Sex and Reason  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikiquote
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Sex and Reason is a 1992 book about human sexuality by the economist Richard Posner, in which the author attempts to explain sexual behavior in economic terms and discusses a range of controversial subjects related to sex, proposing reforms in American laws.

The book received many mixed reviews, and some more positive and negative reviews. The work was described as ambitious and Posner was credited with providing a learned discussion of sex and a valuable overview of scholarly literature about the subject. It was noted that Posner's discussion of homosexuality played a central role in his work. Some reviewers praised Posner's treatment of gay rights issues, including service in the American military by gay people, but others criticized his treatment of homosexuality. He was also criticized for his treatment of topics such as women's sexual behavior and preferences, feminism, welfare, contraception, rape, prostitution, and abortion, his use of sociobiology, and his approach to morality in general. Reviewers considered some of Posner's conclusions speculative.

Contents

Blurb

Sexual drives are rooted in biology, but we don't act on them blindly. Indeed, as the eminently readable judge and legal scholar Richard Posner shows, we make quite rational choices about sex, based on the costs and benefits perceived.
Drawing on the fields of biology, law, history, religion, and economics, this sweeping study examines societies from ancient Greece to today's Sweden and issues from masturbation, incest taboos, date rape, and gay marriage to Baby M. The first comprehensive approach to sexuality and its social controls, Posner's rational choice theory surprises, explains, predicts, and totally absorbs.

Sex and Reason is a 1992 book about human sexuality by the economist Richard Posner, in which the author attempts to explain sexual behavior in economic terms and discusses a range of controversial subjects related to sex, proposing reforms in American laws.

The book received many mixed reviews, and some more positive and negative reviews. The work was described as ambitious and Posner was credited with providing a learned discussion of sex and a valuable overview of scholarly literature about the subject. It was noted that Posner's discussion of homosexuality played a central role in his work. Some reviewers praised Posner's treatment of gay rights issues, including service in the American military by gay people, but others criticized his treatment of homosexuality. He was also criticized for his treatment of topics such as women's sexual behavior and preferences, feminism, welfare, contraception, rape, prostitution, and abortion, his use of sociobiology, and his approach to morality in general. Reviewers considered some of Posner's conclusions speculative.

Summary

Posner discusses human sexuality from a multidisciplinary perspective, aiming to summarize the principal findings of scientific literature on the subject and explain their relevance to law. He considers controversial topics such as the AIDS epidemic, abortion, the gay rights movement, the sexual revolution, surrogate motherhood, marital rape, date rape, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and pornography. According to Posner, he decided to write about sex because of his "belated discovery that judges know next to nothing about the subject beyond their own personal experience", despite being responsible for the interpretation and application of laws regulating sex. He describes his reading of the philosopher Plato's 4th century BC dialogue the Symposium, which he describes as a "highly interesting and articulate" defense of homosexual love, as one of the events that inspired him to begin the research for his book. Posner writes that his "larger ambition is to present a theory of sexuality that both explains the principal regularities in the practice of sex and in its social, including legal, regulation and points the way toward reforms in that regulation—thus a theory at once positive (descriptive) and normative (ethical)." He refers to this approach to the study of sexual behavior and its social regulation as "the economic theory of sexuality", describing it as, "Functional, secular, instrumental" and "utilitarian".

Authors whose work on sex Posner discusses include the biologist Alfred Kinsey, who he writes was "picked by the university authorities to head up the newly created Institute for Sex Research". He writes that "when their limitations are understood and respected" the Kinsey Reports "are a vast mine of useful information, have been repeatedly corroborated by other studies, and appear to be generally accurate, at least for the sample interviewed, because of the extraordinary lengths to which the interviewers went to elicit truthful answers." According to Posner, sociobiology has "advanced striking hypotheses concerning aspects of human sexuality such as courting, the double standard, polygamy, and homosexual preference." He refers to the anthropologist Donald Symons's The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979) as the "best single book on the sociobiology of sex". Posner also criticizes the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, maintaining that Marcuse's Eros and Civilization contains "political and economic absurdities" but also interesting observations about sex and art. He credits Marcuse with providing arguments that made his work a critique of conventional sexual morality superior to Bertrand Russell's Marriage and Morals (1929), but accuses Marcuse of wrongly believing that polymorphous perversity would help to create a utopia and that sex has the potential to be a politically subversive force. He considers Marcuse's argument that capitalism has the ability to neutralize the subversive potential of "forces such as sex and art" interesting, though clearly true only in the case of art. He argues that while Marcuse believed that American popular culture had trivialized sexual love, sex had not had a subversive effect in societies not dominated by American popular culture.

