Mutualist Sex Economics: A Post-Feminist Perspective


This Text Can Be Found in the Book,
The Evolution of Consent: Collected Essays (Vol. I)


The two words, sex and economics, placed together in a sentence, are controversial by nature. Yet, the relationship of sex to money is a very interesting one, and one which has been studied by sex therapists, economists, social psychologists, sociologists, and many other specialists; one which is yet to be discussed by many anarchists, much less anarcha-feminists. The subject itself seems quite taboo, particularly in lefty anarchist circles.

In this essay, I intend to demonstrate that economics does indeed play a role in straight cissexual relationships,i that this is natural, and, aside from being distorted by capitalism, is otherwise healthy, so long as existing gender dynamics (if they exist at all) are freely ascribed to, and are not externally compelled. I will begin with a look at sex and gender, will follow with discussion on the economics behind sex, and will conclude with the cause of sexual and relational scarcity among straight cissexual couples of the working class.

Sex and Gender

This essay will naturally be offensive to some, but this is not at all my intention. I want to be clear that, although the content primarily regards straight cissexual couples, I in no way support the repression of other forms of relationships, sex-, or gender-identities. I am simply commenting on a common dynamic, among many, and the influences mutualism may have on it.

Though my mutualist economic proposals may be prescriptionist, the gender-dynamics are meant to be read in a descriptivist manner, and one which applies to that subpopulation which acts freely in favor of those gender dynamics, and to no other. My intention in writing this is to analyze the economics of freely-ascribed-to gender dynamics of straight cissexual relationships[1], not to argue that everyone needs to be cissexual or straight. As an anarchist, I have no intention to force my will on anyone, and, as a decent human being, I have no desire to take shots at anyone else’s lifestyle. It is perhaps possible that, in the future, gender and heterosexuality may be abandoned altogether, and this is fine so long as they go voluntarily, but so long as they exist voluntarily, I mean to comment on the economic effects which cause strife in straight cissexual relationships. If this conversation is to be made obsolete in a free society, by the voluntary abandonment of gender and/or sexual preference, so be it. In the case that it remains in a free society, this is a comment on that.

Discussions on gender generally relate in some way to the topic of essentialism and constructionism. Essentialism is a position which states that for any category there is a crucial set of intrinsic characteristics to define it. It is a structuralist position, seeing a thing as what it is. According to essentialist philosophies, people act the way they do because of their genetics, which are intrinsic to them, and are not external. An opposing position of non-essentialism, often called constructionism, states that there are no intrinsic traits that make a thing what it is. It is post-structuralist in nature, believing a thing to be defined from the outside, by what it isn’t. Hard social-constructionist philosophies of this nature are based purely in the idea of social constructs and nurture as the extrinsic determinants of a person. These views, if taken to the extreme, disregard nature and self-determination entirely.

Relating to the topic at hand (sex economy), hard essentialism would suggest that a woman, for instance, acts feminine because of her intrinsic characteristics (chromosomal arrangement). Hard constructionism would say that a woman acts feminine because of her extrinsic characteristics (social conditioning). Essentialists generally believe biological sex and gender naturally match, while constructionists allow for much more deviation, believing gender to be a social construct.

What limits both of these views and makes them rigid and standoffish in nature is that they exist more exclusively, as vices, than mixed, as a virtue. One believes that nature is the exclusive cause, while the other puts absolute faith in nurture. So far as they do not concede to the truths of one another is so far as they are wrong. Women, like men, have both intrinsic and extrinsic causes for their characteristics. Essentialism and constructionism are both right, but, so far as they reject the other, they are also wrong.

Gender includes the aspect of behavior, but sex is the physical body alone. Gender is included in one’s phenotype, which is the result of one’s genes placed into one’s surroundings, but sex is genetic, as one’s sex is determined by genes. Intrinsic differences between men and women are clear in sex, the physical, but become vaguer and less rigid in regard to gender, the mental. One reason for this is attached to the way the sex chromosomes work, another is attached to environmental conditioning.

