Yin-ed but not quite Yang-ed or is it vice versa?

The Left Hand of the Electron

17 - ...BUT HOW?

Sometimes I wish I were smart enough to know when I've happened to say something smart so that I can get it down on paper and notarize it, as proof for posterity.
For instance, back in 1952, I was listening to the news of the election-day Eisenhower landslide with considerable gloom* when a ray of sunshine penetrated the darkness.
It seemed a young Democrat had just won his election to the Senate by a comfortable margin in the face of the tidal wave in the other direction at the presidential level. He was shown thanking his election workers and, in doing so, displayed such irresistible charm that I turned to my wife and said:
'If he weren't a Catholic, he'd be the next President of the United States, after Eisenhower.
' You're ahead of me, I know, but that young man was John F. Kennedy and I was remarkably prescient. Unfortunately, I have no record of the remark and my wife -the only witness - doesn't remember it.
On the other hand, at about the same time, in the early 1950's, I said, in the course of a discussion at a social gathering, 'This is the last generation in which the unrestricted right to breed will remain unquestioned. After this, birth control will be enforced.'
'What about the Roman Catholic Church?' someone asked me.
'The Roman Catholic Church,' I said, 'will have no choice but to go along.'
I was hooted down by unanimous consensus and it was the general feeling that being a science fiction writer had gone to my head - but I still stand on what I said nearly twenty years ago.

* I will hide nothing from you, I am a Democrat.