Publication history

Sex and Reason was first published in 1992 by Harvard University Press.

Reception

Media reception

Sex and Reason received a positive review from A. W. B. Simpson in The Times Literary Supplement, mixed reviews from the philosopher Martha Nussbaum in The New Republic, Marek Kohn in New Statesman and Society, the lawyer Tony Honoré in the London Review of Books, and the legal scholar Jedediah Purdy in The American Prospect, and negative reviews from Elizabeth Kristol in The American Spectator and the philosopher Roger Scruton in National Review. The book was also reviewed by Don Herzog in The New York Times Book Review and M. Gordon in Choice, mentioned in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and discussed by the legal scholar Patricia J. Williams in The Nation. Williams described Sex and Reason as a "curious book", and suggested that Posner was an "intelligent man blinded by the theories in which he wraps the purity of his assumptions". She criticized his treatment of rape.

Positive media reviews

Simpson described the book as "highly readable" and wrote that it was "rich in its ingenuity and humane in its orientation" and "based on a genuine attempt to derive rational guidance for social policy from an immense literature". He credited Posner with being able to "pursue his analysis without using any weak buttressing arguments" and with resisting "the temptation to push the analysis too far" and with being "aware of the limits of economic analysis".

Mixed media reviews

Nussbaum described the book as "extraordinary" and "an ambitious and complex undertaking". She considered Posner correct to observe that American judges often know little about sexual topics and credited him with trying to summarize what they should know with his "broad and accurate erudition, his curiosity and wit". However, she found his attempts to provide judges with relevant information and to advance a normative theory of sexual legislation more successful than his attempt to provide a comprehensive explanatory theory of sexual behavior. She questioned his attempts to analyse homosexual behavior and prostitution in ancient Greece, and argued that his attempts to combine historical with biological and economic analysis sometimes produced inconsistent conclusions, suggesting that he put forward a biological explanation of men's sexual interest in women's body types that conflicted with his emphasis on cultural influences on perceptions of sexual attractiveness elsewhere in his book. She found some of his "bioeconomic assertions", such as that "males are more sexually jealous than females" and that "a woman's ideal of an appealing sexual partner is a male who will be likely to protect and care for her offspring" to be "false and unsupported", and noted that his thesis that whenever individuals think rationally they seek to maximize their satisfactions was controversial. She criticized him for failing to provide an account of human sexuality that encompassed both the intentionality of sexual desire and its expression as a drive aiming at satisfaction, and questioned whether his theory of human sexuality was "really the alternative to moral and religious theories of sexuality that he believes it to be." Though critical of his legal and moral theorizing, she credited him with such accomplishments as offering a "devastating criticism" of the arguments most often used to support the exclusions of homosexuals from the military.

Kohn credited Posner with providing a useful review of literature on sex and wrote that Sex and Reason would "undoubtedly be of substantial value to researchers". However, he criticized Posner for considering "coercive sex, almost exclusively, as a method of acquiring sexual gratification" despite his familiarity with feminist literature, for ignoring the "role of rape in the subjugation of women", and for neglecting the irrational side of sexual behavior. Honoré described the book as "bold and ambitious", but while he believed that Posner's attempts to explain male and female sexual behavior through sociobiology had "some plausibility", its weakness was that "no one has so far identified the genes that predispose us to gene-preserving behaviour."Template:Sfn Purdy considered Posner a learned and intelligent writer, but accused him of having a "desiccated outlook", criticizing him for believing that scientific knowledge is the only kind of knowledge and maintaining that morality is "a tangled mass of taboos that offers us no possibility of increased insight." Though he believed that Posner was correct in part of his analysis of the factors that have influenced sexual behavior, he believed that Posner failed to understand that no one sees their "sexual decisions as functions of cost-benefit analysis", and that people understand that their sexual behavior is related to their identity, values, and relations with others. He maintained that Posner "pays a great deal of attention to how we get what we want, but none at all to our deliberation over what we should want and pursue."Template:Sfn

