Expect rape and pillage as men become the new oppressed

Police shot into rioting youth with sleep darts last night, trying to bring to a halt the rampage that had left shops looted, cars ablaze and several hospitals vandalised.

Another Bradford or Brixton? No, just a vision of a future that looms whenever men realise that they are now, as a sex, redundant. Useless, kaput, a waste of skin - and sperm. There is little consolation in the knowledge that they are the architects of their own destruction. In the worst own goal imaginable, men have been pushing science to the farthest edge, seeking to make themselves dispensable at work, in the classroom, and now, finally, in bed.

Well, they've succeeded. Men are no longer necessary for making babies. Heck, for that, we just need a few white coats, a test tube and an egg supplied by a woman. Already, scientists in Australia say human eggs can be fertilised without sperm. That is, from now on, a woman who wants to have her very own baby just pays some clinic for the sperm-free service.

This landmark discovery means that sex has no consequences - or, at least, none of the usual biological kind. The grunting, sweating clinch of two people at it will be stripped of meaning: once the woman knows she can have a child without the man on top of her, she will seek his caresses only for the obvious release of hormonal fever. Their coupling will be of the here and now, requiring no emotional commitment, no plans (or fears) for a future. Remove the possibility of parenthood from the act, and sex risks becoming a purely mechanical collision of two libidos in search of satisfaction.

In this new-style copulation, children are the non sequitur. What, then, of men? Mere asides, I fear. Derided, ignored, and contemptuously mistreated as the eunuchs of yore, men will stand on the sidelines, watching women take over the life-and-death game of procreation. Soon, no doubt, evolution will step in: their manhood, rendered so useless, will atrophy, like the tail we once had, and simply drop off. Forget Dr Frankenstein's monster - we could be staring at a far greater horror: the androgynous man.

More humiliations will follow: once we discover that we can have tomorrow's generation without recourse to today's men, what's to stop us from treating them as surplus citizens? The same contempt and condescension as they once visited upon women or slaves will be their fate. Men will shrink into insignificance, taking a back seat on the way to nowhere.

All of this they sense. But there's worse, they know, around the corner. Because it is not only their status (or their member) that is at risk - our social system is equally under fire. If procreation is no longer a glue between men and women, their relations will degenerate into a constant battle of victor and victim, oppressor and oppressed. Anger and resentment will replace our current longing to clone each other. And fuelled by this righteous anger against the injustice and humiliation they suffer, men will no doubt turn to their ancient weapon - violence. Rape and pillaging will stalk the land, in the useless man's vendetta. Members of men's groups who today are content to drum their barrel chests and roar about pride and honour will turn into ferocious bands of frustrated machos, looking for victims of their monumental ire.

For centuries, science has issued its siren call, luring mortals with the promise of curing ailments, answering riddles, and finding the fount of wisdom and the fountain of youth, all rolled into one. Yet, if inventing the telescope and shooting a rocket to the moon marked the progress of humankind, Dolly the Sheep, and now sperm-free conception, raise conundrums we don't know how to cope with. We are beginning to wonder whether we shouldn't try to push down the lid on this particular Pandora's box. Science was supposed to make man more powerful; instead, it has reduced him to a waste of skin - or sperm. Now what?

This article first appeared in the 23 July 2001 issue of the New Statesman, In the line of fire