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Gender equality leads to more sex for everyone: study

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Men get lucky when women have economic might.

That's the upshot of a global study that suggests gender equality leads to more sex, USA Today reports.

The findings are based on "sexual economics," according to study author Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

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"Women's sexuality has a kind of value that men's sexuality does not," he told USA Today. "Men will basically exchange other resources with women to have sex, but the reverse doesn't work."

Published in The Journal of Social Psychology, the research used data from 37 countries, including an international sex survey of 317,000 people. In countries ranked higher in gender equality, there was more casual sex, more sex partners per capita, younger ages for first sexual experience and greater tolerance of premarital sex.

But the opposite was true in countries where women were at a disadvantage, Dr. Baumeister found. When women lack opportunities, they "hold out" on sex to drive up the price, prompting men to commit to a lifetime of support - a.k.a. marriage - to get sex.

"It's a notoriously unromantic theory," he acknowledges.

Nevertheless, other researchers insist it has legs.

Sex is a matter of supply and demand, notes Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas-Austin and author of Premarital Sex in America.

"On average, men want sex more than women do," Dr. Regnerus writes at Slate.com.

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He adds that in North America, copious pornography, reliable birth-control methods and fewer social constraints on casual sex have created conditions in which the "market price" of sex is "currently very low."

But men who triumph in the bedroom are likely to flounder in other areas of life, Dr. Regnerus continues, referencing Freud.

"Civilization is built on blocked, redirected and channeled sexual impulse, because men will work for sex. Today's young men, however, seldom have to."

Are men suffering from today's bargain-basement price on sex?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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