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I'm developing a story about a world which is as similar to our world as possible, except for one important difference: sex doesn't exist. Romantic love still exists, it's just that there's no lust involved; two people just fall in love and have a desire to be with one another. Hugs and kisses may still exist, but there's no sexual desire beneath them. Humans reproduce through a simple biological process that doesn't involve pleasure in any way, and doesn't require taking off your clothes; it's just that when a man and a woman decide they want to have a child together, they initiate the process and that makes the woman's body pregnant. But there are no lustful motives that would make a person engage in the process except for a desire to have a child.

Now you could ask why evolution wouldn't program humans with a biological drive to reproduce, but my story wouldn't really explore the evolutionary psychology aspect. I'm more interested in how the world would be different. How would society, politics, economics, personal life and relationships, etc. change? Here's what I've come up with so far:

  • There's no rape, pedophilia, sexual harassment, etc.
  • There's no pornography, prostitution, etc.
  • Teenage pregnancy would be much less, although not zero since some teenagers might still decide that they want to have a child together.
  • Extramarital affairs would still exist, insofar as as a married man or woman might still decide to have a romantic relationship with someone else, and they could still decide to have a child together.
  • Birth control wouldn't exist, but abortion may still exist since a woman may decide in the middle of her pregnancy that she doesn't want a child.
  • Large parts of major religions would be different, since the entire notion of sexual morality doesn't exist, but religions would still teach that you shouldn't have children out of wedlock.
  • Relationships might be more honest, in the sense that someone won't pretend to love someone else just so that person will agree to have sex with them. But the phenomenon of gold-diggers, where someone pretends to love someone else to get their money, would still exist.
  • There would be no need to hide the truth of "where babies come from" from children, and thus there would be much less censorship in media.
  • Clothing may still exist, since even in our world people have an aversion from seeing people they have no sexual interest in naked.
  • Men may have less incentive to be successful in life, because they don't have as much of a motive in impressing women in order to get those woman to have sex with them. In fact I think Hugh Hefner argued in "The Playboy Philosophy" that the entire reason civilization exists is men doing great things in order to prove themselves to be worthy mates to women.

Can anyone think of more differences and/or critique the ones I have now? I'm sure there's a lot of obvious differences in society, culture, etc. that I'm not thinking of.

By the way, if you think this scenario is too far-fetched or unimaginable, just remember that for children who haven't yet learned where babies come from, this is exactly the world they think they're living in. Just think back to how you thought the world worked when you were that age. Human relationships, TV shows, movies, politics, culture, etc. still made a great deal of sense to you when you didn't know that sex existed.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Please remember to edit any clarifications into the question. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jan 20 '17 at 4:34
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You need to decide whether you are getting rid of the sex act, or the whole apparatus of sexual reproduction. If you hand-wave the reproduction process, it could be a matter of direct combination of DNA and direct implantation into the womb.

Male physiology is caused by testosterone, both in utero and again at puberty. Men (XY chromosome individuals) who do not produce testosterone, or who cannot absorb it, develop to be apparently female to all tests other than DNA tests.

So your people might all look female, if you get rid of testosterone completely. Those who are XX would develop curves and boobs at puberty, and the XY ones wouldn't. Any individual would be able to carry a baby, as the foetus produces most of the necessary hormones to sustain pregnancy, and a culture that can do direct DNA swaps will be able to manage any other minor hormonal adjustment that may be required for an XY to gestate.

Two XX individuals would have a girl baby, an XX and XY pairing would have a 50/50 girl/boy split, and two XY individuals would have a 25% chance of a girl, a 50% chance of a boy, and a 25% chance of a failed conception.

Of course, the babies would all be born looking like girls from the outside.

Testosterone creates the psychological sensation of isolation and separateness, so low testosterone males would feel a lot more socially connected, and have more sense of belonging. There would therefore be a lot less male aggression, and a lot more non-sexual cuddling and touching between everybody, not just between romantic lovers.

Testosterone also drives competitive behaviour, and reduces empathy. Again, this will result in a more peaceful society.

Women have no problem taking up arms and doing violence to defend their homes and loved ones, so your peaceful society would defend itself just fine. It is much less likely to invade someone else, though.