The sex chromosomes make up only one pair of 23, but the sex chromosomes affect every other chromosome (non-sex chromosomes are called autosomes). One can think of sex chromosomes as being “modifiers” of the other 22. Some modifications are more drastic or intense than others. Dr. Louann Brizendine, to open the introduction of her book, The Female Brain, says,

More than 99 percent of male and female coding is exactly the same. Out of the thirty thousand genes in the human genome, the less than one percent variation between the sexes is small. But that percentage difference influences every single cell in our bodies—from the nerves that register pleasure and pain to the neurons that transmit perception, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. [i]

Anyone who has spent time with animals knows that male and female animals, though mostly similar, work on different impulses and have different instincts. Though male and female humans have evolved a rational ability to overpower our instincts to some degree, our underlying impulses are oftentimes of a different nature. The fact, however, that sex chromosomes modify already-existing autosomes, which differ in their gene content from person to person, combined with environmental factors, allows for a range in the intensity of gender expression, and for gender overlap to occur (but there are still tendencies).

Behavior, being a reaction to environments, is much more flexible than biological programming alone, and also adds to gender overlap and spectrum. As societies adapt to new technologies, or new surroundings, everyone reassesses their relative “fit” for new tasks, based on their interest and capacity relative to others around them. Thus, biological sex is not the only determining factor of gender, as biological sex is placed into a context of environments, some of which make different demands of a society, resulting in differing gender norms. It is important to stress that new situations may present alternatives, and that people can change. Just as importantly, these changes should not be forced, but should be expressed genuinely, from the inside out, if they are to occur at all. When gender is enforced from without, it can be greatly repressive, but when it is expressed from within it is a liberating experience.

Gender doesn’t have to be something that is repressive. Many native peoples have allowed for transgender individuals and non-hetero sexual ascription, such as the famed “two-spirit.” Interestingly, the society which influenced American feminism, the Iroquois Nation, was not without its own roles of gender, but some authors have gone as far as saying these roles were matriarchal rather than patriarchal. They were matrilineal for certain. So far as gender is an expression of a natural range of differences, and one which isn’t limited to a dogmatic view of reality, and is not enforced, it is something to be celebrated. This does not preclude the fact that it is still natural for there to exist tendencies or norms which are created by the sex chromosomes, and which divide the population to some degree, according to their behavior, even if this is not a hard division, and there is gray area and overlap left remaining. This being so, and while I celebrate the freedom to choose other lifestyles, I still believe it is important to study binary gender norms as tendencies, rather than absolutes, and from a softly descriptivist perspective, assuming that, at least to some degree, many people’s expression of their gender, as it exists today, is freely ascribed to, or is necessary to their own well-being for one reason or another.

Studying gender from a descriptivist perspective should not necessarily be seen as a threat to liberty, but should be understood to better allow us to know other people’s wants so that we may better address them. If we see someone eating an apple, for instance, it is generally safe to suggest that they like apples, and it would be in their best interest if we could find a way to make apples cheaper for them (so long as it is done sustainably, fairly, etc.). Likewise, if we look at the genders as they exist, and if they are a genuine expression of a person’s internal will, we may better assess their wants, and thus will be better equipped to satisfy their desires. People’s desires change, however, and room must be left for those changes to occur within. Gender, if at all useful, should be expressed internally, and not compelled. If it must be compelled from without, it is not useful to the individual.

I want to be clear that my defense of gender is in no way a defense of hard-essentialism, but neither is my intention to stick to a mold of hard-constructionism. The dialectical nature of this issue, in my opinion, demands a higher synthesis, which can be described as little more than the freedom of flexibility and choice. In the case it occurs, I am intending for any prescriptive or suggestive language to rest atop the value of description, and the premise of the free choice of those I am describing. In other words, if I make suggestions toward the behavior of a gender, I am assuming that gender has been freely ascribed to, and not forced on the individual. This does not preclude the existence of alternatives. I support the ability of an individual to freely ascribe to any gender they so desire, or none at all. I am referencing, however, those who choose their gender within a certain scope. This does not preclude the possibility that some will not make this choice.

