Can We Redistribute Sex Like We Redistribute Wealth?

Redistributing wealth from the middle class to the top 1%.

Can we redistribute sex the way we redistribute wealth?

George Mason economist and libertarian Robin Hanson seems to think so.

He proposed that men should start threatening women with violence if their sex demands are not met. The horrifying idea arose in response to a Toronto terrorist attack on women that was sparked by anger over being an involuntary celibate or “incel.”

Why did Prof. Hanson say this? To establish that he is uncaring and misogynistic? To establish that libertarians are uncaring and misogynistic?

Surely he’s not serious. He seems to be drawing the analogy to make this libertarian case: Just as women should not be threatened with violence for not giving sex they don’t want to give, the rich should not be threatened with fines or imprisonment for not giving money they don’t want to give via taxes.*

But the sense is lost in translation.

The redistribution of wealth leaves the rich with less money, but women cannot be left with less sex if they’re forced to give sex to men. And taxes don’t damage in the way that killing and rape do.

In fact the happiest nations on earth are consistently those Nordic peoples who redistribute wealth the most. But the happiest countries would never be those where women are violently forced to give sex they don’t want to give.

Why did Prof. Hanson propose that women should be threatened with violence to make his point?

It’s the sort of thing that happens when people lack empathy. Having no experience with it, they don’t know how to spark empathy in others. And as it is libertarians are the most empathy-challenged of any political persuasion. These poor souls seek to create understanding and compassion for the rich and their tax burden yet have no idea how to do it. And so they can end up sounding like creepy misogynists.


* I’ll leave aside for the moment that economies collapse under libertarian policy which leaves most people with no money to spend and a downward spiral in sales and profits. (That’s why the World Bank and International Monetary Fund quit forcing the countries “aided” to live by libertarian ideals.)

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 7, 2018, in politics/class inequality and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 44 Comments.

  1. The expertise of economists clearly does not extend to sexuality. Maybe this guy is a closet intel.

  2. Before I start, I want to mention that there are genuinely awesome libertarian socialist and libertarian communist (also called anarcho-communist) political philosophies out there and their adherents. But when most people in the US think of libertarianism, they think of capitalist libertarianism (also called anarcho-capitalism) and aren’t even aware the other kind exists.

    I have one tiny bit of empathy for capitalist libertarians. I was raised with an oppressive religious background and it was drilled into me that all of my selfishness was part of human nature but morally abhorrent and despised by God. Capitalist libertarianism was the first philosophy I encountered that said it was okay to have and act upon self-interest. I loved the idea that I didn’t need to hate myself every waking moment for wanting good food and sex and vacations and books and games. So for a while capitalist libertarianism was my salvation.

    But over time I realized that the biggest factor in economic success in a capitalist society is luck, and using luck to determine who thrives and who starves is immoral.

    All libertarians agree to the individual right to private property. The dispute is over ownership of the means of production – the factory, the restaurant, the hotel, the hospital. Capitalist libertarians believe one person or group can own those things and derive profit (means to obtain additional shares in means of production). Socialist libertarians do not, they believe all people working on some form of production have an equal say in the distribution of profit from it, the organization of labor, and so forth.

    • Ok, but economies tend to collapse under the system where its been tried. Because the wealth moves to the top 1% (as is happening here as we have become more and more libertarian since the Reagan revolution). Also see Pinochet in Chile or the World Bank and IMF pressuring countries to take on libertarian policies — and seeing their economies subsequently collapse.

      Why does this happen? With no redistribution of wealth the powerful become even more powerful and can force people to take no more than subsistence wages (in the US it’s called union busting and “Right to work [for less]”) leaving workers with little money in their pockets. Sales and profits fall and the spiral continues downward.

      Also the disbelief in public education means we have no educated workforce and difficulty with entrepreneurship since people aren’t educated enough to create their own successful businesses.

    • “But over time I realized that the biggest factor in economic success in a capitalist society is luck, and using luck to determine who thrives and who starves is immoral.”

