Ask Y Me? Let's learn about the economics of sex

Posted 10:25am on Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2012

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the concept of "Sexual Market Value" -- or how sexually attractive a person is to the opposite sex. The idea is that there's a sexual hierarchy for men and women, and a person's worth is determined by a variety of factors. Some of the factors are pretty obvious, like age, income, etc.; and all of these things are traded on what is known as the "Sexual Marketplace." The whole thing is taken from an economic theory model, with the goal of trying to turn something as seemingly complex as relationships and attraction into a science. Imagine if Alan Greenspan and Hugh Hefner got together to write a theory on how to pick up women, and this might be the result.

Before I get too far into this, I'd like to issue the caveat that I think all of this is total B.S., but I thought it might be a fun exercise. I'll turn it into a drinking game. Feel free to play along at home.

A woman's market value is mostly based on her looks, because the theory assumes that all guys are shallow. Age plays an important factor, as does the idea that a woman hasn't had a lot of sexual partners, and can bear a lot of kids. A woman's personality is apparently a distant third in the pecking order, according to this widely-held theory, and social status is sort of important. (If you're not very good looking, take a drink)

Since the whole theory is founded on the idea that men almost exclusively pursue women, and that women are way pickier than men, determining a man's SMV is a little trickier. Looks are important to a woman, but way down the list behind money, power, social status, the ability to interact socially, sense of humor and other characteristics.

So, the theory goes, guys who are wealthy, funny, charismatic, powerful and good-looking are likely to bed down a vapid hottie, who may or may not have a personality. Anyone who has ever been in high school or ever set foot in a bar could have told you that. (If you didn't already know that, take a drink).

A lot of these things can be faked. For example, if some guy lives in his parents' basement, but drives a nice car and dresses well, he can fake his SMV -- until it's time to take the woman home, anyway. (If you live in your parents' basement, drink. Twice.)

As for my SMV, well, let's just say if this really were a drinking game, I'd be hammered: I'm a writer, so I don't make very much money (drink). I have no power at a job, since I'm a freelancer and thus have no ladder to climb (drink). I drive a Hyundai and live in a '70s-era Hooverville (drink twice), and I'm not even sure I have any social status, although I know a guy who manages a Steak 'n Shake (sip). On the plus side, I can hold up my end of a conversation with the best of them, and people (my mother) think I'm funny. I'm usually well-dressed, and adequately groomed. I also proudly have no game, and my personal value system doesn't jive with the SMV model. I like a woman who can read. (If you're attracted to literate people, Drink).

If you're the sort of sad sack who needs a wacky formula to determine your worth, then you've got bigger problems than just being lonely. If you subscribe to this theory, and it's worked for you, more power to you. You'll still probably die sad and alone, but at least you'll get to have hundreds of meaningless conversations with pretty girls along the way.

Hopefully, if you've been playing the drinking game, you're drunk by now. I think that means you have a soul (If you're drunk by now, drink).

What do you think of the SMV model? And are you drunk yet? Let our relationship guru know. Write him at, or chat him up on Facebook at

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