The fourth-year national election cycle has a way of bringing out the worst and the best of political escapades, but it is the worst capers, like Rep. Todd Akin’s (R. MO) ridiculous “legitimate rape” statement that rings the public’s bell. Where does stuff like this come from? And, is capitalism a causal factor in this race to the bottom? After all, ever since capitalism entered its late stage of development, over the past few decades, the frequency of high profile sexual escapades, and sexism references, by politicos have incrementally increased with each succeeding decade, growing in intensity as capitalism matures.
In the 1970s there were seven (7) notable escapades, most prominently Wilbur Mills, who was seen intoxicated with stripper Fanne Foxe. During the 1980s there were ten (10) prominent follies, led by Gary Hart’s infamous choke while seeking the Democratic nomination for president. There were twelve (12) prominent antics in the 1990s, led by the Come Back Kid’s whirl with Monica, and there were seventeen (17) notable shenanigans in the first decade of the current century, led by Senator John Edwards and Senator Larry Craig, who famously excoriated Bill Clinton as a “bad boy, a naughty boy,” which is apparently Senator Craig’s type based upon his activities in the men’s room at the Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport. So far, in the second decade of this century, there have already been ten (10) prominent escapades, and at this rate a new record of fifty (50) will be set by 2020, led, so far, by Herman Cain’s huge choke with abused women coming out of the woodwork overnight whilst he was temporarily the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. This escalation of sexual escapades, and sexism, on the political front is a reflection of late stage capitalism’s influence on societal values
Since the 20th century, capitalism has been shaped by large corporations, and the social organization of modern sexuality reflects this development of capitalism, according to Steven Seidman (State University of New York), The Social Construction of Sexuality, 2nd ed., W.W. Norton & Company (2009):
“In a market economy, therefore, a repressed personality type is prominent… performance-and-success-oriented and exercises tight internal controls over emotions and sensual desires. To this type of person, sexual impulses and desires are potentially disruptive of discipline; sexuality needs to be rigidly controlled. Accordingly, in market economies the pressures of industrial production and discipline shape a sexual culture that values self-control and the avoidance of sensual pleasure. Erotic play and pleasure are viewed as dangerous.”
Think of the 1950s.
However, Seidman claims the new consumer-oriented economy of the latter 20th century disrupts the Victorian impulses of old when workers and production were disciplined. Nowadays, commercialism, as a result of limits to a production-oriented economy, overrides the human-production societal values found in capitalism, and today capitalism markets goods and services by selling fantasies of beauty, sexual potency, romance, and social power, a sexualized world in which impulse reigns supreme. This brings forth a new personality type: hedonistic, expressive, impulsive, and highly sexualized. This phenomenon of late-stage capitalism is the polar opposite of early/mid stage capitalism, and it contributes to stimulating implications for society’s sexuality.
Nowadays, corporate capitalism promotes a culture that values sexual pleasure, and as a result, sexuality has become natural and positive as a basis for self-fulfillment (think Viagra.) By emphasizing pleasure and sexual acceptance, capitalism subconsciously turns the consumer’s attention to personal fulfillment, which coincidentally, serves as a diversion from class inequality. This diversion, and immersion within the impulses of commercialism, shapes the lives of consumers above and beyond the exigencies of harsh political choices, and this, in part, explains how and why political operatives play upon ‘family values’ to gain votes. It is the guilt complex at work reflected within America’s Calvinists’ roots, and voters buy into it. With sexuality so prominent in commercialism (think Guess jeans ads), the consumer needs a release from inherent lingering guilt, and this is provided by ‘family value’ politics. Thus, politics seizes upon a relief valve of sorts by challenging sexuality, embracing and answering to the inner voice informing the consumer to repent.
The sexual transformation of the national psyche caused by capitalism affects all classes but not equally. Similar to income inequality, the act of sex is disproportionately an indulgence of the elites. Capitalism’s natural inclination to benefit the rich over the masses extends to sexual matters as much as it does wealth creation.
There is plenty of evidence to connect the psyche and sex as feeding off each other. According to David Blachflower, Dartmouth College and Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick, England, based upon a study of 16,000 people, sex “enters so strongly and positively in happiness equations,” they estimate that increasing intercourse from once per month to once per week is equivalent to adding $50,000/yr. income to family happiness. Interestingly, they utilize a capitalistic measurement to score sexual happiness. Okay, but what if one already has the $50K multiplied several times over?
A survey conducted by Prince & Associates, Inc., The Wealth Report, Wall Street Journal, 2007 found that 70% of multimillionaires claim wealth leads to better as well as more adventurous and exotic sex. The mean net worth of the study’s respondents was $90 million. Over 80% of the respondents were married. 75% of the women surveyed admitted to affaires versus 50% of the men. This figure for rich women is twice the national average of married women who admit to affaires. The women claim wealth provides opportunities for a higher quality of sex with 72% of female respondents claiming membership to the “mile high club,” whereas only 33% of men claim the same experience while flying high. Without a doubt, it helps that all the respondents either own or lease private jets, adding new depth and intrigue to Frank Sinatra’s classic song, ‘Come Fly With Me’.
