By Molly Freeman
Photo courtesy of ACC1O.
Human sexuality has evolved leaps and bounds in the 20th century and through today. The so-called “contraceptive revolutions” give both men and women more control over whether they practice sex as a means of procreation or recreation.
One 2009 study examined the history of human sexuality through the lens of the procreation-versus-recreation dichotomy. Numerous other researchers have struggled to answer the question of whether sex should be for procreation or recreation. However, the solution isn’t quite that cut and dry.
Moreover, certain figures make sweeping speculations about the culture of sex. Carl Djerassi, an Austrian-American chemist who invented the contraceptive pill, is looking to the future of how contraception will impact how and why partners practice intercourse.
Djerassi said he believes the pill, abortion, and sex for procreation will become increasingly obsolete. He suggested that more men and women will choose to freeze their sperm and eggs before undergoing a procedure to become sterilized. Couples who wish to have children would then use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant.
Further, Djerassi predicts that the trend of women having children later in life will continue. Rather than worry about problems that occur with late-in-life pregnancies, he insists that women will freeze their eggs when they’re younger, such as in their 20s. That way, females can have freedom from the biological clock and become more independent in choosing when to have children.
With a rise in IVF procedures–which allow for certain securities through genetic screenings–sex with the goal of procreation should become obsolete.
“Over the next few decades, say by the year 2050, more IVF fertilizations will occur among fertile women than the current five million fertility-impaired ones,” Djerassi remarked. “For them the separation between sex and reproduction will be 100 percent.”
It should be noted that Djerassi is primarily referring to those who live in cultures where the medicine is advanced enough to allow for women to freeze their eggs as well as undergo sterilization and IVF.
However, even in countries like the US, certain rules are in place that will hinder the development Djerassi predicts. For instance, although it isn’t illegal to perform sterilization procedures on young men and women, many doctors refuse to do so unless there is a medical reason or the person is of a certain age.
While it’s difficult to predict exactly how the process of conception will develop over the next 40 years–even for a scientist who was integral to the creation of the contraceptive pill–some non-scientific professionals in Hollywood have attempted to predict what pregnancy will look like in the future.
The 1997 science-fiction film Gattaca, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, is set in a “not-too-distant” future where most children are born through IVF and eugenics. These genetically superior children are conceived from DNA manipulation. In this world, people who are born of natural procreation are deemed inferior and called “in-valids.”
Although Gattaca is, of course, a fictional film set in a dystopian future, it took the technologies referenced by Djerassi and asked how they would impact human relations beyond the process of conception. The movie asks questions such as: Will a line be drawn between children conceived through IVF and those conceived naturally? How will an increasing reliance on technology to conceive children impact society?
In another direction, certain science-fiction productions delve into the consequences of rampant infertility. The 2006 film Children of Men and the 2014 Lifetime series The Lottery both envisioned futures where the majority of the world’s population is infertile. As such, societies experience dystopian conditions.
Again, though these series explore fictional futures, they discuss a real fear: what would become of the human race if we were no longer able to procreate? This question has a much simpler answer: we’d become extinct.
With the human-extinction fear deeply ingrained in most people, Djerassi’s attested version of the future becomes hard to believe. Although IVF conception and sterilization may become more prevalent, it’s highly unlikely sex with the goal of procreation will ever fully become extinct.