One way or another, by way of gadgets or homosexuality, sex is becoming more recreative than procreative. It might still be too early to declare 'No conventional sex please, we're British'. But there's little doubt that aspects of malehood are in ways getting more replaceable than they were, prompting many to allege it's an important factor behind the decline in population in many European countries.
Ease with bodies of the same sex is for increasing numbers now a social indulgence, migrating from the permitted to the permissive. Sarah Brown, wife of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, joined the gay pride march in London a week ago to signal her approval. Both Brown and Conservative Party leader David Cameron attended other gay events to stamp theirs—gay votes add up to far too many to lose. A 2003 survey showed that 13 per cent of Brits had had homosexual sex, a higher number who have not declared themselves and another lot who have not, so far, acted on those urges. The seminal Kinsey report had found that 46 per cent of those it surveyed in the US had reacted sexually to others of the same sex, and that 37 per cent had had at least one homosexual experience, though only 4 per cent had declared themselves gay by 2008. Given a new legitimacy, more and more gays are now coming out of their closets, and they are stepping out boldly, even fashionably.
Gay leaders are welcoming a new openness in India certain to begin with the Delhi High Court order. "It ends the criminalisation of nearly a fifth of the world's gay and bisexual population that lives in India," Peter Tatchell, the leading gay rights campaigner in Britain, tells Outlook. "It's an important step on the road to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (usually called LGBT) freedom. I salute the many Indians—gay and straight—who campaigned long and hard to secure this legal victory. They are heroes of the global LGBT movement."
But while there is a new sanction, and even celebration, of the gay movement in Britain, Tatchell says gays are still a minority, and many continue to face difficulties. "The decriminalisation of male homosexuality took place in England in 1967. It has taken us another 40 years to abolish the remaining legal discriminations against LGBT people. But we still have homophobic bullying in schools, and gay people still get bashed and sometimes murdered. The battle for gay liberation in the UK is not over yet."
Britain's gay leaders are thick in a dispute with some religious leaders in the Church, which itself is split along views on gay rights. "We're two different sorts of religion," Bishop of Rochester Michael James Nazir Ali said following the gay pride march. "One has a view of God and the Church and Christianity that is completely different from the other." That division is emerging formally now, with one group, of which Bishop Nazir Ali is a leader, opposing the Church of England bishops who accept homosexuality—also within the Church.
"The Bible's teaching shows that marriage is between a man and a woman," said Bishop Nazir Ali. "That's the way to express our sexual nature. We want to hold on to the traditional teaching of the Church. We don't want to be rolled over by culture and trends in the Church. We want a movement for renewal. We welcome homosexuals, we don't want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed. " Tatchell takes the view that the Bishop should repent for his homophobia.
But the more long-term dispute over homosexuality is emerging as a demographic one: Western societies are simply not reproducing enough. The fertility rate of OECD countries, a grouping of the 30 richest nations, mostly Western, has dropped from 3.2 in 1960 to 1.6 now, below the rate of 2.1 needed to keep the population at present level. The UN Population Division reports that Germany's population is set to fall from 82 million at present to 71 mn by 2050. Britain's will rise from 61 mn to 72 mn, and of France from 62 mn to 68 mn But the more and the Big But here is that while the white population in Britain and France will decline, the immigrant population will soar on the strength of new arrivals and healthier fertility among those who turn up.
Right fight: Tatchell calling for end of ban on gay marriage
Not all of this is owing to homosexuality, but taking even a 10 per cent gay and lesbian population, this is no insignificant factor either. To the right of the liberal spectrum they are beginning to worry that while European men sleep with men and women with women, immigrants will land, grow and multiply.
And take over. Tatchell, however, takes a view that's as liberal as it gets. In an overpopulated world, he says, "with hundreds of millions of people homeless and hungry, we need a lower global population to ensure adequate resources to guarantee a good quality of life for everyone on this planet. Most gay people don't have children and therefore contribute to the stabilisation of the world's population. Our non-reproduction benefits all of humankind." The view is not widely shared, to say the least.
But this liberalism is entirely in line with multitudes of anecdotal accounts, from women especially, that gay men are far finer people than those straight and narrow types. And here lies an extraordinary trap, that about the finest and most creative people carry within them the seeds of self-destruction, or at least of an inability or unwillingness to perpetuate a species that could potentially be of their kind. Demographically, this is self-destruction of the best, by the best, but perhaps not for the best.