Tag Archives: artificial womb

Men Who Can Give Birth (Is ALMOST A Reality)

It’s a common joke that women make about men. I hear it in at least once in every debate that involves gender issues, feminism, or anything that inspires fist fights over Thanksgiving dinner. If men could give birth, then contraception would be a tax write-off and abortion would be available at every Starbucks.

I don’t deny it. A man’s perspective is inherently limited when it comes to understanding women. That’s why we have all these gender issues in the first place. It’s also why some of them can never be resolved, although that’s hardly the only reason. Despite what some of the radical, gender-bending enthusiasts may say, men and women have undeniable differences in their biology, physiology, and psychology.

We are a sexually dimorphic species. One gender is always going to have some perspective or experience that the other cannot relate to, no matter how close they might be. Whether they’re siblings, spouses, or parents, you just can’t get over the fact that one gender gives birth and the other doesn’t.

Sure, a man can sometimes get boobs, albeit in a very unsexy sort of way. However, he can never give birth. He can never know what it’s like to carry a life inside him and then push that life out into the world in a way that has been described as passing a watermelon through a straw.

Well, what if that changed? What if it suddenly became possible for men to actually have a uterus and experience childbirth? Believe it or not, this isn’t another one of my sexy thought experiments. This isn’t just a funny question for women to ask men about. It’s about to become very serious.

According to a story from The Telegraph, the science of putting functioning wombs into transgender women is just about ready for prime time. That means people who began their lives as men will be able to bear children in ways that no man, no matter how girly, has ever been able to experience.

The doctors made it pretty clear too. This is not like artificial wombs, a technology that’s still decades away from perfection. This can happen with our current medical technology. Chances are, it will happen in the next few years and pretty much every head at Fox News is likely to explode.

This is what Dr. Richard Paulson, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, said on the matter.

“You could do it tomorrow,” he said.

“There would be  additional challenges, but I don’t see any obvious problem that would preclude it.

“I personally suspect there are going to be trans women who are going to want to have a uterus and will likely get the transplant.”

While men and women have a different shaped pelvis, he added, there would nevertheless be room for an implanted womb.

Think about this for a second and try to appreciate the implications here, especially if you’re a man. The day where that joke I mentioned earlier about men giving birth isn’t going to be a laughing matter for much longer. Very soon, a man might be able to describe for the first time in the history of the species what it feels like to give birth.

This isn’t just big news for the transgender community, who have faced their share of challenges lately. This is big news for gender dynamics, as a whole. Think back to all the controversies surrounding feminism, gendered politics, and the different factors that make men and women assholes. A lot of that is built on some of these intractable differences between men and women.

Men could never give birth. Women have to give birth in order for the species to survive. It’s an unequal situation that inspires all sorts of unequal, unjust dynamics. Whether it’s egregious traditions of misogyny or insane standards of masculinity, these dynamics ensure that neither gender can ever understand each other on the same level.

However, as medical technology improves, especially with respect to gender reassignment surgery, we’re getting closer to the day where someone born as one gender can change their physiology so completely that it would be indistinguishable from other individuals of that gender.

The ability to give birth was one of those remaining obstacles that kept transgender women from being on the same level as their cis-gendered peers. The other half of that equation, namely the ability to transplant a penis, was already achieved. In fact, the recipient of a transplanted penis actually managed to father a child.

That happened two years ago. This step, having someone who was born a man give birth through a transplanted womb, will complete the process of destroying one of those intractable barriers between the genders. Like in vitro fertilization before it, this technology changes and/or removes the limits that our sexually dimorphic biology has put upon us.

Also like in vitro fertilization, which is still illegal in certain countries, this is sure to intensify the debate surrounding transgender rights. For much of that struggle, even with today’s advances, opponents often painted transgender individuals as mutilated perversions of a particular gender. They would claim the bodies they put themselves in are unnatural and a product of mental disorders.

Well, that perspective loses weight once the transformation from one gender to another becomes so complete that they can do pretty much everything that their cis-gendered peers can do. Whether it’s taking a piss or giving birth, this technology means that people who feel they were born in the wrong bodies can actually complete the transformation they seek.