Negative media reviews

Kristol criticized Posner for his treatment of rape, describing it as strange. She argued that he incorrectly refused to consider "sympathy for the victim and moral disgust" as reasons for criminalizing rape. She also criticized his treatment of date rape, writing that it reflected a "peculiar view of women", and argued that he was inconsistent by ignoring moral revulsion in his discussion of rape but taking it into account as a relevant factor in his discussion of same-sex marriage. She was unpersuaded by his use of utilitarian arguments, especially in the case of abortion, disagreed with his negative assessment of Christian morality, and faulted him for not taking full account of the importance of children.Template:Sfn

Scruton granted that Posner was a "clever and lucid writer", but nevertheless believed that Posner's attempt to analyse human sexuality through rational choice theory was "about as unreasonable as a discussion of sex could be" and that Posner was not "a very acute observer of the human world." He expressed disagreement with Posner's understanding of the term "sexual behavior", and wrote that Posner described sexual gratification in "repugnant terms" and that Posner's language made "normal sexual desire" incomprehensible. He argued that there was an inconsistency between Posner's attempt to analyse sexual behavior through rational choice theory and his reliance on sociobiology, since the latter involved no reference to "the individual's desire or of the rational choice needed to fulfill it" and therefore could not provide a foundation for an economic theory based on rational choice. He concluded that Posner's arguments made "nonsense not only of sexual morality" but also of related legislation, arguing that they distorted understanding of issues such as rape.Template:Sfn

Gay media

Sex and Reason was discussed by Robert Morris in Island Lifestyle Magazine. Morris included the book on a list of "must reads".Template:Sfn

Scientific and academic journals

Sex and Reason received positive reviews from Diane M. Daane in the Journal of Sex Research,Template:Sfn Ralph Sandler in Southern Economic Journal,Template:Sfn and J. H. Bogart in Ethics.Template:Sfn In Review of Political Economy, it received mixed reviews from Chidem Kurdas and Peter J. Boettke.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn It also received mixed reviews from Alexander Wohl in ABA Journal,Template:Sfn the journalist Midge Decter in The Public Interest,Template:Sfn the economist Robert M. Anderson in the Journal of Economic Literature,Template:Sfn the feminist economist Nancy Folbre in Population and Development Review,Template:Sfn Marcel Roele in Politics and the Life Sciences,Template:Sfn Marie Reilly in the Archives of Sexual Behavior,Template:Sfn and in The Wilson Quarterly.Template:Sfn It received negative reviews from Gillian K. Hadfield in Harvard Law Review,Template:Sfn Gertrude Ezorsky in Sex Roles,Template:Sfn and the sociologist John Gagnon in the American Journal of Sociology.Template:Sfn

The book was also reviewed by the legal scholar William Eskridge in the Yale Law Journal,Template:Sfn Nussbaum in University of Chicago Law Review,Template:Sfn Jeffrey S. Calkins in Western State University Law Review,Template:Sfn Martha Ertman in the Stanford Law Review,Template:Sfn Carol Sanger in Southern California Law Review,Template:Sfn Margaret Chon in The George Washington Law Review,Template:Sfn Chris Hutton in the South Dakota Law Review,Template:Sfn the legal scholar Jane Larson in Constitutional Commentary,Template:Sfn Daniel W. Skubik in Federal Bar News & Journal,Template:Sfn Robin West in the Georgetown Law Journal,Template:Sfn Victor G. Rosenblum in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science,Template:Sfn the philosopher Robert P. George in Columbia Law Review,Template:Sfn Martin Zelder in Michigan Law Review,Template:Sfn Francis C. F. Chang in Criminal Law Forum,Template:Sfn the legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon in the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review.Template:Sfn The book was discussed by Claire A. Hill in Law and Social Inquiry.Template:Sfn Posner discussed his own work in Connecticut Law Review and Yale Law Journal,Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn and was interviewed about it in ABA Journal.Template:Sfn

