Mara Hvistendahl’s latest book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men,is a riveting book full of anecdotes that are simultaneously heartbreaking and revelatory of our global opinions toward the value of life, marriage, and women. From the anti-romance of the East China Sea economy of wife trafficking, wherein Asian airports are the inauspicious meeting places of future loving couples, to the yuppie dream of Southern California fertility clinics, wherein a woman can be artificially impregnated during her lunch hour, to the unnervingly nonchalant disposal of aborted fetuses in India, the anecdotes shared in Unnatural Selection reveal a global confusion about the value of baby girls.
Yet, this tome is not the product of an opponent of abortion. Hvistendahl herself admits in the preface that she endorses abortion even though “the finer points of the abortion debate elude me.” She then resorts to this redoubt of agnosticism in order to withhold her judgment on a practice whose ramifications she lambasts on every page: “Since I refuse to venture a guess at when life begins, this is not a book about death and killing… but about the potential for life—and denying that potential to the very group responsible for perpetuating our beleaguered species.”
With this preface, thus begins Hvistendahl’s 300-page endeavor to elucidate the defining demographic dynamic of our day—the global paucity of women and its attendant social disturbances. She primarily investigates the effects of this demographic inequality in Asia, where the social sciences display unanimously pernicious effects of the lack of women, including a rise in violent crime. Studies across China show “a clear link between a large share of males and unlawfulness, concluding a mere 1 percent increase in sex ratio at birth resulted in a point increase in an area’s crime rate.” Nor are these trends confined only to China: “The best way to predict whether a certain part of India has a high murder rate, indeed, is to look at its sex ratio.” Bachelors report generally lower standards of living than married men, culminating in poorer physical and mental health, and a shorter lifespan.
By increasing the rate of crime, the sex selection bias against women thus creates a social dynamic similar to that of a society in which the number of available women is depleted by polygamy. In “The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage,” a recent articlepublished in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, Joseph Henrich and colleagues use an elementary economic model to explain the rise of monogamous marriage as a social dynamic designed to foment a number of beneficial social dynamics, including “reduc[ing] the size of the pool of unmarried men.” In economic terms, both polygamy (when more than one woman enters a marriage relationship with one man) and sex selection against females creates a deficit of women in the pool of available marriage partners. Elementary economic theory dictates that the “price” of wives will then increase concomitantly with the increase in competition for them. This competition will squeeze lower-class males out of the marriage market since they have neither the financial resources nor the social standing to attract women. Consequently, the less affluent and socially inferior men are left without brides. This is doubly pernicious since it is exactly that class of men that is most likely to commit crimes, and “across all crimes, marriage reduces a man’s likelihood of committing a crime by 35%.”
Furthermore, Henrich et al. postulate that this paucity of women will be equally deleterious toward the women themselves: “the reduced supply of unmarried women, who are absorbed into polygamous marriages, causes men of all ages to pursue younger and younger women.”
Nicholas Eberstadt of The New Atlantiselaborateseven further upon the negative social effects of a sex selection-induced decline of women and applies them globally to say that “sex-selective abortion is by now so widespread and so frequent that it has come to distort the population composition of the entire human species.” Thus the pernicious trends identified in Hvistendahl’s book as sweeping the Asian subcontinent presents serious hazards for the future of the entirety of mankind. If the international demographic data is to be believed at all, one must confess that all is not well with the global practice of abortion.
Dr. Henry Potrykus, Senior Fellow at the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, has also done work on demographics and the future of the West illustrating not only the effects of abortion or sex-selective abortion, but the decline in women’s fertility in general. He finds that “[t]he peoples of the West are self-depleting because of the adoption of extra-marital sexual norms coupled with a rejection of fertility: Negative trends in the openness to marriage and the openness to children drive an exponential decrease in the generations to come in Europe.”
To address this decline in fertility, Potrykus suggests that society must re-adopt stable marriage between a man and a woman as a societal norm. Governments and cultures must reject the non-sustainable model of society that is devoid of religion but open to polymorphous sexuality and serial polygamy. Placing religion and family at the center of a culture is the only way to make it thrive.