What will that mean for the transgender community? Moreover, what will that mean for how men and women understand one another? What happens to someone’s perspective when they’ve spent much of their life as a man, but then change into a woman who goes onto give birth?

These are impossible questions to answer now, but it won’t be long before someone is actually able to answer them with real, unfiltered experiences. That kind of insight is unprecedented for our society, our species, and everything we think we understand about the opposite sex.

Other advances in technology, such as those that will make us full-fledged shape-shifters, will further blur the lines between men and women. However, before that technology gets here, this critical step in the process will set the stage. It may help men and women get along. It may trigger a whole new set of debates that make us want to yell at each other just as much.

Whatever the case, our understanding of gender and our ability to understand the opposite sex is changing. Also, if there’s a way for me to turn this into a sexy novel, expect me to do so the first chance I get.

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Update On Artificial Wombs And Potential Obstacles

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Earlier this year, I talked about the promise of artificial wombs and how they could be the ultimate solution to abortion, gender inequality, and stretch marks. At a time when abortion laws are becoming increasingly controversial and people are protesting gender inequality in major cities, I think that promise is becoming increasingly important.

As it stands, though, the science behind artificial wombs is still very young. It may be one of those technologies that doesn’t get perfected within our lifetimes, but then again the pace of technology is wildly unpredictable. Remember, your smartphone is a million times more powerful than every computer at NASA in 1969. Technology can sneak up on us is what I’m saying.

Artificial wombs probably won’t advance at the same pace as smart phones, if only because they involve women’s body parts and we’re always a bit more careful/awkward when it comes to women’s body parts. However, that doesn’t keep the technology from advancing.

Just last month, doctors in Philadelphia were able to bring a premature lamb to term using a special fluid-filled bag that mimicked the conditions of a womb. The baby lamb was able to develop and eventually survive on its own outside the bag. By all accounts, the lambs developed normally.

It’s not a full-blown artificial womb, but it’s an important step. The lambs in this case weren’t entirely grown in the womb. They were placed in the bag just 105 days after conception, which is akin to a human fetus being 22 weeks into its 40-week gestation period.

That means that, if applied to humans, more prematurely-born infants could survive to term. On top of that, if there’s a complication with the mother’s health, she needs to only endure half a pregnancy before transferring the fetus to one of these units. Her life will be saved. The baby’s life will be saved. Given how many children die due to premature birth, this is a technology that could potentially save countless lives.

Then, as the technology improves, it will eventually reach the point where a child can develop entirely within an artificial womb. There’s no need for a woman to endure any pregnancy at all. The extent to which that would change our society, from gender issues to sexuality, cannot be overstated.

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That technology is still a ways off, but we’re literally halfway there. Depending on how the pace of advancement will change, due to financial and regulatory pressures, it’s hard to say whether it’ll happen in my lifetime. However, it will happen. There’s just too much appeal to not having to endure nine months of pregnancy.

That leads me to a personal story that occurred recently while I was meeting with some family friends. It’s a story that highlights one of the biggest issues that artificial wombs would have and it has nothing to do with the technology.

Recently, a close relative of mine had a child. It was a joyous occasion for the entire family. I was certainly happy. I’ve had a chance to see that child grow it’s been a wonderful experience for everyone involved.

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It has also led to a number of discussions about the rigors of pregnancy. Many women in my family have their share of stories about what it was like to grow another human inside them over a nine-month period. Some of those stories were funny. Some of them made me cringe in ways I usually reserve for a dentist appointment.

At one point in that discussion, though, I brought up artificial wombs. I asked them if they had the option of having their child, but without going through the rigors of pregnancy, would they do it? After the stories they described, I thought at least some would jump at the chance. However, none of them did.

It’s true. Every woman I asked said they would still endure nine months of hardship for their child. That surprised me because it hints at the mentality women feel when it comes to bearing their children. As uncomfortable and inconvenient as it is, they still go through it and would do it again for their children. That says a lot about a mother’s love.

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It also hints that the prospect of using artificial wombs in lieu of pregnancy might not catch on, even after the technology is perfected. Even if an artificial womb is healthier, safer, and cheaper than natural birth, there may still be women who opt for the old fashioned way of baby-making.

