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Monday May 21st 2018

Why Will Men Pay For Sex?

Redlight district in Amsterdam
Photos by Standard Travel Photos

Prostitution is known as the world’s oldest profession. There are prostitutes and brothels in almost every city in the world. In some countries, prostitution is legal [1] and in many countries, though it is illegal, authorities frequently look the other way and allow it to go on.

In most places, the vast majority of prostitutes are female and cater to heterosexual men. The are male prostitutes, but they primarily cater to homosexual men. [footnotes 2 and 3] John Voight’s character Joe Buck learned that lesson in the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy when Ratso Rizzo told him “that’s strickly for fags.” [editor: See Midnight Cowboy Scene on youtube.]

So why are men willing to pay for sex, but women generally are not?

Back to the Stone Age
Imagine back in prehistoric times when humanity lived in tribes as hunter-gatherers. Groups of men hunted animals with the spears. Women would gather edible fruits and vegetables like nuts, berries and roots. From these activities, men had meat and women had fruit. Both had valuable commodities that could be shared or traded.

Sex Palace in Amsterdam's redlight district

Of course, both men and women are needed for reproduction to expand the group. Suppose one caveman, named Ogg, didn’t have a mate and was feeling a bit randy. He desired to have intercourse with a female. He was willing to give up some of his meat in return for sex.

Women soon found they could trade sex for other food. They had a form of “human capital” that was in demand and could be traded for other goods. Sometimes a long-term arrangement was made which evolved into the institution of marriage. One-shot deals became what we now call prostitution.

Suppose a pretty girl decides to set up shop in Amsterdam, and offers sex for 50 Euros per 20 minutes. There are enough men in Amsterdam that would rather have sex with a pretty girl for 20 minutes than have 50 Euros. There is demand for what this girl is offering, and so she has a steady stream of customers.

Sex shop on street in Amsterdam's redlight district Moulin Rouge Erotic Theatre in Amsterdam's redlight district

Now suppose a handsome lad does the same thing. He sets up shop and offers to provide to women with sex for 50 Euros. He finds that many women pass his shop and are curious, but there a no takers. He lowers his price to 25 Euros and still no takers. Finally he offers it for free. Sadly, he still finds that no women will have sex with him even if it costs nothing. The is simply no demand for what he is willing to supply, at least not from most women.

Sex with a Female is a Commodity
To men, sex with a women is a kind of commodity. A commodity is a good for which there is demand. There are qualitative differences among women, but for sexual purposes, women of equal quality can be substituted for one another. In other words, sex with women is fungible, i.e. the same no matter who supplies it. Men value the freedom and flexibility of a single, simple transaction without a long-term commitment.

To women, sex is not a commodity. Women want the attention of a particular man. In fact, they demand much more than 20 minutes of intercourse. They want life commitment, in other words they want the man’s total devotion. Men are not inter-changeable the way women are. Women value the security of a long-term relationship.

So that answers the question why men will pay for sex and not women. Men consider sex to be a commodity; women do not. Men create demand for female prostitution. In general, there is no demand for male prostitutes by women. Now this begs the question of why this is the case, which is another topic altogether.



  1. In Europe, prostitution is legal and regulated in Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey. In the Americas, prostitution is legal in Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Paraguay Peru, Uruguay and Venzuela and in a small part of the U.S. (rural counties in Nevada). It is also legal in Australia and New Zealand.
  2. There are male gigolos that target wealthy and lonely older women, but this is not the same as prostitution.
  3. There are also men that masquerade as women and work as prostitutes, but most of their customers are tricked so this is more deception and fraud than commerce.
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