Is sex a gift? And if so who is the giver? And who is the receiver?

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An ex-hooker told me once that my boyfriend should be nicer to me. “You sleep with him a lot,” she told me. “If you calculate how much that much sex is worth on the open market, you shouldn’t have to do a lick of work around the place.” Presumably because I was already doing a lick of work in the bedroom, that should suffice. My boyfriend and I got a laugh out of that, but we talked about it too.

What was it worth to him to have an able and willing sex partner? What was it worth to me? Considering the number of men who are willing to take drugs to enhance their sexual performance, clearly being able to perform is high in the needs category for dating American women. And considering that sex studies show that women and men –at different ages—want sex, one would think that sex would be equally a gift from her to him, from him to her.

I would argue that in a love relationship, that’s the case. Nobody is doing the other person a favor. Presumably you are in the relationship because you want to be together and that includes having a sex life. Whether you are married or not, if you’re together, sex is part of the package. You might be pleased to find that your husband can cook, surprised to realize your wife likes fixing cars, but sex is an expected part of most adult relationships.

In the early stages of a relationship, that’s not the case, women tend to strategically withhold and then deliver sex as a way of snagging a guy. In fact, “going the whole way,” too soon can get you disqualified to be a mate as being “too easy.” You are supposed to make them work for it. If you’re simply turned on by the guy and don’t like playing games, you still might be seen as “too forward.” So in the beginning, sex is a gift from her to him.

What about sex outside a love relationship? I would argue that in almost all cases, women get the upper hand. Maybe that’s why we like to hold onto being single as long as possible. If a man says to a woman, “If you do this for me, I’ll have sex with you,” most women would just laugh. Unless you see yourself as not sexy at all, this isn’t going to work. On the other hand, men have gotten women to have sex with them in exchange for raises, promotions, grades and jobs. And women have offered sex to get all of the above. Which all means that outside love relationships, sex is something men and women use as leverage to get something from the man, but it does not work as leverage to get something from a woman.

Why? Because if you’re a woman, you can have sex. You don’t have to pay for it. You don’t have to work all that hard. There is somebody out there who would be happy to give you a roll in the hay.

Just when I think we’re working on equality of the sexes, I realize we aren’t. Men can’t trade for sex. Women can. But men still make more money and have more power. We’re catching up and when we do, we’ll have it all. I still think we should keep men though because there are a lot of smart interesting men who are adorable and funny and have amazing ideas.

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