Japan’s under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren’t even dating, and increasing numbers can’t be bothered with sex. For their government, “celibacy syndrome” is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060.
The number of single people has reached a record high. A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships.) Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan – a country mostly free of religious morals – sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact.” More than a quarter of men felt the same way.
The article contains a number of speculations as to cause, well worth reading. At least the Malthusians will be happy.
It was not until 1943, amid world war, that penicillin was found to be an effective treatment for syphilis. This study investigated the hypothesis that a decrease in the cost of syphilis due to penicillin spurred an increase in risky non-traditional sex. Using nationally comprehensive vital statistics, this study found evidence that the era of modern sexuality originated in the mid to late 1950s. Measures of risky non-traditional sexual behavior began to rise during this period. These trends appeared to coincide with the collapse of the syphilis epidemic. Syphilis incidence reached an all-time low in 1957 and syphilis deaths fell rapidly during the 1940s and early 1950s. Regression analysis demonstrated that most measures of sexual behavior significantly increased immediately following the collapse of syphilis and most measures were significantly associated with the syphilis death rate. Together, the findings supported the notion that the discovery of penicillin decreased the cost of syphilis and thereby played an important role in shaping modern sexuality.
The attached picture is a display at the local CVS in Ann Arbor, Mich. My thought was that this shelf display is a great example of complements: Enjoy a chocolate bar together, and who knows what nice things might follow? My son thought that it depicted substitutes — no luck in love, so drown your sorrows by eating chocolate. I don’t know who is correct, but the example illustrates well the fact the complementarity/substitutability can depend on the specific situation being examined.
The Los Angeles City Council may require condoms in porn movies produced in the city limits. How will this affect the market? Whether companies stay in L.A. or leave, costs will rise (condom costs if they stay, the costs of relocation, loss of agglomeration economies, if they move outside the city limits). If costs do rise, will that matter to producers? I imagine product demand is fairly inelastic, and they can easily pass the cost increase onto consumers. But even if costs were unaffected, consumer demand might shift far leftward if producers remained in L.A., since customers may not wish to view protected sex. Industry members lobbied strongly against the bill — perhaps because they feared the direct drop in demand rather than the cost increase.
The Daily Beast reports on an interesting phenomenon: sperm donors who donate for free. One couple, stymied by the $2,000-and-up cost of acquiring sperm the usual way (sperm bank), started exploring alternative options online…
A reader named Mark Curry, who describes himself as a “cement truck driver trapped in the body of someone who does accounting-related work,” wrote to us about a brief passage in Freakonomics concerning our analysis of online-dating data:
The part about men with curly and/or red hair being a downer? “Downer” may be something of an understatement. As a young man I had red, curly, and sometimes, frizzy hair. My dad told me at age 13 or 14 that if I didn’t do something with it, I would never find out what sex is. I was devastated by his meanness. I consider myself very lucky to have found a woman who will tolerate my red hair. Now, married almost 18 years, a couple months ago I started shaving my head smooth, baby-ass, bald; does it feel good. Now, when I walk into an office, the bank, pick someplace, I don’t exactly have to ask people to stop undressing, but their receptiveness to me is noticeable. Although my wife and daughters are still getting used to my shaven head, at least a dozen ladies (that’s 10 women and two men) think my shaven head looks good on me.
On May 5, we asked readers to submit questions for Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, authors of the recent book A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire.
The response was, well… passionate. Many of the comments expressed anger over the authors’ research and resulting book. While some readers called into question the validity of their methodology, others complained that some of the terms they use in their book (“MILF,” e.g., and “Shemale”) were derogatory and insensitive. In the end, one thing was clear: when it comes to sex research, people tend to have strong opinions.
Now, Ogas and Gaddam respond, first with an opening summary of their methodology and results, and then with detailed responses to some of your questions.
The first researcher to systematically investigate human sexual desire was the Indiana University sociologist Alfred Kinsey, more than 60 years ago. Kinsey spent years surveying people’s sexual habits, interviewing thousands of middle-class Americans in the 1940s and ’50s. But what if all that information had been publicly available? What if you could access the secret sexual behaviors of more than 100 million men and women from around the world?
