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arts & ideas



The economy has long influenced gender

roles. So what does it mean for sex and love
today? Interviewed by Blair Mlotek
MARINA ADSHADES BOOK AND BLOG, both called Dollars and Sex, look at
sex and love through an economists lens. She teaches economics at
the University of British Columbia and has published two books on the
subject. We sat down with Adshade to see what shes working on now.
How did you start writing about looking at sex and love through an
economic lens? I was teaching at Dalhousie University and the eco-

nomics department was trying to find a way to increase enrolment. I

proposed teaching a class that encourages students to apply economics to their own lives. Thats where this whole study was bornbefore
this I didnt do any work regarding sex and love.
What have you been looking at since writing your latest book, Dollars
and Sex? Theres two new things Im working on at the moment: look-

ing at how the institution of marriage has changed over time as well as
female sexual desire and how society perceives the female sex drive
as an economic story. I gave a talk at TEDxVancouver on the topic.
Im really motivated to work on it at the moment.
Can you share what you spoke about there? As a society, we think

women have a lower sex drive than men. Because of this we are very
comfortable with the idea that men want sex for pleasure and women
want sex so that they can have financial security. Thats a view that
came out of the time where women were very dependent on men.
Now that women are not dependent on men, we need to evolve in
our thinking. Especially since there is plenty of evidence that women
are not less sexual than menit is just a social norm that has evolved
over time.
A lot of your blog posts have to do with gender roles that have changed
over time. Is this something you have always had an interest in? Well

something I have always believed is that we have these ideas that

women and men are different biologically from one another. A lot of
those beliefs are remnant of the economic systema system where
women are dependent on men for their survival. Given that thats not
true anymore, we need to start re-evaluating those beliefs and letting
go of these ideas.
In the same way you say economics changes the way relationships
are today, do you think it was a cause for the way relationships were
in the past as well? Absolutely. I think the economic systems in which

weve lived have heavily shaped relationships weve had and our views
about gender roles. Now that the economic system has changed we
need to start changing our views about gender roles. The evolution
44 THIS.ORG|January/February 2016

of social norms is incredibly slow to happenwe still see a very slow

transition in peoples personal beliefs.
What have you found that was interesting in your research about the
institution of marriage as it is today? What is interesting to me is that

marriage in the past was about economics but marriage today is about
companionship. There is a new form of marriage that is evolving over
time where people are looking for something else. I think this is one
of the reasons that our divorce rates are falling. Its because people are
choosing to marry for different reasons: marriage is becoming more
about love today.
Why are they looking for something else? Let me tell you a story. In

1967, a sociologist by the name of Kaplan went and asked a thousand

students: if you met somebody who had a number of good qualities
but you didnt love them, would you still marry them? At the time
something like 76 percent of the women he surveyed said they would
marry without love. Today that number has got to be less than 5 percent. I think this is because now women have a choice, they can stay
single because they can support themselves.
Youve written that the most important decisions regarding sex and
love are better understood through economics. Why do you think that
is? When we apply economics to sex and love it helps us understand

how the world has changed and it helps us make predictions on how
it will change in the future. I think thats the real value of having an
economic perspective. Lets spend some time looking at how economics have shaped relationships in the past so we can see where we are
going in the future.
Collage by DAVE DONALD