One night back in the 1990s, I dreamed that I’d been stabbed in the stomach. When I bolted awake, pain sent me hurtling to the bathroom where I threw up. It felt as if a creature inside my belly was trying to claw its way out.
When I was about 10 years old, I announced to my father that I had decided never to have kids. Dad said, “You’ll change your mind.” But I didn’t, and now, at 30 years old, I had an un-baby growing inside me — an ovarian cyst the size of a grapefruit that, doctors warned me, could at any time rupture and fill my abdomen with blood and pus.
I was fast-tracked for an operation and paired with the first surgeon available in my insurance network, on a kind of terrible blind date. “You probably want to know how much weight you’re going to lose when we remove the cyst; women always want to know,” he said. That’s when I allowed myself to loathe him.
After the procedure, the surgeon told me that the ovary he had removed contained some worrisome cells that might someday evolve into cancer. He said that after another year or two, I should consider getting “cleaned out.” It took me a minute to understand what he meant. Even though I didn't actually have cancer, he was suggesting a full hysterectomy.
“You don’t have to get the procedure right away,” he said. “You could wait. That would give you time to complete your family.”
“Complete my what?” I said.
He spoke slowly, as if to someone with brain damage. “You need to get pregnant right away and have all your children now.” By “family” he meant kids and a husband, possibly also a Volvo. But for me “family” was my menagerie of eccentric friends — ’zine makers, puppeteers, indie-rock roadies, the seven roommates who shared my house, the boyfriend who slept on his mom’s couch.
My first thought was, “How dare he?” My panic was primal — I wanted to hit him, or claw out his eyes. I felt more horrified by the prospect of being pregnant than of having a hysterectomy.
I splurged on a second opinion from a top doctor who said that there was no reason for a hysterectomy. But he, too, suggested that if I wanted children, I should hurry.
“I have zero desire for kids,” I said. It was in that moment that I knew for sure that I’d always felt this way and always would.
If not for my precarious reproductive situation, I probably would have pretended to be ambivalent about kids for 10 more years. I would have told people, “I’m not sure. I’ll decide later.” But now there was no later. So I “came out” to everyone. My boyfriend — who wanted to be a father — dumped me. My mother screamed at me, then mourned. And some friends grew distant.
They couldn’t understand. And the truth is, I couldn’t either. Why are most people born with the urge that drives them to have children and others, like me, not? I began to wonder if science had an answer.
First, though, I had to learn how other people felt. Because I’d never experienced so much as a pang of baby hunger, I believed this emotion was just an invention — some myth that the patriarchy created to keep women down. My friends set me straight. Several told me, “Actually, baby hunger’s a real thing.” Women and men described the way an infant’s face peeking out of a stroller had forced them to reckon with a keening desire. Soon some of those friends were dads and moms.
Like Mary. Back in college, she and I played in a garage band together and shared a pair of white go-go boots. But then something sent us hurtling down different paths.
One day, she placed her first baby in my arms and instructed me to sniff the little boy’s head. “You’ve got to smell this,” she said. “It’s like a drug.”
I sniffed obediently and said, “I’m not getting anything” — which was my polite way of saying that actually I detected the tang of spit-up.
Mary was stumped. “Really? You don’t smell that? It’s like baking bread, but a thousand times better.”
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She would end up having nine children. And I would have none.
We’ve become used to thinking about sexual desire on a spectrum — from heterosexual to homosexual, with lots of people falling somewhere in between. Might there be a reproductive-desire spectrum too?
Over the past decade, I’ve been hunting through the scientific literature for answers. And I haven’t found much of anything.
Reproductive desire seems like a big subject to have been bypassed by researchers. Perhaps there’s a simple explanation: For most of human history, people — women especially — haven’t had a choice about whether they wanted to become parents. Maybe it was easiest to assume that everyone simply wanted a baby. But as birthrates decline in every developed country, it’s clear that’s not the case.
Recently a new window has opened up onto our reproductive desires. And it has to do with, of all things, how we perceive cuteness.
Anyone who has been on the internet lately knows that cuteness can get weird: lemurs with Keane-painting eyes, infants dressed as peapods, cats with toast on their heads. The internet offers up achingly sweet “cute porn” because those images grab our attention. There’s something almost aggressive about the way we crave cuteness.
Several years ago, the actress Leslie Bibb perched next to Conan O’Brien’s desk and riffed about a baby so cute that it drove her crazy. She pantomimed her extreme reaction to the infant by gritting her teeth and clenching her fists.