      This is totally false.

      You would have me believe that education, talent, skill, intelligence, business savvy, etc are all irrelevant to success?

      • You mean the education I was lucky enough that my parents paid for, the talent I was lucky enough to inherit from my parents, the skill I learned from people I was lucky enough to meet, the intelligence I was lucky enough to inherit from my parents, the business savvy I learned from meeting the right mentors, and above all the tremendous luck that had me born in a middle class section of the United States instead of a poverty zone are irrelevant?

        If there are ten factors that influence economic success, luck is the first nine and hard work is the tenth. The libertarian and conservative fantasy is that the overwhelming majority of people struggling with money failed at hard work. The reality is that the overwhelming majority failed at luck.

      • Mike, luck is not a thing. It’s nothing. When you say luck is the cause of something, it’s a lazy way of saying you haven’t put in the energy to find the real cause. If luck was a cause of anything, I would ask you to produce evidence of the existence of this mechanism so we could examine it, and see how it works. But we can’t, because it’s shorthand for “I’m too lazy to understand”.

      • “If there are ten factors that influence economic success, luck is the first nine and hard work is the tenth.”

        BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        You people on left believe in the victimization crap. I went to several top-tier universities, including Vanderbilt. That was NOT luck. As a high school student I spent many hours reading and doing my homework. My parents (not single parent) taught us the importance of education and disciple. That is NOT luck.

        In college and graduate school I did the same. Lots of study. I had NO mentor. Yet, I was able to do well in life. I am Black and have earned my way with savvy, persistence, intelligence, great education, and hard work.

        I am neither special nor lucky. This is happening every day in America.

        So, is every American in college lucky? What about Asian-Americans who have the highest SAT scores (so much so that Harvard penalizes them on admissions) and highest annual incomes? Are they luck too?

        Are the immigrants, including illegals, lucky too when they come to America and within one generation or less become middle class? NO they are highly motivated, study hard, work hard, and sacrifice. IT IS NOT LUCK!

      • The main way that luck figures in is that rich people have a difficult time failing and people in poverty can have a difficult time succeeding.

        George W. Bush had several businesses fail but his rich and powerful father had connections that helped him get back on his feet every time. And he never would have been president without his father having been president. Donald Trump inherited millions of dollars which helped him greatly to succeed.

        But children who are so poor that they are hungry and lack medical care have a difficult time attending or focusing in school. They may be sick a lot or lack eyeglasses to read. A local teacher said that he can always tell the hungry students because they have such a hard time focusing. It’s not their fault they don’t have food. And if you don’t have food at a very young age your brain never forms properly.

        Studies have found that when poor children get food and medical care they are much more likely to graduate from high school and go to college and get good jobs. The ones who don’t are more likely to have children at a young age and continue the cycle of poverty or turn to crime which costs the rest of us a lot of money in police, courts and prisons. For every dollar we spend on early childhood education we save $7 on the other end.

        But libertarians don’t believe in making sure that poor children have food and medical care or even public education.

        Countries that go libertarian find their economies collapsing.

  3. You’re mischaractising the argument as about the rich paying tax. Almost everybody pays tax. Working class people pay tax. They do it at the point of a gun, in that if you don’t pay you will be jailed. This is violence. And working to pay your tax is an imposition on the freedom of you’re bodily integrity. People are damaged by their work, not just through injuries, but through the wear and tear of time. We are conditioned to accept it, just like women in certain cultures are conditioned to give up sex on demand. That’s the philosophical argument, which you’ve not really interacted with. You’ve advocated here making it criminal for men to pay for sex with consenting women..

    • I’m not mischaracterizing the argument at all. I clarified that what you said IS his argument. And that this argument lacks empathy.

      Yes, we all pay taxes. But being forced to pay taxes doesn’t come close to the violence and hurt of experiencing sexual assault. If you were raped that would be far, far worse than paying taxes.

      And there’s a big difference between selling sex and sexual assault — so long as the seller is freely selling.

