<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>"The standardized world we are facing and fearing"</b> <p> Sex and Futurist Fictions <p> <p> In the first pages of <i>Brave New World</i> (1932), Aldous Huxley's famous portrayal of a future dystopia, the author plunges us into a world where the state controls every aspect of human reproduction. In minute detail, he describes the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, with its Fertilizing Room, Bottling Room, Social Predestination Room, and Decanting Room. Most women in his envisaged society are induced to have their ovaries removed. Their eggs are harvested, inspected for abnormalities, and mixed with spermatozoa. Once conception occurs, the fertilized egg is incubated, fed, bathed in hormones, its sex determined, and the crucial decisions made—will it be twinned? Will it have its development arrested? And, if female, will it be made into a freemartin? Finally, instead of being born, babies are "decanted." In this society, carrying a child to term is taboo, its citizens conditioned to be disgusted by the idea that reproduction was once "viviparous." Now, Huxley has the director of the hatchery hailing ectogenesis—that is the conception and gestation of babies outside the womb—as "The principle of mass production at last applied to biology." <p> A prolific writer, Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) was hailed as the voice of postwar upper-middle-class youth. A string of comic novels about cynical young men first established his reputation as an attacker of taboos. He was to move ultimately on from dandyism to spiritualism, but it was <i>Brave New World</i> that was to win him lasting fame. As a member of an intellectual dynasty (his grandfather Thomas Huxley was Darwin's most famous defender), he was, unlike most mandarins, not hostile to science. Nevertheless his doubts about its ability to guarantee social progress led some like H. G. Wells to regard him as a pessimist. <p> Innumerable studies have been made of Huxley's classic, with particular attention paid to his success in predicting future social and scientific developments. What has been slighted have been the ways in which he drew on contemporary concerns about reproduction. <i>Brave New World</i> was far from being original. It was only the most extreme and ultimately the best-known fictional manifestation of a cultural malaise, a British ambivalence about the ultimate benefits of the encroachment of science on human life. Even when sensationally raising the specter of Taylorism (or scientific management) applied to biology—suggesting the coming of a world in which natural childbirth would be regarded with horror and replaced by oophorectomies and ectogenesis—Huxley was drawing on concerns voiced by many others. To understand why they were broaching such issues, this chapter will sketch out the sexual challenges they believed that their modernizing society was producing—including restless women, incapacitated men, and declining fertility. The goal is to explain why so many believed that changes in reproduction and gender relationships posed serious dangers, and why the intervention of eugenics and medical science was regarded both as a cause and cure of such problems. <p> Between the 1870s and the 1940s Britain witnessed a surge in such futurist writing. A small army of writers tackled the question of what impact modernization might ultimately have on sex and the family. Those who addressed these issues ranged from highbrow novelists to middlebrow writers of science fiction. The late nineteenth-century speculative fictions generally reflected a belief in progress and technology. In the twentieth century, a shift occurred, with a decline in the utopian interest in social or political planning, and a growing fixation on the possibility of the biological penetration and transformation of minds and bodies. What if the ambition was not just to produce planned communities but to plan and control nature itself? Building motorcars on assembly lines or scientifically organizing the planting of trees was all well and good. It was the question of whether births should be planned and controlled that sparked the fiercest responses. Debates about the merits of subjecting humans to scientific surveillance and intervention necessarily and inevitably focused on reproduction. <p> Those offering predictions about how sex and reproduction might change offered a variety of scenarios. Early futurist literature optimistically tended to assume that in an egalitarian future world women's reproductive decisions would not be constrained by social concerns. In the American Edward Bellamy's <i>Looking Backward: 2000–1887</i> (1888), a cooperative society of the year 2000 continues gender norms, but women have no "unnatural rivalry" with men. If they are "allowed" by men to work—since it keeps them healthy—sexual differences are still respected. Employment does not deter women from marriage—indeed one has to be a wife and mother to obtain the highest status. Bellamy argued that if sexual selection were to operate freely, it was necessary that women not marry for money. Nevertheless he credited his economically independent women with continuing to be charmingly feminine. He asserts that coquetry is ended, yet girls continue to blush. If women are purportedly "free," before marrying they still seek their fathers' consent. <p> The English socialist William Morris responded to Bellamy with <i>News from