A misero prezzo tu, a me una vita, io, a te chieggo un istante!

Daniel Kruger of the University of Michigan School of Public Health has been asking some rather personal questions of 475 U-M students, and the result is a paper in this month’s Evolutionary Psychology called “Young Adults Attempt Exchanges in Reproductively Relevant Currencies.” Does that vaguely euphemistic phrase mean what you think it means? From the abstract:

Adults in many species exhibit exchanges in reproductively relevant currencies, where males trade resources for sexual relations with females, and females have sex with males in exchange for provisioning…. The current study investigated whether young adults who are not in acute need of resources intentionally attempt reproductive currency exchanges outside of dating relationships or formal committed relationships such as marriage; and whether young adults have awareness of being the target of such attempts made by others.

The answer: yes and sometimes—not really all that surprising, given the college-student demographic sample, but Kruger’s trying to make the point that such behavior is an evolutionary holdover from societal situations where such exchanges were life-or-death transactions. Nevertheless, like a lot of academic study these days, the really important information has been relegated to the press release:

Overall, the strategy of attempting to exchange investment for sex is only successful about 25 percent of the time, the paper found. Some of the attempted trades included: tickets to the U-M versus Ohio State game; studying assistance; laundry washed; a Louis Vuitton bag; and voice lessons among other things.

Voice lessons? Apparently, I went to the wrong school. There’s no indication whether such instruction was bait or prize, although the discovery that voice teachers accepted anything other than legal tender would, I suppose, be scientifically significant on its own. (Accordion lessons? Pure catnip.)

The paper itself includes this deadpan gem:

The low success rate of exchange attempts may indicate that such explicit offers are not usually an effective strategy. On average respondents reported initiating more exchange attempts than receiving offers of exchanges. Although the sample does not represent a closed population, this finding suggests that respondents were less aware of others’ exchange attempts than they were aware of their own. It is also possible that females receive so many male solicitations on a continual basis that many incidents are easily forgettable. [emphasis added]

Hey, Scarpia—line forms to the right.


  1. <>…only successful about 25 percent of the time…<><> The low success rate of exchange attempts may indicate…<>Judging from my own experience I would say a 25% success rate is astronomically high. That’s 4 loads of laundry per success. Who is this Daniel Kruger for whom 25% is below his normal batting average?

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