Could men provide more help with rearing children, and if not, could we soon become a menless society? It appears that answer to both of these questions is yes.
Men are traditionally considered to be providers who go out to get the food (money is the equivalent in the modern societies) while the women stay at home to rear the babies. One reason is perhaps our biology. For example, women can breast feed and men cannot; hence women must breast feed babies, right? Well, not really. It appears that men are also capable of breast feeding. If you ever wondered why men have nipples this may not be the answer to the question but it certainly appears one possible use of those nipples.
Men have most of the physiological parts to produce milk and if treated with prolactin hormone they can be stimulated to lactate. Starving men who then start eating normally again are also commonly recorded to lactate. This is apparently even recorded in the Bible (Job21:24;).
Virgin women, non pregnant women and menopausal women can all be stimulated to lactate by touching their nipples. Mechanical stimulation of nipples leads to surges of prolactin in both women and men so potentially; men could be induced to lactate simply by touching their nipples. In his book Why is sex fun? The evolution of human sexuality Jared Diamond present a clear case for the fact that men can physiologically lactate and that males of several domestic and wild animals, including humans, have been observed to spontaneously lactate. It is possible then, yet most men don’t do it. Would they do it if they knew they could? Somehow I doubt it.
Women have traditionally been regarded as more peaceful gender and there are numerous plays, novels and similar works of art that explore the idea of a society made up entirely of women. Recent results from researchers at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne demonstrated that it is possible to produce sperm cells by using bone marrow cells of adult men. It should then also be possible to produce sperm by using women’s bone marrow cells.
The only catch there is that sperm produced in such a way would only ever have an X chromosome present in it and therefore would only be capable of producing daughters. This would lead to an all-female society!
Some species of lizard have been thought to exist solely as females who still need lesbian sex in order to stimulate the reproduction by parthenogenesis. It is interesting to think whether human males will also become obsolete with the advance of modern fertilization technology that allows women to conceive without having sex and in the future perhaps even without having any men around to donate sperm. This is an idea that is vigorously discussed in an opening cafe scene of Roger Dodger, a film whose poster says “sex is everywhere”.
So the technology seems to have arrived for the society to start producing just women. Men will soon not be necessary even for sperm production. The question is: will we still want to keep men around and if so, why?
He runs the EuroScientist blog Balkan Science Beat.
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