Nowhere</i> (1890). His too is a utopia where domestic tyranny, sexual ignorance, and "commercial marriages" are unknown. Women are happy to be wives and mothers. The idea of the "superior" women to emancipate their sex from the bearing of children is now recognized as folly. As maternity in a cooperative community poses no hardships, the free woman "has far more instinct for maternity than the poor drudge and mother of drudges of past days." <p> In <i>A Modern Utopia</i> (1905), H. G. Wells likewise imagined sexual desires being harnessed for the benefit of the community. At the moment, love was made "too elaborately," too much erotic brooding occurred. Overindulgence was followed by demoralization and excesses; promiscuity led to social instability. Such dangers were skirted in utopia. "And, in the matter of love, a straight and clean desire for a clean and straight fellow-creature was our Founders' ideal. They enjoined marriage between equals as the samurai's duty to the race, and they framed directions of the precisest sort to prevent that uxorious inseparableness, that connubiality which will reduce a couple of people to something jointly less than either." The novelist and historian H. G. Wells (1866–1946) was commonly regarded as the father of British science fiction. He was the best-known writer of the generation who prior to World War One brought to a close a form of reassuring futurist writing that looked forward to an idealized state. His fame as a prophetic thinker peaked about 1910, but he continued to churn out didactic accounts of the social and political functioning of future societies that demonstrated his optimistic faith in science. <p> Responding to the rise of organized labor and the creation of socialist parties, twentieth-century writers made more pessimistic predictions. Drawing on reports of advances in the biological sciences, the New Zealander Godfrey Sweven (John Macmillan Brown) in <i>Limanora: The Island of Progress</i> (1903) describes a society where reproduction is supervised by the state. Only the best are allowed to propagate while the diseased are sterilized. Childbearing is carried out to fill vacancies. The character of the embryos are known and their development guided before their birth. In attacking the idea of such a future socialist dystopia, the anonymously penned <i>Backwards and Forwards</i> (1905) portrays a totalitarian state with its state schools and post offices, its legislation on haircuts and facial expressions. It even has written rules of courtship. Women, the author asserts, become slovenly drabs since their love of approbation has vanished. They had once been the more vain sex, but since marriages are now arranged they no longer compete for attention. Indeed the state sorts out couples to provide biological uniformity, gives them numbers instead of names, and has them live in barracks. <p> One key question haunted such speculative writing—would women change? In the earlier utopian or futurist accounts, women are presented as essentially passive. Countering such hopeful depictions of a future in which sexual harmony would reign was a long line of works inspired by the male fear of women ultimately rebelling and seizing power, a prospect inspired by the current suffragist campaign. Walter Besant's <i>Revolt of Man</i> (1882) begins with women in control, but men rise up against the female dictatorship and even women recognize their mistake of seeking equality. Billing itself as "Appointed for use in the National Schools of Japan, Tokio, 2005," Elliot Evans Mills's <i>The Decline and Fall of the British Empire</i> (1905) attributed the domination of the country by the town as responsible for Britain's twenty-first-century enfeebled health, undisciplined hooligans, excessive taxes, and emancipated women. Similar antifeminist accounts include Allan Reeth, <i>Legions of the Dawn</i> (1908); Jesse Wilson, <i>When the Women Reign: 1930</i> (1909); A. C. Fox-Davies, <i>The Sex Triumphant</i> (1909); and Anon., <i>When Woman Rules! A Tale of the First Women's Government</i> (1923). Comic versions of the threat to gender norms also appeared. In <i>John of Jingalo: The Story of a Monarch in Difficulties</i> (1912), Laurence Housman, presented a king supporting women's suffrage after falling on his head. The Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock envisaged a world in which men read the fashion columns and took hours to dress for dinner while women threw on their clothes and demanded to be paid for their domestic services. Arguments made in favor of the clear distinction of the sexes were pushed to ludicrous lengths. In the dreary <i>An Unknown Land</i> (1942), H. L. Samuel imagined a search for Bacon's New Atlantis resulting in the discovery of Bensalem, a cooperative society in which suturization is employed to increase the brain size of newborns. Those who oppose such operations on moral grounds form an inferior and separate caste. It goes without saying that men's skulls are always larger than women's. <p> Other writers produced far more radical accounts of possible shifts in gender relations. One popular genre was the positive depiction of women finally coming to political office. Sexual issues were usually skirted in such novels, but in Lady Florence Dixie's <i>Gloriana; or, The Revolution of 1900</i> (1890), a cross-dressing young woman becomes prime minister with the result that women's emancipation is achieved, the population problem is solved, and