Koko the gorilla, who lived in a cage, refused for a long time to have a baby. She longed to have babies. And she loved the males with whom she shared her cage. Still, Koko refused to reproduce.
Koko’s caretaker, Dr. Francine Patterson, who became famous for teaching the gorilla human sign language, explained Koko’s reluctance: Koko had no other female gorillas around her for support, a support system she would have had in the wild. All she had while living in confinement were two males, and dependable daily food.
Though she lived in confinement, Koko was in an admirable situation in a way. The choice to reproduce was hers. The two male gorillas, who were twice her size, had no intention of raping, pressuring, or coercing Koko. Her human caretakers intensely pressured Koko through their shared language to reproduce. But only gorillas can impregnate gorillas through intercourse. And gorillas have no institutional or cultural requirements for fucking. Koko, even in confinement, could have intercourse, or not have intercourse, as she chose.
The females of the human world have not been so fortunate. Most women and girls have not had the option of whether or not to be fucked. This is the way it has been for a long time — for exactly the length of time that women have been owned by men as human property. Human females reach a certain age, and they get fucked.
They are fucked in marriage, after being sold, pressured, or culturally tricked into it. Or they are fucked in prostitution. Or they are fucked in an attack, by a stranger or a relative or an acquaintance. Or, particularly in richer countries where many women have greater freedom and choice, many become convinced by ubiquitous cultural propaganda that they are obligated to let men fuck them, regardless of their personal desires. For most women and girls of the world, fucking does not happen on their own terms. Or in their own time. They are not the ones in power.
Whether or not particular girls and women experience pleasure through intercourse within this system is not the issue here. The issue is, they can freely choose it only to the degree that they are free from men’s ownership — an ownership that is socially, economically, culturally, physically, religiously, and politically enforced. As feminist author Andrea Dworkin points out in Intercourse, men’s fucking of females is institutionalized, and men use it to both express and perpetuate their class ownership of women and girls.
This system of ownership and enforced fucking has meant the stealing of women’s and girl’s lives for centuries around the world. It has resulted in a globalized culture of male domination replete with humanitarian crises and ecological catastrophes. It has also, as it happens, created a human overpopulation crisis.
Population groups, very concerned about this crisis, waged a highly organized “Day of Six Billion” campaign during the month of October to alert the public to the fact that there are now six billion human beings on this earth. They attributed the depletion of resources and the threat to the future survival of humanity and the planet to the numbers of people now alive and reproducing in developing countries.
The United Nations Population Fund and the World Population Foundation pegged October 12, 1999, as the day the six billionth human was born. Zero Population Growth dubbed the event “Y6K” to communicate a sense of urgency. The Worldwatch Institute released a series of “alerts” entitled “Populations Outrunning Water Supply as World Hits 6 Billion”; “Unemployment Climbing as World Reaches 6 Billion”; and the chillingly ambiguous alert, “HIV Epidemic Slowing Population Growth as World Approaches 6 Billion.”
In subtle contradiction to their own message, the population groups also incorporated into their alarmism a long nod to the now widely accepted “humanitarian” approach to the problem, which is not based on numbers or control, but rather on a plan to slowly stabilize growth by advocating voluntary birth control and empowerment of women.
The local media echoed the population establishment’s sense of urgency, along with its confused message. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in an editorial called “Earth is groaning under our weight,” congratulated “humanity” on its “fecundity,” and then gave examples of the way in which “humanity” has been ruining the planet with its numbers. The editorial suggested that the solution to the overpopulation problem lies in part with “educating women” — not because education allows them a greater degree of power and choice, as feminists have argued, but because uneducated women have been making the wrong “choices” about reproduction, whereas “(e)ducated women make educated choices about family planning.”
Interestingly, none of the population experts or media professionals — so alarmed about the future of humanity and the depletion of the planet’s resources — made any mention of fucking. They know that it causes conception. And they know how men insist on it and organize to get it. But the issue of men’s fucking, and its social and political meaning, were treated as irrelevant to the problem.
The issue of fucking, however, is quite relevant to any understanding of overpopulation. Not the kind of fucking that gorillas engage in. Rather, the institutionalized kind, the sex that is demanded within men’s institutionalized ownership of women. The sexual oppression that lays the groundwork for similarly harmful systems: imperialism, racism, poverty, and corporate environmental destruction. The “fucking over” of other people, most of all, women and girls.
The pundits are strangely silent when it comes to acknowledging the real reason women’s empowerment results in lower birth rates: when women are literate, when they have some social power, when they have opportunities which education brings about, the male system of ownership and fucking does not weigh on them so heavily.
The empowerment approach, much of which was officially adopted by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, is palatable to alarmist population groups — many of which come out of a tradition of advocating imposed control — because this agenda emphasizes birth control, and does not challenge men’s global institution of fucking. The empowerment of women in the poorer countries remains abstract to the men of the richer countries, and doesn’t seem to apply to their own systems and practices. The ICPD’s 20-year Programme of Action focuses on pieces of the solution — education, health care, accessible and voluntary birth control — but never names the underlying dynamic of the problem: the system of men’s sexualized ownership of women, with its spin-off systems of havoc, such as militarism and gross consumerism. Therefore, the approach to dealing with population growth through empowerment, at least at this stage, seems to pose no threat.
Men in wealthier countries, where population is actually declining, contradict themselves as they both endorse the Cairo plan and raise public alarm about the fertility of women in developing countries, in an effort to preserve their own entitlements. The richest one fifth of the world’s population, living in the developed world, consumes 66 times more of the world’s resources than the poorest one fifth. The U.S. military alone consumes as much oil as all of Japan. As poverty increases worldwide, so do the numbers of billionaires who individually control more money than the gross national product of entire countries.
Within this same picture, the wealthier countries make birth control, most of which harms women’s bodies, widely available. Abortion, which men do not have to undergo, is also relatively accessible. Many women have greater social power in the richer countries, but nothing so far has fundamentally interfered with men’s traditional institution of sexual possession of women and girls. The sexual format has simply changed from slave-based nuclear family to peer-pressure fucking, economically coerced marriage, date rape, prostitution, and a pornographic popular culture. The party continues.
The agenda to increase the power and reproductive rights of women of poorer countries is a crucial step in the right direction, particularly since this agenda will increasingly replace the still ongoing coercive methods of population control. But ultimately, the systems of devastation themselves must be challenged.
For now, the destructive system in the center of it all continues to be protected, even from public debate and scrutiny. The male-dominated establishment, in the end, finds it more comforting to envision — and move toward — the death of the planet than to envision and fight for an end to men’s sexual sexual ownership of women.
They may dread the apocalypse, as they say they do, but they also have their priorities. It is precisely because of such priorities that everyone’s future on the planet is imperiled.