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  • $\begingroup$ "it could be a matter of direct combination of DNA and direct implantation into the womb" Well, I'm assuming a natural biological process, not a technological one. I'm assuming that since the dawn of Man, sex has never existed. And I'm not envisioning the absence of testosterone; the gender differences still exist, there's just no such thing as sexual desire. $\endgroup$ – Authors Anonymous Jan 18 '17 at 4:31
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    $\begingroup$ The thing is, the sex differences and the hormones CAUSE sexual desire. As others have pointed out, sexual reproduction and sexual desire underlie just about every facet of our culture. Sexual desire which cannot be fulfilled through sex is suppressed and expresses itself through chasing other forms of immortality - tribe, nation, building things, works of art, etc. There is no logical, coherent way to have human beings, just as they are now, without the entire driving force of the human psyche. You might just get away with what you describe if you keep them essentially pre-pubescent. $\endgroup$ – Jnani Jenny Hale Jan 19 '17 at 3:13
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As you said, from a scientific standpoint, this is very unlikely. No incentive drives down global populations, and there isn't really a "simple process" in scientific terms that can spit out human babies without contact. On to the critique.


There's no rape, pedophilia, sexual harassment, etc.

There may be less of these, because these acts may not be physically pleasurable to the perpetrators, but of course there will still be some. For some individuals, as @kingledion said, "how do you know all rapists are in it for the ejaculation, and not the pounding and violence?" <-- this. x100

There's no pornography, prostitution, etc.

Probably correct, although prostitution would just equate to sperm / egg donation at this point: you would pay a beautiful person to stand next to them and pop out a kid.

Birth control wouldn't exist

Not true. If all it takes is "romance" then who's to say a simple crush on the boy sitting next to you wouldn't get you pregnant? If having children is even easier - and doesn't require penetration - then birth control should be abundant.

Clothing may still exist, since even in our world people have an aversion from seeing people they have no sexual interest in naked.

... will still exist, because we wear clothes for reasons other than modesty - namely protection from the elements, protection from pests, and comfort.

Men may have less incentive to be successful in life, because they don't have as much of a motive in impressing women in order to get those woman to have sex with them.

I disagree. Instead of chasing sex, they would chase having a family, stable romantic relationship, household, shared economic responsibilities, etc. And the converse is also true: if pregnancy is simplified, eliminating gender roles, why shouldn't women be less motivated?


Other notes

  • This sounds like an interesting world, I like the premise but it could use some ironing
  • Cancer-prone reproduction-related organs would be removed. Breasts, prostates, cervices, you name it - if people don't need it to produce hormones, but it can get diseases easily - it will be taken out.
  • Adoption rates would soar. There is less thinking involved in having children, and it takes less time to reproduce, so babies will be abundant.
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  • $\begingroup$ Pregnancy is exactly the same, except for its cause. It still involves a nine-month process, it still involves morning sickness and a painful delivery, etc. $\endgroup$ – Authors Anonymous Jan 18 '17 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ In support of the idea that ambition is not necessarily linked to sex, the Byzantine general Narses and the Chinese admiral Zheng He could not be said to have lacked ambition... And I cannot imagine that Newton and Gauss did all that work in physics and mathematics for the purpose of impressing women. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 18 '17 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ Clothing also serves to identify status and as synecdoche for compliance with society's norms. $\endgroup$ – EvilSnack Jan 18 '17 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Certainly not everyone would lack ambition (kids still have ambition before they know where babies come from), but I think there would be a whole lot more deadbeats out there, people who don't accomplish much in life, people who live off their parents money, etc. $\endgroup$ – Authors Anonymous Jan 18 '17 at 2:54
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    $\begingroup$ Why would there be less thinking involved in having children? If there are no children caused by careless sex, then essentially all of them would be planned and, thus, there would be more thinking involved. I agree with @AuthorsAnonymous that there would be fewer children than in our world. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Jan 18 '17 at 7:33
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Rape would still have evolved becasue it is still a successful way to reproduce offspring, that is the only thing required, The dominance aspect would likely remain unaltered as well for the same reason. Without sexual attraction you can still have pedophialia, although it should be rarer. Pedophilia is not only sexual attraction to children it can also be non-sexual attraction, which since love exists still exists in your species. Although the question of where to draw the line between attraction, love, and sexual attraction is not something we can do, they are just too intermeshed to be treated as completely distinct. But lets pretend we can for the hypothetical.