    • Of course, this point comes up every time libertarianism is discussed. The law and courts protect property rights for citizens. The police enforce those laws. Every citizen benefits. Further, the roads, the air and water without poisons and chemicals, communication standards, and so forth – all run by the government and funded by taxes.

      And there’s no realistic way to refuse. You can’t say, “I live in Kansas but I want no part in this. So I won’t pay taxes, and in turn I won’t use any American roads, do business inside US borders, breathe the air here, drink the water, accept police protection, communicate by phone, radio, or internet, or buy or consume any food whose safety has been guaranteed by the FDA.”

      Now we must discuss and debate what the government handles and what it does not. I have plenty of problems with US law and US government activities. But the argument that taxes are violence is ludicrous.

      • The law and courts protect property rights for citizens. The police enforce those laws.

        Interestingly, these seem to be among the few government functions that libertarians, as a whole, are happy to leave in the hands of government. After all, their precious “property rights” (about the only thing they seem to hold sacred) can’t be protected in the absence of a functional police force (or as a certain Kim Stanley Robinson put it, “That’s libertarians for you – anarchists who want police protection from their slaves”)!

  4. Yes it does lack empathy. Look whose back for moment with the blogs ha

    • Good to hear from you. I guess we’re both taking a break. I’m down to about once a month or less.

      But I do plan to post something by you in June 🙂

      • Yeah I haven’t posted in a while because I haven’t seen you post in awhile. Hmm, a post by me, that has me curios. I remember some stuff I brought up in the past that you like. I’m wondering there was a one in relation to gangland and clips I brought up and you like that. Is it that or something else I talked about before?

      • It’s a comment you wrote that I turned into a post. If you will comment on some much earlier post I’ll send you the draft I edited.(I don’t want to write it here because then everyone will see it as a comment just before I post it.)

        I could also send you what you wrote about gangland — I don’t have time to do a lot of writing maybe you could read through the material and basically let me know what you would like to communicate and I can edit it and post it with you as author.

  5. That feels like an incredibly irresponsible argument to make, even in theory. Money and bodies are not the same. And we are ‘forced’ to pay taxes as a sort of rent in exchange for being citizens of a certain country, and that country then provides its citizens with services, like protections, infrastructure, health care, education, etc etc.

    • Exactly. When you pay taxes you get a lot out of it. Countries that don’t pay taxes end up collapsing. That’s not good for anyone.

    • I think my high school economics teacher put it best when he said that although only a fool enjoys paying them, taxes are very much necessary for a functional society (another thing he taught us which I think is very true is that there are some services that the government simply does a better job of providing than private enterprise, and that the best-run economies are “mixed” ones ie ones in which both the government and free market are involved in the running of the economy).

      One workaround I’ve seen a lot of libertarians suggest for keeping society running while abolishing most, if not all, taxation is private charity, which always makes me roll my eyes. Not only is charity alone woefully inadequate at helping all those in need and keeping society running, but I seriously doubt that the average libertarian, who seems to see selfishness as one of the supreme virtues, donates much to charity anyway! On a related note, one of the more peculiar creatures I’ve seen online (and surprisingly often too!) is the libertarian who also happens to be a Christian fundamentalist. This is particularly weird because these individuals tend to simultaneously believe that “the human heart is wicked in all things” (or somesuch codswallop), and that government is largely unnecessary because people in general can be relied upon to help the needy through charity (presumably through the goodness of their hearts that you’ve just said is non-existent!).. I always wonder how they manage to deal with that particular bit of cognitive dissonance!

  6. It’s a comment you wrote that I turned into a post. If you will comment on some much earlier post I’ll send you the draft I edited.(I don’t want to write it here because then everyone will see it as a comment just before I post it.)”

    thanks, and no problem, will do

  7. Such an odd… and dangerous idea. You are rigor, the happiest countries are those ones were women are not forced to have sex if they don’ t want to. This means that they are respected and not considered sexual objects… hence, sex is just not merely sex… it is a whole complex issue which involves the place women are given in a specific society as well and among other things
    What happens in Toronto was awful and the explanations behind it are as irrational as the attack itself. Such an extraordinary thing would’t be a pretext for such general statements, in any way…all the best to you, dear Georgia 😊👍

    • If women were forced to have sex can you imagine the trauma our mothers would be in? Or daughters and sisters? And potential spouses? With all the PTSD, this insane notion wouldn’t be good for men either.

