30 April 2012

Book Review

Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl

This book has seen the future, and it is not pretty.  The explosion of scientific research has better enabled sex determination in utero, and has reduced the health risks of abortions.  These scientific advances, when coupled with government population control policies (think: China’s one child program) have led to the following scenario:  many women, once they find out they are pregnant, are going to doctors to see if they are going to have a boy or girl; if they are expecting a girl, there is a good chance they will “terminate” the pregnancy.

As can be imagined, Unnatural Selection is a very depressing read.  It is chock full of shocking examples of the sex trade, abuse of women, and doomsday predictions about the nasty effects of a world full of men.
Hvistendahl starts out by noting an apparent paradox:  the population of women, as a percentage of the population as a whole, has declined in correspondence to increases in women’s rights (as an aside, this would most certainly include the right to an abortion).  The merited conclusion, however, is not drawn:  women, once given rights, will apparently use them self-destructively.  This, incidentally, is not mere theory or simple misogyny, but rather the plain and simple reality of the last forty years of history.  Quite simply, when given the ability and permission to select the sex of their child, women prefer having boys to having girls.

Of course, this matter wasn’t helped any by the United States’ interference into foreign affairs.  Assholes (and frankly, I can think of no better term) like Paul Ehrlich spent the better part of the 1960s and 70s predicting a Malthusian population explosion—which was never realized, by the way—and in turn called for strict population controls to prevent the supposed problem of overcrowding.  Of course, these controls were to be enacted in poor foreign countries instead of in the wealthy Western countries where the proponents of population control resided.  This led the United States to spend billions of dollars to basically subsidize the murder of unborn foreign children, in the name of saving the planet, of course.  By extension, this means that the US also subsidized sex-selective abortions as well, contributing to the current global gender imbalance.  In fairness, the US was not the only country responsible for this mess (many Communist countries were only too happy to receive American money for something they wanted to do anyway), but the US does play a rather dominate role in creating this mess, particularly through the 70s and 80s.

From there, the book goes on to detail the rather nasty after effects of the current gender imbalance.  Because men have a very strong desire for sex, it is generally a good idea to make sure that they have access to it.  This has led to a couple of different solutions.  In wealthier nations, and in wealthier provinces of poorer nations, there are many men who simply purchase brides, which usually means purchasing women from poorer countries or provinces.  Of course, this has a market distortive effect in the poorer provinces and countries, and so men there tend to form gangs wherein they go about kidnapping women and forcing them into prostitution.  At least the world doesn’t have to worry about overpopulation anymore.

The unspoken, and perhaps unconscious themes of the book appears to be twofold.  First, the book dwells a bit on how pure science is mostly used for evil.  Second, the book dwells on how feminism has, by and large, made women worse off.

The former theme is especially interesting, since it would imply that there are many questions that man is simply better off not asking, let alone answering.  In fact, science ultimately plays into man’s fatal conceit—the pride of life—by causing man to think that he can control the world simply by applying his knowledge.*  And so man, in his pride, attempts to reorder the world according to his fanciful theories, using his knowledge to ever so slightly tweak the future.  What man is unable to comprehend, though, is that there are often consequences that cannot be anticipated.  Thus, the fatal conceit of science is laid bare, and it becomes obvious that ignorance is truly bliss, for with knowledge comes the desire to tinker, and with tinkering comes the consequences of destroying the natural order of things.

The latter theme is also interesting, even though it is obvious.  Women, for whatever reason, are apparently incapable of handling power in a positive manner, for the benefit of not only others, but for themselves as well.**  It is no surprise that women do not look out for men, and now it is undeniable that women can’t even be trusted to look out for other women.  But this should come as no surprise to anyone that ever went to school.

In spite of all this, there is some hope for the future.  The miserable results of sex-selective abortions are started to be countered, especially by pro-life groups.  Not only that, the current shortage of women has increased their market value (in some cases, this is meant in a literal sense), which has encouraged more parents to have more daughters.  This suggests that the problem will solve itself eventually, assuming the technocrats stop their tinkering.  On a negative note, the shortage of women is linked to increased violence among young males that live in highly sex-imbalanced societies.  These men will, for the most part, end up fighting and possibly killing each other, which will help to reduce the sex imbalance.  However, it’s sad that it ever had to come to this.

This book is a highly recommended read.  Its historical perspective and sociological predictions make this book well worth its purchase price.  It’s an informative and eye-opening, albeit somewhat depressing read that’s best handled in small doses.  If the future seems especially bleak to you, this book will help to explain why.

* The word “science” comes from the Latin word scientia, which means “knowledge.”

** In case there are any obtuse people, this is a general statement.  It should go without saying that NAWALT.  However, the inverse of that statement should also go without saying.  Namely, that most women are like that.


  1. Giving women the vote was the stupidest thing we've done since slavery.

    There. I said it, and I'm proud of it.

