“They’ve had two hundred and fifty years to fool around with us,” she said. “Maybe we can’t stop them, but we don’t have to help them.”
“The hell with them.” He tried to unfasten her jacket.
“No!” she shouted, deliberately startling him. “Animals get treated like this. Put a stallion and mare together until they mate, then send them back to their owners. What do they care? They’re just animals!” (Butler 95)
For the Oankali sex/breeding amongst one another appears to be a very structured system. Emotions as humans understand do not seem to factor into the decision of who to pair with. In the “ideal” human situation we are supposed to meet someone that excites us, we fall in love and have many little babies and a happy life. In actuality real relationships are often difficult if not disastrous affairs. Many people will go through multiple partners before finding their “perfect” mate, ending up alone or settling. The Oankali construct relationships amongst each other and humanity with a clinical precision.
Presuming the first encounter with Lilith and Paul Titus marks the Oankali’s first attempt to pair the species together ends in total disaster. Octavia Butler uses this encounter to establish the inherent violence in human nature to contrast with the rather civil and “matter of fact” society of the Oankali. Paul, having elected to live with the Oankali, has been told that his genetic information has been used to “create over seventy children” and forces himself upon Lilith to experience something he has been denied. In essence this is how the Oankali view human relations at first, simply as animals that need to be put together to successfully breed, that is simplified human breeding.
Later in the novel when Lilith begins to awaken the other humans she believes that she herself is making the decision on who to bring out amongst a pool of acceptable candidates. In fact the pool was not only chosen by the Oankali but chosen purposefully to have the greatest chance for pairing amongst the humans. For the Oankali this presents the most logical choices, having studied each human intensively, they have been able to determine not only acceptable candidates to begin repopulating Earth but who will pair and mate with whom. Human relations are messy affairs, we have a number of clichés involving pairing off or finding love, marry someone like your mother/father, and opposites attract, marry someone uglier than you or just marry someone ugly. Hundreds of little phrases designed to simplify the complicated process of finding a compatible mate amongst a relatively speaking incredibly small sampling of the population on the off chance you will fall in love and mate. While this whole process has its own mysticism attached to it that make it all seem worth it, any rational judgment of the subject is often clouded by our constructed ideals of how relationships are supposed to be.
For the Oankali there is no confusion on who they should be mating with, no uncertainty on whether the partners are correct for one another, the connections are made and that is that. They not only function but thrive within this structure. Applying this same logic to humanity the Oankali has removed any chance for humans to make inefficient pairings, to allow emotion to override logic in their choice. This human engineering may appear problematic at first removing the human component of chance but in the end this would serve to make a stronger human. The Oankali have taken species engineering to the extreme not only can they cure disease they can perfect genetic code, improve upon it and collect the genetic knowledge of other species to better themselves. That is how one creates an ideal species removing emotion from the process of creation, removal of the useless parts and expressing the successful parts. This may change what it means to be human but only what it means to be human as current humans understand themselves. Like our ancestors that came before something new must come along to replace the old.