the blight of abortions ended. A 1930s version of such a tale was Elise Kay Gresswell's <i>When Yvonne Was Dictator</i> (1935). It told of a young woman whose charisma wins her the love of the people who make her prime minister and finally dictator. The economic situation is initially so dire that the unemployed engage in mass suicide. Yvonne finds the answer in Malthusian economics. In her maiden speech at the age of eighteen, she says she would make it a crime for a man to father more children than he can provide for. She insists relief be given in kind. Work, not the dole, is the answer. Once dictator, her platform consists of the revision of marriage contracts, a women's charter, extension of divorce, establishment of labor colonies for the unemployed, compulsory retirement, the disestablishment of the church, national health insurance, and equal pay and working conditions. Thanks to a motherhood strike, a fall in births occurs, heralding a revival of the economy. <p> Much was written openly about the prospect of women entering politics. More care was taken by writers in broaching the issue of releasing female desire, but futurist fears of sexually liberated women had a long history. In Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's <i>The Coming Race</i> (1871), an adventurer who discovers an underground society is most disturbed by the power women enjoy there. Because they are socially superior, their faces are "devoid of the softness and timidity of expression which give charm to the face of woman as seen on earth above." The narrator is stirred by one girl's visage "because it looked less bold—less conscious of female rights." In this world, women wear red if they prefer to be single, and gray when in pursuit of men. While males play the coquette, females are sexually aggressive and make "immodest" overtures. The erotic interest taken in the narrator by Zee—"my host's highly informed and powerfully proportioned daughter"—is dangerous as she could easily reduce him to a cinder. Women have full equality here, even the power to destroy their spouse; fortunately, the one time a woman destroyed her spouse, women were so horrified that they swore to never do it again. Similarly divorce and polygamy, though allowed, are not used. <p> As one approached the twentieth century, the looser female morals that writers had attributed to other times and places were discovered closer to home. H. G. Wells in his scientific horror story <i>The Island of Dr. Moreau</i> (1896) reported that when half-human beasts reverted to their animal state, the females were the first to abandon monogamy and return to promiscuity. His narrator escapes the island, yet once back in civilization feels people are much like animals. Prowling women "mew" after him, and the blank-faced commuters seem hardly human. For Wells, the civilized woman was a "sexual specialist," more sexualized than her primitive sisters. "Arrayed in what she calls distinctly 'dress,' scented, adorned, displayed, she achieves by artifice a sexual differentiation profounder than that of any other vertebrated animal." Too often, he declared, she was an "unwholesome stimulant" on man. <p> A common trope in futurist writing was to imagine female sexual mores being undermined as a result of a disastrous war. In reporting on the surges of blights such as venereal disease and divorce following the Great War, the newspaper press popularized such notions. Edward Shanks's <i>The People of the Ruins</i> (1920) portrayed the London of 2074, a tragic wreck of a society that had suffered decades of warfare. The narrator has a romantic tie with a young woman, but Shanks does not provide a full account of sex or gender changes as did Cicely Hamilton in <i>Lest Ye Die</i> (1922). Though starting with a similar scenario of a war-ravaged world reverting back to savagery, she differed in highlighting the emergence of sexually aggressive women. One flings herself at the hero—Theodore Savage—who has just enlisted. He's embarrassed; she's excited by the conflict. With the collapse of society, some women prostitute themselves. Savage picks up a girl and they enter into the "married state," though the author notes the absence of legal sanction. On her death he takes another wife. Such themes were echoed by the Scottish Marxist Lewis Grassic Gibbon in <i>Gay Hunter</i> (1934), which provided an account of England after a devastating atomic war. There is again a reversion back to a hunter-gatherer world where the naked narrator flees vicious fascists and shamelessly mates with a female friend. <p> Surprisingly enough, Huxley, who questioned so many pieties, presented gender relations in his dystopia as unchanging. He was clearly not especially sympathetic to women. All the scientists in his <i>Brave New World</i> are male; the chief female character is the stereotypical dumb blonde. Lenina, described as "wonderfully pneumatic," first appears pulling down the zippers on her jacket, trousers, and panties. Zippers, in the 1930s considered modern and masculine, make the sexually aggressive woman's body immediately accessible. If such a portrayal was morally subversive, it remains the case that in Huxley's account all that women gain from centuries of scientific progress is that men unapologetically viewed them as meat. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>REPRODUCTION BY DESIGN</b> by <b>Angus McLaren </b> Copyright © 2012 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.