Jun. 17th, 2015

djpsyche: (cartoon)
Mainly in case [livejournal.com profile] ford_prefect42 doesn't come back to my previous post.

"I kinda figure that everyone has an inborn compulsion to reproduce. It's kinda evolutionary."

It's an interesting theory and I'd like to pick it apart.

If you could define "an inborn compulsion to reproduce" as "a curiosity as to what their offspring would look/be like," then yeah, I do think that everyone has probably pondered on this at some point in their lives.

The fact is that I am an exception. I have no compulsion to reproduce; never have. Only a few moments in my life has a viable argument in favour of breeding entered my head:
- Once, in my late 30s, when it occurred to me that having children is the only means of preserving any bit of one's youth and vitality.
- Once when I felt a tinge of regret that my musical talent wouldn't be passed on to any future generations.

But those arguments were quickly overruled by logic: In the first case, I reasoned that this was as may be, but still didn't make all the downsides worthwhile; in the second case, I realised that there was no guarantee any child of mine would be musically talented, and in the split second thereafter I realised that this is where so many parents go wrong -- having expectations for kids that aren't even born yet, and who inevitably disappoint them by not exhibiting the combination of inherited traits the parents desired.

What Bill's question prompted me to ask myself was: If I were male, would his theory apply to me? In other words, do I actually possess an "inborn compulsion to reproduce" which has been decisively overruled by my stronger desire to not go through pregnancy and childbirth?

In my two previous long-term relationships, my male partners have expressed the desire to have kids. Easy for them to say, was my reaction. But I loved my grown-up partner enough that I actually considered whether there were any conditions under which I'd be willing to become a parent, for their sake. The absolute conditions on this would have been: I don't have to give birth (so adoption); we could skip the earliest, neediest years, before the kid could communicate verbally and use the toilet on its own (so adopting an older child); and they, not me, would be the primary caregiver. In other words, I could never be a mum, but perhaps I could be a dad. In the end the deciding factor was that even if all of my conditions for parenthood were met, if anything happened to my (actual or hypothetical) partner, I'd end up being a single parent to a child I never actually wanted. And no child deserves that. So thus ended the thought exercise.

A hypothetical "inborn compulsion to reproduce" could be overruled by other factors besides not wanting to endure pregnancy and childbirth. For instance, there's the cynic's argument of not wanting to bring a child into a world which is facing imminent ecological and economic devastation. There's also the survivor-of-abuse argument; some people's parents were so horrible as to put them off even the idea of ever being a parent themselves. These motivations are not gender-specific. I've known people in both categories, and am firmly in the first camp myself. Are these motivators sufficient to override the "inborn compulsion", or are they evidence that this "inborn compulsion" is in no way universal?

Because it's really hard to overrule actual inborn compulsions. Look at people who are gay and try to suppress it, for instance. If people were actively suppressing a compulsion to breed, rather than just not having one in the first place, then pretty much everyone would at some point change their mind about having kids, or regret missing their chance. And not everyone does. So no, I think the existence of people who are truly happily child-free into old age disproves the theory.

Counter arguments?

March 2016

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