Aldous Huxley could have written it. Maybe he did. While the whole world was obsessing about the president’s recreational sex, science was happily announcing that it had forever taken the guesswork—not to mention the fun—out of procreational sex. Thank God there’s still cyber-sex or there’d be no sex worth having at all.
In case you overlooked it—and it was an easy story to overlook in last week’s tangle of presidential sex, lies, and audiotape—scientists at the Genetics & IVF Institute in Virginia announced that they’ve developed a surefire method of preselecting a baby’s sex. (Well, gender anyway. So far, the sex your kids choose is still up to them.) Forget Grandma’s ideas about drinking vinegar and hopping into the sack to guarantee a girl—or is that what you do to get a boy? In any case, now the sack is out, and the lab is in.
Yes, while little ones are still a twinkle in Poppa’s petri dish, Mom and Dad can decide whether their perfect union requires a boy or girl to complete the picture. Not only can they now buy genetically perfect eggs (advertising for them in Ivy League school newspapers) and pay a woman to carry those perfect fertilized eggs to term, but as of last week they can even pick the gender of their engineered bundle of joy. Who needs the aggravation of natural selection anyway? It’s kind of like picking the options you want on your new Mercedes SUV.
In this brave new world, gender-selected procreation is almost as much fun as screwing around. Sperm are first whirled at incredibly high speed in a centrifuge, and mixed with fluorescent chemicals under a microscope to sort the Ys from the Xs. Next they’re pierced with a laser (like a date with the president!). The boy sperm are separated from the girl sperm (like Catholic school), and then, hey—let the in-vitro fertilization begin! Talk about planned parenthood.
Couples who participated in the fluorescent trials did it for the most part, they said, to achieve “family balancing.” That makes sense—and it’s got a practical side to boot. Kids will come out already pierced and sporting fluorescent hair and skin. (For real perfectionists who don’t want to chance hot pink boys when they wanted electric blue girls, there’s always old-fashioned cloning.)
But maybe you haven’t heard about this giant leap in baby engineering. With all the gore and guts of President Clinton’s real sexcapades, the prefab-sex story hardly made a dent in the news. Too bad, really, because when you think about it, the implications of genetically procreating humans in labs are a lot bigger than the implications of the president’s gender-specific recreatin’ in the Oval Office.
Presidents come (especially Clinton) and presidents go, but until a few years ago, sex and the making of babies remained unchanged. Sure, the Kama Sutra gave us some new twists on an old game, but really, how many people ever achieved most of those positions without being hospitalized? (Oh, stop bragging.) The great thing about sex (tantric and otherwise) was that it was sloppy fun that oftentimes resulted in sloppy offspring—the chaos theory at its very best.
With the new genetics the fun is gone, and the offspring will be the most frightening things ever produced—perfect kids. Who needs live Disney characters? Can you imagine what it would be like to live with children who don’t spill, curse, go bad, smoke pot in their rooms, get pimples and cavities? Talk about scary.
And think of the uses an evil government can get out of engineering kids. (Right. It’ll never happen—”Read my lips, no new taxes,” and “I did not have a sexual relationship with that woman—Ms. Lewinsky.”) If they’re smart, they’ll build politicians too. Politicians with no sex drive.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 22, 1998