I would also like to be clear that, though I recognize the existence of alternative modes of sexuality, I am primarily discussing monogamous, heterosexual, cis-sexual, relationships, not out of intended bigotry (some will argue the absence of discussion of these other kinds is a form of oppression, but not one I feel is legitimate) or “othering,” but partly out of ignorance and disconnection, and partly out of my own self-interest in addressing straight cis matters. Just as I don’t feel it is appropriate for many homosexuals to discuss the sexuality of heterosexuals, having no experience in the matter, I will not be writing from a perspective I have not engaged in, or with, personally, though I certainly wish to allow room for freedom of such discussion to develop. I do not have a direct or personal stake in LGBTQ concerns, regardless of my support for their liberties. I have had female partners, and, though I am admittedly restricted from accessing their priorities directly, I have at least engaged in relationships with them, making this discussion more appropriate to address. More than being a discussion of women and their nature, however, this is a discussion of family and heterosexual pair-binding under capitalism.

Now that my position on gender is clear—that it exists, and is found useful to some, but should not be forced onto anyone—we can move on to our economic assessment. What is it that the genders are really after?

 The Economics of Sex

One of the effects of difference between the gender expression and sexual orientation of straight cis people is a difference in needs and desires in regard to mate selection. Studying these differences is important to the field of sex economics.

Research put out by Arizona State University shows that, while men and women are generally attracted to the same qualities, they are generally offended by different ones. Opening up, the article reads,

Scientists demonstrate for first time that men, women mean what they say – guys care more about attractiveness, women care more about social status. [ii]

When choosing partners, men and women lack a difference in primary attractors, but they screen for different things. We put out different filters. The paper suggests that,

men and women differ mostly on the low-end qualities that they want to avoid, not the high-end traits that they ideally desire. [iii]

Men commonly screen based on physical appearance, being attracted to symmetry and ratios, while women are more concerned with emotional appearance, being attracted to confidence and influence. It’s not that men don’t want confident and influential women, or that women don’t want physically attractive men, it’s that they select each other, especially as strangers, with different intensities of these priorities. A man is likely to be attracted to a female stranger for looks alone, but may be willing to date someone they know, who may even be completely looked over as a stranger, because he is attracted to her personality. Women may date less-educated and less-monied males after learning they have strong values, or good senses of humor. Of course, there are a large range of capabilities, and these are not the only modes of interaction.

There is nothing inherently wrong with either gender. Selection for emotional stability as well physical excellence— both being mere expressions of genetics and environment— have both been essential to the growth and health of our species. It just so happens that women tend to primarily select for the emotional traits and men for the physical. These roles are not opposed, but complimentary. People need their bodies as well as their minds. To polarize either form of selection as wrong is to lose the point.

Men and women generally experience love and sex differently. Women feel loved when they are shown gratitude through gifts, are listened to intently, and are shown concern. They often (but not always) appreciate slower, more emotional, sex. Men feel loved primarily when they are given exclusive physical affection. Of course, both parties gain from physical and emotional love, but they prioritize them differently (though not always). Lance Workman and Will Reader, authors of Evolutionary Psychology, say,

it is clear that women generally favour resources and men favour youthful, attractive looks. Gaining a partner who demonstrates such characteristics is only the first step towards successful reproduction, however. If a man has a surplus of resources but deserts a woman immediately after sex or a woman is very beautiful but has multiple sexual partners, then in neither case will their partner be satisfied with the outcome. In other words, for long-term relationships to work, both partners require signals of commitment. Signals of love may provide this commitment. Signals such as promises of undying fidelity and dependability are also rated very highly by both sexes. Signals such as buying gifts for a partner, or listening to their woes.[iv]

Researchers, such as Jeff Ward and Martin Voracek, point out that men are more offended by their partners engaging sexually with others than women are, and women are more offended by their partners supplying other women with physical resources or emotional support. [v] Men tend to understand and receive affection best physically, and to see their partner giving physical affection to others is to face potential scarcity of affection for themselves. Women feel loved when their partners spend money on them, spend time with them, and share feelings. To see their partner giving their time and money to another woman is to feel challenged.

The sexual favoring of resourcefulness on behalf of females and of fertility on behalf of males is due to our evolutionary history.