According to Ian Kerner, a NY sex therapist, wealth equates to better sex because money reduces the daily stresses associated with anxiety over money issues that inhibits a couple’s sex. He says, “… money and sex are intertwined,” in a very positive fashion. The wealthy travel more, see more exotic places, realizing more stimuli and luxury in their lives, and these experiences increase libido. Or, alternatively, Jimmyjane.com offers a platinum vibrator with 28 encrusted diamonds that runs $3,250, and for him, a gold-plated prostrate massager for $990, and if boredom sets in, they offer a sterling silver and cherry wood spanking rod for $3,066 or for the budget-minded elite a crystal-handled whip goes for only $290. The very fact that these implements are prominently offered for sale implies demand and rumor has it that demand is reasonably brisk.
As for women, money brings a sense of control and power that allows them to open themselves up to more sexual experiences. “Women find wealth to be extremely empowering, “ says Ms. Hannah Grove, a wealth consultant who collaborated with Prince & Associates on their study. These rich women are powerful business people in their own right and feel secure having relationships outside of marriage. They have a strong sense of identity and don’t feel at all inhibited about communicating their sexual needs to men outside of their regular relationship.
Women of modest means also seem to have better sex with rich men, according to a study by Johathan Leake and Holly Watt, Why Women Have Better Sex with Rich Men, Sunday Times, January 2009. Their scientific study proves that the number and frequency of a woman’s orgasms is directly related to her partner’s wealth. Women are not simply enduring the sex to experience a rich lifestyle. A rich man’s money has aphrodisiac qualities as well as purchasing power. According to Dr. Thomas Pollet at the University of Newcastle, “Women’s capacity for orgasm could be an evolutionary adaptation that serves to discriminate between males on the basis of their quality,” Pollet and Professor Daniel Nettle studied thousands of sexual relationships in China, Germany, and America. “We found that increasing partner income had a highly positive effect on women’s self-reported frequency of orgasm. More desirable mates cause women to experience more orgasms.”
As for men, it is no secret that orgasm is almost as automatic as pulling the trigger on a rapid-fire handgun, but interestingly, their machismo, whilst most prominently engaged early on in an affaire, melts into a chortle post execution, immediately collapsing all pretense of virility, becoming an instant shadow of the former self and anxiously searching for the next bridge to build. Apparently, no studies of how wealthy women affect the libido of non-wealthy men are extant. Nevertheless…
“When the moment is right. You can be ready.”
Senator Bob Dole, spokesman for Viagra (1999)
Lilly’s Cialis sales + Pfizer’s Viagra sales= $4 Billion
In the words of the extraordinarily controversial award-winning French novelist, poet and filmmaker Michel Houellebecq, whose novels contain themes on the intrusion of free-market economics into human sexuality, Neoliberal Sex (And Love):
“Just like unrestrained economic liberalism, and for similar reasons, sexual liberalism produces phenomena of absolute pauperisation … In a totally liberal economic system certain people accumulate considerable fortunes; others stagnate in unemployment and misery. In a totally liberal sexual system certain people have a varied and exciting erotic life; others are reduced to masturbation and solitude. Economic liberalism is an extension of the domain of the struggle, its extension to all ages and all classes of society. Sexual liberalism is likewise an extension of the domain of the struggle.”
Whether capitalism’s influence on the country’s mores is constructive or destructive is open to question and debate, but what is clear is this: Sexual morality in America has altered in concert with capitalistic tendencies, and capitalism has contributed to, and fostered, irreverence for traditional moral values by way of commercialism seducing the public, think of those magazine ads that picture a tangle of naked bodies designed to sell perfume. This may be fine art but the message goes way beyond smelling good when the actors’ noses are ensconced within each other’s parts normally reserved for something other than smelling salts.
Margaret Thatcher famously remarked, “There is no such thing as society,” meaning there are only individuals, who must meet obligations outside of the boundaries of society; however, they are living within the parameters of capitalism’s impulse to profit from everything and everyone, and they do experience an unconscious universal impulse that is internalized by way of commercialism, according to Luciana Bohne, Erotic Capital: Love and Sex in the Neoliberal Age, University of Pennsylvania. By extension, this unconscious impulse for lust that is derived from mass media commercialism influences the libido by liberating, in private acts, the consumer from the strict Calvinistic foundations of society. This creates an internalized conflict, fear of God versus desire for lust, which automatically plays into the hands of politicized capitalism, serving as a tool of control over the populace. For example, the sex card as constructed by capitalism, has become the principal tool of right wing politics, starting with Family Values, interfering with women’s rights, and casting a pall of guilt on voters who betray their fundamentalist politics. Thus, capitalism and sex have solidly linked together as one of the most radical tools for political action in the 21st century. Indeed, capitalism, for the benefit of the elite, is thus perpetuated by utilizing sex and sexism to establish power over the purse on the steps of the nation’s capitol.
As the result of the increasing empowerment of the extreme fundamentalist movement, politics today appear ready to explosively re-define the landscape for sexual issues, de-fund Planned Parenthood, and pass a Federal Personhood Amendment to effectively overturn Roe V Wade, assaulting women’s status. This solidifies the argument that sex & sexism are conjoined with capitalism so powerfully that democratic capitalism is shaped by the intents of the nation’s earliest settlers who came to America, bringing capitalism with them, to escape religious persecution, and as a result, those early pioneers set a hook into capitalism that covertly lusts but overtly controls the nation based upon the precepts of Calvinism.
As a nation, we cannot escape our past!
Robert Hunziker earned an MA in economic history at DePaul University. He lives in Los Angeles.