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Rich people really are different

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, February 13, 2009 1:51 EDT
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I’m really having trouble believing this story in the Wall Street Journal. Oh, I believe that they could easily find 191 people with more than $20 million to their name that have extramarital lovers. And I believe that the dive in the stock market means that a lot of the men will be cutting back dramatically on the payments to their so-called lovers. (I don’t really see how someone can be your lover if they’re actually a prostitute. What’s with the euphemisms?) I even believe that 82% are committed to this frugality, though I don’t believe that 82% will stick to their vow. I believe that men who’ve had the same mistress for three years are more willing to cut payments in hopes of running her off so they can get some fresh meat. But what I don’t believe is that some sort of internal, inherent gender difference explains this:

Women were far more generous to their paramours in the face of financial crises. Less than 20% planned to lower allowances, gifts and perks, while more than half planned to raise them.

Though of course the huge difference was chalked up to inherent gender differences instead of structural issues.

Susan Shapiro Barash, who teaches gender studies at Marymount Manhattan College and wrote “Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets,” about why women lie, said women value their lovers more than men in a time of economic trouble. “For the women, lovers matter more than ever now because the rest of life is so dreary,” she said. “For the men, they’re just cutting across the board.”

So we’ve learned that sex work is not recession-proof, unless you’re a man. Figures. But I do not like this pat answer about why those who pay for love differ so wildly in the recession reactions by gender. In fact, when you get out of the class of the super-rich, you see that dating is on the rise across the board, so apparently non-wealthy men do not shrug off the need for the erotic connection so easily. I’m forced to conclude that the men and women on this survey are so very different because their situations are dramatically different. Perhaps women have a harder time scaring up sex for money, and are therefore less willing to reduce the compensation to their “lovers”, because it’s too much work to get another one. But for the men, the women are more interchangeable because there’s just a bigger pool to draw on. Or perhaps it’s something I’m not seeing. After all, I have absolutely no experience with wealth or with paying someone to play at being your lover. So there’s a lot I don’t know about this.

Theories, Pandagonians?

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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