Making babies

Recently I’ve found Scotty and Kevin’s relationship on Brothers & Sisters to be a bit boring, but I did appreciate a recent episode where they talked about the online search process for surrogacy. In this episode, the couple mulls over a searching form that, as Kevin notes, looks a lot like the the process to find a trick on an internet dating site. Search by race? Various sizes? Eye color? Job and income? “No,” they hesitantly conclude together. A baby is a baby, right?

This is a bit of an old debate for everyone, not just same-sex couples, but it’s still one that deserves dialogue. To the point, what I find most interesting is that few people seem to acknowledge the relationship between partner selection and procreation…in a way that would perhaps make Scotty and Kevin’s actual use of search parameters less sinister and closer to reality for heterosexual couples.

Various contributors on Below the Belt have talked at great length about sexual racism and partner selection, and I’ve touched a little bit on sexual typing and the meaning of cultural images in dating choices in ways that might resemble fetishes. And although our conversations were largely gay-specific, a recent study from sociologists at UC-Irvine confirmed that most of our assessments about gay dating are actually reflected among heterosexuals, too. Dr. Feliciano, a researcher on the project, expressed that media perceptions about gender and race affect dating preferences. In short, many people use internalized versions of these web-based dating search engines when making everyday decisions about who we date.

So what I think is tricky to connect here but is really worth discussing is the slippery slope between partner choice and anticipated procreation. To what extent do dating preferences (for those hoping to be in a relationship that will ultimately result in “family” and having kids) also extend to preferences about the child? To what extent do people who only date (other) white people secretly only want to have a white kid? Or a smart kid? Or a kid without a disability? Or a femmey or gay son? Are these thoughts part of our partner selection process?

I admit it’s much more complicated than I make it sound because partners are not always selected with the intent to find a relationship that results in a child. But for a lot of us folks that buy into the desire to have a family and raise kids, this is important. In addition to the debates about sexual racism and other ethics of attraction, we have to consider these other layers that ultimately guide the construction of family.

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