Money can’t buy you love, said Charisse Jones in USA Today, which makes love the ideal recreation for these recessionary times. With most U.S. manufacturing sectors in abject free-fall, sales of one particular product—the humble condom—are up an impressive 6 percent from last year, as the economic implosion forces “millions of cash-strapped Americans to entertain themselves at home.” Not only is lovemaking a low-cost alternative to shopping or dining out, said Abby Ellin in The New York Times, it’s a source of emotional therapy. Some matchmaking agencies have seen a 40 percent spike in business in only the last four months, as hordes of previously freewheeling singles “seek the comfort of relationships during difficult times.” We may be facing the worst economic downturn in a century, but “isn’t it romantic?”
No, said William Saletan in Slate.com, financial insecurity is not romantic. The main purpose of a condom is not to facilitate lovemaking but to prevent conception—and the birth, nine months later, of another hungry mouth to feed. The uptick in condom sales likely has far more to do with Americans “controlling the family payroll” than with any nationwide epidemic of affection. In fact, said TheDailybeast.com in an editorial, our recent poll shows that American “romantic lives are undergoing a meltdown of their own.” Fully 25 percent said their relationship was suffering as a result of the downturn, with 21 percent saying they see themselves having less sex this year than last. Sex may indeed be “one of the world’s least expensive activities,” but if both parties have an icy fist of money worries clenched around their hearts, it’s not going to happen.
So which is it? said relationship psychologist Susan Quilliam in BBCnews.com. “Does the recession create lust—or sap it?” Some couples therapists say their patients are reporting an increased need for physical intimacy, but are finding it harder to get pleasure from the experience once it occurs. Even outside the bedroom, said psychologist Peter Collett in the London Times, “recessions are as damaging to people’s relationships as they are to the economy.” Economic stress makes partners “short-tempered and angry” with each other, which makes them even less likely to make love—and “it’s a pity.” Because sex, when it happens, really does reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve mood. More important, it “bonds people emotionally,” and at this moment in history we happen to need each other more than ever.