Today, thanks to the internet, you can.
In what is claimed to be the largest experiment ever, two neuroscience PhDs from Boston University, Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, analyzed a billion web searches, a million web sites, a million erotic videos, millions of personal ads, thousands of digital romance novels, and combined it all with cutting-edge neuroscience.
A new study from sociologists Constance Gager and Scott Yabiku shows that household labor and sexual frequency are not inversely related — a welcome contradiction to the common “more work = less sex” equation. Using data from the National Survey of Families and Households, the authors show that certain types of couples have superior time-organization skills across all their major time commitments: the workplace, at home and in bed.
From Dan Okrent’s recent Q&A about Prohibition: “No factor played a larger role in the repeal of Prohibition than the government’s desperate need for revenue as the country fell into the grip of the Depression.” In short: governments who hate vice suddenly hate it much less when cash flow is slow. And we are seeing that again today.
In “Binge Drinking & Sex in High School” (abstract here; PDF here), Jeffrey S. DeSimone argues that “binge drinking significantly increases participation in sex, promiscuity, and the failure to use birth control, albeit by amounts considerably smaller than implied by merely conditioning on exogenous factors.”
One point of our upcoming podcast is that economists — academic economists in particular — are generally free from the political and moral boundaries that restrict most people, and are therefore able to offer analysis or recommendations that politicians, e.g., wouldn’t go near with a ten-foot pole.
Indeed, the conclusion of the slogan “you’ve come a long way, baby” ironically demonstrates that women had not come quite as long a way as they might have hoped. Even now, important gender differences persist, and they show up quite clearly in the realm of transportation.
A study by evolutionary psychologist William Lassek has concluded, perhaps not surprisingly, that the more muscular a man is, the more sexual partners he has. So why haven’t skinny, fat, or average men been wiped out of the gene pool? One reason, according to Lassek, is that men with bigger muscles have to eat more to sustain themselves and have . . .
I’m a huge fan of Friday Night Lights — to the point that when a student makes an especially good point in class, I sometimes intone “Clear eyes, full heart,” emulating the coach in the series. But it was with some sadness that I watched a couple weeks ago an episode in which Julie, the coach’s daughter, lost her virginity . . .
Photo: Library of Congress There is a review of Kat Long‘s The Forbidden Apple in last Sunday’s New York Times. The review describes a number of incidents where efforts to ban or restrict transactions in one market spilled over with negative consequences into a related market. To eliminate drinking on Sundays, New York City restricted it to hotels. In response, . . .
I finally got around to viewing the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) ad that NBC decided to ban from its Super Bowl coverage. I had imagined a rather sordid broccoli-loaded affair. But it turns out it was just like a Victoria’s Secret spot, only a bit more nutritious. The point of the ad was that “Vegetarians have . . .
Alex Tabarrok over at Marginal Revolution has an interesting post on media coverage of the recent Science paper that argued against gender differences in math test scores. Tabarrok says that the media misreported the story and Larry Summers is still right.
This is the time of year when high-school seniors receive letters, thick or thin, from college admissions departments. (I have two nieces who both just got some thick letters from great schools: way to go, H. and L.!) Those seniors will soon start a new life. What’s in store for them? Freakonomics contributor Nicole Tourtelot put a few questions — . . .
Sex is a notorious depression balm — a recent study of Australian women provides evidence for this. But does pregnancy fill the same role? A research team from the University of Newcastle found that one in 10 Australian moms suffers from post-natal depression (and it’s likely that she had pre-pregnancy depression as well).
I have been researching prostitution markets since the mid 1990’s. Much of my work has been in based Chicago, New York, and, more recently, Paris. Steve Levitt and I recently prepared a paper on the low-wage prostitution market in Chicago that received a lot of press. I’m hoping that the final version will provide some hard numbers on a difficult-to-reach . . .
I have often heard people say that robots will prove immensely useful in performing household tasks, but I have had a hard time understanding how. I have also wondered why so much scientific effort goes into making robots look like humans. It is not easy to design robots that walk on two legs, for instance. But after reading this interview . . .