In an isolated colony of a few hundred people, a curse has ensured that no-one is attracted to anyone who likes them. Additionally everyone does like somebody else - a different person in every case.

This means that everyone suffers from unrequited love and they have a stalker unwanted admirer.

The curse is not removable.

In order for the colony to continue, people must procreate.

What is an effective solution for this problem of procreation?

Assume that people refuse point-blank to have sex with their stalker unwanted admirer. No violence or coercion (i.e. rape) is allowed in this colony on pain of life-imprisonment. Of course the stalker's stalker admirer will still love them despite their heinous crime.


  1. Only mature mentally sound adults are affected by this curse in either direction.

  2. If there is an odd number of people at any given time, then one person is fated to fall in love with themselves and at the same time be disgusted by that fact. EDIT It has been pointed out by @Franklin Pezzuti Dyer, in their answer, and @Guy G in a comment, that requirement 2 changes the maths. I have decided to relax this requirement to avoid invalidating anyone's existing answer. You may now assume that (2) is true or false according to your own preference.


I originally intended the curse-afflicted people to be so possessed that they could not resist following their crush around. This was supposed to be part of the curse and why I initially referred to them as stalkers. Obviously I did not make this clear and people answered on the basis that they needn't be so obsessed. For that reason I have relented and edited to use the term unwanted admirer. In the event I am happy with the answer I eventually accepted. Thanks to all.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 9:33
  • $\begingroup$ the curse-afflicted people to be so possessed that they could not resist following their crush around this was impossible condition anyway. Would mean no any civilization is possible, because we need to separate our economic functions. Imagine A is operating a dumpster, or a nuclear reactor, or being heart surgeon. B "can't resist" keeping in eyesight A, like Hari could not in Solaris. C can't resist being in elbow touch from B. D is chained to C, etc ....ALL the colony is necessarily packed in one room. In a surgery, for example. No economic activity is possible. Starved to death, all. $\endgroup$
    – Arioch
    Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 10:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Arioch - It's too late now but thinking this through, I should have defined it differently. I.e. each person refused to have sex with anyone except their crush while the other original rules apply. Clearly a case of lack of clarity in my own mind what I was asking. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 22, 2020 at 17:27

13 Answers 13



For most of human history, love had almost nothing to do with procreation. You mated due to alliances, control of resources, lust, etc. Lots of people have sex with other people despite being deeply in love with their spouse because of good old biology. Reproduction won't be a problem. Jealousy will.

You need a system to account for people and their feelings. Everyone knows how the whole thing works, and your educational system needs to emphasize the foolishness of true love, it's pointlessness and cruelty. Crush all those romantic stories, and instead have a multitude of tales of the tragedy of pursuing love and the nobility of rising above, and doing kind things for your love that you know they will never appreciate. They all will feel it, and they all know their love is cursed to never reciprocate. Who can hate the one you love when they CAN'T love you back?

Now love is a learned behavior, and people can "love the one they're with," quite realistically. Ideally, you will have a society of people working to sublimate their romantic desires into community action. You hopefully don't even know who loves you, but instead have a mysterious secret admirer. Maybe you can even have a social practice of being helpful to your love's girl/boyfriend - kind of a Roxanne romance by proxy. After all, you want them to be happy.

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    $\begingroup$ So, basically Ancient Greece and the way they looked at Eros and his arrows? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_words_for_love Or more closely, eros as a form of love and close brother to madness? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eros_(concept) $\endgroup$
    – jo1storm
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 12:59
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    $\begingroup$ After all, you want them to be happy. - This of course is a romantic view. So called love can be very selfish. and murders have resulted when the object of someone's desire is seen with a third party. That's why I originally spoke about stalkers.Nevertheless, "love the one you're with" would indeed be feasible as long as neither partner was the other one's crush. Everyone would have to live with a supressed longing. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 17:57
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    $\begingroup$ The irony is that your true love hating you is validation that they are your true love. It means they are the one for you. It takes the pressure off finding the perfect person. Here is where social training and context is critical. You TEACH the romantic view of care over possession. There will always be a few people who violate the norms, and they will be an example to the others. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 16:21

How about polygamy + orgies?

In “love triangles” where person A loves B, B loves C, and C loves A, they can have a three-way marriage and orgies in which all three people are satisfied. Other small “love polygons” like $A\to B\to C\to D\to A$ might also feasibly be solved this way. However, things might get icky (both literally and figuratively) for larger numbers of people, or in situations where many people love one person that does not love any of them.

NOTE: Maybe this violates the fact stated in the question that people “refuse point blank to have sex with their stalker.” However, perhaps they might be willing to make a deal if doing participating in an orgy with them would also allow them to have sex with their love object. Think of it as a mutually beneficial “romantic compromise.”