      • I remember once coming upon an exceedingly creepy suggestion by some guy who said that male bosses had a perfect right to expect sex from their female employees, and that the only way those employees should be allowed to refuse it would be if their employment contracts specifically stated that they didn’t have to have sex with their boss! The guy who made this suggestion (some Norwegian incel-type called Eivind Berge, who, judging from other things I’ve heard about him, seems set to become the next Anders Breivik) did so on a blog not renowned for its feminist sympathies, and even the other commenters all thought he was nuts! While I don’t know if he was a libertarian, his suggestion does seem rather libertarian in nature in that it seems to assume all transactions between employers and workers are perfectly voluntary and consensual, and that no-one ever agrees to be exploited in the workplace because they’re too hungry and desperate to leave a bad job.

      • You make some really good points.

  8. I just read this article. I did not see where the author is advocating violence against women. Actually, he notes that often a threat of violence has moved society to address say income equality etc.

    His piece seems to focus on the incel issue with men. These men, in a few instances, have used violence the result of their sexual frustration. Clearly most of society, including the author Robin Hanson, do NOT advocate such.

    How can one redistribute sex? Simple. Create an incentive (subsidy) for women to have sex with these incels. Those women who wish to partake would receive $$$$ subsidies. It is strictly voluntary. No rape. No violence.

    Of course this will (and should not) ever happen.

    Frankly, in 2018 I cannot grasp why a man is not able to get sex (unless he is married). Outside of being married (read emasculated), a single man today has tons of opportunities for sex. Maybe the sex is not with the most attractive women. But, if you are that desperate to get laid, then don’t be so picky. Just find a woman who wants to have sex with you…..They are not hard to find.

    • Well we already have that financial incentive. It’s called prostitution. It’s just that most women aren’t interested in having sex for money. But like you said there’s no reason that a man can’t get sex. Prostitutes are already available.

      Otherwise, his piece sounds like he is advocating terrorism toward women. Women risk being murdered or raped if they don’t give sex, even if they don’t want to have it.

      Of course I actually don’t think he is serious. I think he is empathy-challenged. Trying to provoke empathy for rich people who get taxed so that the rest of us can get Social Security, Medicare, etc. Even though the billionaires who are funding this guy wouldn’t live their lives any differently if they got their tax money back. But those who would be without Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid would be suffering mightily.

  9. While I’ll admit there were times when I was almost seduced by libertarianism (largely because of its opposition to such things as the idiotic War on Drugs), I ended up being turned off it when I realized that its underlying philosophy essentially boiled down to: “Power in the hands of government – BAD! That same power in the hands of large, faceless corporations with even less accountability to those they screw over than the government – GOOD!” (or alternatively, “The government doesn’t have the right to tell you how to live your life, but your employer sure does!”). Right now in my country, we have a government that seems intent on giving us all the bad bits of libertarianism (ie unfettered freedom for the almighty MARKET (all praise its glorious name, and blessed be its infallible decisions!) to treat the majority of the population as little more than slaves) and none of the (few) good bits (such as getting the government to butt out of its subjects’ private lives). Usually the people who espouse that particularly ghastly ideology here describe themselves as “socially conservative and economically liberal” (blech), even though, when you think about it, social conservatism and economic liberalism are incompatible in a lot of ways.

  10. I tried to attach this to Huggy Bear’s response to me, but I don’t see how.

    @Huggy Bear, you wrote: ” My parents (not single parent) taught us the importance of education and disciple. That is NOT luck. ”

    It’s not luck, really? So you chose the womb you came from, and knew enough as a prior-to-zygote entity to select one with two people that would instill the value of education and discipline in you? Well, good for you.

