I am at a fantastic event at Yale I co-organized on Intersections in Reproduction: Perspectives on Abortion, Assisted Reproductive Technologies, and Judicial Review with some amazing scholars present and excellent papers being presented. Like many people who have thought about sex selection, I would have imagined I have thought through most of the issues from most perspectives. What I love about these gatherings is that they always prove me wrong.
Today two very interesting questions were raised about a common argument raised about sex selection, the risk that it will result in unbalanced sex ratios. Our discussion, I would say, “queered” the typical claim in two interesting ways, and I am curious what others think (to be clear these were my thoughts on questions raised, not putting words in their mouths).
(1) Is “sex” rather than “gender” selection the thing that matters? Suppose the number of biological males and females was altered, but not the number of “men” and “women” in the social sense of gender? Or suppose the opposite was true (sex ratios remain the same but gender ratios are skewed). While we have some data about sex ratios in the population, we have almost nothing on gender ratios. Which is it that matters and why? What role does sexuality come to play in this? Suppose that the sex ratios get skewed, but because of gay, lesbian, and bisexual numbers in the community the number of individuals able to find a romantic partner stays the same? Also, what role for non-monogamy? Does the concern about sex selection distorting sex or gender ratios stem from an assumption that monogamous coupling is the norm, rather than serial monogamy or polyamorous coupling?
(2) Sometimes a defense against restricting sex selection in the U.S. (or elsewhere) is the claim that many people choose girls. This is an attempt to refute the gender inequality/subordination account of sex selection. But, in fact, is this just as gender subordinative? They want girls and not boys for a reason, because girls are X. And the X is not sex but gender. The same might be said for those who want a girl or a boy for “family balancing” reasons, the assumption being that diversity is added to the family by adding a child of the other sex, because such a child will be different. To put the question another way, how much does the sex selection debate, in the name of women’s rights, end up accepting a strongly gendered conception of how biological males and females are to behave.