So we'll limit births for reasons I explained in the previous chapter.
-But how? There are many methods of birth control practiced. There is abstention and chastity, for example. (Don't laugh! For some people, this works, and we are in no position to turn down the help offered by any method, however minimal.) There is the rhythm method, of choosing, or trying to choose, that time of the month when a woman is not ovulating. There is the practice of withdrawal, or of surgical and permanent sterilization, or of chemical and temporary sterilization, or of mechanical interception, and so on.
All have their value as far as birth control is concerned; all have their disadvantages; no one method will do the trick by voluntary acceptance; perhaps even all together will not do the trick.
Nevertheless, we must try, and if anyone can think of some technique that is not being tried but ought to be, it is his duty, in this crisis facing mankind to advance it as forcefully as he can. This I intend to do.
The real enemy, as I see it, is social pressure, which is the strongest human force in the world. Love laughs at lock-smiths and may flourish under the severest legal condemnations, but it is love indeed that can persist under no punishment worse than the cold-hearted ostracism of society.
Social pressure is irrepressible. The rebels who stand firmly against the Establishment and who object to all the moss-grown mores of yore, quickly develop a subculture with mores of its own which they do not, and dare not, violate.
And it is social pressure, inexorable social pressure, that dictates that people shall have children lots of children the more children the better.
There is reason for it. Despite what many think, the conventions of society are not invented merely to annoy and confuse, or out of a perverse delight in stupidity. They make sense in the context of the times in which they originate.
Until the nineteenth century, there was virtually no place on Earth and virtually no time in history in which life expectancy was greater than thirty-five years. In most places and most times it was considerably less. There was virtually no place and no time in which infant mortality wasn't terrifyingly high. It was not the death of children that was surprising, but their survival.
Through all the ages of high infant mortality and low life expectancy, it stood to reason that each family had to have as many children as possible. This was not because each family sat down and worried about the future of mankind in the abstract. Not at all; it was because in a tribal society, the family is the social and cultural unit, and as many young as possible were necessary to carry on the work of herding or farming or whatever, while standing to their weapons to keep off other tribes at odd moments. And it took all the children the women could have to supply the necessary manpower.
With death so prevalent through hunger, disease, and warfare, the problem of overpopulation did not arise. If, unexpectedly, a tribe's numbers did increase substantially, they could always move outward and fall on the next tribe. It was the withering and extinction of the tribe that seemed the greater danger.
Consequently, social pressures were in favor of children, and naturally and rightly so.
We needn't go off into anthropological byways to see evidence of this; we have it at our fingertips in the Bible - the most important single source of social pressure in Western civilization. (And this is crucial, for it is Western culture that controls the Earth militarily, and Western culture that will have to lead the way in population policy.)
The first recorded statement of God to humanity after its creation is: 'And God blessed them and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the Earth-' (Genesis I: 28).
On a number of occasions thereafter, the Bible records the fact that the inability to bear children is considered an enormous calamity. God promises Abram that he will be taken care of, saying, .... Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward' (Genesis 15:1). But Abram can find no comfort in this and says, '...Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless .. .' (Genesis 15 2).
In fact, childlessness was viewed as divine punishment. Thus, Jacob married two sisters: Leab and Rachel. He had wanted only Rachel but had been forced to take Leah through a trick. As a result, he showed considerable favoritism and of this God apparently disapproved; 'And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren' (Genesis 29: 31).
Naturally, Rachel was upset. 'And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die' (Genesis 30: 1).
There is the case of Hannah, who was barren, despite constant prayer; and who was miserable over it, despite the faithful love of her husband, who overlooked her barren-ness (which made her worthless in a tribal sense and which placed her under strong suspicion of sinfulness) and expressed his love for her most touchingly: 'Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? am not I better to thee than ten sons?' (1 Samuel 1: 8).
But Hannah perseveres in prayer and conceives at last, bearing Samuel. The second chapter of the book contains her triumphant song of celebration.
A particularly clear indication that barrenness is the punishment of sin arises in connection with the history of David. David had brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem and, in celebration, had participated in the ritualistic, orgiastic dance of celebration, one in which (the Bible is not clear) there may have been strong fertility-rite components. David's wife, Michal, disapproved strongly, saying sarcastically, "... How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!' (2 Samuel 6: 20).
This criticism displeased David and, apparently, God as well, for 'Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death' (2 Samuel 6: 23).
So strong was the tribal push for children that if a wife were barren, she herself might take the initiative of forcing her husband to impregnate a servant of her own, that she might have the credit of children by surrogate. Thus, when Abram's wife, Sarai, proved barren, she said to her husband '..... Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her .. .' (Genesis 16: 2).
Similarly, Jacob's wife, Rachel, lent her husband her maid, Bilhah, while his other wife, Leah, not to be behind-hand, made her maid Zilpah available. These four women, among them, are described as being the mothers of the various ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel.
It worked the other way, too. If a husband died before having children, it was the duty of the nearest member of the family (the brother, if possible) to make the effort of impregnating the widow in order that she might have sons which would then be counted to the credit of the dead man. Thus, Jacob's fourth son, Judah, had an oldest son, Er, for whom he arranged a marriage with a young lady named Tamar. Unfortunately, Er died, so Judah told his next son, Onan:  '.... Go in unto thy brother's wife and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother' (Genesis 38: 8).
Onan, however, did not want to. 'And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also' (Genesis 38: 9-10).
Thus, the sin of Onan is not masturbation (which is what the word 'onanism' means) but what we call 'coitus interruptus.'
The pressure to bear children exists because a tribal society would not long survive without converting women into baby machines, and the biblical tales reflect this.
To be sure, there are religious sects which glorify birth control in the form of chastity and virginity - but almost invariably because they expect the imminent end of the Earth.* The early Christians were among these and to this day chastity is a Christian virtue, and virginity is considered a pretty praiseworthy thing. Yet, even so, it is taken for granted in our traditional society that the greatest fuffillment a woman can possibly experience on Earth is that of becoming a wife and mother, that motherhood is of all things on Earth the most sacred, that to have many children is really a blessing and to have few children, or none, through some act of will is somehow to be selfish.
The pressures produce important myths about men, too, for to have many children seems to be accepted as proving something about a man's virility. Even today, the father of triplets or more sometimes manages a look of smug modesty before the camera, an 'oh-it-was-nothing' expression that he thinks befits the sexual athlete. (Actually, whatever a man does or does not do has no connection at all with multiple births.)
All these pressures inherited from the dead past exist, then, despite the fact that the situation is now no longer what it was in tribal days. It is completely and catastrophically the opposite. We no longer have an empty Earth, we have a full one. We no longer have a short life expectancy, but a long one. We no longer have a high infant mortality rate, but a low one. We are no longer doubling Earth's population in several millennia, but in several decades.
Yet when we speak of birth control even today, we still have to overcome all the age-old beliefs of the tribal situation.

* Which, in a way, is why the modern population experts are pushing for birth control, too, because otherwise they expect the imminent end of the Earth.

Clearly, social pressure can be fought only with social pressure and as an example I have sometimes suggested (with a grin, lest I be lynched on the spot) that we begin by abolishing Mother's Day and replacing it with Childless Day, in which we honor all the adult women without children.