Positive reviews in scientific and academic journals

Daane considered the book a "thought-provoking new approach to sexuality" and credited Posner with providing "a very impressive review of the literature." She found his analysis of the role of religious beliefs in influencing sexual behavior interesting, and believed that it "could result in provocative research." She wrote that his "analysis of the policy questions surrounding homosexuality", particularly the exclusion of homosexuals from military service, was "comprehensive, informative, and timely." However, she found Posner's discussion of "the regulation of sexuality", while informative, to be "at times controversial", for example where rape was concerned. She criticized him for arguing that many rapes, and the seduction of children, are victimless crimes because of the unlikelihood that the victims would complain about them, noting that had "never seen victimless crime defined as a crime in which the victim is unlikely to report", and his rejection of feminist views of rape, noting that "the vast majority of the literature on rape" defines rape as "a form of violence, control, hostility, and dominance." She also criticized him for employing conflicting approaches to the study of sexual behavior, such as sociobiology and social constructionism, which in her view led to theoretical inconsistency. She also found the book poorly written, and suggested that Posner might be trying to impress his readers with his vocabulary.Template:Sfn

Sandler described the book as an "ambitious" and "very timely" work that "contains a vast muitidisciplinary literature on sex which Posner brilliantly summarizes and makes accessible to the reader." He considered it likely to be "very influential." He credited Posner with applying useful economic concepts to the study of sexual behavior, thereby synthesizing a diverse body of scholarly literature on the subject of sex and promoting a "more tolerant and rational set of policies toward sexuality". He believed that Posner made "a compelling intellectual case for a diminished government role" despite the absence of "empirical research" in his work, which he considered unsurprising. He noted that some of Posner's views, such as that "homosexuals are likely to be more neurotic and homosexual relationships less stable", were "likely to be controversial", and criticized Posner for suggesting, with little evidence, that "sex laws cannot be explained as an attempt to deal with extemalities or promote efficiency they may be designed to redistribute wealth to some interest group." He also believed that Posner "sometimes demonstrates the inherent limitation of using utilitarian analysis on such issues as the control of pregnancy."Template:Sfn

Bogart wrote that Posner provided an "impressive and extremely useful" summary of current knowledge about sexuality, thereby showing that common beliefs such as that gay men and lesbians are "10 percent of the population" are incorrect and providing "interesting arguments about the role of urbanization in sexuality and an accessible discussion of social practices of ancient Greece." He believed that the book's bibliographic information was valuable. He also credited Posner with bringing together "most of the topics naturally linked in a consideration of sex", making Sex and Reason suitable as a textbook. Though he noted that Posner's focus was not primarily normative and suggested that Posner had "a somewhat impoverished view of morality and other normative theories", he still believed that Posner had "interesting things to say" about normative issues, such as the ethics of the sale of reproductive services, and effectively criticized some aspects of legal restrictions on sex in the United States at the time he was writing. However, he criticized Posner for citing "that scientific fraud Freud" in his discussion of sex, and believed that Posner's arguments were sometimes "inconsistent or incomplete", arguing that Posner put forward incompatible definitions of rape in different parts of the book. He also believed that there was a tension between Posner's ethical intuitions and his economic analysis of sex. He concluded by defending Sex and Reason against what he considered common misinterpretations that misunderstood the intention and purposes of the book.Template:Sfn

