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Mar. 25 2010 - 11:41 pm | 572 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Why No Sex Prizes?

OSLO, NORWAY - DECEMBER 10:  A plaque depictin...

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Robin Hanson over at Overcoming Bias has a question:

Many organizations say their purpose is to do good.  Many of these do good by trying to entice other people to do good.  And some of these organizations entice by offering prizes and awards; they commit ahead of time to giving cash or attention to those who achieve particular things, or to those chosen by some committee as the best in a category.

People also do a very wide range of things to support their causes.  They sacrifice cash, attention, time, status, and comfort.  They suffer dirt, ridicule, exhaustion, and risks of death.  They forgo desired careers, homes, friends.  Some are willing to be seen naked, or to withhold sex from specified disapproved folks.  Some are even willing to hurt or kill other folks.

But to my knowledge, no (non-prostitute) group has ever explicitly offered sex as a prize or reward for doing good.  Any group that declared a regular public sex prize would no doubt get lots of publicity, they wouldn’t violate any laws, nor pay much beyond the sex itself, and yet no one has done this.  Why?

Neuroworld, of course, has previously made the argument that much charity is already an indirect pursuit of sex. So, what’s the difference? Hanson proposes “we accept something close to a moral principle that one’s subconscious must always have the option to veto sex.”

Aside from the whole it-would-sort-of-be-like-prostitution problem, I think a relevant factor is that we rarely like to make the implicit explicit. The rich old guy who has a hot young 20-something-year-old on his arm doesn’t want to explicitly believe he’s a walking ATM (who secretly physically repulses the hot young thing). Likewise, “prize sex” would be … awkward?


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    I'm a freelance writer and blogger based in Brooklyn, NY. My background is mostly in politics. I've worked on the editorial boards of the New York Sun and New York Post. In 2006, I wrote a book, "The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians, and the Battle to Control the Republican Party" (Wiley). I've also done my share of freelancing, for places like the Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Reason, and RealClearPolitics.

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