Social pressures involves more than merely a question of having children or not having children. The social pressures that for thousands of years have insisted on children, have gone into detail to make sure that these children come to pass. They have definitely and specifically outlawed the easiest methods of birth control, methods which require no equipment, no chemicals, no calculations, no particular self-control, methods which, if applied, under tribal conditions of yore, would have threatened the tribe with extinction.
So successful has this pressure been that such methods of birth control have passed beyond human ken, apparently. At least, when I hear proponents of birth control speak, or read what they write, I never seem to hear or see any mention of these natural methods. Either they are blissfully ignorant of them, or are afraid to speak of them.
The fact is, you see, that there are a variety of sexual practices that seem to give satisfaction, that do no physiological harm, and that offer no chance, whatsoever, for conception.
One and all, these stand condemned in our society for reasons that stretch back to the primitive necessity for babies. For instance, the simplest possible non-conception-centered sexual practice is masturbation (in either male or female). It reduces tension and does no physiological harm.
Yet for how many years in our own society has it been viewed as an unspeakable vice (despite the fact that I understand, it is almost universally practiced). The pressure to consider it as more than a vice, and as actually a sin, has been such that in the effort to find biblical thunder against it, Onan's deed was considered masturbation, which it most certainly was not.
Clearly, the real crime of masturbation is that it wastes semen which, by tribal views, ought to be used in a sporting effort to effect conception. To say this, however, would be alien to the spirit of our society, so lies are invented instead. Masturbation (the threat goes) 'weakens' you; by which is meant that you won't perform effectively with women - a horrifying possibility to most men. Worse than that is the wild threat that masturbation gives rise to degeneracy (whatever that is) and even insanity.
Actually, it does none of these things. It does not even have the evils implicit in its being a 'solitary vice.' It can be indulged in, in company, and not necessarily in 'vile orgies,' but in ordinary heterosexual interaction.
All the strictures and fulminations against masturbation have never succeeded in wiping it out. It continued universal. What the lies did do, however, was to force the act to be carried on in secret, in shame, and in fear, so that those lies helped raise up generations of neurotics with distorted and utterly unnecessary hangups about sex. And why? To pay lip service to practices necessary to primitive tribes, but fatal to ourselves.
Part and parcel of the battle against masturbation is that against pornography. There have been periods in history when pornography was driven underground with scorn and disgust. This did not wipe out 'dirty books', 'dirty pictures', and 'dirty jokes'. It lent them an added titillation, if anything, But the drive against pornography did make it clear that sex was filthy, and therefore utterly distorted the attitude of millions concerning an activity which is both necessary and intensely pleasurable.
And what is the reason usually given for forbidding pornography? The one I hear most often is that it will inflame minds and cause people encountering such 'filth' to go ravening out into the street like wild beasts, seeking to rape and pervert.
It is ridiculous to think so. I suspect that what happens when you involve yourself with pornography, assuming it succeeds in arousing 'vile impulses' within you, is that you masturbate at the first opportunity. It releases tension rather than building it.
It is, in fact, by building tensions through a studied effort to consider sex dirty and forbidden, that one is most likely to be driven to rape.
No, the real evil of pornography in a tribal society is that, by encouraging masturbation, it diminishes the chance of conception.
There is a whole array of practices which, by the society and therefore by law, are stigmatized as perverse, as unnatural, as unspeakable, as crimes against nature', and so on. That these are unnatural is clearly not so, for if they were they would be easy to suppress. Indeed, there would be no need to suppress them, for they wouldn't exist. It is unnatural, for instance, to fly by flapping your arms, so that there are no laws against it. It is unnatural to live without breathing, so no one has to inveigh against it.
What is true about the so-called perversions is that they are very natural. They are so natural, indeed, that not all the shackles of the law, and not all the hellfire of religion, can serve to wipe them out.
And what harm do they do? Are they sicknesses?
I frequently hear homosexuality spoken of as a sickness, for instance, and yet there have been societies in which it was taken more or less for granted. Homosexuality was prevalent, and even approved, in the Golden Age of Athens; it was prevalent during the Golden Age of Islam; and despite everything, it was prevalent (I understand) among the upper classes of the Victorian Age.
It may be sickness but it does not seem to be inconsistent with culture. And how much of its sickness is the result of the hidden world in which it is forced to live, the fear and shame that are made to accompany it? What is the real crime of all these so-called perversions? Might it not be that one and all are effective birth control agents. No practicing, exclusive homosexual, male or female, can possibly make or become pregnant. No one can ever impregnate or be impregnated by oral-genital contacts.
So what's wrong - in a time when birth rate must be lowered?
I don't mean that there aren't practices that do do harm, and these one ought to oppose. Sadomasochistic practices carried beyond the level of mild stimulation are not to be encouraged, for the same reason we oppose mutilation and murder. Those practices which involve seriously unhygienic conditions should be discouraged for the same reason any other unhygienic condition is discouraged.
Nor do I imply that we must force people to practice perversions. I, for instance, am not a homosexual and wouldn't consider becoming one just to avoid having children. Nor would I persuade anyone to become one for that purpose and that purpose only.
I merely say that in a world threatened by overconception, it is useless and even suicidally harmful to carry on a battle against those who, of their own accord, prefer homosexuality, who in doing so do us no harm, and who, indeed, spare us children. Furthermore, there are borderline cases who might be homosexuals if left to themselves; shall we force them, by unbearable social pressure, into loveless heterosexual marriages, and into presenting the world with unneeded babies?
How do we justify this in the endangered world of the late twentieth century?
Social pressure - and the law - invades the bedrooms of even legally married individuals and dictates their private sexual practices. I am told that if a man and wife wish to practice anal or oral intercourse and are caught at it, they can be given stiff jail sentences in almost any state of the Union.
Why? What harm have they done themselves or anyone else? It is punishment without crime. The 'harm', of course, is that they've practiced a completely effective birth control method that requires no equipment, no preparation, and supplies them, presumably, with satisfaction - something incompatible with the needs of a long-dead-and-gone tribal past.
I have heard it said that the practice of  'perversions 'is that it replaces the 'normal way', which is then neglected.
I've never seen evidence presented to back this view, but even if it were true, what then? What is the 'normal way' in a world like ours which must dread overconception? And If someone doesn't like the 'normal way' and therefore doesn't have children, whose business is that? If that same couple chose not to have children by practicing abstention, would anyone care? Would the law care? Then what's wrong with not having children another way? Because pleasure is a crime?
In David Reuben's book Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex, he devotes a section to oral-genital contacts, of which he seems to approve, but concludes that regular copulation is even more enjoyable'.
Actually, I suppose that is for each individual to decide for himself, but even if  'regular copulation' is more enjoyable, what then? If you find roast beef more enjoyable than bread and butter, is that a reason to outlaw bread and butter? And if you can't have roast beef and must choose between bread and butter and starvation, would you choose starvation?
It might very well be that it is variety that is best of all, and that for law and custom to try to insist on a monotony which, of all monotonies, is most dangerous to us today, is the greatest perversion of all.

