Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Sons and Lovers

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Sons and Lovers

Article excerpt

Boy? Or girl? Being able to choose the gender of one's offspring is a wish that seems to have been shared by virtually all cultures, at virtually all times. Aristotle, for example, observed that more females are produced by the young and by those verging on old age than by those in the prime of life" (The Generation of Animals, Book 4). So too, he commented, more males are born if copulation takes place when north winds blow, more females when southerly breezes predominate.

More contemporary studies have correlated the ratio of male to female births with a bewildering array of factors: it has been suggested, for example, that seasonal variations may be the result of changes in diet or temperature over the year (passion does seem to pale as the mercury rises ....) , though just why there should be significantly more male births during and immediately after wars (more babies, yes; more boys?), or why the wives of men in high-stress professions like fighter pilots or astronauts should bear more daughters is far from clear. Both French and Canadian researchers have argued for a relationship between diet and gender-diets rich in sodium and potassium (that is, in meat and salt) seem to be associated with the birth of boys and those rich in calcium and magnesium (in milk and dairy products) with girls. There is some evidence to suggest that butchers had more daughters when cattle were given estrogens in their feed, more sons with androgens; and some Scottish fishing communities show an unexpectedly high male-to-female ratio, perhaps to be explained by their piscatorial diet(See Melody Lloyd, Owen Lloyd, and William Lyster, "Slugs and Snails against Sugar and Spice," BMJ 297 [1988]: 1627-28. …

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