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It seems the current corona virus outbreak disproportionately affects males. Mortality rates for infected males are almost double that for women in some countries. In Hong Kong, for example the mortality rate for men is 21.9% compared with 13.2% for women. Of course, there could be many reasons for this, associated with lifestyle and other factors. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that it’s got anything to do with the Y chromosome – even people that think that a treatment for malaria is a good idea for this virus, that or drinking bleach.
But suppose it was…
Now, suppose it wasn’t just the mortality rate but the infection rate as well. And, suppose it wasn’t almost double but ten times. And suppose that males were seen as the main carrier of the disease: a Mandemic
What would a world look like in which men became a threatened gender?
Would women take on the role of shielding men to prevent them become infected? Would we see isolation measures for men, keeping them off the streets, while women could socialise freely? Men masked in public? The idea of women as guardians, protecting the men that were uninfected from the risks to wider society and – because of the need to reproduce – the future of the species? Separation of the genders except in certain controlled circumstances, strictly enforced?
1. Two Lane Blacktop
Patricia Nielsen – “Pat” or “Paddy” to her friends who knew her Irish heritage – adjusted the bands that held her surgical mask in place. They rubbed on the back of her ears. It had been a long shift and it wasn’t over yet. Her ears were sore and she was hot behind the mask, even with the patrol car’s aircon.
Still, she needed to make sure her mask was in place before she got out. The risk of infection was just too great still. The last thing she needed was a dose, even if, for most women, the treatments that they now had meant it wasn’t as serious as it had been. The same wasn’t true for men though. That was why she had been given the role as a quarantine enforcement officer. She checked the taser in its pouch on the left side of her belt and the handcuffs she carried too.
She looked in her rear view mirror at the vehicle she had pulled over. Time to talk to the driver. She got out of her patrol car and walked back along the hard shoulder to where the pickup truck was parked. Patricia could see a woman was driving. There was nothing wrong with that. She was wearing an approved protective face covering. It was just that when the pick up had overtaken her, there had been what looked like a man in the passenger seat. And if that was the case, Patricia would want to know that appropriate precautions were being taken in addition to the mask that he was wearing.
As she drew level with the pickup the driver wound down the their window. “Good morning officer. I wasn’t speeding, was I?”
The woman’s car radio was playing. The news was spelling out the latest infection and mortality rates and advising residents that the hospital on the north side of town no longer had any capacity for male infection victims. If infection rates kept at their current level it seemed that the local medical centres wouldn’t be able to cope either. The news bulletin was followed by an advert. “Hanson’s Comfort Male Genital Enclosures – helping secure our nation’s future”. Pat smiled to herself. ‘Comfort’ might be the brand name but, from what she knew of them, most men would rather they didn’t have to wear them.
“No, Ma’am. I’m with the Quarantine Division,” she showed the driver her badge, “not Traffic. I just wanted to check your passenger. Are you his guardian?”
The driver gave a sigh, as though she had to put up with this more often than she would like. “Yes, I’ve got his paperwork here.” She reached forward to the glove compartment, took out a folder and passed it to Patricia. “There’s a current virus-clear certificate, home confinement registration and his guardianship registration.”
Patricia checked the papers. Alice Manley’s driver-id photograph tallied and the paperwork for her husband, Mark was complete. “They seem fine,” she responded, pleased that it looked like this was going to be a routine stop. “Can I ask where you are going? You’ll be aware of the prohibition on unnecessary journeys and the shielding regulations for men?”
“Yes of course. We’re on our way to the Medical Centre. No suggestion of infection. It’s just that he’s got a problem with his enclosure. They suggested I should bring him in. I can give you a number to check if you want. Do you want to check his enclosure?”
