The age of the anti-natalists

9 July 2022

9:00 AM

9 July 2022

9:00 AM

As of 2023, the novel for which I may still be best known will have been out for 20 years. We Need to Talk About Kevin clearly reached the bestseller list because it hit a zeitgeisty nerve. The story of a high-school mass murder (after Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Uvalde, the one aspect of the book that has dated is Kevin’s pitiful body-count of nine) is told from the perspective of the killer’s mother, who’s anguished about whether her dislike of her own son from day one made the atrocity her fault. Proliferating the now commonplace expression ‘maternal ambivalence’, Kevin kicked off a larger discussion about the downsides of parenthood and the merits of giving children a miss. Interviews with me were subsequently anthologised in the likes of Childfree and Loving It! I was uneasy with my role as the anti-kid at the time, and now that uneasiness has given way to full-blown queasiness.

For two decades later, we’ve no need for an anti-kid. Western fertility has remained depressed. The age at which women bear their first child, if they ever bear even one, has steadily risen. Anecdotally, I meet far more British and American young women who have forsworn motherhood than who hope to raise a family. Shriver’s schtick is not only old hat; mea culpa, it’s malign.

Besides, my mild parenthood-ain’t-always-a-bowl-of-cherries line has been superseded by a multiplicity of positions on the culturally omnipotent left that, taken as a whole, embody not simply a neutral, elective relationship to childbearing, but an active hostility towards it.

When the first deluge of documentaries about transgenderism hit our televisions starting in about 2012, one of the concerns conspicuously unaddressed was fertility. The parents on these shows who were eager to encourage their children to embrace whatever he/she/it felt they were never raised the issue of whether pumping their progeny full of hormones might just possibly impede the kids’ capacity to reproduce. All that mattered was self-actualisation. As this baffling social infatuation has accelerated, the fact that the majority of this experimental population will be unable to bear children has continued to be dismissed as by the by.

The rage for swapping sexes – and we’re only born in two sexes to conceive offspring – is also estranging the anatomical signatures of sex from their purpose. Women don’t grow breasts to form an alluring cleavage in low-cut dresses; mammary glands and nipples are meant for feeding infants. Biological men who take oestrogen and get implants do not have female breasts; they have extrusions. On females, the vagina isn’t a cul-de-sac; that passage leads somewhere. Its sole purpose is to facilitate the fertilisation of eggs and to serve as an exit ramp for the next generation. Likewise, aside from its double duty as a fire hose, the penis is designed to inseminate females. That’s what it’s for. Making babies. No matter how skilfully plastic surgeons approximate the innies and outies of males and females, the exercise of sex ‘reassignment’ bastardises human biology. It trades reproductive functionality for fakery.

Meanwhile, Gay Pride Day has morphed into Pride Month (I do not understand how or why). Last month I had the misfortune to get caught up in this frantic, frocked-up phantasmagoria the night before New York City’s Pride parade, an event whose number of participants has steadily mushroomed and which now annually paralyses lower Manhattan for a weekend. I experienced a panicky desire to flee. Maybe as a heterosexual I merely felt left out. Or maybe the spectacle unnerved me beyond an awareness that this was not my scene.

Far from persecuting the once-modest proportion of our species attracted to the same sex, we now aggressively celebrate a QWERTY keyboard’s worth of ‘gender identities,’ to the point that the stodgiest of corporations plasters a rainbow tribute on its logo for the entire month of June. The preponderance of these ‘identities’ do not subscribe to practices that result in babies. Fully 21 per cent of those born between 1997 and 2003 categorise themselves as non-heterosexual. Post-war, that percentage has been roughly doubling every generation. I’ve no problem with folks getting their jollies however they like. But we all have a problem when the behaviour that propagates the species is seen by our most fertile cohort as hopelessly naff.

To the guts of Roe vs Wade another time. Briefly, I’m pro-choice. But in the throes of Democratic indignation over the Supreme Court decision to send abortion law jurisdiction back to state legislatures, the rhetoric of my political fellow travellers has often gone too far. It’s one thing to be pro-abortion access, another to be pro-abortion. A host of protestors have bannered terminations as badges of nobility. It’s a bad look.

Climate-change propaganda has become so hyperbolic that droves of young people are resolving never to raise children on a doomed planet. Even if this high-minded anxiety about the temperature is trendy cover for escaping the bother and expense of screaming brats, the upshot is the same. Besides, younger folks are decreasingly having sex at all. Other people in corporeal form are too scary. With the help of copious internet porn, it’s simpler and less embarrassing to take care of business by yourself.

Humanity is not about to disappear. Fertility in Africa and the Middle East is sky-high. But at this rate, European peoples and their diaspora will dwindle. This is not purely a matter of global power or some competitive race calculus. There’s something nihilistic, self-defeating and bleak about any culture that no longer cares about bringing new life into the world to keep the show on the road. On balance, I still think forgoing kids was the right decision for me. But during my reproductive years, I regarded myself as an outlier. Statistically, I wasn’t really peculiar then, and nowadays? I’d be rightly seen as conformist.

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