Mules, Men, and Honeybees

by Tom Frost

Copyright© 2013 by Tom Frost

Science Fiction Story: By 2040, the fertility crisis was reaching its 25th year. But even with birth rates dwindling towards zero, most of the world seemed to just want to pretend it wasn't happening. This is how one man started to change that.

Tags: Prostitution  

On September 4, 2040, the Conference on Technology, Entertainment, and Design held a symposium in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ongoing fertility crisis. It was a mark of the times that it took twenty-five years after the first recorded case of Sasaki Syndrome for such a comprehensive gathering to take place. Even then, the worldwide consensus seemed to be that the crisis was contained, that it was a passing phase, and that things would soon settle into a new, sustainable normalcy.

This was the same year the now infamous essay "A Gentle Correction" was published by former US Surgeon General Dr. Robert Danziger. With the benefit of hindsight, we now generally read Dr. Danziger's writings as examples of why what used to widely be called "junk science" is now called "Danzigerianism." But his postulates about the spread of Sasaki Syndrome as a "sad, but gentle natural response to global overcrowding" were at the time well-received and would taint public policy for decades to come.

It may well be that this conference was at least in part a response to that essay or merely to the proliferation of politically-motivated Danzigerianism that so marked that first quarter century of the crisis. The symposium certainly generated more interest and protests than any TED conference before or since and is often credited with the beginning of the slow, painful process of changing public priorities towards addressing the crisis at hand instead of ignoring or, in many cases, exacerbating the problem...

There was so much interest that serious discussions were held about moving the proceedings from Avery Fisher Hall to Madison Square Garden to make room, but some speakers balked at talking in front of such a large crowd and the NYPD was uncertain that they could guarantee the safety of the participants.

Of the twenty-four speakers at that extraordinary event, Dr. Leonard Stoppard was by far the most popular. Tickets to attend live were ultimately limited to professionals in relevant fields and over two million people watched live. Since then, the recording of that session has been watched more than eight hundred million times, a number that for obvious reasons hasn't been exceeded since.

At the time of the recording, high-speed Internet had been nearly universal for more than two decades and the conference was broadcast in whole or part on television in twenty-two countries. Based on some of the predictions that came out of the conference and the continued prevalence of government censorship, the decision was made to print and bind transcripts of the conference, translate them into as many languages as was possible, and distribute them worldwide.

At the time of this printing in 2075, many of the predictions in those talks have come true. Some now seem naively optimistic and others have turned out to be just plain wrong. Humanity has not vanished from the face of the Earth and it's looking increasingly unlikely that we will do. Civilization has not disappeared and we haven't entered a new Dark Age.

One prediction has held completely true however, the one that was the central theme of Dr. Hiro Sasaki's speech: Everything has changed.

Below is the transcript of Dr. Stoppard's talk, "Mules, Men, and Honeybees."

In the way we mark things now, it was early in the second year of the Sasaki Syndrome Crisis that I became a founding member of the Brooklyn Men's Fertility Collective. It would be five years before the media named the crisis and another seven before we named our group, but I still knew it was a momentous event because, in my personal history, it immediately became The Day this Crazy Rich Woman Asked Me to Have Sex with Her.

(Laughter and a smattering of applause.)

We think of 2015 as the beginning of the Crisis because it's the year that birth rates took a sharp decline and also the year that Michael Tornambe was diagnosed as patient zero for what was at the time called Aggressive Desexualization Syndrome, later Aggressive Emasculation Syndrome, and finally Sasaki Syndrome after Dr. Hiro Sasaki, who made some long-term projections on the progress of this Crisis earlier today.

Incidentally, I got to speak to Dr. Sasaki for the first time today and I asked him why he would want something so awful named after himself and he said in that very quiet, refined voice that we all just heard, "Everybody has to be famous for something."

(More laughter.)

We think of 2015 as the first year of the Crisis, but in hindsight it probably wasn't. The field of behavioral psychology has done a lot of work over the last fifteen or so years clearly delineating the behavioral differences between mules and men and...

(Dr. Stoppard is interrupted at that point by a heckler from the crowd. The woman's words are unintelligible over the mike, but he replies to what is said.)

"I don't mean to give offense by using the word 'mules.' Different people have different preferences for what they choose to call this group and I can't think of a single term that doesn't offend someone, but it is the term I have heard used most commonly to self-identify. If some people use it in a derogatory fashion, it's everyone's responsibility to reclaim that word from the forces of ignorance and hatred..."

(The audience rises to applaud as the woman is led out and for a full minute afterwards. Dr. Stoppard signals them to sit and they slowly do.)

The field of behavioral psychology has done a lot of work over the last fifteen or so years clearly delineating the behavioral differences between mules and men and while some conclusions have been controversial, some have been very consistent.

Mules do not seek sex. An urge that was once nearly universal is absent in a large percentage of biologically male humans. They do not seek to pair bond. They are less aggressive and violent than fertile males. This is especially true of those mules who experience Sasaki Syndrome without first going through puberty or learning traditional aggressive, male tendencies.

There are physiological differences also. Mules lose or never develop many secondary sex characteristics. They grow facial and body hair much more slowly than fertile males if at all. Their voices are almost a full octave higher on average. From a scientific perspective, none of these statements are controversial. From a political perspective, they are poison.

(As will happen several times during the talk, there is a low murmuring in the auditorium. This transcript will omit any further crowd reaction that does not interrupt the speech.)

