Sexual morality is not based on sex at all. It’s based on money and power, the same as everything else. Those two forces, which are two sides of the same thing which is economic survival, stay potent in human life as they have since evolution popped up the neocortex and the skull over it so that people had foreheads. But in the last hundred or maybe only fifty years, sex has suddenly changed.
For one thing, there are far more people -- so many that there are TOO many to support and you can buy a little boy in some places for less than the cost of a puppy in other places. For another thing, it’s far easier to move children around from a place where they have little or no value to a place where they have a high value; from a place where most children are at least snoopervised, to a place where no one cares or the child who is a different color is unsee-able.
For another thing, in the industrial world conception, gestation, birth and rearing are entirely different than they used to be and different from one place or one class to another so that the memes almost overpower the genes. This is changing the role of women in the world, though it’s more often doubling up than change. Another difference is that one part of the world can see what it’s like in other parts of the world -- even talk to people there. So a Manhattan reporter (Thomas Friedman) can go to a brothel in SE Asia, buy himself a woman, and re-define her life, "free" her, to suit his standards (maybe from prostitute to shop-keeper) -- sometimes with success and sometimes not.
Disease patterns are changing along with all the other patterns. Places which are losing major parts of their population plus major parts of their generational culture transmission (just the same as happened to the North American Indians two centuries ago) are tumultuous enough to become pirates preying on the cream of society in luxury liners. Food is also a force that acts almost like disease (even in America) except that diseases go from person to person without reference to class or education. Or do they?
Just now I’m thinking about questions like what difference scale makes: systems form in terms of large scale phenomena, so something like child trafficking is not profitable enough to maintain itself unless systems can develop, the same as drug systems: producers, distribution, consumers. When the population being drawn on is planetary, so that humans are produced on one continent to be consumed on another, the systems will be big and tied into politics in order to protect themselves.
We tend to think of the problem as one-at-a-time, this kid and this kid and this kid. This unwanted pregnancy and this unwanted pregnancy. This freak who consumes kids and then this other freak who consumes kids. What about the systems that one-by-one accretions feed into? What about the countries, mostly Asians, who have seen that too many kids can lead to disaster and have mercilessly stepped in to limit pregnancies. I say mercilessly. And with unintended consequences like the female babies adopted in the United States who now form a body of people, usually wealthy and educated like their adoptive parents, who are emotionally tied to their genetic origins as well as their adoptive country. Are they a bridge or a breach? Or the unintended consequence of too many young Chinese men with no access to women, no way to marry, no reason to settle down. Where will their restlessness go? What if they import women of another culture, like American rednecks importing Phillipinas?
What about the African lack of social maintenance which has allowed famine, destruction of human communities and cultures, destruction of the flora and fauna that supported life, mutilation of souls, collapse of nations. In both of these extreme national reactions the economics of survival through power and resources include sex. Sell yourself, sell your child, sell your willingness to do the unthinkable: meth in one pocket, viagra in the other.
“Civilized” cultures are more subtle, using sentimentality and romanticism to convert individuals into pawns in the economic system: women who will betray each other by replacing aging wives, men who will use women and then discard them, men who want to own their genetic children, women who will get pregnant to keep a relationship. Once the basis of wealth was inheritance and therefore sexual allegiance on the part of women was the guarantee that children were really one’s own and therefore a continuation of one’s self. Even the ruling of countries depended on inheritance. But now inheritance can be proven or disproven by genetics. There are no more mysteriously fatherless children.
And increasingly it begins to be clear that simple biological inheritance does not mean that a child will become like the parent. What if the throne is limited to male inheritors and the only child able to replace the parent is female? The likely preventative of female kings was the high possibility that pregnancy/birth would kill the queen. That doesn’t happen often now. But then later, with irony, it turned out that the urge to knit political systems together through family relationships became a genetic throttler that made royalty unable to produce any children at all.
Most of our moralities that have to do with sex have close horizons: what will it do to our lives in the next few years? Because who knows what will happen in the next decade? Sequential relationships have their impact on the emotions of the persons passing through them, but what happens to the children produced accidentally or on purpose? What about the stray men in the house? More sentimentality and practicality working against economics. Vocations -- locking people into jobs. War -- destroying the men, blowing their balls off. Careers -- preventing pregnancy until fertility is expired. One by one, they are maybe tragedies. Taken altogether, they are marketing opportunities. (Now the docs are saying it’s better not to implant triplets.)
What happens when the script changes quickly? I once had a conversation with a man who was enraged because he had played by the rules and been faithful to his wife, with some pain, but now discovered that he could sleep around with impunity -- if he had the ability. Maybe viagra saved him. But I hope he had his tubes tied first, since many babies with disabilities result from old sperm. The US with its prosperity and its sentimentality about people having babies “no matter what” and “saving” marginal babies is now burdened with huge costs and in danger of a reactive flip of sentiment that will make it morally acceptable to kill all “substandard” people. (And some only worry about abortion.)
Commodities, even children, can be made profitable in two different ways: one is dealing with whatever in terms of standard units: kid, kid, kid, qua kid. The other is by producing high quality unique whatevers. In terms of kids, that means health, intelligence, the ability to form relationships, curiosity, courage, etc. etc. etc. But kids are commodities that change daily -- they get better and they get worse. Kid by kid that’s all-absorbing. When it is a trend, throughout an entire country with many kids following some unforeseen pattern, it is world-transforming. Both better and worse. It begins with coitus.