January 13, 2022 - 7:00am

Are men really getting themselves neutered to save the planet? A Guardian story yesterday quotes Lloyd Williamson, a 30-year-old childless man who underwent vasectomy last November, who explains that “I don’t want to bring a life into this world, because it’s pretty shitty as it is and it’s only going to get worse”.

This follows a spate of articles in December, reporting on young men self-gelding. Ground Zero appears to be this Washington Post article reports that one Texas vasectomy doctor has seen a 15% uptick in requests since the introduction of restrictions on abortion in Texas. Numerous other outlets picked up the story, including the New York Post and Jezebel.

But wait a moment: is this really a movement? Following the WaPo article, writer Katherine Dee noted the recurrence in these stories of the same two figures: documentary-maker Jonathan Stack, and vasectomy doctor (vasectomist?) Dr Doug Stein. These two co-founded a heavily hashtagged event: #WorldVasectomyDay.

I’ve tried (and been rubbish at) a number of careers over my adult working life, one of which was PR. The laundering of corporate or campaign-sponsored ‘news’ into the press works in a way analogous to the ‘policy laundering’ I discussed last week.

A ‘story’ is developed, complete with canned press releases, an easy news hook and a ready-made spokesman. PR execs will bash their phone and email contacts to ‘sell in’ the client’s story. The content machine is hungry; journos are busy; a good PR will usually find someone willing to pick up a good story.

PR-confected pieces have a distinctive smell, and I agree with Dee that these articles reek of it. The same spokesmen recur; there are no large-scale statistics, only single providers and anecdotes; the same flagship event appears again and again. And surprise, surprise, a bit of rummaging reveals a PR Newswire report launching #WorldVasectomyDay in mid-November last year. The press release even includes the ‘act of love’ phrase. And hey presto, Stack and World Vasectomy Day crop up again in this week’s Guardian piece.

So if this is a PR campaign, what does it want? World Vasectomy Day is, according to its website, ‘a year-round program that trains doctors, educates the public, works with institutions and encourages the creative community to tell stories of hope and possibility.’ But with Western fertility rates already well below replacement and still falling, why all the effort to accelerate this process still further? The website offers a clue: it’s not really about the West.

Skimming through WVD’s ‘Allies’ links reveals it’s funded by a population control foundation, and partners with charities whose activities focus far afield as Ecuador, Kenya and India. In other words: a group of bodies with very little interest in American ‘reproductive equity’ or English climate consciousness, but united in their efforts to reduce population growth among the world’s nonwhite peoples.

In 2020, the pro-life campaigner Obianuju Ekeocha accused Western bodies such as the UN and Gates Foundation of ‘neo-colonialism’ for tying relief funds to the imposition of population control measures in Africa. Ekeocha argued that food programmes, micro-finance, education and healthcare would do more to meet communities’ needs — but instead Western bodies seek to decouple sex from reproduction, and normalise medical abortion.

From this vantage-point, we might see the Western end of World Vasectomy Day as one-half of a pincer movement, with the other being female-focused population control campaigns — and taproots deep into the eugenic views of early, progressive birth control pioneers such Marie Stopes. In other words: eugenics may have been whitewashed from Western reproductive campaigning, in favour of ‘gender equity’ and ‘climate’. But it remains alive and well elsewhere in the world.

Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.