#3. Advertisements Get Nastier
During a bad economy, advertisers have figured out that the best marketing strategy is a big, fat "Fuck you."
Usually, there's a line drawn in the sand between competing companies that keeps everything fairly civil. Commercials tout how superior their product is without explicitly naming the competition. But when the economy tanks and times are tight, that line gets erased and all bets are off. Livelihoods are on the line, and they need to capture the consumer's attention by any means necessary, sometimes even using murder. So traditional "Our product is the best" advertising becomes the much more sordid "Everyone else's product is the worst, and they probably give you gonorrhea."
"I've just got the clap, but that Geico bitch has straight-up syphilis."
In January 2010, for instance, Unilever jumped in Smart Balance's throat with an advertisement in The New York Times that basically called Smart Balance a bullshit hack product. Weight Watchers and Nestle's Jenny Craig division have been publicly pile-driving each others' diet programs both in and out of court, what with the latter running TV ads that were pissing all over the former. And so on.
You may remember this Marine Corps TV spot from 2002. It featured a free climber in the desert scaling a vertical rock face. When he got to the top, it meant he was allowed to be a Marine. Sure, the commercial was a flimsy metaphor, but it was also pretty optimistic regarding the possibilities in military service:
Now compare that to the ad that debuted in 2009 that does everything it can to make the Marine Corps look like torture, stopping just short of calling you a pussy:
It's not like the Marines are competing with anyone. Well, their reason for nasty advertising is somehow even more dickish. They advertise that they don't need you. Military recruitment ads tend to evolve with the needs of the military itself, instead of the trends of the public. And since people join the army a lot more when times are tough, their ads also get tougher and more bile-inducingly realistic. Their recruitment market is pretty much saturated due to the job situation and they can afford to be picky. Or pricky.
#2. Romance Novel Sales Spike and Playboy Models Get Heavier
It's all about escapism. Or rather, a very specific brand of escapism that is specific to tough economic times.
Soft core porn, it turns out, is the cockroach of publications; it just won't die no matter what happens. Producers of porn are remarkably good at adapting to all circumstances, so when faced with a crisis as big as an economic meltdown, they have contingency plans already in place. All those Fabio-embossed paperback fantasy stories slip into plots that are a little more real, and Playboy starts featuring bunnies with a little more girth and years under their belt (assuming they're wearing belts).
Eh, close enough.
Let's start with the ladies: Romantic fiction has always been about providing affordably priced happy endings. And as lame as it may sound on paper, during tough times people are biting into it like there's no tomorrow. That's why instead of joining the slump that is the book industry during a recession, bodice-ripper novels enjoy a steady rise in sales. More importantly, the industry actively encourages buyers by setting the stories in more realistic circumstances ... at least, realistic in the context of absurd hump-fantasy. The publishers expand their offerings from the basic Ye Olde Timey Romance and Italian villa settings to stuff that speaks to the economically depressed reader, like The Heart Surgeon's Baby Surprise and, we shit you not, The Aristocrat and the Single Mom.
Romance novels tend to follow Snakes on a Plane-style self-explanatory titling.
Meanwhile, men also prefer a little more realism in their sexual fantasies when facing hardship. Sure, they're still reading their Playboy and doing some daydreaming of their own -- but instead of dreaming about that impossibly measured Playmate, research suggests that under economic duress, men prefer drooling over taller, older and more realistically proportioned Playmates. Indeed, Playmates of the Year during crappy fiscal years have been consistently older and heavier, with larger waists and waist-to-hip ratios than their good-economy counterparts.
Cynthia Wood in the 1974 recession, Donna Edmondson in 1987.
The researchers use this fact to support what they call the Environmental Security Hypothesis. It states that men who live in tough times prefer "women who are good at production, generally older, taller, heavier, less curvaceous women. In good times, they will prefer women who are good at reproduction, generally younger, shorter, lighter, more curvaceous women." Times will never be so tough that men stop masturbating to pictures of beautiful women, but it's kind of endearing to know that when the shit hits the windmill, guys fantasize about someone who's good with a shovel to help clean up the mess.
#1. Men Have More Affairs
You'd think that during times of economic distress, couples would stick together like glue, though admittedly sexless glue. After all, divorce is expensive, and if you're barely maintaining one household, splitting up would be like taking on yacht payments just as your unemployment runs out. Who has time to think about affairs when everything else is falling apart?
"Well, if this boat is getting seized, then I may as well rub my dick all over it."
Lots of us, apparently. Because both men and women are more likely to get their freak on outside the marriage during desperate times. The phenomenon is known as low survivability mode, and the logic behind it goes like this: When men are stressed, or their self-esteem is low, or they think things will never get better, they get super horny. It turns out there's this evolutionary push to spread those seeds as fast as we can when we think we're done for.
That's why you ejaculate when threatened.
And in case you assumed men were the only ones having affairs during recession, there's a spike in female infidelity as well. Everybody loses, and no one wins, except for maybe extramarital affair websites, and possibly seedy motel tycoons. Curiously, though, research suggests that all this extracurricular banging isn't doing as much damage as you might expect. Forty percent of couples reporting infidelity managed to stick out the marriage. Surely those people just don't have enough money for divorce though, right? Actually, no: "About 30 percent think [unfaithfulness] only caused temporary tension," according to Reuters.
Thanks, global recession!
For more signs that times are bad, check out 5 Bad Economic Indicators for the Criminally Insane. And learn how to keep more cash in your pocket by reading 10 Retarded Money Saving Tips (People Are Actually Trying).