Mixed reviews in Review of Political Economy

Kurdas described the book as ambitious, entertaining, easy to read, and useful. He credited Posner with offering "challenging insights on a number of issues related to sex and procreation" and endorsed his policy suggestions. However, he criticized Posner for failing to explain "the persistence of inefficient laws and practices" and "what factors favour socially optimal institutional arrangements". He charged Posner with focusing on "laws and practices that appear to be efficient and are therefore consistent with his theory" while ignoring those that are not. He argued that Posner's theory of sex was part of the "general neoclassical theory of institutions" and confused "function" and "efficiency", maintaining that while it would have been acceptable if Posner had restricted himself to showing that many sexual laws and practices have a social and economic function, he went further by holding that they were also efficient adaptations. He criticized Posner's speculation about the causes of teenage pregnancy in the United States, his attempt to "calculate the cost of abortion to unborn foetuses", and his argument that female infanticide was the efficient method of controlling population for societies that lacked any means of contraception, noting that Posner failed to "compare it to alternative social arrangements". He also criticized Posner's view that the sexual mores of a given society depend on the occupational status of women in that society, arguing that evidence shows that "women's occupational status depends in part on sexual mores", and questioned Posner's view that his arguments could be made independently of biological assumptions, arguing that it was partly because of those assumptions that Posner focused mainly on sexual choices made by men and treated women's choices as mostly incidental men's choices. He criticized Posner for discussing male homosexuality at length while neglecting lesbianism. He argued that Posner's view that some women have substituted the welfare state for individual men left open "the question of how women choose sexual partners, given the security provided by the welfare state". He believed that Posner wrongly considered "all social choices amenable to rational optimization", when in fact many factors produced "boundaries to rational choice."Template:Sfn

Boettke suggested that the book might be the "boldest treatment" of sexual behavior from an economic point of view. He credited Posner with providing "an encyclopaedic discussion of sexual practices and sexual policy in both historical and cross-cultural terms", and believed that Posner made a "compelling" argument and that the evidence seems to fit Posner's "straightforward" economic theory of "marginal-benefit marginal-cost calculus, trade-offs, substitutability, and search." However, he argued that "Posner's positivistic philosophical justification for his project limits the success of his enterprise" by preventing him from addressing many of the most important issues about sexuality. In his view, Posner could "only provide a theory of behaviour within a given set of constraints" and offered "nothing with regard to the meaning of sexual behaviour and policies." He considered the strength of Posner's approach to be "the boldness with which he pushes the rational choice model", and its weakness to be Posner's belief that the model "grants him a privileged scientific status, not by virtue of its interpretative power, but because it ... conforms to the positivistic vision of science." He criticized Posner for dismissing alternative theories of sexual behavior, such as psychoanalytic and feminist views, as "lacking in scientific testability", and for rejecting the critical theory of Marcuse. He also argued that because of his stance of "value neutrality", Posner could not deal adequately deal with his "critics on either the left or right", such as that from Decter and that from feminist scholars, and that Posner's discussion of the legal regulation of pornography failed to refute points made by MacKinnon. He considered Posner's "privileging of the efficiency norm" unjustified, and believed that it forced him into "the rather absurd position of pushing for the unlimited applicability of the efficiency standard." He criticized Posner for failing to examine the rules governing sexual behavior by simply treating them as "constraints within which efficient action by individuals takes place", arguing that as a result Posner's analysis of sex suffered from deficiencies similar to those of his legal theory and would not "persuade anyone who is not already convinced of the merits of Posernian analysis to legal and social questions." He also argued that "many of Posner's most intriguing contributions fail by his own standards of science", and endorsed some of Hadfield's criticisms of Posner, calling her review "compelling".Template:Sfn

Mixed reviews in other scientific and academic journals

Wohl described the book as "creative and provocative", but suggested that it strengthened the view that Posner was no longer a realistic candidate for justice of the Supreme Court. He considered Posner's attempt to analyse sexual behavior in economic terms "challenging", crediting Posner with "offering several intriguing views of contemporary sexual and legal problems" and "an engaging examination of the history of sexual behavior and changing sexual norms and practices", but believed that it ultimately "fails as a comprehensive analysis." In his view, both Posner's conclusions and his methods of reaching them would inevitably be disturbing, noting that "it is perverse to require proof that marital rape really does adversely affect the wife, as if this were subject to debate." He criticized Posner for "using charges of political correctness" to pre-empt challenges to his views, although he considered Posner correct to state his views in tentative terms. He believed liberals would agree with many of Posner's conclusions despite disagreeing with his terminology and methodology, and that Posner's work might help to make the legal profession familiar with scholarly literature on sexuality. However, he considered it unlikely that Sex and Reason would lead to increased support for the application of scientific principles to sex and the law, or attract people to the disciplines of law and economics.Template:Sfn

