Choice for Men

You know how we were talking the other day about my belief that there should be a time set aside so that men, once they find out about their fatherhood or their impending fatherhood, can decide whether or not they want to be fathers?

Well, the subject comes up in Dan Savage’s column today.

Q. I’m a 24-year-old female, and I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost five years. We’re transitioning to a long-distance relationship in January when he moves a hojillion miles away to go to law school. He’s 28, an angel, and I want to have a baby. He doesn’t want to have a baby, at least not in the foreseeable future, and he’s made it clear that if I give him an ultimatum, he’ll dump my ass. I’m longing to spawn, so I’ve decided to get pregnant by him and not tell him. He has nothing to do with birth control, never has, so my plan will succeed. I’m going to do this: That’s not in question.

The question is, do I tell him? I’m not going to dun him for child support or anything, but I’d let him be as involved as he wants to be—pictures, visits, moving in together to raise the kid. I’m never going to tell him that I got knocked up on purpose. I could also theoretically pretend that the brat is someone else’s, but that would require some fudging of dates. So what, if anything, do I tell him, and when? Thanks, love your brain. —E.

A. Thanks for loving my brain, E., but I’m hating your ass. Not only is what you’re planning to do unfair to your boyfriend—who, just like a woman, has a right to decide when, whether, and with whom he would like to reproduce (and who, like most men, needs to be more proactive about birth control to protect his right to make that decision)—it’s hugely unfair to any “brat” unlucky enough to drop from your twat. But, hey, your mind is made up—you’re doing this thing. And I’m not running your letter to argue with you, E. I’m only running it in hopes that a certain 28-year-old who’s about to go to law school a hojillion miles away from his 24-year-old batshitcrazy girlfriend sees it, recognizes himself, and dumps the lying little sociopath. And yes, everybody, I realize this letter could be fake. But just in case it’s not, here it is.

It’s hard for me to remain on-task here because this letter just blows me away with its sheer lunacy.  Can we just side-track for a second into the lunacy, just so I can get it off my chest?  First, if you love someone, you do not force them to have a baby against their will.  Second, if you love someone, you do not pretend the “brat” is someone else’s.  Third, if this is not an obvious ploy to punish the boyfriend for going to law school, I don’t know what is.  Look how she’s all like “I’d let him be as involved as he wants to be–pictures, visits, moving in together to raise the kid.”  She’s going to let him be as involved as he wants to be?  Woman, dude’s going to law school to be a lawyer.  Don’t you expect he might discover multiple ways to be as involved as he wants to be in the kids life without your permission?  And, “moving in together to raise the kid”?  He’s going to law school, far away, unless you stop him with this whole kid thing, which, obviously is part of your plan.

When it comes to men not wanting kids, I know plenty of feminists who say “he shouldn’t have had sex.”  

Oh really?

Would you accept that from a man talking about why a woman shouldn’t be allowed to have an abortion?  No, you wouldn’t.

If a woman has a right to decide whether she wants to be a parent that is separate from her decision whether she wants to have sex, then a man should have the right to decide whether he wants to be a parent separate from his decision to have sex.

“Just don’t have sex.”

Okay, straight ladies, let’s try a little experiment.  Imagine your beloved sweetie comes to you this evening and you’re all smooching and touching and the breathing is getting a little heavy and just when you’re wiggling out of your panties, he says to you, “I’m not having sex with you.”


“Not tonight.  Not ever again.”


“I don’t want to have kids.”

“I’m on the pill.”

“And I use a condom.  So what?  I don’t want to have kids, therefore I will not have sex.”

“Right now?  Because I can wait twenty minutes.”

“No, I’m serious.  I don’t want to have kids, so I’m not having sex with you.”

“We’ve been married seven years.  We have two kids.”

“I don’t want any more.”

“Okay, fine.  I don’t want any more kids.”

“Then you understand why I’m not having sex with you.”

“Is this because I wouldn’t blow you last Friday?”

“No, this is about me taking control of my reproductive freedom.  I’m not having sex with you.”

“Ever again?”

“Or at least until I have a note from your doctor saying that you’re done with menopause.”

“Very funny.”

“I’m not kidding.”

“I’m supposed to go without sex until I’m through menopause?!”

“Well, without me putting my penis in your vagina, yeah.”

“But I like that.”

“So do I.  Tough shit.”

“Tough shit?”

“Yeah, sorry.  I don’t want kids; I’m not having sex.”

“Tough shit?  You just said ‘tough shit’ to me.  Motherfucker.  Try saying ‘tough shit’ to my divorce lawyer.  I didn’t sign up for no more sex.  You fuck me right now or it’s over.”

“I’ll miss you, that’s for sure.”

“I have kids with you, you dipshit.”

“Hey, you’re the one who told me I better get cool with feminism.  All the feminists I read are all ‘If men don’t want to have kids, they shouldn’t have sex.'”