A social psychologist named Oriana Aragón, who was then teaching at Yale, happened to be watching. In the days that followed, she found herself pondering a subject that doesn’t usually receive much attention from the scientific community: cuteness.
Dr. Aragón realized that feelings of tenderness can be so overwhelming that they spill over into a behavior that she calls “cute aggression.” An example, she told me, is “when you see a grandparent pinching a baby’s cheeks and saying, ‘I want to eat you up.’” In fact, sometimes baby-talk can sound downright serial-killer-ish if you take it out of context. You might find yourself telling a puppy that you want to squish it — even though, of course, you’re doing just the opposite and gently caressing it.
Dr. Aragón and her colleagues at Yale undertook what are probably the world’s first attempts to scientifically prove the existence of cute aggression. In an adorable experiment, she and her research partners handed volunteers bubble wrap, then showed them a parade of images. Dr. Aragón found that people popped more bubbles when looking at, say, a photo of a kitten than of an adult cat — suggesting that the cutest images do seem to prompt the urge to crush or squeeze.
Because the cute-overload feeling lends itself to study, it may help to reveal the parts of our minds devoted to nurturing that have heretofore been hidden.
Katherine Stavropoulos, a neuroscientist and clinical psychologist at the University of California at Riverside, has conducted a study on the neural circuitry that is active during cuteness-overload. She asked volunteers to wear caps outfitted with sensors that measure brain activity, and then showed them images of wee little animals. Her results suggested that “cute-aggression” involves the reward system in the brain. In other words, it feels good.
But why? “It’s just a completely open question,” Dr. Aragón, who now works at Clemson, told me. Even so, she points out, it’s reasonable to assume that our extreme reaction to cuteness is evolution’s way of making sure that parents do the relentless work of nurturing children. To perpetuate the species, parents must feel driven to hold their babies for hours — and that might explain why the urge to squeeze gets mixed into a cocktail of tender emotions.
Now Dr. Stavropoulos hopes to explore whether the brains of parents and childless people react differently to cuteness.
She told me she has noticed that her friends who experienced cute-overload around infants seemed to be the ones who hurried to have babies. She herself has no children — at least not yet. “I always thought babies were adorable and sweet,” she said, “but was never overwhelmed by the positive feelings.”
It’s dogs that drive her cute-crazy. “Round, floppy puppies that look like cotton balls,” she told me. “I feel like I want to squeeze them until they want to pop — but, of course, I don’t really want them to pop.”
This made me realize that I have my own peculiar trigger. When my dog, Sonny, sprawls on the floor, I will massage the soft flesh of her belly and tell her how I’d like to eat her stomach with a spoon because it’s like pudding. Which is weird.
But here’s something even weirder: I love to smell her paws.
When I confessed this to Dr. Stavropoulos, she said, “I’m happy you brought that up.” She said that she, too, likes to smell her dogs’ paws. The aroma reminds her of corn chips, and like me, she finds it to be “cutest smell ever,” even though this makes no sense at all because “objectively, what’s cute about the smell of a Frito?”
Our conversation reminded me of my friend Mary, who adores the smell of a baby’s head. Am I feeling the same thing when I huff my dog’s paws?
Science has no answer to this — yet. But maybe this is beginning to change.
For the most part, people like me are invisible. We’re rarely studied or quantified. There is a medical term, tokophobia, for women who are terrified by pregnancy. But such women, when they’re discussed at all, tend to be characterized as damaged and in need of fixing.
The thing is, many of us don’t want to be fixed. On Reddit, I found a discussion thread called “child-free as a kind of gender or identity issue?" Commenters on it reported feeling that they couldn’t change and wouldn’t want to. “It’s just who I am,” ran one comment. “From the time that I can remember, I was given baby dolls and I refused to play with them.” The writer added that she had always felt “that I am just not supposed to be someone’s mom” and compared that feeling to “being gay or transgender.”
How many of us feel born not to be parents? It may seem as if we’re outliers, but polls suggest that about one-sixth of people of reproductive age aren’t sure that they want children.
Many of those people are probably less indecisive than they admit. Few women are willing to declare, “Yeah, put me down as someone who definitely will never have kids.” I know from experience just how hard it can be to say those words out loud. It's so much easier to describe yourself as undecided.
