Why do we create humans? Why do we have sex? Why do we have romantic partners? How do all of these questions relate to one another? In an average narrative, romance leads to sex then children… happily ever after. Lived experience differs wildly: Sex is dominantly motivated by pleasure, romance doesn’t always lead to reproductive sex, and pregnancy without sex is entirely possible. We are able to desire and experience these things in total isolation from each other. How many of us attempt to zoom-out, to understand this full concert of impulses for what they are? To wonder about their underlying evolutionary thrust – separate from our dim pursuit of feeling satisfied?
Let’s play the alien game….
You are an alien landing on earth, trying to understand what drives the human species. At a very low-level, it’s evident that genes want to replicate. Humans are made of genes. Apparently, through some magical biological inheritance, human beings are driven to couple and replicate. They seem to “know” this mission to support the species.
But that’s not quite how it feels to be human, is it?
No no… For most humans, we love sex for sex’s sake – sex feels selfishly amazing. We love romantic partnerships because it is wonderful to be known, to be seen, to be admired. Sometimes, not always, we love both sex and romance at the same time. Additionally, we have invented elaborate ways to have sex without the pesky byproduct of children, at least until it feels convenient, then we likely have children after all.
To further confound our alien investigation of of human love-sex-children drives, there are a minority of humans – for various reasons – who are totally disinterested in romance, or in sex, or in having children: aromantics, asexuals, and antinatalists. Where does this come from?
Aromantic people have little or no romantic attraction to others. They may or may not feel sexual attraction. An aromantic person can fall into one of two groups: aromantic sexual people or aromantic asexual people.
Asexual is the lack of sexual attraction to others, or a low interest in sexual activity.
Antinatalism is a negative view of procreation. Some antinatalists argue that humans should abstain from procreation because it is morally wrong.
Interestingly – I find myself at the intersection of all three. A minority of a minority, I suppose. First, while I’m not totally convinced having children is morally wrong, it seems impossible to imagine a scenario where it feels right – for me specifically – to bring a new life into this world. Second, sex for pleasure’s sake, feels totally empty and meaningless. I see sex as bait on the hook of procreation – and even if we humans have figured out how to outsmart the hook – to snatch the pleasure without consequence – through birth control or non-penetrative sex – I am unable to disassociate the two. My ability and/or motivation to pursue the bait while simultaneously ignoring the enormous implications of the hook is a psychological maneuver I can no longer perform. Third, while potentially sweet and wonderful, romantic relationships traditionally involve sex and children. The ones that don’t are rare, at which point I challenge myself: how much energy should one spend dreaming-about and searching-for, such a thing? This question terminates in a mood of indifference. I am at peace with that.
It does not feel accurate to consider myself an absolute asexual, an absolute aromantic, or an absolute antinatalist. But I certainly feel shades of all three categories that relate-to and amplify one another. I suppose that makes me a hybrid of all three. I cannot explain my affinity toward one without also explaining my affinity toward the other two.
Why am I this way? Is everything I’ve expressed here simply a confabulation to explain the circumstances of my life? Are my brain chemistry and hormones altered versus the rest of humanity, and this is an expression of that? Or – or – have I simply reasoned my way to this place… and in doing so, fractured the psychological foundation upon which typical love-sex-children attitudes rest? In other words, I have gazed behind the curtain of primal urges, and now they are broken.
I will continue meditating on this…
Regardless, even without an answer, it feels comforting to know there are people out there who happily exist outside the deeply worn paths of love, sex, and children, or, simply recognize some absurdity in all of it. Whether I hold these feelings for the rest of my life or not, I am grateful for the opportunity to sit and reflect on them. I empathize with anyone who has been mindlessly propelled by these innate impulses before fully recognizing their consequences, and later regretting it.
Finally, to anyone reading this who really loves sex, or really cherishes romance, or really sees children as one of the most meaningful things in life, I respect you. This is merely my little world, and I wish you and your little world as much wellbeing as possible.
“If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
“Buddha claimed that men are ignorant of the suffering they unleash; existence is the cause of old age and death. If man would realize this harm he would immediately stop procreating.“
“Like everyone else, Benatar finds his views disturbing; he has, therefore, ambivalent feelings about sharing them. He wouldn’t walk into a church, stride to the pulpit, and declare that God doesn’t exist. Similarly, he doesn’t relish the idea of becoming an ambassador for antinatalism. Life, he says, is already unpleasant enough. He reassures himself that, because his books are philosophical and academic, they will be read only by those who seek them out. He hears from readers who are grateful to find their own secret thoughts expressed.”
“Is it ethical to keep making new humans, now that reproduction is under our control? And given that a person exists (through no fault or choice of his own), is it immoral or irrational for him to refuse to live out his natural lifespan? Sarah Perry answers these questions in the negative–not out of misanthropy, but out of empathy for human suffering and respect for human autonomy.”
Every Cradle is a Grave