Speaking in terms of evolutionary psychology, a female needs to be looked after and cared for in times of pregnancy. This has led female sexual selection to regard male resourcefulness as an attractive trait. Men’s bodies have evolved greater strength, in part, to compensate for this familial need, and largely by way of female selection. Women have evolved to supply equally necessary familial needs.

A man is capable of reproducing until old age, and with many partners, and often has the desire to do so. Women have fewer chances to reproduce, and for a shorter period of time. This physical aspect has led to a male psychology which largely prioritizes fertility and longevity (youthfulness) in sexual selection, and a female psychology that favors prowess and stability.

Each side is likely to demonize the other. Indeed, women complain often that they are desired only for sex, and men complain that women only want them for money or emotional support. This criticism, while true to some extent on the surface for both parties, fails to see the commonality between them, which exists much deeper. Sex, money, emotional support; these are not ends in themselves, but rather differing means to reach a common goal, the feeling of being loved. Men do not want to have sex with women in order to put them through pain, boredom, or to control them (though women may see it this way at times), but to experience love the way in which it can be comprehended to them. Women do not want men’s resources or time spent listening because they want to financially ruin them or bore them to death (as some men may believe), but because they feel loved when a man demonstrates she is worth his time and energy. Is it selfish? Certainly, but few human interactions are purely altruistic. Both men and women can only make decisions based on their own impulses, which they feel as separate individuals. In a way, decision-making is inherently selfish, but it does not have to be narcissistic (against another’s well-being), one can try their hardest to understand the needs of others, and factor them into decisions.

It seems only natural for women to care about the things they care about, and men to care about the things they do, for both parties to accept and understand affection in differing ways. These differences are the results of natural circumstances, and are not something to be demonized. Sex, money, and emotional support are not ends desired separately by the sexes, but are rather means to reach the same goal of feeling appreciated and loved.

One of the five mistakes women make in bed, according to Tracey Cox, is that they don’t realize “sex is more than just sex to men.” She says;

Men often have sex to feel wanted.

Granted, it’s hard to accept he’s really after affection when he has one hand up your jumper and the other diving up your skirt. But it just might be the case.

Sex for men appears to be a primal form of giving – it’s a way for him to feel accepted both physically and emotionally.

Because some men still aren’t as verbose or comfortable with expressing emotion as women are, sex tends to be used as a means of showing his love and getting close to you.

So, if he really wants to say ‘I love you’, he may suggest sex. If he feels emasculated at work, sex with you could well make him feel manly again. If he’s feeling all vulnerable after a health scare, sex is his way of proving to himself he doesn’t have to go through it alone.

All of this means when you reject sex with him, you’re not just rejecting sex. In his eyes, you’re effectively saying ‘I don’t like or want you’. Adopt a new philosophy: don’t say no, say when and always make it clear you’re saying no to sex, not a cuddle or cosy chat.[vi]

Sex and money alike have provided troublesome issues for many relationships, and each party has a hard time understanding the other. Many men feel as though they are underappreciated for their contributions, and many women feel the same way. “Don’t you love me?” they ask. Their intentions are not to hurt one another, but misunderstandings naturally spring from differing personalities and interests. Either party can have a difficult time understanding the other. This leads to argument, and unintended feelings of objectification on both sides, sexual and monetary. The absurdity can give each party great existential burden.

The conflict between each gender’s needs can lead to a domino effect of power play. When one side feels less satisfied, if they don’t react outright aggressively, they may passively “hold out” on the other party’s wants. This can be a reduction in physical affection, emotional exchanges, gifts, or more. If the other party feels this to be unfair, they may feel the need to make their own power plays. This can become quite unfortunate, and can easily lead to the end of a relationship. This does not mean that it is not natural for each party to act in the manner they feel is necessary, considering the conditions they are in. It is natural for equilibrium to be sought, but there are oftentimes problems created from outside of the relationship, which cannot be solved from inside.

The differences in male and female desire, and their ensuing conflicts, have led to economic research and the field of sex economics. Statistics have shown that the amount of sex is decreasing in general, divorce rates are rising, and monogamy is falling. Sex economist, Susan Walsh, point out that, despite this fact, the “price of sex” is decreasing, and more people are finding sex more availably, but not as frequently, because sex is happening outside of committed relationships rather than inside of them. The “price of commitment” is rising.