Still, around the world, women are quietly opting out. Nearly half of the world’s countries now have fertility rates below the level needed to maintain their population size. In the United States, births are at their lowest level in 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The authors of a new book, “Empty Planet,” are going so far as to warn that the world population will start dropping by midcentury. “Once that decline begins,” they write, “it will never end.”
When scholars discuss these statistics, they usually observe the link between the birthrate and female empowerment: Women who have access to birth control, education and self-determination tend to have fewer children. But we rarely talk about the women who — once they’re free to decide — decide to have no children at all.
Is this an expression of practical concerns or inborn wiring? The truth is, we just don’t know. Inside millions of minds are fears and yearnings that we still don’t understand. And those feelings will shape the future of humanity.
Pagan Kennedy (@Pagankennedy) is the author of “Inventology: How We Dream Up Things That Change the World” and a contributing opinion writer.
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个人心水平肖【这】【时】【候】【风】【叶】【寒】【和】【风】【连】【蓉】【总】【算】【被】【眼】【前】【的】【情】【景】【给】【震】【惊】【清】【醒】【了】。 【虫】【子】【都】【跑】【出】【来】【的】【兽】【类】【也】【恢】【复】【了】【正】【常】，【它】【们】【或】【许】【被】【控】【制】【太】【久】【了】，【一】【下】【子】【清】【醒】【过】【来】，【还】【是】【很】【迷】【茫】。。。 【听】【到】【这】【美】【妙】【的】【乐】【声】，【它】【们】【没】【有】【立】【刻】【跑】【开】，【反】【而】【跟】【那】【些】【虫】【子】【一】【样】，【只】【是】【聚】【集】【在】【最】【外】【围】，【摇】【头】【晃】【脑】，【如】【痴】【如】【醉】。 【风】【叶】【寒】【清】【醒】【过】【立】【马】【拿】【起】【了】【火】【把】，
【禾】【尘】【仰】【天】【长】【叹】，【面】【对】【史】【黛】【拉】【蠢】【萌】【蠢】【萌】【的】【行】【为】，【他】【不】【知】【是】【该】【哭】【还】【是】【该】【笑】。 “【这】【已】【经】【不】【是】【那】【种】【程】【度】【的】【事】【情】【了】……【我】【现】【在】【去】【帮】【你】【借】【条】【毛】【巾】……” “【唉】？【等】【等】，【等】【一】【下】，【禾】【尘】！……” 【看】【到】【禾】【尘】【头】【也】【不】【回】【的】【离】【开】，【史】【黛】【拉】【一】【下】【瘫】【倒】【在】【座】【位】【上】。 【珠】【雫】：“【收】【到】【了】【小】【姐】，【难】【道】【说】【你】【是】【个】【白】【痴】？” 【有】【栖】：“【原】【来】【你】