Men and women will still behave much the same becasue the man can still impregnate multiple women and women can not. Changing the mechanics of it actually makes it easier, or at least harder to get caught. Although you are right teen pregnancy would drop like a stone.

As for hiding where babies come from, there is no reason to do that now, so the same arbitrary religious reasons could pop up in your species. Both aversion to nakedness and keeping your offspring purposefully uniformed is a wholly cultural phenomenon, not biological. The only real change you see in clothing is it becomes unisex and bland, without any of the alterations we make to enhance sexual attractiveness.

The big question is how did your species evolve, if reproduction isn't pleasurable then there is little drive to reproduce, so birth rates in general plummet. Worse since just like with human they would not understand what leads to offspring your species would never have had consistent reproduction needed to actually perpetuate the species prior to acquiring higher intelligence. And without sexual attractiveness you species has no way to weed out the majority of damaged or detrimental genes, which show up in things as wide ranging as asymmetry, smell, and body proportions. So your species is begging for a huge number of genetic conditions and diseases. There is also no way to to breed for intelligence as our ancestors unconsciously did since intelligence is no longer attractive. Your humans should never have made it to the fire and stone toops stage of development much less clothing. The mechanics of sex are largely irrelevant, but eliminating pleasure and attraction have huge effects, few of them good.

so really aside from dooming your species all you have really eliminated is pornography, teen pregnancy, and prostitution.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Rape would still have evolved becasue it is still a successful way to reproduce offspring, that is the only thing required" In the world I'm envisioning, there is no biological drive to reproduce. "Although the question of where to draw the line between attraction, love, and sexual attraction is not something we can do, they are just too intermeshed to be treated as completely distinct." Well, just imagine how you thought about love back when you were a kid and didn't know where babies come from. $\endgroup$ – Authors Anonymous Jan 18 '17 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ And yes, there's all sorts of evolutionary questions of how this is possible, but my story wouldn't focus on that. It would focus on the differences in society, culture, etc. I think the differences would be far more significant and far-reaching then just pornography, teen pregnancy, and prostitution. $\endgroup$ – Authors Anonymous Jan 18 '17 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ If there is no drive to reproduce then there will be no reproduction, or at least so little that your people will be on the verge of dying out. Unless reproduction happens by accident every time people touch, otherwise it is biologically impossible. If you really want such a society you might be better off writing a story about sentient robots. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 18 '17 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ If you're going to ignore the evolutionary effects of your change then just handwave your people into saints and have them not do anything bad ever. If you ignore the effects of evolution then there is no reason to suppose any change in behavior without sex. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 18 '17 at 15:05
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In Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld universe, vampires abstain from blood by transferring their craving onto something else, be it photography, coffee, etc. I think the same would apply in this world of yours: even without sex, lust would still exist as a basic human condition but not in a form recognizable to us.

What I mean to say is that people would still find some other guilty pleasure to be derived from other people - let's say that it's having someone flick your little toe. "Sexual" harassment would still be a thing, except that it would revolve around flicking toes which do not want to be flicked. "Prostitution" would now become offering toes to be flicked in exchange for money.

The main difference I see is that this replacement would not lead to unwanted pregnancies or the spread of diseases, which would make the world a marginally safer place (perhaps). However, much of human psyche and interaction is likely to remain the same.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a few toes that need flicking...

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  • $\begingroup$ I think in the absence of a biological drive, something like flicking toes would just not be something people find worthwhile. $\endgroup$ – Authors Anonymous Jan 18 '17 at 4:28
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    $\begingroup$ @authorsanonymous: the biological drive that is named absent in the question is that to reproduce - what I refer to is that drive to seek pleasure. It only happens now that these two coincide for human beings, but my point is that they do not have to (and don't, for some people). $\endgroup$ – Xenocacia Jan 18 '17 at 5:24
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    $\begingroup$ @AuthorsAnonymous, several people have made really good points, and you have flicked them off without any apparent consideration. If you aren't at least going to CONSIDER the answers to a question, why ask it? Your proposal has real issues that you have not considered. You are not going to get the answer you hope for. You are going to get the same pointers at the same issues over and over. Perhaps consider actually engaging with the issues people are pointing at. $\endgroup$ – Jnani Jenny Hale Jan 19 '17 at 3:22
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    $\begingroup$ @jnanijennyhale: +1 your comment simply for the use of the word "flicked". Not sure if it was intentional, but... ;) $\endgroup$ – Xenocacia Jan 19 '17 at 5:29
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This is dang long, and in three parts. First, answering your points, Second, the problems that might crop up, and Third, the motivators for having children. All these motivators currently exist in our world, but will be more prevalent because children are a conscious choice rather than driven by sexual desire. This change will alter the fabric of your society.

