Male sexual desire “is manifested at least twice as often as female desire”, apparently, and sex workers should be picking up the pieces. I don’t buy it , says Alice Jones (of the British Independent)

Sorry to be the bearer of bad economic news, but it turns out there is another deficit to deal with. While everyone else in the world has been mithering about Grexits and Libors, the really major economic black hole of our time has been ignored. It’s time to tackle the male sexual deficit.

The what? I know; it sounds absurd, like something Katie Hopkins might tweet about at midnight, after one too many glasses of Lambrini. But it is, apparently, a thing.

This week, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) published an entire paper on the subject. The thesis runs broadly as follows. Male sexual desire “is manifested at least twice as often as female desire”, or men would like to have sex twice as often as women.

It follows that the male demand for sex currently “greatly outstrips non-commercial female supply”. Why? What are all these non-commercial female sex vessels doing? They are, it appears, too busy being economically independent to service the ravening desires of their male counterparts. The dark side of progress, indeed.

Fortunately, the paper also offers a solution to the thorny problem of frigid Modern Woman. Prostitution, it suggests, should be completely decriminalised. That way men – who, as everyone knows, will sleep with anyone at any time, whether they have to pay for it or not – will have their supply problem solved. The deficit will disappear. And, as a tasty bonus, the sex industry will be worth a legitimate £4bn to the British economy. Everyone’s a winner.

There are so many problems with this paper, it is hard to know where to begin. Perhaps with the starting position, which puts forward the old-fashioned idea that men are more sexual beings than women. It is a statement as sweeping as it is stupid, and disregards the centuries of cultural history that have shaped the way men and women talk, and think, about sex.

It helps somewhat to know that the author of this paper is Dr Catherine Hakim, a sociologist and one of UK academia’s most prolific controversialists.

Supply and Desire: Sexuality and the Sex Industry in the 21st Century follows previous masterworks, including The New Rules: Internet Dating, Playfairs and Erotic Power, about why the British need to stop being so “sour” about affairs and liberate themselves from the “cage” of long-term relationships, and Honey Money, about the “power of erotic capital” – or why women should flirt to get ahead at work. “The world smiles at good-looking people and they smile back,” she writes.

In other words, we should probably take it with a pinch of salt when Hakim suggests that prostitution has “no noxious psychological or social effects, and… may even help to reduce sexual crime rates.”

So the statistic that sex workers in London suffer a mortality rate 12 times higher than average is not a noxious effect, nor is the trafficking from East to West of thousands of young girls a year to work in the sex industry? As for reducing crime rates, the idea that providing more prostitutes to satisfy the out-of-control urges of men will stop them raping “non-commercial” women is bizarre at best.

The decriminalisation question is a live debate. This weekend, Amnesty International meets in Dublin to discuss a new policy on prostitution. There is good evidence, it says, that criminalising the practice leads to greater abuse of sex workers and makes it more difficult for them to stay safe. This is one of several very good arguments for decriminalisation. Reducing it, as Hakim seemingly does, to a question of how best to satisfy herds of randy men is an insult to all.

Discuss.

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