Wife or whore? It's as simple as that according to an economic analysis in Forbes online. : Two well-respected economists created a minor stir in academic circles a few years back when they published "A Theory of Prostitution" in the Journal of Political Economy. The paper was remarkable not only for being accepted by a major journal but also because it considered wives and whores as economic "goods" that can be substituted for each other. Men buy, women sell.
To be fair, economists Edlund and Korn admit that spouses and streetwalkers aren't exactly alike: a key differentiator in Edlund and Korn's model is reproductive sex. Wives can offer it, whores can not.
Just gives you sort of a warm, fuzzy feeling, doesn't it? Reminds me of J. G. Raymond's essay on women as reproductive conduits and incidental incubators.
[thanks Sean Philpott for bringing this article to our attention]