This isn’t just someone who still opts to use a flip-phone over a smartphone. This is someone who is willing to put their bodies through a rigorous process that technology may very well make obsolete. What does that say about the human mindset, specifically those of women when they bear children?

Could this be a mentality that’s hardwired into our brains? Could this also be a product of people not keeping up with the times? Perhaps younger generations would be more willing to use an artificial womb over natural birth. Cultural attitudes may affect it as well. It may very well be the case that being a woman and not giving birth creates an identity crisis of sorts.

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It’s hard to tell at the moment because the technology is so new. It hasn’t even been used on humans yet, but that is going to happen soon, if only to ensure that premature babies survive. After that, there may be a shift in cultural attitudes. If the technology advances rapidly, it may lead to genuine conflict. In that sense, maybe Aldous Huxley, was onto something when he wrote “Brave New World.”

Maybe my family is unique in their attitudes towards natural birth. Maybe this is a question that we’re not ready to answer yet. Maybe it’s one I’ll ask again at another family gathering, if only to see if their attitudes have changed.

Technology changes societies. Some incur more change than others, as the inventor of ski masks can attest. However, we’ve never had a technology that changes how we actually propagate our species. That puts artificial wombs in a special, uncharted territory. What it means for us and the children we bear remains to be seen.

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Food and Sex: A (Non-Kinky) Precedent?

Loosen your pants and untuck your shirt because I’m going to talk about food and sex. No, this isn’t going to be that kind of discussion. I know there’s an entire sub-genre that mixes food and sex in a way that is bound to confuse multiple body parts. I’ll save that topic for another day. For now, I want to have a different kind of discussion.

Like it or not, knowing that some will like it a bit too much, food and sex are intrinsically related. They are both vital components in our two primary drives as living beings, survival and reproduction. We need food to survive. We need sex to reproduce. These are as basic a drives as any animal can have.

As such, it’s also fitting that both topics have their fair share of taboos and I’m not just talking about create ways to use whipped cream. Even our old, uptight friends at the Catholic Church have linked food to one of their moral sins. In the same way they condemn excessive sex through lust, they also condemn excessive eating through gluttony.

Granted, the Catholic Church doesn’t make a big deal about gluttony anymore. I figure they know that too many of their adherents have grown fond of buffets, McDonalds, and ice cream. They can still get away with condemning sex because the basic functions of sex still apply today as much as they did 2,000 years ago. However, that may not be the case for much longer.

As I discussed in an earlier post, science is rapidly progressing to a point where we won’t even need sex to reproduce. There will be far safer, less strenuous options that don’t result in stretch marks and mood swings. The most promising is the artificial womb. This technology is the ultimate endgame in terms of decoupling sex from reproduction entirely.

If that term sounds familiar, it should and not just because Gweneth Paltrow used something similar in a way to make herself even less likable. It’s actually a term that I’ve referenced before because it was used frequently in Ray Kurzweil’s book, “The Singularity Is Near.” I’ve lauded this book many times before on this blog and parts of this issue are closely tied to the topics he explores.

In his book, he cites advances in contraception as the catalyst for this growing disconnect between sex and reproduction. He’s not wrong to cite such advances because we’ve spent the last 60 years or so adjusting to a world that contraception has created. It’s a world where women and men have more control than ever in when and how they have children. Such control was truly unprecedented.

Considering how birth control in the past involved pulling out, crocodile poop, and condoms made of animal entrails, we’re still in uncharted territory as a species. We humans have never lived in an age where we had this much control over our facility. The rise of the birth control pill was ground-breaking in terms of its effects on society. We’re still struggling to build a new foundation with those effects.

There’s no question that contraception technology will continue to improve, as Kurzweil discussed. It may get to a point where we have a perfect form of contraception for men and women alike, one that’s as easy to get as aspirin and just as easy to take. Such a time would truly be the Catholic Church’s worst nightmare.

However, despite Kurzweils’ many discussions on contraception and fertility, he never mentioned artificial wombs. To be fair, it’s still an emerging technology with a lot of hurdles. Contraception technology is likely to take priority over the next couple of decades, if only because it has so much momentum. At some point, though, artificial wombs will enter the equation.

