What connection is there between sexual reproduction and eugenics? What effects will this have on women, heterosexual couples, and kids?
The desire to control sexual behavior, sexual orientation, and gender expression has been one of eugenics’ enduring characteristics across time and space. This is one instance where the eugenics movement’s nefarious aim for normalcy is clearly seen.
This is supported by a short analysis of the earliest documented instances of institutional sterilization in Indiana, the state that enacted the first sterilization law in history in 1907. Approximately one-third of the male inmates at the Jeffersonville Reformatory who needed vasectomy in the early 1900s had sodomy, which most likely included a wide range of male same-sex encounters.
More broadly, worldwide eugenics groups were motivated by concerns about sexual deviance, even while some of their versions promoted a more liberal “free love” philosophy of female sexuality and reproduction.
To meet the needs of hetero-normative procreation and family formation, this focus occasionally manifested as attempts to regulate female sexuality. For instance, a lot of the women sent to institutionalization or sterilization as a result of eugenic commitment laws were deemed to be loose, promiscuous, or in some other way sexually deviant. There was a clear class component to these relationships, with middle-class women embracing their roles as breeders and scientific moms to gain political clout and assert their moral superiority, while working-class women were more likely to be labeled delinquents.
Occasionally, in changing political and national settings, the roles could be reversed. For instance, feminists in China and Romania who at first saw eugenics as a path to greater female reproductive liberty soon had their hopes dashed by a male-dominated medical and scientific system that placed better breeding for national growth far above female reproductive autonomy.
In other situations, it meant strictly controlling non-normative masculinity expressions, particularly with relation to homosexuality or homoeroticism. For instance, in early 20th-century Germany, Mexico, Italy, and Cuba, love of the muscular, soldierly male figure almost reached cult status. The hulking, bearded revolucionario of Fidel Castro was celebrated as a political hero as well as a bearer of exceptional genetics.