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Ectogenesis in Brave New World

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cover of Brave New WorldAldous Huxley's stark dystopia Brave New World has had immense impact on way people think about a future with ectogenesis (external wombs). In the book, reproduction is carried out on an assembly line, and "Bokanovsky's process" is employed to make embryos bud into as many as ninety-six separate fetuses. Those destined for the lower classes are doused with alcohol and radiation to make sure their mental capacity is low. Rapidly maturing eggs (along with bokanovskification) allows them to get an "average of nearly eleven thousand brothers and sisters in a hundred and fifty batches of identical twins, all within two years of the same age" (Huxley 4). These people are created for factory work. The Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning can barely contain his excitement when he describes social stability as "ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!" (4).

It is clear that no one is going to come out very well in this book, but what particular effects did Huxley see when women no longer give birth? In his world, freeing women from biological reproduction has not freed them from much else. Seventy percent of the women in this society are sterilized, and the other thirty percent subjected to rigorous and ongoing birth control training. With pregnancy divorced from sex, free love is encouraged, but as June Deery points out, "For women, it seems, 'free love' means always having to say yes." Thus middle-class worker Lenina "has to dope herself before having sex with a highly-placed male, but we don't see a man prostituting himself in this fashion" (Deery 261). Women are expected to be constantly sexually available and are discussed as objects. In one conversation a male character says to another: "Oh, she's a splendid girl. Wonderfully pneumatic. I'm surprised you haven't had her." The other replies "I can't think how it is I haven't. I certainly will. At the first opportunity" (Huxley 29).