EDIT: given that every person loves and is loved by exactly one person (and that these two people are never the same person), there are actually some neat formulas regarding the lengths of different “love-cycles.” As a matter of fact, this type of structure can be represented by a permutation, and every person will be the member of some love-cycle (although some will be quite long).

Assuming a person’s “stalker” and “love object” are chosen uniformly and at random from all other people, we have that the expected length of the love-cycle in which any given person is involved is equal to

$$\begin{align} 3\cdot \frac{1}{N-2}+4\cdot \frac{N-3}{N-2}\cdot \frac{1}{N-3}+5\cdot\frac{N-3}{N-2}\cdot\frac{N-4}{N-3} \cdot\frac{1}{N-4}+...\\ = \frac{3}{N-1}+\frac{4}{N-1}+...+\frac{N}{N-1}\\ = \frac{N+3}{2} \end{align}$$

So if you have $100$ people, the average length of a cycle is about $51.5$ people. Yikes! That’d be a massive orgy. And it gets even worse if you consider a city of thousands of people... then it really stops being feasible.

Quite astoundingly, the probability of being part of a cycle of length $L$ is identical for every given cycle length, and this probability is equal to


For example, if you live in a town with three people, this is equal to $1/(3-2)=1$, which makes sense, since you’re guaranteed to be in a love triangle (the only possible configuration). This means that the probability of being part of a love-cycle with a length equal to $L$ or less is equal to


Thus, in a small town containing $N=1000$ people, you can expect about $8/998$ of them, or about $8$ people on average, to be part of a love-cycle with a length shorter than $L=10$. Looks like this strategy won’t work out so well after all (unless we’re dealing with very small towns).

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    $\begingroup$ This is interesting because I haven't specified the size of closed loops. They could be as small as triangles or conceivably involve the entire population in one huge loop. There must be some probability theory in here as to what sizes are most likely. In a true triangle I think I'm correct that at least one person must be gay or bisexual. Of course that is not a problem except perhaps where procreation is concerned. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 0:11
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK Oh! In that case, let me modify my question to add some calculations. You’re right, this is a nice probability problem! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK See updated question. By the way, I assumed it was impossible for anyone to fall in love with themselves in my calculations. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 2:19
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK Go for it! You may be interested in this fun math puzzle, which also deals with the mathematics of random permutations. Please give me the link to your question once you write it! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ @candied_orange But A has no reason to agree to that, unless their love object C is also involved. And C won’t agree unless their love object is involved, etc. So basically you have to do the whole loop all at once in order for everyone to benefit. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 12:55

Decouple romance and sex entirely.

The idea that romantic love and sexual attraction need to go 100% hand-in-hand is one that has had toxic effects for a very very long time.
Even if you're not exactly in love with a person, generally you'll find them at least somewhat attractive.

Sex is fun for itself, and two people can have a good time without loving one another very easily, it happens all the time!

There's no shortage of people I don't love but think are plenty attractive and would happily spend an evening with.

Red Dwarf did it best I think:

CRANE: We discarded the concept of "family" in the 25th century when scientists finally proved that all our hang-ups and neuroses are caused by our parents.
RIMMER: I knew it!
CRANE: Families are disastrous for your mental health. So are relationships. These are outmoded concepts for us.
RIMMER: But what about love? Surely people still fall in love?
CRANE: We have developed beyond love, Mr. Rimmer. That is a short-term hormonal distraction which interferes with the pure pursuit of personal advancement. We are holograms. There is no risk of disease or pregnancy. That is why in our society we only believe in sex -- constant, guilt-free sex.

-- Red Dwarf S5-Ep1 "Holoship"

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    $\begingroup$ I think the concept was stolen from Huxley's Brave new world. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Trish I don't think swingers, practitioners of open relationships, or heck, even people visiting a prostitute needed Huxley's work to realize that you could enjoy sex with someone you don't love... $\endgroup$
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 13:51

The question reveals a huge amount of unspoken cultural bias.

Why assume that 'love' has anything to do with who you marry and/or have children with?

