Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 14:08 UK

Life without men

Scientists claim to have grown human sperm in a lab, and columnists and bloggers are musing on the possibility of a world where men are no longer needed.

Couple arguing

Michael Hanlon in the Daily Mail

is not looking forward to the prospect of a world that doesn't need men.

But if - and it is still a big if - scientists could one day use cells from female embryos to produce sperm, or perhaps even DNA extracted from an adult's skin or cheek-lining cells, then we truly would be living in a terrifying new era.

The Daily Telegraph's Rowan Pelling says men are redundant but worth keeping for menial tasks.

Yet I feel compelled - and not just as the mother of two small boys - to make a spirited defence of the weaker sex. Where would I be without my husband to read 80 pages of a car manual, in French, to find out how the back windscreen-wiper works? Who would tug the dried lumps of excrement from our cat's backside? Who would explain the rules of cricket to an American? Who would clear a blocked drain of unspeakable clotted matter? Who would take hours to demonstrate the dreadnought manoeuvres at the Battle of Jutland, armed only with salt cellars and jam jars? Without men, there would be no one to read Joseph Conrad or Norman Mailer, to remove spiders from the bath, or (important one, this) to tell women they're pretty.

The editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics John Harris says in the Independent that he sees nothing wrong with exercising choice but the real ethical issue isn't about the prospect of a world without men.

Women have many ways of trying to do without men. They don't need men - they just need their sperm. Sperm is a notoriously renewable resource and it is plentiful. There is always the turkey baster option for women who want to get pregnant but do not see the need to get a man... The real ethical issue here is that we do not foreclose the beneficial possibilities of research through prejudice or fear.

Professor Karim Nayernia of Newcastle University
The man himself, who made sperm from stem cells

Emily Cook in the Daily Mirror

can only think of one useful man and that's scientist Karim Nayernia, who conducted the sperm research:

Women have always known that men are a bit of a waste of space … Now British scientists have proved how unnecessary blokes truly are by creating the first human sperm from stem cells. And as if that's not a big enough problem for fellas everywhere, the expert behind this revolutionary move is a man.

And Blog Tactic says despite the scientific developments, men should be kept around as play-things.

That means men can become redundant in the human productive cycle and the end of male infertility. But for the ladies, I think we should keep a few of them around just for fun. And for those anti-gay, it is an efficient way to cure male homosexuality: abolish men.

Karen on the Macleans.ca blog hints at how complex the politics of parenting may become by linking to the UK government's current meanings of mother and father. The definitions are more than 5,000 words long. On the same blog Last Man on Earth says:

WE MUST CRUSH THIS! Take away their funding, burn all evidence, delete all records, kidnap and kill those who made the discovery and then bury this entire story under some celebrity scandal. Men can't become irrelevant!

In the Culture Watch blog Bill Muehlenberg is concerned the advances may leave men with nothing to do:

… what they are really about is the end of man - both as the male gender, and as humanity … A number of problems come to mind, including the obvious: if scientists can now manufacture sperm, that simply makes males even more redundant than they already are. This is really parthenogenesis, or procreation by one sex alone. This might be good for amoebas, but it is not good for human beings, and certainly not good for the children who come about by such a process.


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