Fortunately, this is not a PTED Talk.

(Slide 1 shows the TED logo prefixed with a P and the word "politics" written in ahead of the words "Technology, Entertainment, and Design." The crowd laughs.)

(Slide 2 shows a chart that has and will be shown several times throughout the conference, titled "Birth Rates Worldwide, 2010-2040." It shows a small incline from 2010-2015, then a sharp decline to a point marked 2,030,000 - Projected. See Appendix A - Slides.)

These are birth rates. They drop dramatically in 2015.

(As he speaks, Dr. Stoppard advances the slide repeatedly to add trend lines.)

Birth rates drop off in 2015. Murder rates drop similarly, but that trend starts in 2012. Violent rapes inflicted on women by men drop dramatically in 2013 and by 2015 are close to zero. There were more such rapes in 2011 than in 2015-2040 inclusive. Every form of assault drops between 2011 and 2014. Sales of razors and shaving cream drop in 2011. Sales of condoms and babies born to unwed mothers drop more than thirty percent at the same time - in 2012.

(He looks up at the screen with all the trend lines.)

This isn't the main thrust of my speech, but it bears saying. If we're going to study the origins of Sasaki Syndrome, we need to look back at when we started being less violent, not just when we stopped making babies.

(Slide 3 shows a group of eighteen men, all sporting some amount of facial hair, a recognized sign of fertility.)

I helped found the Brooklyn Men's Fertility Collective in 2016. In 2036, these eighteen men, including myself, were arrested for prostitution. In the strictest legal sense, the police had a solid case. Within the collective, we ran a private club with almost twelve hundred members, all women between the ages of twenty-four and thirty-six. Most of them paid some sort of membership dues. The entire purpose for the club was for the eighteen of us to get those women pregnant. In many cases, this was accomplished through sexual intercourse. But, the case never went to trial. Six months after our arrest, we were granted a special operating license that said we were still a bunch of whores, but we were legally permitted to be a bunch of whores.

(He points to the photo. Most of the men are dressed in slacks and button-down shirts.) A bunch of whores. We look more like an old-fashioned IT department.

(laughter and applause.)

Between 2016 and today, I have fathered at least 147 children. Collectively, these eighteen men are the fathers of at least 2,105 children under the age of twenty-three today. Ninety-one of those children are fertile males, approximately 4.3% compared with a worldwide average that is estimated to be 0.7-1.1%.

(Note: As of 2075, 1.6% of males born in 2040 have fathered one or more children, making the correct worldwide average for that year approximately 0.8%.)

As of this year, there are twenty-two collectives like ours legally operating in the United States. There are an unspecified number operating illegally.

(Slide 4 shows two maps of the United States with some states colored blue and others red. In both cases, most of the states are red.)

The top map shows in blue states that have granted special operating licenses to male fertility collectives. It's basically the northeast except for Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, plus California and Nevada in the west. It's twelve states in all. The blue states on the bottom map are those with a birth-rate of more than 2% among women age eighteen to thirty-five in 2038. In these states, a woman during the course of her life will have on average 2.1 children. In the red states, she will have on average 0.4 children. Utah and Oregon are blue. They don't have legal fertility collectives, but both states have publicly declined to enforce laws against polygamy and the average fertile male age 35 has fathered children with 4.9 women.

Even 2.1 children per women is below the replacement rate. If that average held across the whole world, we would still be losing a little over one percent of our population per year. That's much better than we've been doing, but if you project it out another thirty years, we still reach the population crunch - where there simply aren't enough people to sustain a modern civilization - around 2092.

(Slide 5 shows two trend lines of population decline. One marks the projection at a decline of one percent. Another marks the UN's projections based on worldwide census data. It reaches a line marked eight million in 2070 and that intersection is marked with a red X.)

Eight million is the number of people who lived in New York City in 2012. It's also widely believed to be the population point under which a modern society can't function. That's eight million if you gather them all together in a relatively concentrated area and let the rest of the world go fallow. This chart puts humanity's number there in 2070. But, of course, both of these lines are just mathematical models based on oversimplification and projection. Your government - pretty much every government that even acknowledges there's a crisis - keeps promising this will never happen, talks about the programs they're putting in place to encourage more births and how close they are to finding a cure for Sasaki Syndrome. But, these numbers come after ten years of those programs and how do you find a cure for a condition with no known cause and no pathogen to fight?

That's not a rhetorical question. How do you cure it? You can't say it's impossible because just giving up means that humanity is living in caves before the turn of the next century and a memory shortly thereafter. There's an answer and I'm up here on stage, so I must think I have it, but I want to show you one more trend line.

(A yellow line appears on the graph. It matches the UN population numbers almost perfectly until in 2045, it drops off to almost zero.)

This is the population of honey bees in North America from 2005 to 2025, normalized to our population figures and human lifespans. During that time, North American honeybees were suffering from something called Colony Collapse Disorder. The drone population of entire commercial hives would suddenly fly off and leave their queen to starve to death. In 2012, we started to see science that said this was caused by a category of chemicals called neonictinoids. By 2015, those chemicals were no longer used in commercial pesticides, but CCD continued to accelerate and in 2025, over the course of a single season, it claimed nearly ninety percent of the remaining commercial colonies.

(The room is deathly silent for approximately fifteen seconds before Dr. Stoppard speaks again.)

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