Socialism Kills Your Sex Life

A few years ago the New York Times published an article claiming that women who lived under communism in East Germany reported more sexual satisfaction than their capitalist counterparts in West Germany. The study, which found that women behind the Iron Curtain reported more orgasms, was used to suggest that communism benefits women in terms of their sex life.

I wrote a response to that piece, pointing out how sex under former communist regimes was far from wonderful. Under Nicolae Ceausescu, for example, unmarried Romanians over age 25 were fined. Without access to birth control, the number of illegal abortions spiked. I also posited that maybe people had more sex in East Germany because they lacked other alternative activities as a means of bonding with their partners or for recreation. (Even if the sex is bad, the law of large numbers would work in their favor.)

We now have another data point for our analysis—Venezuela. Sorry for those expecting some sexy socialist utopia, but unless your kink is hunger and unplanned pregnancies, it doesn’t look good.

In a country dominated by price controls, runaway inflation, and other nightmarish economic policies, it should come as no surprise that all kinds of goods are in short supply. Birth control is no exception. When things like condoms or intrauterine devices (IUDs) can be found, they’re often unaffordable.

A pack of three condoms, for example, costs $4.40—three times the monthly minimum wage. Oral contraceptives cost $11. An IUD costs $40, not including the fee to have a doctor place it. According to one report, the lack of access and high costs put birth control out of reach for about 90 percent of the population.

Many women turn to the black market to meet their family-planning needs, only to find that the items they’ve bought are not what they were promised. Those pills that were supposed to prevent pregnancy sometimes turn out to be no more than sugar pills.

The results are not surprising. Women in Venezuela are experiencing a surge in unplanned pregnancies during a time when they can barely afford to feed themselves and their existing children. Many are turning to illegal abortions as a result, with sometimes fatal consequences. Maternal fatalities have increased from 113 per 100,000 live births in 2014 to 127 per 100,000 live births in 2017, according to the World Health Organization. After declining for decades, infant mortality has also increased. While some 14.7 infants per 1,000 live births would die in 2010, that number is now 21 deaths per 1,000 live births. Suicide rates have also spiked.

I’d be curious to know what the author of the original Times article would have to say about the current state of reproductive health in Venezuela. Far from the equality that was promised under the late Hugo Chávez and the current Nicolás Maduro regime, women in Venezuela are undoubtedly suffering. When offered the choice between more orgasms or more condoms, I think I know what Venezuelan women would choose.

Abigail R. Hall is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and an Associate Professor of Economics at Sykes College of Business at the University of Tampa.
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