The market for post-human sex at the ‘Porn Oscars’
Vegas, Baby — ‘Eggs are expensive, sperm are cheap.” That’s the plain-English approximation of Bateman’s principle, which holds that in a species with two sexes, the members of the sex that invests less biologically in reproduction will end up competing, sometimes ferociously, over the members of the sex that invests more. Because healthy men can in theory reproduce almost without limit while women are constrained by the number of pregnancies that they can take to term in a lifetime, women have a very strong incentive to be more selective about their sexual partners. In a 2004 paper under the forthright title “Sexual Economics: Sex as Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions,” two scholars from the University of British Columbia and Florida State took that insight and examined mating behavior through the lens of market competition. And if you doubt for one second that the pitiless laws of supply and demand provide an excellent explanation of human sexual behavior, then by all means make a reservation at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for the annual awards ceremony hosted by Adult Video News, a.k.a. the “Porn Oscars,” the most mercilessly Darwinian sexual marketplace you will find this side of Recife.
The awards show itself is almost an afterthought on the agenda of this multi-day pornopalooza, which is one part serious insider trade show for the nation’s increasingly specialized pornographers and sex-toy peddlers — Doctor Clockwork’s Home for Electrical and Medical Oddities draws a curious crowd, as do the live product demonstrations — and one part fan-fest for the world’s most dedicated consumers of smut, men who travel great distances and shell out hundreds of dollars in order to pack sweatily into crowded rooms and wait in line for autographs from their favorite performers, representing such powerhouses of porn as Evil Angel, Morally Corrupt, Brazzers, and dozens of others, while manufacturers of sundry sexual devices and what one entrepreneur refers to bluntly as “d**k pills” hawk their latest wares and potions at cheery display booths. It is raw consumerism, and there’s a kind of eerie symmetry at work: sex toys laid out in glass cases like jewelry at Tiffany’s, women displayed like flank steaks at Safeway. Bateman’s principle predicts that among primates like us, males will have a more lopsided distribution of sexual outcomes than will females: Basically all of the healthy females who survive to adulthood will have the opportunity to mate, but many of the males will be crowded out of the marketplace by a relatively small number of highly successful competitors — they just don’t have the biological capital to compete in the Hobbesian sexual war of all against all. The guys buying VIP passes here at the Porn Oscars, sitting slack-jawed at Sapphires Gentlemen’s Club as the performers swan through the crowd performing what is no doubt contractually required fan stroking, and then perhaps making a furtive or not-so-furtive trip down the highway to one of Nevada’s legal brothels: These frustrated, cow-eyed men are Bateman’s losers, and they are legion. The unkind industry term for them: trenchcoats.