  2. It's been a while since I popped by here (and since I dumped my Wordpress account...don't much like that service), but this entry touches upon a few issues I'm particularly interested in, so I hope you wouldn't mind me dropping in with a question?

    The most prominent query which comes to mind, and I think one which many MRAs would ask, is "why would a world with fewer women be a bad thing?" You mention the violence which seems to accompany male-skewed societies, but several MRAs (Pro-Male/Anti-Feminist Tech, for instance) have asserted that technology can very effectively substitute for real women. In the near future, if VR sex or sex-purposed androids are invented, societies like China will be able to maintain a heavy-male sex ratio while satisfying the sexual needs of those men without having to breed those girls. Such a society would therefore have all the advantages of a primarily male population with none of the drawbacks (thuggery, forcing girls into prostitution, and so on). Sex-selective abortion would therefore be a tremendous benefit to men (and therefore, assumedly, humanity in general) if it was accompanied by technological advances which would substitute for sex. I was wondering what you thought of this projection--does it either seem just plain gross to you, or even just too optimistic (we won't have the technology in time, or it won't be effective/convincing enough, etc.)?

    To lay my own cards on the table, while I freely admit I'd be first in like to get a VR sex machine or sexbot when/if they become available, I'm skeptical of their utility as a solution to any large social problem, whether in China or the West, for that matter. But that's something for a longer post and I don't want to clog up your comments section too much, hehe.

  3. Well, for one thing, masturbation never leads to babies being born. Thus a society with VR sex will, in a generation's time, be filled with grey haired loser males and no kids. (And in a longer time, they'll all be dead, the only ones left standing are the ones who didn't buy into the VR sex scam).

    Of course, the sister "solution" is artificial wombs (which have been proposed by FEMINISTS, ironically, though not really, since they despise the "barbarism" of only women being able to carry children). That brings brings up an interesting problem; if men are only sperm donors, and women are only womb-havers, I can imagine a future in which there is a male world with VR sex + artificial wombs and a female world with artificial sperm and mandatory sex selective abortions in the male world.

    Before I ramble on, I guess my point is I am leery of "science as solution for everything" because ISTM that new scientific advances are simply solutions to problems created by old scientific advances. See: "green technology, MRSA, breast cancer research."

  4. @hurpadurp- There a couple reasons why it might be bad to have fewer women, which I hope to explain briefly. First, such an occurrence would be historically unnatural. we don't know what the consequences would be, and it's not generally a good idea to find out. Some things aren't worth testing.

    Second, not every society will turn out like Japan. Less-developed peoples, like Africans or southern Asians, would be inclined to violence rather than docile (but furious) VR sex and masturbation.

    Third, technology is ever and always a Faustian bargain. There is good and bad from it. So, while technology can come up with replacements for women, it is likely that these replacements will come with a cost (I would imagine that being socially impaired would be one of them).

    Finally, not every man will want to give up women. Also consider what Ingemar says.

    @Ingemar- Science as a solution strikes me as being terrible, at least for its short-term costs. I'd imagine, though, that scientific manipulation would eventually come full circle, wherein science is used to recreate the bio-social equilibrium that existed prior to science's interference.

  5. @Ingemar and Simon: Thanks very much for your responses. Answers my question quite succinctly, thanks again :)

  6. Hmmm, what is that old story, about going after the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and forever losing innocence and peace? Something from some famous book that lots of people read.

    Oh, yeah, the creation story in Genesis! That's it, it nailed it several centuries ago, no? Shelley's Frankenstein explored such themes, as have many other authors. Cheating death, or any use of science to drastically alter life's circumstances to promote our own cherished outcomes, never ends well. We need not look to fiction for examples.

    The films AI and Blade Runner explore, to varying extents, the moral issues that arise when flesh and blood humans are replaced with machines. When does something cease existing solely as a piece of technology, as a tool to perform labor or for pleasurable release, and begin to have rights? Would a sexbot have to possess some form of consciousness in order to make the experience complete?

    Intimacy and social interaction are as much a part of sex as insert-thrust-repeat, and I know for my onw part that I could never be satisfied by a sexual experience that was reduced to merely that. And artificial wombs - the thought of living in Huxley's Brave New World of ex-utero grown humans is chilling, because the slippery slope lands us exactly there: humans grown to perform tasks and fill niches, not to be loved and nurtured in their own right as the product of loving sexual relations.

    Ah, there is no shortage of literature or film to which to turn for lessons on where this road leads, and yet people fail to learn. Churchill was wrong: those who learn history are doomed to repeat it anyway, as it appears to be part of the human condition.

  7. @hurpadurp- you're quite welcome; I'm glad you found my response helpful.

    @Amy- Well said. I don't think a lot people think through the implications of scientific abilities. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should.