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Why Sex Will Be All About Pleasure Rather Than Procreation

We've all heard about China's one-child policy due to an overpopulation crisis the country had been facing for decades. This policy was controversial around the world, since it was seen as a restriction that attacked an individual’s right to decide over their family. Nonetheless, this wasn’t the most polemic part. For years there were several articles exposing how the policy had led many families to abandon baby girls on the streets in an attempt to have a boy. Not to mention the thousands of unregistered children without any access to public services, women having to travel abroad to give birth, and many other cases that are as terrible as the previous. For a while now we’ve been hearing about how the cities across the world are getting overcrowded, producing terrible economic instability. Now, although the feeling remains the same (crowded), every now and then we listen to news about how birth rates have been going down. One cause for instance, in the case of Japan, the rates have dramatically decreased because of the sexual attitudes many young people in this country have.

The thing is that we tend to think about the future of the world in terms of population. One idea embedded in our brains is that reproduction is achieved only through sex. While there are new methods where sex is no longer necessary, it continues to be the main method through which conception is achieved. Now, what would happen if all those alternative technologies were to become the rule in human reproduction? We’ve seen sci-fi movies like Gattaca (1997) where people are able to choose what genetic features they want for their offspring. Exponential advancements in science and technology are taking us closer to that reality. Do you imagine what it would be like?

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That’s the question Henry Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School, tries to explore in his book The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction. He believes that in a not so far away future babies will no longer be conceived through sexual intercourse but via the extraction of genetic material from skin cells and manipulation inside Petri dishes. Now, in his theory this doesn’t happen exactly as in the movie I mentioned. It’s not a matter of selecting every single genetic trait you’d want to have for your baby. Rather it's about taking about 100 samples, analyzing them, and listing all the features each one has, so the parents can choose from the best option for their children.

Although this sounds like a great method to prevent certain diseases, or to make stronger and healthier specimens, there are several medical, moral, and ethical questions that are important to take into account. Greely makes us think about the possibilities and problems his foreseen scenery beholds. For instance, one thing is the matter of unknown or non-consensual parenthood. In other words, since the way to create new beings will be through genetic material easily extracted from any part of our body, like saliva or skin residues, you would never know if someone made a bad use of them and used your genes to make a baby. Therefore, he states there must be new legal regulations to protect individuals.

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Another huge problem this reproductive method could bring is the impact on diseases. As he mentions, it could definitely help eradicate genetic diseases, but at the same time, it could affect those who already suffer from one. How? Well, since the number of cases of a determined condition would decrease, the same will happen in terms of its research. This would pose a new moral dilemma. Greely presents a case example: imagine that the parents deliberately choose from their samples one that has a disease. Could this be considered as an intentional act affecting the individual? Would there be restrictions in terms of disposing the samples with genetic flaws and only allowing the parents to choose from healthy ones? What if the parents chose the flawed sample as a way of increasing a certain pride and awareness of a determined disease? 

There’s also another important thing to consider if this scenery posed by Greely were to happen, and it is related to the economic disparity. Only developed countries would be able to even include this reproductive method in their medical insurance, while third world countries would find it difficult to afford it. In that way, there would be a dramatic change in terms of evolution: rich countries would have super healthy human beings compared to the rest of the world’s population.

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There are so many questions that arise from the issue, making it clear that, although we are so close in technological and scientific terms, we’re not ready to take such a huge step. Yes, this method would definitely mean a new way of living and give so many possibilities for infertile people to have biological children. But, at the same time, it comes with so many issues and problems that have to be extremely analyzed and deeply thought before putting it into effect. Now, as Emma Green states in her article for The Atlantic, this future possibility isn’t as likely as it may seem. Yes, we’re really close in technological term. However, the idea of people not having sex for reproductive purposes is actually very unlikely to happen. Still, there are many important factors that would make people cringe with the idea, for example, religious matters. So, I guess there’s still a long way to go before witnessing something like this.

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Take a look at how technology has become an essential part of human sexuality in these articles:

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Female Orgasm: The Mystery of Vulvamort

Why Phubbing Is The Death Of Human Contact And Proof Of Millennial Decadence

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Images by @kat_in_nyc

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