There are more male babies born every year than female; however, the ratio of male to female children has decreased significantly during the last few years. As we discussed in Chapter 3, although more males are conceived, a higher percentage of male fetuses spon­taneously abort or die before birth than female fetuses (Fukuda et al., 2002; Mizuno,

2000) .

Throughout time, many couples have searched for ways to choose the gender of their child. A variety of techniques have been proposed by different cultures at different times. Aristotle believed that if a couple had sexual intercourse in the north wind, they would have a male child, and if intercourse took place in the south wind, they would have a female. Hippocrates believed that males formed on the right side of the uterus and females on the left; and so, to conceive a daughter, a woman was advised to lie on her left side directly after intercourse. The ancient Greeks thought that if a man cut or tied his left testicle, a couple would not have girls because male sperm were thought to be produced in the right testicle (Dunham et al., 1992). Although some of these sug­gestions sound absurd today, many people in many cultures still hold myths of how to choose and how to know the gender of their child (see Human Sexuality in a Diverse World, “Is It a Boy or a Girl?”).

Reasons for wanting to choose a child’s sex vary; although some couples simply pre­fer a male or female child, others desire to choose the gender of their children for med­ical reasons. For example, certain inherited diseases are more likely to affect one gender (such as hemophilia, which affects more males).

Modern-day methods of gender selection were popularized by Shettles and Rorvik (1970) in their groundbreaking book Your Baby’s Sex: Now You Can Choose. According to these authors, by taking into account the characteristics of the female (X) and male (Y) sperm, couples can use timing and pH level adjustments to the vaginal environment (douches) to increase the concentration of X or Y sperm.

Because Y sperm swim faster and thrive in an alkaline environment, Shettles and Rorvik recommended that to have a boy, a couple should have intercourse close to ovu­lation (to allow the faster-swimming Y sperm to get there first) and douche with a mix­ture of baking soda and water. Because X sperm tender to live longer and thrive in an acidic environment, for a girl, a couple should time intercourse 2 to 3 days prior to ovu­lation and douche with a mixture of vinegar and water.

Other formulas for gender selection include various dieting routines or “microsort­ing” (also known as “spinning”; separating the X and Y sperm followed by artificial in­semination). But microsorting comes at a cost—approximately $3,500 per trial. The re-

Human Sexuality in a Diverse World