【门】【边】【的】【倩】【影】【极】【具】【气】【质】，【弯】【弯】【的】【眉】【眼】【间】【似】【乎】【包】【含】【冬】【季】【里】【限】【定】【的】【美】【好】，【在】【那】【束】【美】【好】【朝】【自】【己】【接】【近】【中】【陆】【向】【恒】【人】【生】【头】【一】【回】【为】【了】【一】【个】【女】【孩】【心】【跳】【加】【速】。 【温】【念】【念】【却】【没】【有】【他】【那】【么】【多】【奇】【奇】【怪】【怪】【的】【因】【素】，【她】【朝】【着】【陆】【向】【恒】【而】【来】【自】【觉】【地】【在】【他】【对】【面】【落】【座】，【跟】【着】【的】【是】【她】【礼】【貌】【稳】【妥】【的】【笑】【意】“【陆】【医】【生】，【抱】【歉】【来】【晚】【了】。” “【没】【事】【的】，【我】【也】【刚】【到】【不】【久】，”【事】
【因】【着】【第】【二】【天】【就】【要】【走】【人】【又】【比】【较】【多】，【邓】【重】【云】【顺】【理】【成】【章】【的】【就】【留】【了】【下】【来】，【心】【里】【美】【滋】【滋】【的】【帮】【着】【忙】【前】【忙】【后】【的】【收】【拾】，【力】【争】【在】【李】【初】【雨】【的】【家】【人】【心】【里】【留】【下】【一】【个】【好】【的】【印】【象】。 【不】【过】【也】【有】【让】【他】【不】【开】【心】【的】【事】【情】，【出】【门】【倒】【垃】【圾】【遇】【到】【了】【装】【作】【偶】【遇】【的】【周】【婷】【婷】，【看】【到】【周】【婷】【婷】【那】【带】【着】【占】【有】【欲】【的】【眼】【光】【心】【下】【一】【沉】，【没】【等】【周】【婷】【婷】【说】【话】，【垃】【圾】【一】【倒】【飞】【快】【的】【转】【身】【回】【到】【院】【子】，个人心水平肖【迟】【卿】【卿】【让】【苏】【染】【回】【去】【问】【问】【君】【蔺】【兮】。 【苏】【染】【是】【不】【可】【能】【问】【的】，【她】【不】【太】【想】【把】【两】【个】【小】【朋】【友】【在】【君】【蔺】【兮】【面】【前】【提】【起】，【三】【个】【人】【都】【是】【在】【她】【心】【里】【最】【不】【一】【样】【的】【三】【个】【人】，【原】【来】【她】【没】【和】【君】【蔺】【兮】【在】【一】【起】【还】【好】，【现】【在】【在】【一】【起】【了】，【感】【觉】【自】【己】【在】【他】【面】【前】【的】【演】【技】【越】【来】【越】【差】【了】。 【苏】【染】【也】【去】【查】【了】【下】【事】【情】【是】【从】【哪】【里】【传】【出】【来】【的】，【她】【还】【以】【为】【是】【小】【朋】【友】【和】【君】【蔺】【兮】【出】【去】【玩】【被】【认】
“【寻】【龙】【分】【金】【看】【缠】【山】，【一】【重】【缠】【是】【一】【重】【关】，【关】【门】【如】【有】【八】【重】【险】，【不】【出】【阴】【阳】【八】【卦】【形】，【坎】【离】【震】【兑】【分】【四】【象】，【乾】【坤】【艮】【巽】【含】【八】【方】，【八】【方】【有】【生】【有】【死】【门】，【山】【泽】【通】【气】【风】【雷】【博】……” 【听】【着】【胡】【八】【一】【朗】【吟】【这】【段】【熟】【悉】【的】【口】【诀】，【何】【邪】【内】【心】【其】【实】【是】【有】【些】【恍】【惚】【的】。 【现】【实】【和】【虚】【幻】，【时】【空】【交】【错】，【到】【底】【哪】【个】【是】【真】，【哪】【个】【是】【幻】？ 【胡】【八】【一】【此】【时】【的】【气】【势】【已】【变】【得】【跟】【完】
【两】【个】【人】【的】【手】【掌】【对】【在】【一】【起】，【陆】【红】【体】【内】【火】【热】【的】【元】【气】【开】【始】【迸】【发】。 【而】【韩】【枫】【的】【体】【表】【浮】【现】【出】【微】【微】【的】【五】【色】【光】【芒】，【五】【种】【不】【同】【属】【性】【的】【元】【气】【在】【手】【掌】【间】【流】【转】。 【这】【是】【一】【场】【漫】【长】【的】【比】【试】，【陆】【红】【修】【为】【高】，【而】【且】【元】【气】【的】【属】【性】【是】【带】【有】【很】【强】【侵】【略】【性】【的】【火】【属】【性】，【所】【以】，【她】【一】【上】【来】【就】【用】【自】【己】【的】【元】【气】【朝】【着】【韩】【枫】【压】【了】【过】【去】。 【虽】【然】【说】【好】【的】【是】【比】【试】【元】【气】，【但】【陆】【红】
“【要】【抓】【之】【人】【与】【我】【们】【并】【非】【毫】【无】【关】【系】。”【日】【向】【一】【郎】【道】。 “【要】【抓】【之】【人】【与】【我】【们】【有】【何】【关】【系】？”【千】【手】【扉】【间】【问】【道】。 “【要】【抓】【之】【人】【是】【日】【向】【一】【族】【的】【远】【亲】。”【日】【向】【一】【郎】【回】【答】【道】。 （【这】【一】【刻】，【六】【道】【仙】【人】【心】【底】【涌】【现】【的】【模】【糊】【想】【法】【一】【下】【子】【清】【晰】【起】【来】。） “【据】【我】【所】【知】，【日】【向】【雏】【田】【和】【日】【向】【花】【火】【战】【力】【惊】【人】。”【千】【手】【扉】【间】【道】。 “【你】【说】【这】【话】【是】【想】