Thursday, 1 November 2001


Do we need sex?

If your instinctive answer is a fervent “yes,” you’re probably male. But then, that’s why you’re reading this magazine and not watching Oprah.

But hold your, er, horses, messieurs. ’Tis not the act of fornication that we’re discussing here. This isn’t about you giving up your sex life - such as it is.

We’re talking about what my father’s 1964 edition of the Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary refers to as “the sum of the physiological difference in structure and function which distinguish the male from the female in animals and plants; males or females collectively.” Very disappointing find it was for a certain sweaty-palmed 11 year-old poring through the dictionary for the meaning of words his indulgent aunt said he should ask his parents about (and when he broached the topic with his parents, they in their turn shuffled nervously and changed the topic, which is why, remembering earlier parental directives about finding things out for oneself, he was scouring the dictionary.) The dictionary primly goes on to say, “(loosely) the sexual relationship,” which was as clear as mud to me - er, i mean, that 11 year-old.

We are, senõrs, wondering whether it’s necessary for our species to have human beings of the male persuasion. Or the female for that matter.

There was a time, I will grant you, somewhere after our distant ancestors mastered the art of splitting themselves into different cells - but before cellular phones - when having two different sexes made sense.

I mean, what’s the next step after you divide? You divide again. And then again. After a time, monotony sets in. I’m willing to bet if some bored cells on a drunken weekend hadn’t chanced upon this business of getting together with other like-minded buddies and forming (trumpets here) the first multi-cell organism, life on earth would have pretty much had it.

But evolve they did, and evidently had a lot of fun doing so, since here we are, still doing our best to mingle cells at every opportunity. Then some curvaceous protozoa invented the headache - but i digress.

Let’s stay with homo sapiens. When we first got up on our hind legs, dividing up the work made sense. The larger, hairier ones got to go out in the cold and kill things, while the smaller, smarter one stayed home, snug and warm, and had babies and headaches. This way, despite the fact that ones with the dangly bits between their legs frequently made errors of spatial judgement and went after beasts much larger than them and quickly became breathing-challenged, or, as frequently, got lost because they refused to stop and ask directions, the species as a whole continued.

Those differences have persisted, becoming more complex, more stylised - I can show you an in-box full of gleefully vicious email forwards that alternately rip apart men and women. For gosh sakes, we’ve even got different magazines!

The only real need for different sexes now is for, well, sex. And how much time, deo, depilatory products and tight pants do we devote to the pursuit of a few minutes of frantic coupling? Think of the all the more productive uses we could be making of our time and money. Not to mention the arguments, fist fights and wars caused by our aggressive instincts. Hell, the differences between the sexes has lead to reams of terrible love poetry and, even worse, country and western music .

Time, methinks, for us to evolve.

After all, now that we’re the second most evolved form of life on this planet (happy trails, Douglas Adams), no longer needing to ensure survival of the species by pursuing and subduing sundry mammals, birds, fish and reptiles, there is no real need for us to persist with this stubborn notion of different sexes.

Look at the social insects - all female colonies, a few token males around to impregnate the queens.

And there’s a particularly clever kind of fish that is all female. Until they feel the need to procreate, whereupon the larger ones turn into males and do the needful.

Snails have it all - hermaphrodites every one, doing unto one another as they have done to them. Think about it, multiple orgasms and the ability to pee standing up.

But let us get serious now. Science is already coming to the rescue. A while ago. some boffins scraped a few cells from the udder of a sheep, and hey presto, Hello Dolly!

Well, ok, i’ll grant you that having one’s udders scraped isn’t the most pleasant form of procreatory activity, and the fact that it only creates a genetic carbon copy, a clone, and therefore what price diversity and the elimination of weak characteristics and the enriching of the gene pool - after all, how many Jayalalithaas can this planet handle? But there’s more.

Those men in white coats, after questioning Murlitharan’s action, have also mapped the human genome. I’ll leave it to erudite gentlemen like Mukul Sharma to explain the finer points of that, but it won’t be long before they’re doing cut-and-paste with DNA. Along with eliminating cancer and acne, they’ll soon find ways to combine the excellent X and Y chromosomes of, let’s say George and Barbara, eliminate all the weaknesses and come out with something far more interesting and advanced than W.

Is that so far-fetched? I think not. Someone said it better than i can, and i misquote, I’m sure: the science of today is the magic of yesterday, the magic of today is the science of tomorrow.

Imagine the faces of your great-grandparents a century ago if someone had given them a sneak peek into the future and they had seen, as a random example, cybersex.

So, kind sirs, remember where you read this first.

Because, not long after we get the letter “Dubya” right, if we have any sense, we’ll create a super wo/man. A creature that is the best of both sexes. Whose mind isn’t cluttered with thoughts of who it is going to ask out on Friday night. A being that is complete in itself, not needing another one to make it so. That will procreate when it wants to, with whom it wants to (with mutual consent, of course). Deciding at the time whether one, or both, should have the baby. Sharing responsibilities for the offspring in every way.

We’ll all have the same moving parts in exactly the same places, then. And, being controlled by the same hormones and body cycles, we’ll all understand one another much better, instead of relating to, at best, just 50% of the human race.

Perhaps then, we won’t need theories about Mars and Venus. Because we’ll all just be from earth.

This was one side of a debate, "Do We Need Sex?"

Published in It’s a Guy Thing (GT, for short) the Times of India Group’s Men’s magazine.



Hurree said...

So glad you did this--nice to have all your stuff neatly packed and in one place. One minor quibble: the only place I could find the comments button is way down on the page. Is there any way the posts could be separated or something so that we could comment--er, further up the page?

All ze best,

suniti said...

:) Really Nice.
No particular comments,just wanted to leave a 'Suniti was here' carved for posterity :)

Cheers !