Y is it so? And will sex for fun survive?

J. R. Molloy (jr@shasta.com)
Mon, 13 Dec 1999 11:02:32 -0800

Y is it so? And will sex for fun survive? By Medical writer BELINDA HICKMAN
13 dec 99

THE Y chromosome is shrinking, men are slowly becoming extinct and it may not be long before an embryo could be developed from the nucleus of cells from two females.

Fast-forward to 2099, and we may be talking genetically enhanced IVF babies, sex between artificial minds, "love" pills and sexual surrogates to help marriages survive.

We are, according to four of Australia's experts in in-vitro fertilisation, standing at the threshold of a brave new world of reproduction and relationships. But will new technologies mean getting pregnant by sex is widely replaced with IVF? And will sex for fun and love survive?

It is to these matters that Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development deputy director Alan Trounson, Australian IVF pioneer Carl Wood, Sydney IVF medical director Robert Jansen and Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital ethicist Julian Savulescu turn their attention to in the latest Medical Journal of Australia. Their conclusion: there is no doubt of a push towards assisted reproduction.

In the future, it is possible only the poor will be having sex to reproduce or for pleasure, according to Professor Savulescu. Professor Trounson says parents are likely to favour IVF and a pre-implantation screening test, rather than risk shuffling the genetic deck with natural conception. He says more sophisticated techniques, such as cloning, may be required to deal with the diminishing Y chromosome, which contains genes crucial for male-specific function and gender.

He says that gene deletions which appear to correlate with increasing male infertility indicate the Y chromosome "has a limited evolutionary lifetime that means the male is facing eventual extinction. If there is a 'sunset clause' inserted into the genomic blueprint of evolution, an alternative may need to be found for sexual reproduction".

Professor Wood predicts new drugs will emerge to enhance or inhibit sexual drive, romantic love and bonding just as Viagra has helped to treat male impotence.

If that's not enough help, he also envisages a greater role for cybersex and virtual sex, and for tertiary-educated prostitutes to act as sexual counsellors and surrogates.

But for those still keen on the business: relax, by all estimates, sex will still be with us in 2099.