In many (most?) societies 'love matches' are frowned upon -- princesses do NOT marry stablehands, however hot they are! -- and people marry who they have to. Many (most?) may pine for someone else, and that's why romantic fiction is always so popular.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. The problem with your answer is that, in my question, I stated that individuals refuse to have sex with their admirer, nd that coercion is not countenanced. Therefore I have defined the culture as well. This is not bias, it is simply a matter of defining the nature of the problem with respect to a particular culture. I make no claim that this particular society is in the majority, or even that it is on planet Earth. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK - You misinterpret the point of this answer. It is not "marry the one who loves you even though you hate them", but rather "love has absolutely nothing to do with who you marry". In a non-love-based marriage, neither person loves (and thus, by your rules, neither is repulsed by) the other. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry but you have misinterpreted my question. In it I state that each individual refuses to have sex with their admirer. This is part of the curse. It has nothing to do with what the society's original culture was or wasn't. Curses are designed to disrupt, not to fit in with a society's rationality or beliefs. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 11:27
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK I don't think David is suggesting people marry their stalkers. The suggestion is just to marry someone other than your stalker or crush. Same as the top answer. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 12:06
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    $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK I agree this answer is more about accusing you of cultural bias than it is about actually answering the question. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 14:19

Decoupling of Romance and the Family.

As far as procreation goes, that's easy. Artificial insemination. You might even be able to get a hold of genetic material from your crush. Everyone donates genetic material to a bank and then it is dolled out on demand. Since everyone is in the same situation, they will probably be willing to share. You never have to touch or see your stalker in person.

The big question is then how are these children raised? All I can think is that romantic families will get replaced with platonic or other-family-families. For example a woman pairs up with her best friend or sister or cousin who also wants a child. They decide who goes first, apply to the bank, one of them becomes pregnant and they raise the first child as a family unit. Then whenever they are ready the other one applies to the bank.

The other big question is what is the (familial) role of men in this new society? Of course some men will want children, but it is harder for them to bond strongly with their child in this artificial setup. Perhaps men just attach themselves to their female relatives' family?

The other other big question is how this effects society as a whole? Without the curse people would fall in love and move house, and make connections with their partner's family and generally cross pollinate. But in the new system there is the danger of stagnation where the colony breaks into a dozen "families" that have no reason or incentive to interpollinate. So they are more likely to feud with each other. Certainly bad for morale.



If your colony has a high tech level, two people who are not in love with each other can agree to make love while wearing augmented reality headsets that make their sex partner look like the one they are in love with.

Since your colony is under a curse, there must be magic in your world, in which case it may be possible to pay a magician to make your sex partner look like your love interest, in general or in your eyes only. Simple hypnotism could also do the trick.

Lacking either of these, maybe you can hire makeup artists to make your partner look enough like your love interest to make you interested.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, as long as no-one is tricked by the disguise and everyone takes part knowingly this is a good idea. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 14:49

Artificial insemination.

Every guy donates double-blind and women are drawn at random to conceive (or may volunteer to conceive if the desire to procreate is still there). That way there's no relationship lovey-dovieness involved. It's just a duty one is assigned to undertake so society can continue. Like jury duty.

You probably have to compensate the woman for carrying and raising the child since if no one likes anyone mutually she's basically a working single mother.

Or just compensate her for carrying the child and all children enter a dormitory orphanage school where they are raised. I'm unsure whether adoption should even be allowed since that could produce an upper and lower class of children.

The dormitory could also raise children until a certain age, like 10 years old and then boot them out by having them apply for a live-in apprenticeship program around the colony.

This seems better than assigning children to be raised by individuals (even if they don't want to). It also seems more consistent than allowing individuals to volunteer to raise a child drawn at random (if they got to pick that would just be adoption) because then there are always unwanted children or not enough volunteers and you get a lower class of children.


Happy Hour

Has worked for humanity for thousands of years. Enough alcohol and anyone can look good enough to scratch that itch....

  • $\begingroup$ May be good for sex, but not so good for procreation. Alcohol and conception do net mix well. $\endgroup$
    – user58697
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 23:21

Nobody gets to be happy, Chance/Fate dictates marriage pairings!

There's a simple solution: if we can't make anyone happy, we dictate who marries whom by a random system. If A loves B who loves C who loves D who loves E and so on, all the people have to gather in front of the town hall. We call the first person, Male 1, and he gets to draw a name from the female bucket, let's say he draws Female #23. They are now married and out of the pool. Female #23 may draw who's the next girl to draw, female #15, and she draws her future husband, which is male #21. He may draw the next male to get married and so on. This goes on till both buckets are empty and all got allotted their partner. The chance that anyone gets to be allotted to the one they hate is slim, just as slim as being allotted to who they love. As a result, we got lots of not-love but utilitarian pairings. The colony will go on.

For this to work, the pool needs to be equal in size on either bucket. The order of drawing is randomized in the shown fashion (the initial person might be determined by drawing their name by the town council after throwing a coin for the gender).