Of course economics can’t explain individual idiosyncratic relationships, and it’s not meant to. What it does explain is the correlation among feminism, relaxed sexual mores, and relationship commitment, which is the “price” of sex. This puts feminists in an uncomfortable bind – feminism has led to women getting less of what they want, in general. For women who proudly call themselves sluts this is not necessarily problematic, in that they don’t appear to want what most women want, i.e. emotionally intimate relationship sex. Still, it means that feminism is now relevant primarily to a very small slice of the sisterhood.[vii]

Susan, as far as I understand, is really meaning gender-feminism when she uses feminism generally. Her thoughts coincide with Rosie Boycott’s idea that feminity is still rejected, though women are allowed to take up masculine roles (like having promiscuous sex). Rosie Boycott demonstrates that, though women, as a sex, have largely been accepted in the workplace, and have been celebrated in taking up traditionally masculine gender roles, femininity, the gender side, is still looked down on. Transgendered women (male-bodied), for example, are much less respected than transgendered men (female-bodied). “House husbands” are certainly not glorified in this society. While women are being accepted as masculine, femininity is still negatively viewed. [viii]  This is largely the result of second-wave feminism, which called for the abolition of gender roles.

Instead of winning victories for respect toward femininity, second-wave feminism won victories for women’s (the sex, not gender) respect. Though necessary, it was only half of the battle, and a battle that some women would outright reject. While some women desired to be able to express more masculine traits (a fair demand) other women wanted to simply be respected for their femininity (likewise fair). Thus, the victories of second-wave feminism were met with a backlash of post-feminism. Post-feminism was a response to second-wave “gender feminism,” which, post-feminists feel, was an effort to masculize women, promoting the burning of bras, lesbianism, body-hair growth, and other expressions of the rejection of gender roles. Post-feminists, though against discrimination, argue in favor of gender dynamics, but not fundamentally so.

As Rosie suggests, being a feminine woman, desiring to be cared for economically, is still looked down on. Being a masculine woman is encouraged, while being a feminine male is judged with negativity. Second-wave feminism encouraged women to take up employment in masculine roles, but dismissed men picking up the feminine.[ix] A woman is allowed to want sex, but wanting to be cared for economically is forbidden, considered weak. This has left both sexes unhappy, and largely results in gender-conflicts, whereby both sexes feel shut out by the other.

The feminine role has been looked down on as a form of parasitism, and so women and men alike have encouraged the masculinization of women, yet rejected the feminization of men. Both parties are expected to be masculine producers, and neither party is expected to be feminine care-givers. The result, as Susan Walsh suggests, has been a reduction in committed sex for everyone.[x] Metaphysically speaking, femininity is the accepting or receiving force, the attractor and final developer. Masculinity is the giving or penetrating force, the repellant and original source of potential. Both are equally necessary for existence. The masculine seeks and penetrates, but without the feminine nothing accepts and retains. The result has been more masculine, promiscuous sex, without commitment, and less feminine, and faithful sex; meaning less sex in general for everyone. Flexibility, our ability to do this, does not entail happiness, our desire to.

If it is true that gender can be a natural expression, and that the family is a natural unit, incomplete without its component parts, it makes little evolutionary sense that there is so much stress held between men and women. What we have here is a problem of values and equivalency. Neither party feels they are making their fair share. Each party feels they are working harder than the other for what they are receiving. Why?

Sex Economics Today

Neither men nor women feel as though they are getting their fair share. Both feel as though the other is taking advantage of them in different ways. This has caused a lot of bitterness between the sexes. Men feel as though they are lacking sex in a relationship, and women feel as though they are trapped sex-slaves, and receive no love or support. The main contributor to this, in my own opinion, is the capitalist economic system.

The capitalist economic system is one of extensive government privileges, including subsidies, patents, copyrights, licenses, and more, which give a monopolistic status to particular corporations, largely in order to more centrally control the economy. As I’ve written before, this system leads to a distortion of costs, whereby a certain class of people can subsist off of the work of others. The result is that workers are making less money than they are working for, compared to people outside of their class, such as employers, investors, landlords, etc. This all means that working men are less able to provide for their families, meaning many women are forced into employment.

