"Market theory on sex" does not understand desire
Over half on HS panel felt that women do not have more sexual power than men
By Esa Mäkinen
Women do not have more sexual power than men, say 53 per cent of the members of a Helsingin Sanomat panel.
The question presented to the panel is based on an argument put forward in a book by Henry Laasanen on the "sexual power of women", according to which women hold the upper hand on the heterosexual coupling market.
As Laasanen sees it, women's sexual power imposes costs on men and confers unfair benefits to women.
Over one in four members of the panel did not take a definitive stand on the question, while 21 per cent agreed that women do have more sexual power, as Laasanen perceives it. However, many of those who answered in the affirmative still questioned the basic premises of Laasanen's theory.
"If we define sexual power in this way, then that is the case, but does that have any relevance?", asks editor Matti Kalliokoski.
He feels that the sexual market value theory put forward by Laasanen is one example of an easy concept produced by research - similar concepts include "emotional intelligence", "the end of history" and "the clash of civilisations".
"Scratch the surface and you'll get a well-written letter to the editor."
Researcher Anna Rotkirch, for her part, feels that Laasanen's work is moderate, and that its theoretical criticism targets social constructionism. She says that the arguments put forward in the book have been familiar to evolutionary biology for a long time.
"Among mammals, the female is the more selective gender in sexual relationships, and because the females have partly the same criteria for making choices, it follows that certain males get many females, and some are left with none."
Heikki Hiilamo, the director for diaconia and social responsibility for the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, feels that it is amazing that "some feminists who call themselves researchers continue to argue publicly that gender is purely a social construct, devoid of any biological foundation".
"This kind of misguidedness can also prevent, or dilute debate about sexual power", he says.
Musician Tommi Liimatta says that facts are not dependent on opinions.
"It is a fact that pussy makes even an organised world go around. You shouldn't need a reseracher to establish this fact."
Many of the respondents criticise Laasanen for not sufficiently taking female sexual desire into consideration.
"Don't women have any desire? Hello! And what's a coupling market? Something like a reindeer roundup?" asks author Riina Katajavuori.
"I certainly think that both genders want sex", says musician Steen1.
Paula Tuovinen, the director of the Theatre Academy of Finland, says that women are sex objects so often that the group of women who live in involuntary celibacy is a subject that has been hushed up.
"Women have desires too - both before and after the time that insemination has occurred."
Laasanen's theories are criticised as being one-sided.
"As is the case with market theories in general, the sexual market value theory is ideological wordmongering, which does not look beyond individual behaviour. Collectively, the sexuality of both is produced by a society governed by men, and reinforces its power structures", says Professor Martti Koskenniemi.
"Whose sexual power is it, when the presumed targets of the use of power - men - define which women have sexual power?" asks painter Silja Rantanen.
Male sexuality cannot be narrowed down to biology alone, says Professor Mikko Lehtonen.
"Laasanen's claim is dangerous, in my opinion, because it portrays men as creatures completely at the mercy of their own desires. The same kind of male or female image appears in arguments according to which women, with their sexy attire, somehow provoke, and in a way compel men to commit sex crimes", says Maija Vilkkumaa.
Author Johanna Sinisalo does not want to take a stand on the matter, because she feels that a more precise question would be "are men the helpless slaves of their own libidos?"
The question also raised emotions. Some questioned the very starting points of Laasanen's research.
"I am just amazed at the pitying concern of Laasanen and others toward men who ‘can't get a woman', as if everyone had some kind of a ‘right to have sex'. Yawn", says essay writer Antti Nylén.
"And that is truly, in the view of the researcher, a problem worthy of attention in today's society - a problem for which a societal solution should be found? Get a life", says Soila Lehtonen, editor-in-chief of the publication Books from Finland.
"What is completely weird is Laasanen's notion that only men have sexual desire! That women simply sell the goods, for which men incur expenses. Oh. Dear! Free brothels for these kinds of men, or inflatable women at state expense", says semiotician Vaula Norrena.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 28.3.2008