This technology will do much more than make it easier for women to avoid getting pregnant when they don’t want to, thereby freeing them up to just enjoy the toe-curling pleasure of sex. It will give society an entirely new way grow. For some, it’ll be strange, sterile, and cold. For others, it offers a bold new vision for the future of the human race.

It’s hard to imagine. As such, it’s easy for writers like Aldous Huxley to have overly-dystopian visions of it in his book, “Brave New World.” Even radical feminists and ardent traditionalists, most of whom are men, worry that this technology will render the other gender completely obsolete. It’s scary, I know, but there is a precedent for this sort of thing. Society can adapt to these kinds of dramatic upheavals. It’s done so before.

This brings me back to food. Here’s a quick question for everyone to contemplate. When was the last time you had to worry about a harvest going bad or not having any animals to hunt? Take as much time as you need. I’ll wait.

Are you done rolling your eyes? Good, because the answer to that question, at least in first-world industrial societies, is pretty clear. They stopped worrying about famine, harvests, and hunting a long time ago. Today, food is cheap, plentiful, and so easy to get that our primary problem is that we eat too much of it.

Compare this with 99 percent of human history. From hunter/gatherer societies to early agricultural societies, the most pressing concern from kings to peasants was having enough food. Every year, societies all over the world lived with the constant dread that a harvest would go bad and they would all starve to death. Famine was like a bad blizzard. It was just a fact of life that you had to endure, accept, and dig out of.

A lot of that changed over the past 150 years. Going all the way back to the 1800s, advances in agriculture technology and farming techniques allowed fewer people to grow more food, so much so that there was time and land to grow cash crops like tobacco, cotton, and weed. It happened slowly, but it picked up steam thank to someone others have called, “The greatest human being who ever lived.”

His name is Norman Borlaug. He’s the father of the so-called green revolution. He’s also the primary reason why billions of people aren’t starving to death. He worked tirelessly to advance agricultural science to a point where even non-industrial societies can grow abundant food, so much so that famine isn’t just rare. It’s an aberration that warrants big budget fundraisers.

As a result, the act of growing, procuring, and preserving food is basically an afterthought in our society. We’re at a point in human civilization where we don’t eat to survive. Hell, we sometimes eat when we’re not even hungry, sometimes for a holiday, sometimes for social purposes, and sometimes just because we damn well fell like it.

Technology gave us this luxury. Technology will continue to improve, ensuring that our growing population will never have to till a field, pick fruit, or kill a deer for anything other than sport. Food is no longer as vital to survival as having a job or knowing where the dumpster behind a fast food restaurant is located.

With this in mind, apply the same concept to sex. Try to keep your pants on, but still try to imagine the world that would emerge. Sex is no longer quite as complex in the sense that people have to worry about the physical, social, and biological implications. In the same way they no longer worry about harvesting food, they don’t have to worry about any major consequences from sex.

In this world, sex isn’t linked to reproduction anymore. It’s just a physical act that two people do for whatever reason they want. It can be romantic. It can be social. It can just be for the hell of it. That’s really all there is to it. There’s no constant worry that it will lead to pregnancy, thanks to improved contraception. There’s also no worry that the population will stagnate because artificial wombs will take care of that.

As a result, the very concept of reproduction is very different from the concept of sex. Society may get to a point where the idea of making someone endure nine-months of pregnancy, and all the physical hell that comes with it, downright inhumane.

Now there will be those who contemplate this world and faint. I imagine many of them are affiliated with the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, or the Duggars. However, like food production before it, science will change the way we think about sex, reproduction, and intimacy. It’s a matter of when and not if. I do hope it comes in my lifetime because that means the market for erotica/romance is sure to grow.

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Artificial Wombs: The Solution To Gender Equality?

Let’s face it. There’s a lot to whine about these days. As much as I despise whining, I don’t deny that this world gives us plenty of reasons. From war, famine, injustice, to poor wi-fi, there are a lot of issues that upset us on multiple levels.

When it comes to issues between the sexes, the whining and anger is that much more amplified and for good reason. Biologically, we’re very different. One sex has organs that hurt like hell when they’re kicked. Another has organs that hurt like hell when bringing a new life into the world. Despite these differences, we have powerful drive that urges us to come together, form intimate bonds, and even have sex if we’re lucky.