Industrial capitalism needs to employ women to keep up its production standards, but this has come at a great cost to the family and home-life. Women generally nurture families better than men, and have played an irreplaceable gender role throughout history, but they’re being taken away. We have suffered spiritually from the loss of femininity. [2] Society lacks her nurture, her tender, loving, and irreplaceable care. Every person needs a mother; every family needs her vigilant love and strong compassion. Women are capable of things that men are incapable of, and the rise of industrial capitalism has come at a great cost to families, whose members lost their mothers and wives, in favor of babysitters and roommates. With the rise of our materialistic culture, we have overlooked the importance of gendered women’s spiritual contributions. We have made them feel less than valuable, made them reject their own intrinsic worth, their own desires, in favor of meeting the desires of society. For this we all suffer.

With most women working, and the home abandoned (for restaurants, public school, and babysitters), men are less comparatively able to give meaningful gifts or take economic responsibility, as they no longer play a role of exclusively bringing in the resources, and there is less time in general for quality conversation, planning, and sharing of feelings. This creates a lot more sexual discontent for straight cis women, because they can no longer find the kind of relationships that fulfill them, resulting in an apparent “price hike” for commitment, meaning males that have something to give (non-working class males) are more likely to have lasting relationships, as they are more able to satisfy their women emotionally and financially.  Like Susan Walsh suggests, people are having less sex, especially those who desire a mate they can connect with emotionally (and this goes for males and females alike). [xi]

Women naturally tend to desire a mate who cares for their well-being and who they can trust, and men are generally protective of their female companions. There is nothing wrong with this, unless it is applied where it is unwanted. Men want to give their female companions everything they want in the world, and women want to make their male companions happy and make them feel loved.

Men no longer have the means to protect or supply, and women, receiving less and having to labor themselves outside of the home now, feel tired and unappreciated, burdened by sex. Men are working harder than their labor is worth, and when they give their companions their labor’s reward, it represents much more to him than its true value to her, because, due to capitalism, he worked many times over his necessity in order to receive it.[3] When women receive the meager gifts or support of their working class males, surrounded by advertisements of diamond rings, television shows of fantastical relationships, travel ads, and women with more privileged husbands, they feel less than appreciated, less than fulfilled, less than turned on. They want more, like the other women seemingly get. This is due to no fault of either sex. Men working just as hard as women, but they don’t own their efforts, and can’t pass their entire value on to their lovers. The loss of this effort—which is taken by the ruling class— is a root cause of stress and mis-match of satisfaction in relationships. Men are working just as hard, but have less to give (the part they get to keep). There is a mismatch of values, created by capitalism, because men’s gifts mean more to them than they do to their counterpart and, because of this, it seems unfair for the female to satisfy the full value of a gift of which she only received a portion of the value.

I understand that this is a controversial argument. Whenever one puts sex in terms of money it sounds like prostitution. Though I think there is a difference between the two, I do think there is something common between them, as well, which is the result of instinctual patterns. The difference? Well, the difference is a matter of relations. Where prostitution is a matter of direct spot-measure of equivalency, where both parties calculate what is fair before the transaction takes place in a market setting, sex and resourcefulness in a relationship is more like a loose credit-exchange; one party will extend their form of affection to the other, without a spot-transaction. If one party ends up giving and the other taking for too long, the relationship ends, but it isn’t a matter of spot-transactions, but rather long-term equivalency and mutual assurance of well-being. Still, the anarchist, Emma Goldman, among many others, argued that marriage was a form of legal prostitution. Historically, I must concur, as “bride tokens” or “bride prices” were often needed to pay a father off for the “loss of his daughter.” This is a spot-transaction, a sale. Dating and modern marriage isn’t.