“That’s OK,” Patricia was happy with the woman’s response. She looked across at the woman’s passenger. He turned his head towards her, head shrouded in a latex hood, eyes behind thick goggles, an air filter breathing valve over his nose and mouth. Somehow, even with his identity shrouded by the protective equipment, he looked resigned, woeful. Pat knew that these two sakarya escort weren’t going to be any trouble. She had been doing the job for long enough to know when someone was quarantine running. She was pretty sure the man’s enclosure would be in place, close fitting and locked as the regulations required. “I’m sure it’s all fine,” she said. Besides she didn’t want to have to put the man through the indignity of standing by the side of the road with his trousers around his ankles if she didn’t need to and, besides, that carried the risk of his becoming infected too. “I’m sure you’d rather get on. I can always call the Med Centre, anyway. Have a good day.” She took a step back, waved them off and walked towards her patrol car. She watched as the pickup pulled back on to carriage way and drove off. As it passed her the featureless, rubber-shrouded face of the male in the passenger seat was looking out of the pickup towards her.
Mark Manley watched as the pickup he was riding in pulled out and drove past the officer that had just stopped them. As Alice, pulled back on to the road, Mark Manley looked out towards the quarantine officer that had just stopped them. She’d been pretty reasonable about things, he thought, compared with how some of them behaved.
And she’d been cute too, hazel eyes, rimmed with mascara peering over the top of that navy-blue, regulation, quarantine officer’s surgical mask. He might have been married for fifteen years but that didn’t mean he had lost interest in other women. She had filled that uniform shirt nicely too, although now the thought of it brought him a twinge of discomfort as his cock stiffened against the enclosure he was required to wear and reminded him that it wasn’t fitting properly and that was the reason he was out at all. A sharp pain suggested to Mark that what had happened with the enclosure was that some pubic hair had got caught in its locking mechanism. He grunted in discomfort.
“Are you alright, Mark, darling?” his wife said as she carried on driving.
“Um humm,” Mark responded, his words distorted by the rubber hood and breathing filter that shielded him from infection or infecting others in the outside world. He realised he had forgotten to flick the switch on his throat mike again. When that was on, he could communicate reasonably normally through the small speaker mounted on the front of his breathing filter. He would try to turn it on later, he decided. The switch was small and fiddly. It was awkward to press with gloved hands. In the moving car, he thought it would be too difficult.
“Good. Well, we’re nearly there.”
Sometimes Mark thought his wife had forgotten that he could see perfectly well through the hood’s goggles. It was understandable, he supposed, given that he was covered head to foot in the skin tight latex that prevented any risk of contamination by the virus and looked like a black rubber mannequin but even so it was annoying. The suit was extremely uncomfortable too. He hated that he had to be double gloved as well; he felt he couldn’t feel anything properly. He hated that he couldn’t eat or drink outside of the house because he couldn’t take off his hood and filters. The only way he could at least get some fluid was through the tube from the suit’s built-in water container that Alice had dutifully filled before they left the house.
He was grateful for the care Alice took of him. It was a great responsibility for her but when the government announced its male-shielding programme she hadn’t hung back. “For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” she had said when he had asked her if she was sure, and she had taken on the burden without complaint. Sometimes now, though, he wondered if maybe that she resented the restrictions it placed on their life.
Mark could understand why the government insisted on the isolation, the shielding and the bio-security measures. The mortality rate amongst men that became infected was so high that anything that could be done to keep men alive until a cure or vaccine could be found meant that at least there was a chance of a recovery in the future. As one of the government adverts had said when they first introduced the restrictions, “If you don’t like wearing a bio-hood, you’ll really hate being sedated, intubated and strapped to a bed in a containment tent.” Plus, on the whole, this might not be much fun but it was, he suspected, better than being dead.
Being dead was obviously something that hadn’t occurred to the three men sitting on the wall near the town’s cemetery. Mark saw them as they drove by. One of the men looked up in a lethargic fashion. He was probably drunk, Mark thought, but he’d still noticed them. There were few enough cars on the road. They all attracted attention.
