Fewer and Better—for Mothers and Marriages:

Facing the Facts of Gender Relations, and Acting to Improve Them—and the Future.
Working paper (c) 2011, Davd

The present (late 2011) population of the earth is between three and three hundred times too large for the planet to support comfortably, depending on whose estimates you heed. The fraction of marriages that end in divorce is far higher than it was fifty years ago; and the consequences of divorce for men are worse than they were then.

Might it quite reasonably follow, that:

— most men should refrain from both marriage and procreation and that
— those who do marry and procreate, should be quite “fussy” as to who they marry and on what terms?

Many young men seem to be acting already, as if they had “come to this conclusion”. There is in the reticence of young men to marry, some confirmation for men’s belief that we are fit to govern ourselves both politically and in the household; and refutation for the belief some Feminists hold, that we are feckless half-humans.

It is generally agreed that “only children” neither enjoy childhood as much as children with siblings, nor do they develop [on average] into as happy or capable adults. If economic means are ample, as they have been in farming households with ample land, at least five children would seem to be the optimum number in a household1.

If good mothers have 3-10 children, and at least 5 on average; then to get from the world’s present population to a sustainable one, in a generation’s time; between one-ninth and one-1500th of all women in the generation that is now alive but has not yet borne children, should be mothers—and the rest, to use beehives or anthills as a model people at least know something about, between eight-ninths and 1499-1500ths of all women in the generation that is now alive but has not yet borne children—should be childless.

Given what has been published in the past few decades about marital fidelity, divorce, and single motherhood, the matter must, for these present times, be stated in terms of women2. Whether these women bear children sired by a much larger, approximately equal, or much smaller number of men, is a quite different question; and what’s worse, many of them will rear children without a consistently present man-in-the-house: We cannot assume that the number of men who are fathers, nor the number of men who are sires3, is even approximately equal to the number of women who are mothers4.

Among wild animals, many birds, a few fishes, and a few mammals [e.g. Wolves (Mowat, 1963) and perhaps cetaceans] both sire and rear and thus are “fathers” in the human sense; while nearly all dams are mothers in the human sense. What is too seldom appreciated, is the immense value of a father to the survival, health, and prospects of a child5—and of a baby bird, wolf cub or tilapia6.

We should not assume that a mother or a father, nor even a faithful couple consisting of one mother and one father, is ample to rear a child or children: Though two caring adults are nearly always better than one, and natural fathers better than “mother’s boyfriends”, more than two may be better still. The famous African folk maxim, “it takes a village to raise a child”, is sound advice; and to that advice should be added, “children are best raised among other children.” The village should raise numerous children; and through human history and prehistory, that has been what happened.

(Neither should we assume that we will manage to reduce the human population of the earth to its optimum size in one generation of time—but planning and acting with that as a goal, would still be a good idea. Nor would i suggest that we attempt to reduce the earth’s human population to a thousandth of its present size—rather that we aim to reduce it to a tenth-to-a-hundredth, knowing that we will probably wind up with a smaller rather than a larger reduction. By the time the human population is 1%-10% of its present number, we should have a much clearer understanding of what the optimum, long-run population should be.)

To defuse what Paul Ehrlich, four-and-a-half decades ago, called The Population Bomb; we should radically change our expectations about parenthood—first so as to reduce the earth’s human population to a safe, much smaller number; and then, so as to sustain that number without raising death rates to the levels typical before the “Industrial Revolution”. For the present generation[s] of adult men, who are here at the start of 2012, and unable to jump to some other point in historical time; the changes entail accepting that sex, marriage, procreation, and parenthood are four very distinct things.

Specifically, what should a man do, in his, humanity’s, and the Earth’s interest”

  •  First, if a woman is not among the 1%-10% most suited to bear the next generation of humanity, then see to it that you don’t get her pregnant!
  • Second, if you are not among the 1%-10% most suited to sire-and-rear the next generation of humanity, then see to it that you don’t get anyone pregnant! Sexual abstinence is one way to “see to that”, and for the sexually active, a vasectomy is another. Also for the sexually active, condoms have the added benefit of substantial prophylaxis against sexually transmitted diseases—but they are much less reliable for that, and as contraceptives, than is the vasectomy [for contraception only].
  • Third, we should either accept the anthropologically conventional matriarchal family pattern in which a mother’s brother[s] rear her children with her, or insist on marriage of a kind that can be relied-on to continue faithful and co-operative at least until the youngest child matures. I shall assume below, that most men prefer not to accept matriarchy—that most of us would rather reason, at least sometimes, than “Don’t think, do what you are told”7.

Matriarchy or not, both men’s interests and the excess human population that now burdens the earth, “call for” making both motherhood, and “marriages” on which the spouses cannot rely, scarce for the next few decades.

If we can make motherhood and empty “marriage”, scarce, there are at least five benefits for men:

  • Many of us—a large majority—will not have a duty to support children;
  • Paternity fraud and “paternity suits” will be vanishingly rare;
  • The many women who are unwilling to make a credible promise of 2-4 decades of fidelity, can simply be left unmarried. It’s virtually certain that 10% or more of all women are willing to, indeed would prefer to, have durable, faithful marriages.8 The rest can conduct their sexual lives in any of a variety of ways, as long as they don’t get pregnant; or they can remain virgins, a choice that has had respect since before the time of Christ9. And if men can co-operate to see that marriage is limited to the women (and men) who are the best prospective parents; then we—or more accurately, our blessing—will be sought after, and our influence on women’s conduct will improve from its present dismally low state.
  • Probably, there will be women who want sexual pleasure but either do not want or have accepted they cannot afford, motherhood. These women will have much more attention and time for playing with men who are not fathers, than if they were “single Moms”.
  • Men who are not highly sexed and-or who have chosen sexual abstinence for religious or philosophical reasons, will be respected rather than treated as weaklings, weird-o’s, or wimps.

