Back from a week in the woods with the Webelos and I find that the anatomical shorthand used by my nine-year-old charges is now part of political analysis of the president’s speeches. Yay!
Anyway, returning from a camp full of boys, I stumbled across some treatments of a new book: Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, described in this weekend’s Post review as warning “of an impending hormonal tsunami of surplus Asian men, deprived of their demographic mates by sex-selective abortions and creating a world of male violence and sexual predation.” This usually leads to discussion of sex-selective abortion, the cause of the imbalance; Bill McGurn’s column today focuses on that issue, and there is almost a sense of schadenfreude about feminists being hoist on their own petard of “choice,” though schadenfreude is obviously inappropriate regarding such an abomination.
But moral revulsion aside, there’s the question of whether the sex imbalance will have important geopolitical consequences. The way this is framed, with only a little exaggeration, is that if there are too many Chinese men not getting laid, their sexual frustration will lead them to bomb Pearl Harbor and start World War III. But I think this is a misplaced concern. While the sex imbalance will certainly create social tensions (though the scarcity of girls will also likely lead to an increase in their value, as it were, just like any other scarce commodity, and thus to a return to balance over time), in history it hasn’t been unusual for very large numbers of men not to get married — Augustus’s Julian Laws were intended to promote marriage and punish celibacy, presumably because there wasn’t enough of the first and too much of the second. Likewise, in societies with widespread polygamy but relatively balanced sex ratios, each extra wife of a rich man meant one fewer poor man able to find a mate.
Societies have dealt with this problem in a variety of ways — prostitution, importing brides from abroad (as China is already doing), monasteries. But the idea that Asia’s sex imbalance will lead to “testosterone poisoning” of international relations just strikes me as wrongheaded — nations are going to butt up against each other all the time, whether or not the low-status men in those countries are getting any action.