Free Sex? The Unintended Cost of the Pill

While the western world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the pill, an American economist, Timothy Reichert*, using simple but powerful competition theory, is questioning its benefit to women.

The Mating Market

The theory goes thus: There used to be just one ‘mating market’. If a person wanted sex, it was readily available in marriage and was socially discouraged and proportionally rare outside marriage. Thus sex and marriage were united in a single ‘mating market’ and, because there are roughly equal numbers of men and women, this was a ‘balanced market’ and hence, equally fair to both sexes.

The Sex Market

With the advent of oral contraception and the sexual revolution, the mating market was fractured.  Sex became widely available outside marriage and, as a result, we now have two markets: the ‘sex market’ and the ‘marriage market’. While men and women typically enter the sex market at the same rate, due to the threat of declining fertility, women tend to enter the marriage market earlier than men, creating an oversupply of women in the marriage market. As every economist knows, imbalances in supply and demand cause an imbalance in power… and, in this case, women are the clear losers.

A Disadvantage to Women

Competition in the marriage market, where older (financially successful) men favour young, more fertile women, becomes increasingly brutal the longer a woman inhabits this market looking for a husband. In contrast, by delaying entry into the marriage market, men gain a competitive edge as they amass more financial resources.  Unlike women, they can enter the marriage market later and populate it longer with little cost, as their fertility has more longevity and they do not have to forgo sex in the meantime. It’s a classic win/lose scenario.

Pill Myth Uncovered

The Pill and its associated ‘reproductive rights’ have been welcomed by many as instrumental in emancipating women. Yet Reichert’s ‘market analysis’ calls into question whether it has really liberated women or merely enslaved them to a different master. Free sex?… if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.


* Timothy Reichert, “Bitter Pill”, First Things, April, 2010


Discern the Right Path


About the Author:

Francine & Byron Pirola
Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders and principal authors of the SmartLoving series. They are passionate about living Catholic marriage to the full and helping couples reach their marital potential. They have been married since 1988 and have five children. Their articles may be reproduced for non commercial purposes with appropriate acknowledgement and back links.


  1. Daniel P. Eberhardy April 15, 2013 at 4:41 am - Reply

    This article gives some fresh insights, and I have some other insights to add. To marry properly is to become a sexual priest for life, offering oneself as a sacrificial victim to one’s spouse, letting oneself stripped of protection against invasions and hurts, subjecting oneself to self-emptying (expressed by physical nakedness, etc.), and offering to join genitals to generate (at least potentially) fresh human beings–a function sacred enough to call genitals “chalices.” Contraception vitiates this defenselessness by refusing to share one’s fertility, by defending oneself against children. A further point is that some contraceptives actually produce extremely early abortions. Yet another is that contraception and other marital corruptions (e.g., pornography, readily available divorce, illegitimate sex) act, not independently, but as accomplices, more or less as if themselves married together.

    • Francine & Byron Pirola
      Francine & Byron Pirola May 10, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comment Daniel – we always appreciate it when people give us feedback. You are tapping into some deep theology here.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.