Decter wrote that the book was ambitious and learned, but that it was also poorly organized. She considered its documentation impressive, but criticized Posner's reliance on authors such as "Alfred Kinsey, Michel Foucault, John Gagnon, and Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen." She believed that some of Posner's conclusions, such as that the ratio of men to available women must affect courtship and marriage, were "long known and self-evident", that his historical evidence did not always support his claim that sexual customs can be understood as "rational responses to external circumstances." She also wrote that economic analysis did not help to explain the "general sexual condition that we Americans are in today", arguing that "economic principles cannot explain why at this moment, when women have become so vastly much freer and more casual with their sexual favors, there should be so much more, and so much more open, homosexuality than ever before." In her view, Posner's arguments would have suggested that the frequency of homosexuality should have diminished. She also questioned how economic analysis could explain why "gay bars and hangouts continue to abound and prosper" despite AIDS, "the honor and tearful gratitude bestowed far and wide upon those who reveal to the world that they have contracted the disease", or why abortion was still common despite the availability of contraception. She mentioned pornography and prostitution as additional examples, noting that prostitution did not seem to have declined despite the existence of singles bars.Template:Sfn

Anderson described the book as "ambitious", and wrote that it "contains much to please and enrage people on all sides of the issues considered" and was "often brilliant, but occasionally obtuse". He credited Posner with providing an erudite review of the "literature on the biology, history, philosophy, psychology, and sociology of sex", and with making a generally compelling argument that much of the variance in sexual behavior and customs across cultures and eras is explained by a handful of factors. He predicted that because of its author's influence, the book would be widely cited in legal briefs, especially but not only by civil libertarians, and wrote that it demonstrated considerable courage because it was likely to alienate his conservative supporters. He suggested that homosexuality plays a central role in the book, and credited Posner with establishing that sexual orientation is unchosen, "may well be biologically determined", and is unchangeable. However, he believed that the book would have benefited from applied research, and that Posner presented an incomplete analysis of sex. He found Posner's data on sexuality to be of disappointing quality, writing that he had made insufficient efforts to "obtain demographic data on sexual minorities, and lesbians in particular". He also predicted that some of his theoretical analysis would be controversial, especially those concerning abortion and infanticide, and that some of his conclusions about homosexuality were incorrect. He criticized Posner for implying that conventionally masculine men are necessarily heterosexual, for asserting that not only European countries, but also Latin American countries, the Philippines, and Japan are significantly more tolerant of homosexuality than the United States, for his treatment of rape, which he considered unclear and debatable in its conclusions about rapists' motives, and his treatment of the issue of whether prostitution should be legalized, which he found inconsistent. He criticized Posner for failing to "articulate a theory of the appropriate role for criminal penalties as opposed to other regulatory actions", which he believed would have helped Posner to reach unambiguous conclusions, the details of Posner's economic analysis, his arguments against welfare programs, and his discussion of same-sex marriage.Template:Sfn

Folbre described the book as, "a fascinating discussion of the relationship between sex and reason" and believed that its best chapters dealt "with the sexual revolution in the courts and with debates concerning erotic art, pornography, and law." She wrote that while Posner's suggestion that economic reasoning could help to explain sexual behavior was not new, he improved on past discussions of the subject with, "dispassionate discussion of topics, such as homosexuality, that have often been considered taboo." She credited him with "Boldly ranging across the fields of economics, legal philosophy, and social history", acknowledging that "differences in what people want (their tastes and preferences) are as important as differences in the cost of getting what they want", making a "penetrating critique of state intervention in the private lives of citizens", including making a clear defense of "the legal rights of gays and lesbians". She noted that "the claim that a significant portion of the population has some innate predisposition toward homosexuality is central to his argument." However, she criticized him for his treatment of feminist theory, arguing that he neglected "the possibility that domestic violence ... and rape reflect a male desire to dominate, rather than a cheap means of obtaining sexual satisfaction" and missed the point that "men and women have collective identities and interests based on their gender." She also wrote that, "Even those who welcome his defense of sexual freedom will reject his laissez-faire approach to the family", that his rejection of religious morality left "little room for a moral concept of right and wrong", that he was unconcerned that the sale of reproductive services might produce exploitative results or that most states did not "effectively enforce mothers' and children's claims on the incomes of fathers absent from the home", and that Posner's "social history of sexuality" was speculative and uneven in quality.Template:Sfn

