If we conceptualize human reproduction as “production” in the capitalistic sense (that is, production of future labor), and if we conceptualize bodies that are capable of conceiving as the “means of production”, and if we conceptualize bodily autonomy, consequently, as a threat to oligarchical control over the means of production, then some of the classic objections to asexuality — while still irrational — begin to make a little more sense.
For example, consider the accusation that asexual people are “just lazy”. This line of argument isn’t that asexual people are afraid of sex or just haven’t realized that a sex is fun yet; it’s that we’re slacking on the job, failing at our duty, our required labor. Here, sex and sexual relationships are conceptualized as work, as an obligation one might avoid out of laziness, despite cultural myths that tout sex as universally pleasurable. Why? Because the issue taken is not about sex itself, it’s about putting in your mandated hours to contribute to (re)production.
Likewise, consider the irrelevant objection “We need sex to reproduce.” We don’t, actually, but that’s beside the point. So what? Is a small percentage of people choosing celibacy really going to put a dent in our population? And if so, who cares?
The only answer I can come up with is this: mass employers care. In economic terms, an increase in supply drives down value, meaning that the market sets a lower equilibrium price and buyers can pay less for more. The labor pool (people who want employment) is a type of supply, and the bigger it is, the less the suppliers can demand as wages, all else being equal. Therefore, “we” need more reproduction in order to buy cheaper labor.
I don’t think any anti-ace whiners think through this consciously, but it’s the one explanation I’ve found for it that makes any sense within its own framework, and even if it doesn’t instruct it directly, capitalistic culture certainly would encourage this as a concern.
Mulling over the relationship between reproduction and capitalism led me to thinking about Snowpiercer as well, and if you haven’t seen the movie (and you really should, as long as you don’t have triggers related to gore), be warned there’s spoilers ahead.
In Snowpiercer, human reproduction is literally key to fueling the capitalist machine (see here for some further writing on its general symbolism). There are many scenes in the movie that are visceral and jarring, and for me, several of those are concentrated around the ending, when we see Wilford’s utter nonchalance and his quiet disdain for Curtis’ strong emotion. “Don’t be so melodramatic,” he calmly says as Curtis attempts to save a child. It is chilling, but all too familiar.
One of these lines, and the other half of how I see sex as potentially appropriated by capitalist logics, is a line that stung me all the more due to an association with the first time I’d heard something like it. While sitting at his dinner table, Wilford remarks that Curtis is “always so tense,” and then says, “You need to get laid.”
Within the context of the film, it’s obvious that the reason Curtis is so tense has more to do with being hungry and oppressed and bearing witness to violent atrocities over the years, but Wilford, as the villain and chief proponent of the current system, ignores all that. Instead, he suggests that Curtis’ tension, his anger, his radical inclinations, could all be “fixed” if he simply has sex. Here, sex is being proposed as an emotional and ideological cure-all. It functions as a distraction, as mood repair, as neutralizing, as settling the radical. You’re tense because you haven’t maintained your health regimen and just need to relax, he implies, not because there’s an actual systematic evil at hand. The paradigm not only states that having sex would eliminate an individual’s need for revolutionary change, but that the politics thusly invalidated — the assertions that threaten the status-quo — only come into being because someone isn’t getting laid. Here, as in other places I’ve seen, it’s as if sex is being prescribed as a political pacifier and means of silencing.
But you know, sure, tell me again how prudes are the source of sexual oppression.