    I got parents that taught me the value of education and discipline too. But believe it or not, I don’t get any credit for picking them. I don’t get any credit for the fact that they made sure I did my homework. Or that they could afford to live in a good school district with good teachers and a low crime rate. Or that my dad was a mathematician and could tutor me in calculus. Or that I got plenty of food as a kid.

    That was all luck.

    And the biggest luck of all is that I didn’t develop a chronic disease like my brother and end up unable to hold a job. And that I didn’t develop brain cancer as a preschooler and die like my cousin.

    Luck, luck, luck, luck, luck. All luck. Yes I work hard. I busted my behind in college and I push myself at work. But luck is still a million times more important, and there are tens of millions of people in this country that work harder than I ever have and are still financially wrecked – or dead.

  11. As the author notes in this piece, libertarians tend to have viewpoints that diverge greatly from liberals, most especially in regards to their rejection of the idea the one person’s needs should always be addressed and met by others–an idea that has been assigned the colloquial term “negative liberty”. 

    I think when people have a very literal interpretation of a traditional ideology like libertarianism, they fail to realize that certain principles of said ideology cannot be as simply translated into every aspect of life, especially one as controversial and sensitive as sexual and marital abuse. For instance, I’ll cite a very disturbing line from his trashy thinkpiece:

    “One might plausibly argue that those with much less access to sex suffer to a similar degree as those with low income, and might similarly hope to gain from organizing around this identity, to lobby for redistribution along this axis and to at least implicitly threaten violence if their demands are not met.”

    This passage is alarming for a number of reasons, but most especially because it equates inherent inequalities that perpetuate the cycle of poverty for many people with often justifiable involuntary celibacy. One thing that I’ve learned from the “incel” fiasco that has been around since the mass shooting at UCSB carried out by Elliot Roger is that incel culture comes from a background of entitlement to sex and to women’s bodies. Whereas allowing economic strife to prevail among the masses is what many would justly argue to be a lack of basic human regard. Incels may provide no valid justification for feeling that they deserve sex, or even why they believe that “sex inequality” is real in the context of involuntary celibacy. 

    • Ok. But “the idea the one person’s needs should always be addressed and met by others” doesn’t fit any ideology but communism, which is very different from liberals.

      And if you look at the most powerful libertarians, Like the Koch bros, who have tremendous effect on American policy these days, they don’t believe in the government being involved in pretty much any part of our lives. No public education (primary, early childhood, community and state colleges…), no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid… No environmental or consumer protections… No civil rights legislation…

      The only people left with any freedom are the wealthy.

  12. Unfortunately, Professor Hanson’s words play into the mindset that sexual acts are a “currency” women are supposed to give men — that sex is “debt” women must pay men, their “collectors”. As it stands, paying taxes is something ALL citizens of a nation must do, privileged or not; rich people are just demanded more because they have more to account for. Women, on the other hand, are not human flesh banks; they do not have millions of sex coins in their possession that they need to report to IRS. But it speaks volumes that women would be so easily disregarded as objects — worse that they’re used to represent an evidently privileged group in society — and having sexuality used against them. This misogynistic point of view, where women in one’s eyes can only have worth as sexual objects and otherwise incapable of offering anything else, remains prevalent even in these modern times.

  13. Zhanara Baisalova

    Can We Redistribute Sex Like We Redistribute Wealth?
    I totally agree withe last comment above by K W which was posted on May 30,2018 at 11:56.
    As a young female it is very frustrating to encounter something like this. Moreover to be compared to some sort of currency.
    The world has a lot of issues on different levels and linking one with another never helps to solve either one. Sex is a physiological/chemical act and only then comes the rest. It is not about giving and being in debt or feeling pressured to give. It is a natural mutual desire between two, not a trade.Since society hasn’t found any other ways to attract the attention to economy the article above explains itself in many ways.Unfortunately, sex sells and as we know it usually includes females and people who are involving female crowd to deliver their economical message are the ones who are not women themselves or simply are not from this planet.
    At the end of the day, we live in 21st century where people are becoming more self oriented/independent which has its own pros and cons.However, when it comes to sex, why the females are the ones who should in charge or be represented as they are?!