Strangers will often charge one another for services, but, among relationships, loose systems of credit are likely to develop, and even true altruism or gifting can occur. Family members and friends are less likely to charge one another for goods and/or services, while some do so and others expect favors later; but strangers are inclined to always charge one another on the spot, unless absolutely necessary otherwise. The same dichotomy exists in close sexual and spousal relationships versus prostitution and promiscuity. Lovers don’t charge, but they may expect appreciation of some sort, while johns and hookers always make immediate exchanges.

Women have become less satisfied with their long-term exchanges, resulting in less lasting relationships. Men have felt as though they are giving more than they are receiving, leading them to seek sex outside of the relationship, with porn, prostitutes, or mistresses, and, at times, paying their wives directly. This can lead to satisfaction in one area, but it always comes with expense in another. If sex is paid for directly, it loses its relational value, and becomes prostitution. Still, some couples have felt so compelled to put a price on things in their relationships. It’s hard to have both sex and genuine relationship in the capitalist economy.

As a mutualist, I’m in favor of free, unregulated markets. I also identify with 19th century “small-s” socialism, and support cooperative ownership of shared housing, credit, and the means of production and distribution. I support free association to its fullest realizable application, but, as a socialist, I also understand the benefits of groups and “non-market” decision-making. While I do tend to think with an economic mindset, and describe even non-monetary interactions in economic terms, I understand what people on the left mean when they criticize markets’ inability to provide everything. Under their definition, markets are monetary exchanges, and under this definition they are correct. Not everything has to have an economic purchase value. Some things simply should not have a purchase value, because their use-value, creative potential, or personhood is so highly appreciated. While markets are great for distributing goods and services between economic units, we should not simply try to break everything, such as families, up into markets. The cells of our body have little use for money, and a market is not the natural structure of our bodies. Instead, cells communicate with one another and arrange themselves accordingly, forming a larger organism. Just the same, a healthy family is not based on market exchanges. A healthy family is based on mutual respect and communication. As Thomas H. Greco, Jr. remarks,

Money, in its current form as the medium of exchange, has not lived up to its potential as liberator. This is largely because it has been politicized and centrally controlled but also because money and markets have been extended into realms that are better served by other exchange mechanisms. For example, within the family and clan, where relationships are close and personal and nurturing is a central concern, needs are easily assessed, responsibilities are readily assigned, and altruism is generally expressed. In these contexts, free gift exchange, and sharing, rather than buying and selling, are clearly seen to work best. The use of money to mediate exchanges within the household, family, or clan would be destructive to the human relationships that are normal and necessary to their health. Money is better suited for facilitating the more impersonal exchanges that need to take place between social units, where reciprocity and strict accounting are more important.[xii]

A family, though composed of smaller units (individuals), is itself an economic unit (perhaps this makes me a distributist). The foundation of this unit, the glue that binds it—love—, at least traditionally, is not due to similarity, but complimentary difference between parents: gender. To try to bind it with money alone is to weaken the actual glue, within which money plays but a partial role.

Just the same, and in mutualist economic terms, a cooperative in a free market is also an economic unit. Decisions in a cooperative unit are internally made outside of simple buying and selling, through democratic process. Between cooperatives is where the exchange market exists. Markets lead to structures as they mature, but are not themselves a form of rigid structure, instead being a flexible system.

A family should be seen as an organic unity rather than a market. While certainly making exchanges, and influenced by external markets— making money a necessity—, families usually exchange more loosely than by adhering to strict purchases. Just as mutualists favor free market socialism in the economy, based on the dual principles of free association and cooperative ownership—whereby an individual can choose to be their own autonomous unit, or join a larger one as an equal—, they should also support the ability of people to ascribe to their own genders or none at all, and to raise a family or not to raise a family. Under conditions of freedom, however, it can be expected that individuals will express their intrinsic differences more fully, rather than less so, and gender may again be given value.

The cause of most relational issues, and the breaking apart of the family, comes down to a distortion of values created by the state. To solve this problem, we must better understand value.

The mutualist theory of value is a compromise between labor and marginal utility theories of value. It could easily be stated as “marginal utility of labor value.” The marginal utility view is subjective in nature, and explains things best on the end of consumption, while the labor view tends to be more objective, and explains things on the side of production. The marginal utility of labor states that labor is something of objective value to the producer, but subjective value to the consumer; it is the view that the objective is perceived subjectively from the outside. In a healthy price system, labor and marginal utility values match, and supply meets demand.

