Want stimulation? Try the condom economy

Economists must be pleased. A boom in safe sex is a clearly rational response to current market conditions.

By Andrew Leonard

Published February 12, 2009 6:13PM (EST)

Yesterday Salon's Broadsheet pointed to polling data published at The Daily Beast suggesting that the down economy isn't all that rousing for American sex lives.

And although nearly half of Americans believe that sex helps them take their mind off of their problems, the economic crisis has not piqued much interest in one of the world's least-expensive activities. Only 13 percent of those surveyed say they will have sex more often this year compared to last, one in two are planning to be more cautious about who they sleep with, and 20 percent are consciously upping their safe-sex practices to avoid having children.

Polling data on sexual issues has never struck me as particularly reliable, but according to a report published in USA Today on Wednesday, "sales of condoms in the U.S. rose 5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, and 6 percent in January vs. the same time periods the previous year." So we do have hard data suggesting that safe-sex is more popular during a contracting economy. Whether that means people are having more sex than normal or are just more scared about potential parent-hood, I'm still not sure.

But as someone who has been known to make fun of economist assumptions about human beings as rational actors, I must concede that an upsurge in condom sales does provide some support for their models. And it stands to reason: Who doesn't think about the cost of a four-year college education before, as Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing at Trojan, likes to say, making some "great memories" with your partner?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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