  14. The topic of the article got me curious, it is an interesting way of thinking about redistribution.
    I wasn’t surprised that it was a man scientist who came up with this ridiculous question. A woman should never be forced or even threatened by the man if she is not interested in having anything sexual with him. It is not the same and cant be the same as wealth or taxes. There are men who would be forcing women of course, but those are just uneducated criminals or just mentally unstable.
    You can have a happy life if you force yourself on working but not someone else.
    I loved this quote, “The redistribution of wealth leaves the rich with less money, but women cannot be left with less sex if they’re forced to give sex to men.” Wealth, taxes, laws, etc all that can be involved in science, calculation and forcing it to change. But it is just ridiculous to think the same way about women’s wish to have sex. this is not under science or men control

  15. This comparison between the redistribution of wealth and the redistribution of sex specifically targeting women is yet another classic example of the detachment men have from women. Often men in powerful roles have an open mic to say anything about women and offer degrading comparisons with no consequences. This shows the lack of knowledge and empathy for women and their experiences. One of the hardest things in this world is being a woman because as a woman you have to work twice as hard and be twice as good as a male counterpart because of the patriarchal society we live in. In this specific example, the wealthy should not be punished and pay more taxes such as women should not be punished for lot giving up sex but on what plane are those two different concepts acceptable for metaphor. Talking about sexual aspect of women should be up to the woman and not up to her partner or a male who does not understand then plight of women.

  16. Julissa Avila-Corona

    Wow, to me, I feel like this is a really senseless thing to say. Its a lazy comparison. Yes, there might be a **brief** connection between the two, but that does not make it okay for someone to say something like this. Maybe the professor did it for a reaction, or he knew saying what he said would garner attention and people would listen to him more.

    Regardless, my first issue is why does it need to be the man that has the power to commit violence if sex demands are not met? Why can’t a women have the right to those same demands? This shows he already views the man as the superior in a relationship between a man and a woman.

    In terms of the actual redistribution of wealth, our 1% gap is only getting worst, and the gap will continue to grow if something does not change. For example, the Koch brothers will be receiving a $1.4 billion tax break this year due to the tax cuts and a new ‘estate tax’ law. This is for people who have a combined net worth of almost $100 billion. (From what we know of) They do not need these handouts, but when people like this professor try and make light of the situation, it definitely does not help us.

    • My sense of morality is based on harm. If it’s harming someone, don’t do it. And if both people are being harmed either way, Who is more harmed?

      On the sex issue men can always get prostitutes, Or find someone to have sex with them — the guys who are incels typically have a double standard, They want to have sex with someone who’s more attractive than they are but don’t want to have sex with someone who is less attractive than they are.

      On the tax issue wealthy people may be forced to pay taxes so that a hungry child can eat and not be forced to die, or get medical attention and not be forced to die. Most of the wealthy republican donors who are so upset about being forced to pay taxes are so wealthy that they won’t even notice a lack of funds. They will go on living their lives exactly as they had, Taxes or not, but a child will live and thrive.

  17. This post does not seem to have a full purpose or point in my opinion. It proposes the idea that women should be violently treated if they do not fulfill a mans sexual desires just as the wealthy class should not be forced to give up money via tax? Or is it that women should just simply be punished violently for not obeying their male partners sexual commands disregarding any analogy, metaphor, etc? With regards to the wealthy class not giving up money, we can see how the analogy would make some sense. Most wealthy class people happen to be men (no coincidence) and these are the people that assert the dominance and power over those less wealthy than they. Women, unfortunately, are not always the one to be the wealth holder and have it very hard for them because they must work way harder than the male counter part. To talk about it from a sexual aspect, however, is a bit extreme.

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