Let's summarize, then.
I think that the importance of birth control is such that we ought to allow no useful method to lie unused.
All the common methods have their drawbacks: abstention is nearly impossible; sterilization is abhorrent; the rhythm method is cold-blooded and deprives the female of sex at just the time of the month she is most receptive; mechanical devices slow you up just when you least want to slow up; chemicals are bound to have side effects. I think, then, there is room for another method, particularly one which has none of these drawbacks.
With that in mind I think that social pressure against those practices commonly called 'perversions' ought to be lifted, where these are not physiologically harmful The very qualities that made them perversions in a conception-centered society make them virtues in a non-conception-centered society.
I think that sex education ought to include not only information concerning what is usually considered 'normal' but also about those practices which are non-conception-centered. No one need to be taught to indulge in them exclusively, but by knowing they exist and aren't 'wrong', the number of occasions that so-called normal intercourse need be indulged in, with all the complications and drawbacks of artificial birth control methods, can be reduced. And, of course, if a couple have no children, and want one or two, they will know what to do.
As for those who can't stomach 'perversions' and who insist on doing everything by the numbers in the way that was good enough for their grandmother (I wonder!), then good luck to them, but they had better be careful. One way or another, birth control must be made effective, and what I have suggested here is only one more method; one which, joined to the others already available, increases by that much the general effectiveness of the system as a whole and makes the chance just a little bit greater that the world might yet be saved.

The Left Hand of the Electron





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