Roele credited Posner with demonstrating how a "rational, morally neutral model of sexual behavior can serve as a basis for normative analysis", and wrote that his book was likely to "have a positive influence on the development of bioeconomics" and to "inspire practitioners of the law to increase their knowledge of the life sciences." However, he noted that Posner's sociobiological theory of the evolution of different sex-limited "genetic propensities for sexual preferences" was largely based on the work of Symons. He also wrote that Posner's view that masturbation, homosexuality, fetishism, and voyeurism enable males to satisfy their sexual desires in the absence of available female sex objects "begs the question of how, in the evolutionary past of our species, a genetic propensity for 'deviant' sexual preferences could have contributed to the actor's inclusive fitness", arguing that, aside from masturbation, these sexual behaviors "are unnecessarily costly" and require too much of a male's time and resources. In his view, "Any genetic propensity for such costly 'deviant' sexual preferences would have been weeded out in the process of natural selection and replaced by a propensity to be asexual if women were unaccessible." He argued that Posner put forward incompatible explanations of deviant male sexual behavior, one in terms of "inclusive fitness benefits to the individual" and the other in terms of "fitness benefits to the group". He also criticized Posner's treatment of female infanticide, arguing that he "does not seem to distinguish individual from common interests", and argued that Posner neglected "biological insights" that could have benefited his "utilitarian calculation of the interests of the different parties affected by a particular act".Template:Sfn

Reilly considered some of Posner's ideas, such as that women have a weaker sex drive than men, controversial, noting that there was "pervasive scientific and nonscientific uncertainty" about the relative importance of biological factors and choice as influences on sexual behavior. She described his arguments about genetic influences on human behavior as "an intellectual thrill ride", especially where "the adaptive purpose of homosexuality and other non-procreative sexual conduct" was concerned, adding that his suggestions had "angered critics on both scientific and political grounds." In her view, his economic cost-benefit analysis of sexual behavior, although original, read "like science fiction that is at the same time disturbing and revealing" and had provoked divided reactions from legal scholars. She considered the value of Posner's theory to be "its capacity to explain diversity among and changes in sexual behavior, and guide the formation of rational social policy". She wrote that it had the potential to be a "means of understanding the social and legal implications of sexuality", for example by showing how "changes in the cost of sexual practices" could help to explain "observed changes in practices" and predict responses to hypothetical changes. She credited Posner with explaining the relevance of different forms of marriage to the frequency of extramartial sexual relations, and helping to explain "the social and economic relationship between the sexes", including "the historic inequality of women", and suggested ways of expanding opportunities for women. However, she believed that the difficulty of determining the "costs and benefits of sexual activity across a diverse society" limited the impact of Posner's policy recommendations.Template:Sfn

The Wilson Quarterly credited Posner with providing "a grand tour of the practices of other cultures and eras", but considered his arguments less than fully persuasive, criticizing his explanation of the "rationality of women wearing high heels". The reviewer concluded that, "Ironically, Posner may fail to convince his readers that eroticism involves so many rational, "economically" calculable acts, even while he provides a model of how a jurist can dispense with personal prejudice and reason dispassionately about sex."Template:Sfn

