Freakonomics is no stranger to studying prostitution, as discussed in Superfreakonomics. We are slightly less familiar, however, with a gray area of prostitution — “dating websites” that connect rich customers with attractive poor customers. Though these are by no means a new phenomena, a website has recently come to our attention that uses a dating website platform to ask what we all wonder about in one context or another: what’s your price? Whatsyourprice.com auctions off dates and claims to be inspired by the charity dating model. It is divided into two halves: “Date Generous People” and “Date Attractive People” — apparently you’re either looking for one or the other. Upon a cursory read, the generous users seem to be overwhelmingly male, and the attractive users overwhelmingly female (and pictured in bathing suits). Each profile includes an “About Me” section and a “First Date Expectations” section. Several “attractive” members, it should be noted, specify that they will not fly Economy Class.
The question of whether the rise of Internet pornography has reduced incidents of rape is nothing new, and something we’ve covered before. Back in 2006, Levitt expressed skepticism over research done by one of his former students that suggests a link, writing at the time:
The kind of variation in the data that gives the result is that states that are quicker to adopt the internet saw bigger declines in rape. He then does a nice thing in the paper, going beyond just this one prediction to test other hypotheses, like do crimes other than rape fall with the internet (he says no) and does other sexual behavior change with the internet (he says yes). The concern is always, with this kind of approach, that there are other factors that might be driving both the adoption of the internet and the decline in rape. The challenge to those who want to refute Todd Kendall’s argument is to identify those variables. The challenge for Todd is to find other kinds of “natural experiments” that support his hypothesis.
Now comes an article in the current issue of Scientific American Mind, which posits that for “most people, pornography has no negative effects—and it may even deter sexual violence.” The article, titled “The Sunny Side of Smut,” is by Melinda Wenner Moyer, a science writer. Here’s a full version of the piece, via Moyer’s website. Though an interesting read, the article adds no new empirical evidence to the subject, and relies heavily on the data showing that rape decreased faster in states that got the Internet quicker. As Levitt pointed out, that’s not enough to go on.
Here’s an interesting piece from Yale Fox over at Darwinversusthemachine.com on how the fidelity we demonstrate in sexual relationships mimics the loyalty we have to brands.
Much research shows that if there are no consequences to cheating, or if we can get away with it, we are very likely to do so. However, brand conversion is more than having the user cheat on their product once. We want them to understand that they are trading up to the new brand. It’s always possible to convert someone to your brand permanently. This can be achieved if the right environmental pressures are in place to do so.