “bedside manner” a new twist, though.

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