Negative reviews in scientific and academic journals

Hadfield criticized Posner for explaining the sexual division of labor in terms of biological differences between men and women. She found his attempt to establish an "economic theory of sexuality" flawed, arguing that he had an "outdated view of women", that his discussion of sexual behavior focused disproportionately on men and in particular on male homosexuality, wrongly treating it as the only issue it was necessary to understand in order to understand sexuality in general. She maintained that he failed to provide a framework that made it possible to address issues such as the impact of sex and its regulation on women and their economic status. She wrote that while many would reject his attempt to "assimilate sexuality to economics", Posner actually failed to "take economics far enough." Though expressing sympathy for some of his conclusions, such as those concerning the legal treatment of homosexuality, she believed that his "normative analysis" was hampered by the nature of his economic analysis and that while he was correct to emphasize "the interdependence of marriage, sexuality, and women's economic dependence on men", he had an "absurdly limited view of women's economic activity" and a distorted view of women's economic history that failed to acknowledge that most women have always worked at far more than child rearing and household management, which was actually the primary task of both men and women in the United States until the latter part of the 19th century. She criticized him for maintaining that low levels of paid employment for women was equivalent to women having low levels of employment, and for ignoring work done by black female slaves. She also criticized his use of sociobiology to support the claim that men have a stronger sex drive than women, arguing that it depended on debatable assumptions about reproductive strategy. She considered some of his claims unsurprising, writing that they achieved only his objective of "bringing a common language to the analysis of sexual practices", and argued that he failed to distinguish consistently between a model of sexual practices and a model of sexual morality, to offer an economic account of the origins of public sexual morality, to provide an account of the social organization of child care, or to carefully analyze issues of power and dominance between the sexes. She also criticized his treatment of contraception, abortion, rape, sexual harassment, and prostitution.Template:Sfn

Ezorsky criticized Posner's approach to morality, especially his view about the significance of "irrational antipathy or revulsion toward sexual practices", arguing that in a society in which antipathy toward homosexual practices was widespread, his arguments implied that homosexuality would be immoral, even though it might not be immoral in a society in which there was no such antipathy. Ezorsky argued that "public policy and personal morality should take strong notice, not only of feelings of antipathy in a society" but also of the rights of individuals, concluding that, "Persecuted minorities should not feel immoral just because the majority says so."Template:Sfn

Gagnon described the book as dense, repetitive, and speculative. He described Posner's discussion of how sex laws have varied in different times and places as "truncated", and his review of previous theories of sexuality as "rather casual". In his view, Posner underestimated "the complexity and social embeddedness of all theories of sexuality and the difficulties of interpreting historical and cross-cultural data whose quality varies." He described some of Posner's claims, such as that Kinsey was appointed by Indiana University to head the Institute for Sex Research, as factual errors, and believed that Posner's analysis of sex was influenced by ideology, noting that he criticized social constructionists for their left-wing views, and that Posner was mistaken to hold that his belief that evidence supports the idea of an innate sex drive and biological determination of potential and desirable sexual acts, including gender preferences in sexual relations, was connected only incidentally to his economic theory. He considered the quality of Posner's economic analysis "very modest", believing that the economic theory propounded did not go beyond the assertions that individuals have acquired preferences and that they respond to opportunities provided for sexual activities in a social marketplace. He argued that Posner's analysis was not systematic, instead being "largely metaphorical" in nature and reliant on "post hoc speculation". He also criticized Posner for interpreting Plato's Symposium as being about homosexuality rather than "Eros and wisdom among men of equal social status in classical Greece", and for arguing that rape is solely motivated by sexual desire rather than the wish to subordinate women. He considered Posner's economic explanations of specific forms of sexual behavior and his perspective on their regulation to be the most interesting part of the book, endorsing Posner's view that there should be less government regulation of sexual conduct.Template:Sfn

Other discussions in scientific and academic journals

Hill believed that Posner provided useful descriptions of at least some sexual phenomena "using vocabulary and concepts from law and economics." Though she suggested that many people would argue that Posner was reluctant to acknowledge the limitations of his approach, she argued that the problem with his work was "not so much that he uses law and economics too much but rather that he claims more for his observations than his data ... can support." In her view, Posner "makes the case for law and economics in the personal sphere exceedingly well", applying economic reasoning "in interesting and creative ways to a broad array of current and historical sexual practices and regulations." However, she added that Posner "makes the case for law and economics in the personal sphere exceedingly badly, and this latter effect has almost certainly swamped the former." She considered it regrettable that Posner had given skeptics of his approach "some substance-based and methodological reasons" for dismissing his work. She argued that Posner suggested that his intuitions and assumptions were sounder than they actually were and that he did not realize the full extent to which he was relying on them.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sex and Reason" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools