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Social Exchange Analysis

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The main difference is that women’s motivation is to avoid having to give sex rather than to gain a higher price in exchange for sexual favors. We think several findings point to the relevance of exchange for other resources, such as the fact that women seem to relax their suppression of female sexuality when their economic opportunities increase. Still, we do not think that the evidence is thorough or powerful enough at present to reject this alternative explanation entirely. One may also suggest that insofar as the lesser sexual interest of women is relative rather than absolute, the discrepancy may be a matter of artificially heightened desire among men rather than artificially reduced desire among women. For example, McIntosh (1978) proposed…show more content…
If the goal is to obtain a high price for sex, then one might accomplish this either by restricting the supply or by stimulating higher demand. Still, we think some of the evidence points unmistakably toward suppression of female sexuality rather than stimulation of male sexuality. The gossip and bad reputation punishments meted out to sexually loose girls are clearly directed toward female targets. Likewise, the genital surgeries performed on some Islamic girls seem clearly designed to stifle female sexuality rather than to enhance male sexuality, especially because, as we noted, many men in those cultures oppose the practice and prefer genitally intact women. In sum, the social exchange theory can offer a full explanation of the findings, but the…show more content…
In the West, women have essentially all of the rights and opportunities of men and have vastly reduced the gap between themselves and men in power, status, money, and other resources. Hence, their need to rely on restricting sex to yield a favorable exchange is much lower than in the past, and so a return to the extensive suppression found in the past is unlikely. In other parts of the world, however, women remain at a much more substantial disadvantage in political and economic spheres, and hence the continued suppression of female sexuality in those places may be something women will perceive as needed. Although there are important moral arguments against subjecting infants and children to any surgery against their will (other than when life is at stake), Germain Greer (1999) and others have warned against imposing Western values on women in other cultures, including forcing them to relinquish sexual suppression. Sexual liberation without political and economic liberation could leave those women in an even weaker position in society. Before we predict the imminent demise of the cultural suppression of female sexuality, however, one may also consider that the advantages women accrue by restricting sex continue to be there for the taking, and Western women may rediscover that some degree of suppression of female sexuality
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