Men and women are both suppliers of labor, and both have a marginal utility for the others’ efforts, but, like all price and cost matches under capitalism, the two do not match. Cost and price do not meet, and so there is scarcity in some areas and surplus in others. The breadwinner of a family, be they male or female, can no longer be an exclusive role. Both parts of the family must now be taken from the home to feed into the capitalist system of production. Both parties earn such meager wages that they cannot afford to sustain the other’s role of maintaining the family. Neither sex goes home happy. Both feel they are putting in more than the other, or that they are simply undesirable and worthless.

People in general have become more depressed, resulting in obesity (people try to fill the void of sexual happiness with other kinds of stimulation), and face much more failure due to capitalism, resulting in insecurity. Insecure and obese people have less sex, and are generally considered less attractive. Humans are sexual creatures, and oftentimes a truly deep connection is better facilitated by sexual interactions, which open up a path of closeness, trust, and communication. Thus, emotional connections, the more feminine side of sexuality, have also suffered greatly.

Externalization of costs is to blame. The rich don’t have so many rampant problems (such as high divorce rates or sexual and emotional complaints). The rich subsist off of the surplus of the working class, oftentimes having no stress at all. If you want to know where all the sex went, well, it went to the rich, like all the other good things in life.

As roles have been switched for the poor, with women taking up the masculine gender, making both sexes focus on work, the rich have gained by allowing all of their members to express their femininity, allowing both sexes to focus on nurturing the home. When all of the labor is externalized from one class to another, the sex also swaps around. This ends up in a class that has a surplus of nurture and scarcity of labor, while the other has a scarcity of nurture and surplus of work to do. Needless to say, this results in a class that is fulfilled and a class that is extremely stressed out. This can lead to all sorts of strange and sometimes violent sexual expressions, which otherwise wouldn’t come out, but exist as a result of sexual scarcity under capitalism. Class is the main economic contributor to relational frustration.


Gender does not have to be a repressive concept, but can instead be a recognition of the free expression of individuals. Straight, cis, women and men are born under different circumstances, have different ways of giving and receiving affection, and have varying needs and expectations from one another. Equivalence of give-and-take is distorted by the wage system of capitalism, whereby costs are externalized, leaving both primary genders of the working class feeling as though they are giving more than they are receiving in exchange. This problem will persist until the end of capitalism.


[1] By “straight cissexual relationships,” allow me to be clear: I am especially speaking of relations between men and women who ascribe to their assigned gender. That is, “straight cissexual people” would include straight feminine women and straight masculine men who identify as such.

Masculinity and femininity can here be seen in the Hermetic sense, with masculinity representing the giving force, and femininity representing the developing force. Economically speaking, this translates as masculinity being a force of provision, and feminity being a force of succorance. This is not to pass judgement in favor of one or the other. Both are vices, to my opinion, which may seek virtue only in combination.

 [2] The labor of men has been more historically material, while the work of women has traditionally been more spiritual. Men have oftentimes brought resources from without, and women have managed them from within. Men have protected from external, physical, danger, while women have protected from internal, emotional, threat. These are two important and complimentary roles, which are both necessary to keep families and communities together. Nurture is something very existent, but it is something that is not “real” in the sense of materialism and science. You can’t touch it. It is something felt, something spiritual.

 [3] Imagine a scenario where you have to work really hard for something, and someone else has to work less for the same thing. The thing means more to you than it does for them. If both of you give the thing, say a gold ring, to a partner, it will mean the same to them, regardless of your effort. Thus, workers’ gifts mean more to them than capitalist’s gifts, but the existence of the capitalists’ gifts brings down the value of the workers’ gifts to the receiver of the gift.


[i] Louann Brizendine, 1.


[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Lance Workman and Will Reader, 109.

[v] Jeff Ward and Martin Voracek

[vi] Tracey Cox

[vii] Susan Walsh

[viii] Rosie Boycott

[ix] Rosie Boycott

[x] Susan Walsh

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Thomas H. Greco, 20.


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