You actually described sex when you said:

it's just that when a man and a woman decide they want to have a child together, they initiate the process and that makes the woman's body pregnant.

That there is the definition of sex. Two sets of genes and bio process.

What you are actually talking about is a lack of desire.

There's no rape, pedophilia, sexual harassment, etc.

You do realize that rape is not entirely driven by desire right? Likewise pedophila. If both must consent in order for reproduction to happen, then I do think it would cut down on it. But I can see a man or woman chaining someone in the basement and torturing them until they do consent so that they might have a kid. I can also see someone with a lot of money and status paying many people to have their babies.

There's no pornography, prostitution, etc.

No porn I can buy. But I can see women paying the most fit men for children. Which would be payment for sex and vice versa. You argue that no one pays anyone to have children in our world, therefore they would not in this one. But this world is radically different because of this change, that this is fairly likely to happen. (See my points below on children as status symbols).

Teenage pregnancy would be much less, although not zero since some teenagers might still decide that they want to have a child together.

Actually the pregnancy rate of teens might go up instead of down--if making a child is the most intimate thing you could do.

Birth control wouldn't exist, but abortion may still exist since a woman may decide in the middle of her pregnancy that she doesn't want a child

Despite the fact that there is no desire, the act itself might be deemed as an intimate exchange. So--might still be birthcontrol.

There would be no need to hide the truth of "where babies come from" from children, and thus there would be much less censorship in media.

If making a baby is easy, then there might still be censorship regarding the act itself. It might actually be a big secret! No one will imply or say how to do it because teens aren't ready for it--they only learn of it once they graduate. Plus, there is always SOMETHING people object to.

Large parts of major religions would be different, since the entire notion of sexual morality doesn't exist, but religions would still teach that you shouldn't have children out of wedlock

A notion of sexual morality can still exist in this world.

Relationships might be more honest, in the sense that someone won't pretend to love someone else just so that person will agree to have sex with them. But the phenomenon of gold-diggers, where someone pretends to love someone else to get their money, would still exist.

If you want the person so that they can give you babies only, doesn't need to be honest. Also, look at friendships, plenty of people AREN'T honest with their friends and use them for things despite no sexual attraction whatsoever.

Men may have less incentive to be successful in life, because they don't have as much of a motive in impressing women in order to get those woman to have sex with them. In fact I think Hugh Hefner argued in "The Playboy Philosophy" that the entire reason civilization exists is men doing great things in order to prove themselves to be worthy mates to women.

The driver might actually be the chance to have offspring. If there is any advantage to that whatsoever (which there will be) there actually may be more requirements that males OR females set down in order to consider another for breeding. There HAS to be a drive of some sort, even if it isn't one of pleasure or lust, or else the species will die out in short order.

My main point is this: A world without sexual desire does not equal a utopia. All it really means is that you have new and different problems.

If you really do recall your childhood well, other than your needs being attended to by adults, it was NOT all roses and sunshine. There are a lot of interpersonal conflicts and cruelties that are meted out that have nothing to do with sexual desire.

Problems I foresee

MONEY, STATUS, AND THINGS MIGHT BE THE FOCUS Marriage contracts will mainly have to do with money and providing for children. There may be less of a gender divide, so traditional gender roles may actually be totally destroyed. Instead there may be a drive to acquire resources and money. This drive does not have to biological in nature.

CHILDREN MAY BECOME STATUS SYMBOLS & A GOOD WAY TO RETIRE What says plenty? The fact that you have a dozen kids running around. That's your legacy. And parents may actually demand a portion of their child's income over that child's lifetime, as a way to "pay back" the care they received as children. After all, the parent had a choice in the matter. They weren't accidents or born out of love. This practice of children providing for parents in retirement DOES happen in our world. It will be more frequent in this one because having a child is a choice and not borne from sex drive.