There are also benefits for children and for “society at large”:

  • First, children born in these much more selective marriages will have far better nurture than the average of today’s children, because they will be born to and nurtured by the men and women most suited for parenthood;
  • Second, if there are many childless men and women, and many of these like children and child nurturing, they will contribute the diversity of adult skills and conduct which the “village” in that maxim includes;
  • Third, the social burdens of unwanted and ill-nurtured children will be eliminated.

We cannot expect most women to take the initiative to remedy gender relations—which currently give them “the advantage.” The privileged very seldom abandon their privileges simply because they might be inequitable. As for our ecological predicament, Morgan (1973) observed, with research citations to support her, that women have very strong motivations to bear children. If men abstain from sex or (via vasectomy or condoms) from conception, except with women who are especially well suited for motherhood and willing to enter durable, faithful marriages; then many women will adapt to the situation; but men have more and better motivations to take the lead.

However, some women who are not potentially good mothers may seek to bear children in defiance of the planetary interest; and some men who are not promising as sires may foolishly or stubbornly help them. We should seriously consider sterilization of half or more of the population, men and women, as a public policy.

There was much complaint in the 20th Century, about “eugenics” denying human rights to those who are of lower intelligence or have physical weaknesses. The 20th Century “eugenics debates” took place in a context assuming that most people would become parents, and with a strong, but not well acknowledged, Feminist presence. When a context of 1%-25% of all women, and of all men, becoming parents, prevails; then sterilization not of “the unfit” but of the majority, might well win social acceptance. (The author ‘had a vasectomy’ at the age of 38.)

This initiative entails a drastic change from the stereotypical nuclear-family marriage which was fairly well approximated by actual marriage fifty years ago—but a far less drastic change from either the “stem family” common in egalitarian and patriarchal farming and herding societies or [ironically?] from the unreliable, man-unfriendly state of legal marriage and “family law” in Canada today. If Marx and Engels once wrote “Workers unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains”; we can edit it to “Men unite, you have nothing to lose but the disadvantages you never deserved.”


1. This was found to be the optimum size for a small newly-formed group doing a practical task (Slater, 1958). If anything, larger group sizes are optimal as groups become established and members have time to learn one another’s quirks.
2. For decades, perhaps a century or longer, demographers have described fertility rates “per thousand women” rather than per population [such as would include men].
3. A father is a man who procreates and actively rears the same child. A stepfather is a man who rears a child he did not procreate. A sire is a man [or other male animal] who procreates a child [or offspring of another species] but does not actively rear that offspring.
4. To explicate the logical parallel to the male situation: Some women may bear but not rear one or more offspring; and these could be called “dams” (cf. “madame”); and of course some women may rear offspring they did not bear and such women have for centuries been called “stepmothers”. In animal husbandry, however, “dam” usually refers to a mother, not merely a female procreator; while “sire” typically refers to a procreator who does not “father”. Thus, the word “dam” will not be much used here, because it could provoke confusion.
5. Morgan (1973) wrote that during the hard times in human evolution, every baby among our ancestors had a father whose devotion to the family group was unshakable, because those who did not have the full support of fathers, died.
6. As those who “breed” tilapia will know, among these fishes the male guards the eggs after fertilization and the alevins after hatching—as does the male American “stickleback”. I believe that among black bass, both parents guard the nest; but i am not sure of this.
7. Louis XIV is quoted as saying, “It is God’s will that whoever is born a subject should not reason, but obey!” (Rutledge, 1956: p. 10.) “Obviously”, Le Roi du Soleil said something in French that Rutledge or a source he did not cite, so translated. If you, reader, happen to have the French original, i’d appreciate a copy of the original words, with a citation. Write me at author01 [at] everyman {dot} ca
8. Both Christian and Muslim doctrine specify such marriages, though many nominal Christians don’t work very hard to ensure them. (I don’t know enough about Islam in practice, to assess the situation in that faith.) It does seem safe to guess that among serious Christians and Muslims there are enough “good old fashioned” marriages to prevent reducing the human population by even two-thirds within one generation.
9. The Parthenon is a temple to Athena, named for her deemed virginity.


Anonymous, 1965. The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. Acknowledged in this century to have been written by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, later U. S. Senator.

Morgan, Elaine, 1973. The Descent of Woman. New York: Bantam paperback. [This book emphasizes evolutionary history rather than human nature, but is well worth reading. Feminist by the author’s own assertion, but friendly toward men; scientifically strong as well…for the essay it is. Not a text nor a research monograph.]

Mowat, Farley 1963. Never Cry Wolf. Boston: Little, Brown. Dell paperback 1965.

Rutledge, Joseph L., 1956. Century of Conflict: The Struggle Between the French and British in Colonial America. Toronto: Doubleday

Slater, Philip E. 1958. “Contrasting correlates of group size” Sociometry 21:129-139 [A classic. The ideal size of newly formed groups is 5; smaller groups lack good diversity of views and choice of interaction partners, while larger limit chance to speak and tend to develop factions. Established groups probably have a larger ideal size; Hutterite communities seem to find a size of 50-100 men, women and children to be ideal.]

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About Davd

Davd Martin (Ph.D., 1966, Sociology) has been a professor, a single parent on a low income from a small commercial herb garden, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. His men's-interest essays and blogs have appeared on "The Spearhead" "A Voice for Men", and "False Rape Society", as well as this site.
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