I'm going to get into terrible trouble from all sorts of people for this post, but I feel I should share it with you.
The other evening, we had some friends in who were talking about a friend of theirs ( Mr.X) who had dumped his wife in exchange for a much younger, but Korean version. When they had been introduced, the wife of our guests says, this Miss Korea 2005 had sat looking immaculate, answering her husband's every whim. Now our friend's wife said that the feeling had been that Miss Korea 2005 was being exploted by the husband, but further investigation showed this might not be the case. In fact, she travelled around in business class, she had a nanny to look after the children, she had money to buy what she wanted, and all she had to do was , er, service her husband. A form of prostitution? Well, yes, but what about the wife of the person she was visiting? She worked, bought the food, cooked it, looked largely like a worn out old sweater, had to drive the children all over the place - anyway you get the picture. Who is doing the most exploitation? The husband of the Scottish girl or the Korean?
Anyway, this set my economist instincts twitching. Mrs. Lear, when a student in Florence, had a friend who was male who used to ask the local prostitutes what they charged, and wrote the answers in a little book. I'm not sure quite why he was doing this, unless he was trying to get a freebie.
So lets start with a basic premise - suppose it costs £100 for a man to have sex. Now I know it can be much less or much more, but bear with me.
According to research, it's not the French or the Italians who have the most sex, but an average European 25-45 year old male has sex three times a week. Forget older and younger for the moment. So that would cost him £300 per week with a prostitute or say £15,000 a year.
If, on the other hand, he marries, the sex is free. Actually, in economic terms, it is not.
What is the cost of the house, the children etc etc - even if the wife works, the man has a cost which probably isn't a million miles away from the £15,000 postulated above.
Where his sex becomes really expensive, is if he gets a divorce, and has to hand over half his assets - driving up the economic cost per session enormously. A 45 year old divorcing and handing over eg £250,000 increases his costs to about £200 a time.
So my thoughts on the young man in Florence are that he had already glimpsed a potential Nobel Economics Prize-winning postulation - that it is cheaper to have sex than get a divorce.