3. Population Drop
In her patrol car, Patricia drove on towards town. As she reached the start of the built up area a sign declared “Huntersville, Popn: 25,000”. That samsun escort wasn’t true any more, Patricia thought. Maybe 13,000 now and 12,000 of those women. That had been the effect of the pandemic she was battling against and it had been going on for almost a year. Most of the time, though, she got precious little thanks for what she did, especially from the men who were the ones most at risk and desperately needed the shielding programme that the government had brought in.
As she passed the town’s cemetery, she caught sight of three men sitting on a wall, sharing what she guessed was a bottle of wine in a brown paper bag. It hadn’t been unusual to see men drinking early on in the outbreak. Some had claimed alcohol prevented the spread of the disease. That was until bars had been identified as key infection hotspots. Closing them had been one of the first government interventions.
Then there had been the realisation that it wasn’t just lifestyle issues affecting the infection rates; that the disease really did infect more men and that it had a far higher mortality rate for them. That meant that the government had needed to come up with more radical policies and by the time they had devised the current scheme of women being responsible for shielding men wherever possible and using isolation from possible contact with the disease, much of the damage had already been done. The death toll had been horrific. That was tragic enough for individuals but it had got so bad now that there were worries about whether mankind (that was a term that was going to need to be reconsidered) had a future as a species.
Under the current protection regime it wasn’t possible for a man to hold down any job that involved venturing outside. The regulations to ensure that surviving men were protected were far reaching. The Quarantine Division of the local police force was just one arm of the state trying to ensure that they were followed.
Pat slowed down as she drew level with the men sitting on the wall. “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” she thought to herself,. “male association – unmasked in public -alcohol in a prohibited place, and that’s before I’ve even got out of the car.”
She stopped the black and white and looked across the road. She got out. Before she had a chance to get close to the men they were off, splitting up and running through the cemetery grounds. Pat knew she wouldn’t catch them. At least she had given them a scare, she thought. Although, if the threat of contracting a virus that had an 80% mortality rate for your gender didn’t scare you, she wasn’t sure that the sight of a police car would. She got back into her car and called the incident in on the radio. It wasn’t likely anyone would pick them up but maybe a local patrol would know them well enough to contact their guardians, assuming they had them, and remind the women of the penalties for letting men out unsupervised. Of course, it could be part of something more organised, she thought. There had been suggestions there were groups trying to help men avoid the containment measures. These three just looked like casual layabouts, though.
Whether or not Pat’s call was followed up would depend on who was responsible for the patch, she knew. Some of her colleagues weren’t as diligent as she was. Then there were those that said if a man was stupid enough to expose himself to infection then he’d better be left to it and allow evolution to take its course. That wasn’t how Patricia saw things though. She knew that the unthinking wouldn’t only infect their own kind. And besides they would need some to re-balance the gender numbers, once some sort of vaccination was developed to allow anyone to think of returning to normality. Quite a few of her friends were putting off having children..”What if it was a boy?” one of them had said. “It would be terrible to have to bring up a new baby, worried that at any moment he might contract the disease.” It wasn’t a worry for Pat, though. She didn’t have ambitions of a family. She felt that most of the people she had to deal with in her job were just like big kids – she didn’t want to go home after work and have to deal with another one.
4. Clinical Intervention
Nurse Ellen Fairley was used to dealing with faulty enclosures. The legislation had been rushed through and the manufacturing of the devices had been rushed as well. Even assuming a man had one that fitted properly to start with, problems with the locks and simple hygiene meant she was having to deal with three or four cases like Mark each week.
“If you’d like to get on the couch, Mr Manley, while I robe up. And Mrs. Manley, you can wait outside if you’d rather…”
While Ellen put on her surgical gown, gloves, mask and perspex visor, Mark lay back with a little trepidation. First of all there was the problem that this unfamiliar woman was going to be fiddling with his genitals plus the fact that the enclosure was obviously caught up somehow and ankara sarışın escort removing it was likely to involve some discomfort. Then there was the thought of how embarrassing it would be right now to get an erection. Inevitably that was exactly what occurred as Ellen snapped her gloves on.
