Are we set for a new sexual revolution?
From reproduction without sex to open relationships, our attitudes towards sex may evolve rapidly in the near future, predicts the writer Brandon Ambrosino.
Why do we have sex?
Many of our answers probably include a reference to reproduction. Sex is the primary way that babies are made.
But what will we think about sex if it has almost nothing to do with procreation?
Since the birth of the world’s first “test tube baby” in 1978, around eight million people have been born by IVF. And the number may vastly increase in the future as our tools to identify genetic risks in embryos become more sophisticated. “My strongest prediction is in the future people will still have sex – but not as often for the purpose of making babies,” Henry T Greely, author of The End of Sex And The Future of Human Reproduction, tells me over the phone. “In 20 to 40 years, most people all over the world with good health coverage will choose to conceive in a lab.”
Greely’s book explores some of the legal and ethical challenges facing the science of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). “Like most things, there will be a fair amount of visceral negative reaction initially, but as time goes on and kids [born via PGD] prove not to have two heads and a tail,” the public will come not only to tolerate but to prefer reproducing non-sexually.
And in that world – a world where babies are made in labs; where pregnancy-via-sexual intercourse is elected only by a minority of women; where sexual ethics have nothing to do with procreative possibilities – what will sex mean?
“What is sex for?”
That’s a question David Halperin asks in a provocative essay of the same name. Sex, we reason, must always have a why. Such reasoning isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, to be human means to be curious, intellectually and emotionally. Experiencing sex and theorising about what it could mean seems very natural for animals that spend much of our time engaging in higher-level criticism.
Biologically, there is one an obvious why to human sex. We have sex because it fulfills biological drives, including the necessary drives to procreate and bond. In fact, these are the two whys that have passed down to us in the Western tradition, both of which are organised around a telos, or end goal.
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