RELATIONSHIPS WILL NOT BE AS STRONG You seem to believe that a lack of desire will make people more devoted to each other and likely to marry. Nothing can be further from the truth. Post-sex and during sex oxytocin is released bonding partners to each other (females more than males) and it's tied in with hormones and other things. Without desire, the business of creating children will often be just that--a business--something transactional rather than something borne out of real affection.

YOUR PEOPLE WILL NOT BE HUMAN You can't just make humans, then subtract sexual desire and expect us to look remotely the same. Other instincts will come to the fore when it comes to behavior, and those things might not be so pleasant as you would like. You have build totally different sexual apparatus for them and those things might have problems of their own. You say in the comments that there will be gender differences, however, those differences that are seen in humans are actually driven by hormones in a VERY BIG WAY, so it's not realistic to have gender differences in the same way. Everything from bone density to musculature to secondary sexual characteristics, such as prominent breasts are influenced GREATLY by hormones. You will have to do a ton of research on this.

A HIGHLY MOTIVATED POPULATION Ok, so evolution lesson here. You believe that males will get lazy without the motivation of sexual desire. But guess what? All those lazy fellows will not be passing on their genes. The ones who do will have a drive to make children, and their children and so on. And they will have to do whatever it takes to signal to the opposite sex that they can take care of children or they will not pass on their genes. When I say drive, I'm not necessarily talking biology, but your society, at large, will have to have motivation to create children and that motivation will be passed down, even if it's through societal expectations. They gotta want children. There have to be reasons.

A POSSIBLE LACK OF GENETIC DIVERSITY If for some reason, your population only has a few in it that are motivated to have children, that means that only a few will. And if only a few do, their genes will get passed on, narrowing the gene pool so much that genetic defects will be rampant. This also makes them more prone to all die from disease, because a diverse population can withstand illness and viruses better. (Take, for instance the Black Death--1/3 of the population, those without resistance, died. Some got ill, then got better because they carried different genes). This problem will effect your society on a social level, because if genetic defects happen a lot, it will something they watch out for and plan around. They may even test for it before they have kids, and if they can't, they aren't together, if one of the two desires children and they don't want defects. Sorry, but biology has an impact on society.

REASONS TO HAVE KIDS

  • Because you want a friend.

    This will result in a lot of lonely people desperate to have children. I can't imagine the dynamic in this case will be healthy, and I can, for sure, see a market for people paying to have kids, as outlined above. This happens in our world. The pain of childbirth is not a deterrent.

  • Because they will provide for you in old age.

    In this society, as outlined above, this can be a reason to have them. If it isn't connected with sexual desire, said children should be grateful to you for their existence, because you CHOSE to have them. Not because of some desire that gave you pleasure, but because there's an advantage to it. This is actually a cultural reason people have had children and is still a tradition in China.

  • Because you want someone to continue the family business or pursuit.

    You only live so long, and because you brought junior into this world specifically for this, he darn well better follow in your footsteps. After all, you made him, because you chose it, and you may have done it specifically for this reason, unlike kids that are made currently, in our world. Even in our world, this does happen. It will happen a lot more in yours BECAUSE choice, not passion, is the motivator in your world. This will change society in that there may be lots of generational businesses. This is not prevalent as much today in America or the UK or Europe.

  • Because you want a permanent connection with another person, using your offspring to do so.

    Even without sexual desire, a desire to connect with another person and keep them in your life may be strong. In this case, you might lie or say whatever you need to in order to have that child, which would mean the person who had the child with you would be forever in your life. In our world, this does happen, and it isn't always tied to sexual desire.

  • Because you love the other person and think that you'll make a wonderful child together This seems to be the only reason you accept, but in your world, the reasons above will actually be more prevalent.

IN short--children will be MUCH more obligated to their parents. Your society will have much more respectful offspring because they all know that they were chosen to exist. While this is true when parents opt for fertility treatments in our world, it doesn't change the way society is run or how children are treated and seen because the majority of births are likely unscheduled/unplanned. If EVERYONE could chose to have kids and there was no drive, this would be the result.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Jan 20 '17 at 4:31

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