Catching sight of the bulge in his suit, Ellen gave what sounded to Mark like a sigh of disappointment. He thought that was a little unfair, it wasn’t his fault how his cock reacted. Ellen then turned to the zips in Mark’s suit that allowed access to his crotch. “I’m taking every possible precaution against skin contact, Mr Manley. You understand that is the way of transmission of the infection? Plus this room has a positive air pressure system so there is no question of any airborne infection penetrating. I’m wearing this visor to further protect you against any risk of cross contamination.”
Mark nodded. It was a recital he was familiar with from previous encounters with the medical profession for tests, check-ups and assessments. Medics had become practised at the form of words that was meant to reassure but in practice just reminded him how much at risk he was.
Ellen slid the zips open. The cool air of the treatment room felt pleasant on Mark’s skin, in spite of the dangers that he knew it brought. Ellen leaned forward peering at the steel frame that contained Mark’s cock. She tutted. “It’s as we thought,” she said. “There’s just too much hair growth. You are either going to have to get better at shaving, Mr Manley or you need to start using a depilatory or we can let you have some hormone treatment to reduce it.”
Mark shook his head and grunted inside his hood. He still hadn’t managed to turn his throat mike on. It was bad enough having his cock locked up. The idea of hormone treatments that would further suppress his masculinity didn’t appeal at all and seemed to fly in the face of a need to keep men fertile. He could understand the government’s arguments for the use of the enclosures; providing a way of ensuring sexual intercourse didn’t take place except under tightly controlled circumstances made sense given the risks and extent of infection. He wanted to still be able to function sexually when this was all over though, he told himself. Assuming it was ever going to be all over.
“Well, you’ll just have to do better with the razor, if you’re not going to be back here again in no time,” Ellen said in a no-nonsense manner.
From his place on the couch he watched as Ellen laid out the things she needed for the procedure. It was a curious combination of surgical instruments and mechanic’s tools; scalpel, scissor and tweezers to remove the offending hair, brightly chromed adjustable spanner, screwdriver and lock nut wrench for removing the enclosure.
Ellen worked carefully and methodically. Mark watched her as best he could, although he found himself watching her face rather than her hands. He was, he thought, becoming much more conscious of how women’s eyes looked. It was because that was pretty much all he ever saw of them these days, he supposed. Ellen’s eyes were blue, piercingly so, a colour emphasised by the iridescent blue eye shadow she was wearing and the way that her carefully plucked eyebrows framed them. If she was aware that he was staring at her she gave no sign of it. Mainly she was intent on her work and besides, with Mark’s eyes covered by his suit’s integral goggles, she would hardly have noticed.
With Ellen’s skilful touch, the enclosure came loose from around Mark’s cock without – much to Mark’s relief – pulling on any of his pubic hair. “I’ll shave this properly,” Ellen said, “before I put the enclosure back. Make sure you do as well in the future.”
Mark laid back and tried to ignore what Ellen was doing. The buzz of clippers, the touch of a soft bristled shaving brush and soap and then the scrape of the razor, all threatened to disturb him, as did the way Ellen moved his cock and balls firmly this way and that, making sure that she carried out her task thoroughly. Staring at the ceiling and trying to think about the last government broadcast that he had watched on the infection control measures as a distraction failed to prevent his cock from becoming erect though.
“Well,” said Ellen as she dropped the disposable razor into a stainless steel kidney dish beside Mark’s head. “I suppose we’ll have to wait for that to go down and then we can get your enclosure back on and you’ll be all finished. Although, if you’re due to give a sample I could do that now?”
Mark shook his head. Providing the regular sperm samples that were used to check that a male was remaining fertile and producing the donations to the slowly growing, Government managed, sperm banks that were seen as the nation’s bulwark against species extinction was something that he preferred to do in the privacy of his own home.
Ellen’s disparaging “that” had the effect that Mark’s contemplation of the ceiling had not. As his erection subsided, Ellen slid the metal tube and its cap back into place, tightened the securing collar and closed the locking nut. Mark had become used to the feel of the enclosure. The return of its secure embrace was almost a comfort.
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