Now comes the crux why this system: The chance to get your love or hate becomes extremely slim! As Franklin calculated his love cycles, he did not take into account the gender of the people. But in randomizing the marriages and enforcing only procreating pairings, we suddenly reduce the chance of getting paired with your love or hate as either of them might be in the wrong pool for you:

Assuming you are the first to draw, and your love and hate are of the same gender as you are from a different age bracket, you have a chance of $0$ to draw them. If they are both of opposite gender and in the opposite group, your chance is $\frac 2 {\frac N 2} = \frac 4 N$ - which is why we want a huge pool in the first place. The chances do start to fluctuate around those numbers for subsequent people, as their love/hate will be eliminated from (or never has been in) the pool.

To ensure that nobody gets to marry their love/hate, there might be an additional provision under which someone that draws their cursed partner immediately has to redraw or society accepts some nonprocreating families as fate did not deem either to be worthy of procreation.

Nobody gets married, artificially insemination only!

Or we throw out the mere concept of marriage. Nobody gets to be betrothed to anyone. The concept of family is thrown out. Instead, the council of geneticists demands sperm samples from all males and egg samples from all females. The best genetic combinations are evaluated and the resulting embryos reimplanted to the women. Every woman might have the civic duty to bear two kids but might opt for more, and because this is an issue of state, the colony will pay them for their duty.

It's a brave new world

But then again, why at all keep procreating the normal way? Aldous Huxley gave us a Brave New World, where people have sex just for fun, and new life is made only in the lab. You screw around with whoever catches your fancy. Love is seen as a mental illness and marriage is unthinkable. No, you partner up for a night in the hay to get steam off, then part again, and nobody ever needs to be pregnant because that is all gross. And when your life ends, you get cremated and your phosphor turned into fertilizer.


I like the other answers that essentially decouple love from procreation. The answers that assign partnerships at random or use artificial insemination and group child rearing are all perfectly reasonable. But suppose you want to do a little better than random chance. What if you want your citizens to feel like they have some say in the matter? Rank choice voting to the rescue!

At pairing time, everyone submits a ballot that ranks all their potential mates in order of preference. Presumably this means you put your crush #1 while your crush ranks you dead last in return. But there have to be some people out there who kinda looks like your crush, or maybe act like them in some endearing way, or are just a solid alternate choice for your preferences. You get to put those people near the top.

Now the matching algorithm goes to work. Each person's score is the sum of all their rankings from those still left unpaired, and the person with the lowest score is matched to his/her most preferred partner still remaining in the pool. Repeat this until everyone is matched.

Now, nobody gets their first choice, but the odds are good that for any given pairing, someone is getting a partner that ranked as more preferred than what they would have gotten by random chance. And as a bonus, everyone knows they had some say in the matter and probably feel more invested in their partner as a result. Sure, some will get a partner very far down on the list, but there won't be as many in that situation as purely random pairings. It's a society where no one gets their first choice so good enough is good enough.


If you watch the Black Mirror episode "Hang the DJ" it might give you some additional ideas and insight into the idea of 'indoctrinated' social norms and the 'power' of unrequited love.

In this case, two people were in love with each other, which doesn't follow your question, but the original premise you're given at the beginning of the episode is that a computer matches people together for an indeterminate time according to an algorithm that, in the end, will eventually cause them to have the perfect pairing, even though there is no proof of that being true. Everybody still believes this, though, and therefore follows the social norm of having sex with their 'new' partners almost immediately after the pairing.

This could cause those with 'unrequited' love to follow the 'norm' in the belief that eventually they will be paired with their love. And of course with all the sex going on eventually there will be babies. The point is, though, that social indoctrination that some 'higher' power, whatever that power may be, is the proper way to be matched with mates is often a harder mold to break out of than what personal preference may dictate and that, as has been pointed out, has been going on for a long time in many different societies.

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    $\begingroup$ Please add the relevant part in the answer. Just pointing to an external resource is likely to bring your answer to be deleted. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 13:00

A whole lot of face f***ing.

Depending on the type of narrative you are running with, it might be fun to explore the new sexual culture that would develop from how unusually obsessed people are with someone who is not their sexual partner. Imagining someone else's face while doing the deed is already fairly common. Agreeing to roleplay as the desired person exists too. With every single person having essentially this same scenario, everything would be far more common, acceptable (or taboo) and the culture surrounding this would likely have developed and grown significantly.

Especially if people know about the curse. It is fair to say that some creativity and ingenuity would have expanded this area. Holograms? Suits? Masks? AI? There is a lot of potential.


Maybe they can ask officers Habib, Goody and fireman Gary if they managed to work something out.

HABIB: So you fancy Kevin, Kevin fancies me and I fancy you.

enter image description here

the thin blue line - Too beautiful too die


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