Money Makes a Fine Aphrodisiac

When you combine sex and money, there is always a big bang at the end. Both are powerful elixirs, and together they create a bigger mess than the sum of their parts. There were at least two high-profile big-money divorces in the past year. The union of hard-headed Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 82, and his sizzling third wife businesswoman, Wendi Deng Murdoch, 44, was rent asunder with an elegant whimper; the pre- and post-nups held water, and the top-secret settlement was sealed with lukewarm handshakes. No blood spilled but plenty of money solved that problem for Murdoch.

Meanwhile, the union of hot-headed ad man and art collector Charles Saatchi, 70, and his sizzling third wife, TV chef Nigella Lawson, 53, exploded in a tabloid fury amid allegations of battery and drugs with some below-stairs pilfering mixed in. The price of ending that once-steamy relationship is a public spanking for both parties.

Yes, the smell of greenbacks in the morning is a powerful aphrodisiac. Best said by American humorist P.J. O’Rourke: “There are a number of mechanical devices, which increase sexual arousal, particularly in women. Chief among these is the Mercedes-Benz 380SL convertible.” Though I prefer the moral lesson at the end of Steve Martin’s poignant Shopgirl. In the movie version of his novella, the romantic lead played by then 60-year-old Martin is a successful businessman who offers the melancholic 20-something glove salesperson slash artist, played by Claire Danes, his wallet but not his heart. She chooses love over unlimited Armani and winds up with the other guy.

But there is new research that shows we can hope for a happy ending, that sex can actually bring money. Headlines this past summer read: “People who have sex more than four times a week make more money.” This from a paper prepared by a Greek economist named Nick Drydakis at the Germany-based Institute for the Study of Labor. The takeaway on the study is that sex has a positive impact on health and happiness. Healthy, happy people tend to perform better at work and earn more money.

Drydakis notes the possibility that findings are affected by the fact that people who are wealthy are more desirable on the dating market. But I can tell you, from some hard-won insights through personal investigations into this phenomenon, that – just as Deng Murdoch and Lawson found – there are downsides to rich mates that can outweigh the five-star lifestyle. Nothing in life is free, baby, and when there is an inequality between partners in net worth, you have to work very hard to make sure you remain equals when the designer clothes come off.

More germane to the intimate lives of us non-moguls is the prickly fact of money and its uncomfortable role in a sexual relationship. When courting, everyone’s wallet gets a workout. You spring for flowers to her office, buy a spiffy new date jacket and book the restaurant with the valet parking (and you get your car washed specially). Or you spend a week’s salary on slinky lingerie. That hopeful first rush of lust makes us all big shots.

Of course, it follows that when rush settles into routine, spreading those bills over the sheets makes for lousy foreplay.

As a male confidante told me recently, it is good business to dispense with all outstanding financial issues before you climb into bed with your partner. Married or not, money is always a hobgoblin. “If we haven’t addressed the overdraft,” says my pal, “let’s just say I feel disinclined to closeness.”

So yes, even as the oysters, champagne and little boxes with shiny big surprises will cause an amorous waxing, so too will the subsequent Visa bill cause a waning of desire.
The bottom line is that if you keep your bottom line healthy, then your sex life is more likely to follow suit.

Leanne Delap is a freelance journalist who writes about fashion and lifestyle.