It’s because of these differences and that powerful drive that there’s so much conflict between men and women. It’s a driving force behind every sitcom, from “Leave It To Beaver” to “Modern Family.” It also fuels every conflict in every romantic comedy ever made, even the ones with Matthew McConaughey.

These conflicts are still an annoyingly persistent part of our political discourse. Modern feminism is driven, in large part, by these differences that manifest in everything from the wage gap to boob sizes on comic book characters. These differences can become so profound that it leads to genuine upheaval, as we saw with the Women’s March.

These upheavals have been with us for years and, given how the last election turned out, it’s likely to stay with us for years to come. There seems to be no end to it. Are men and women doomed to always be at odds?

Well, I try to be more optimistic about the future. I like to think a few extra miles past the finish line to imagine solutions that don’t necessarily always solve the problem, but do essentially render it obsolete. In the same way cell phones made LAN lines obsolete, some problems can just cease at some point.

In that spirit, I believe I’ve found something that would effectively end most ongoing conflicts between genders. It wouldn’t just level the playing field for men and women. It will effectively remove the many excuses that both sides make to hate, despise, and denigrate each other.

It’s not a legal solution. It’s not some ambitious social revolution either that requires everyone to sit through a gender studies class either. It’s a purely technical solution, one that is achievable. Some bold scientists are already working on it as we speak. Ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender, I give you the Artificial Womb.

I hope it doesn’t need too much of an explanation. It’s exactly what it sounds like. While it’s still on the drawing board, an artificial womb’s function is pretty simple. It’s an external device that allows for the growth, development, and eventual delivery of an infant outside of a physical womb. It’s basically all the joys of creating life, but with none of the stretch marks or morning sickness.

It’s not a new idea. In fact, there has been work on the development of embryos outside the womb going on for years now. It’s also a concept explored in fiction, most family by Aldous Huxley in his book, “Brave New World.” However, that book was basically a dystopian fever dream. I prefer to assess artificial wombs on a more constructive level.

Let’s ditch the dystopian fears and the horrors of some traditionalists who believe that life should only ever be created when a penis and vagina are involved. Instead, let’s think for a moment what an artificial womb would mean for men and women.

First and foremost, an artificial womb would remove one of the main driving forces behind that wage gap I mentioned earlier. When women get pregnant, they need to take time off to deal with their health and their newborn. This means they can’t work as much as men. As such, they don’t make as much money or have as many opportunities.

It’s not a patriarchal conspiracy. It’s basic biology. However, when you circumvent that biology, then suddenly women are free to compete with men more equally. They can still have babies, but they don’t need to put their bodies through nine months of hardship that has been tragically fatal for countless women over the centuries.

Beyond the job opportunities, an artificial womb means a woman has more control over her body. If she doesn’t want the stretch marks from pregnancy to undermine her rock-hard abs, then she doesn’t have to. She can keep looking like a young Janet Jackson while still having kids.

Beyond employment and vanity, though, an artificial womb does something else that might be even more profound. It effectively uncouples sex from reproduction. At the moment, even with things like in vitro fertilization, sex is the primary method for how we reproduce.

Granted, it’s extremely imperfect and prone to error. Then again, you could say the same thing about our immune systems until antibiotics and vaccines came along. In that instance, technology allowed us to rely on something other than the limits of our own biology. An artificial womb is just the next step in that process.

When that process plays out, it effectively changes everything we think we know about sex, which isn’t saying much for some people. Even though we humans have all sorts of reasons for having sex, rather it’s for love or a step in landing a big movie role, we can’t really escape the part where it leads to babies. Sure, we have contraception, but even that only goes so far.

An artificial womb won’t just change how genders relate to one another. It’ll change our fundamental concept of what it means to be intimate. What happens when sex just becomes an act of intimacy and not reproduction? What will that do to our love lives? What will that do to a new generation of children born in these wombs? What will it do for aspiring erotica/romance writers like me?

These are all difficult questions that are worth contemplating, even if they can’t be answered. I know artificial wombs are probably a ways off, but I do think this is one of those technologies that could occur in our lifetime. The next generation may very well be the first to never know the rigors of entering this world through a vagina. What kind of generation will that be? I don’t know, but I hope I have a chance to write sexy stories about it.

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