“I will stab you.  I swear to god, I will stab you.”

Let’s just be honest.  This whole “If men blah blah blah, they should blah blah blah” stuff is about exchange.  It sucks greatly and so much to hear over and over again “If women blah blah blah, they should blah blah blah,” that the one time we have some real power–to control whether or not a man has a kid–it’s really, really hard not to do to him what’s been done to us.


But do we want exchange, leave everything as it is, we just get to be the assholes for a while; or do we want real change, where we dismantle things and try new ways?

There should be a way for men to opt out of fatherhood.  Maybe six months is too long, but there should be some set period of time they have to consider whether they want to be a father and, if they don’t, they should be able to sign all their parental rights away.

In instances similar to the poor dude in Dan Savage’s column, I would hope that the waiver of parental rights would also come with a restraining order he could file against the baby’s momma, because I have a feeling she’s not going away easily otherwise.

12 thoughts on “Choice for Men

  1. I get the point, but if our hypothetical man resolutely and firmly decides that he does not wish to have children ever with anyone, they have a surgery for that nowadays. Vasectomies are quick, involve surprisingly little discomfort, and cost between $400-$750 (which, if you’re lucky, will be covered by your health insurance). The cost and risk is lower and the failure rate less than a tubal ligation.

  2. Aunt B. this one has been done to death on Salon Table Talk as of 1998. I’ll try to find you a link.

    Try this: men have neither rights nor responsibilities unless the woman decides to carry to term. He then has until the middle of the second trimester to claim paternal rights. If he does not do so, Mom is on her own.

    Mom is also on her own if she does not inform Dad of her choice to give birth. If Mom does not inform Dad of intent to carry to term, when Dad DOES get the news, he has the choice to vanish or step up. Absent evidence of unfitness, Mom may face civil legal sanctions for denying Dad his offspring. Mom may not give offspring up for adoption w/o Dad’s consent. Dad may not waltz in X number of years after the fact, having found Jesus, and looking to connect with his initially rejected offspring.

    Goes for all kinds of variations…but you get the idea. Flipping Hornet’s Nest!

  3. that’d be a great idea, ahunt, if the power dynamic between the parties were otherwise level. in the presence of spousal abuse and economic coercion, i think it breaks down.

  4. So Bridgett, you advocate a medically unnecessary body altering surgery just so that he can make the woman in his life happy?

  5. I’m struggling with this; I WANT to agree with you, but 43 years of conditioning is pretty rough to overcome.

    It’s easy to agree with your proposal in a “trap” situation, it just doesn’t seem fair. But, you must admit, those cases are rare (I hope). More common is the “whoops”, which is different. I am speaking of those far more common cases when neither the man nor woman was expecting pregnancy, but pregnancy came anyway.

    Now, if the woman at this point has decided to have the baby, this is where my morality kicks in. A real man steps up and fathers his child no matter what. This is the not just some Christian construct – almost every system of morality in the world says the same thing.

    Paternal abandonment is one of the leading causes of just about every pathology in children, especially boys. But even if it weren’t, right is right. Fathering the children you spawn is the manly thing to do, no matter what you think of the mother. This is what I was taught (and observed), and what I am teaching my son.

    Now, I’ll agree that there should be some kind of legal recourse in a “trap” situation, but I don’t see how it could be proven in a court of law.

  6. Uh, no, W. As I read the hypothetical, it was the man who had decided, resolutely and finally, that HE did not want more kids ever and wanted absolute certainty in the matter. The woman in the conversation is fine with the combination of condoms/pills as contraceptives; it’s her partner that is so strongly motivated to avoid conception that he’s willing to wait until his wife goes through menopause to have sex. If he is that committed to not reproducing, I just wanted to point out that there’s a way to make that happen that is readily available, low-risk, and not too expensive that does not involve waiting twenty or more years for a resumption of vaginal intercourse. This option, I might point out, is no guarantee of “making the woman in his life happy.” She might get agitated as hell, but her wishes weren’t really the point of my comment.

  7. I’m one of those who can’t comprehend the “I never want children but I’m not getting sterilized” argument. It seems just plain silly.

  8. i never want children, and i haven’t been sterilized because i’m a lazy, procrastinating tightwad who doesn’t want to part with the ~$1000 it’d cost me. if it was free, i’d probably keep endlessly putting it off anyway, because that’s what i tend to do to anything i really need to get around to. but no, there’s no good excuse for not doing it, that i know of.

  9. I thought that women trapping men into getting them pregnant was more or less an urban myth told to adolescent girls and boys to make them more aware of the risks of having sex, but there’s a baby being born to a friend of mine next month that blows that theory right out of the water. She knew that he was close to leaving and lied about being on birth control and eight and a half months later he’s stuck not only with the baby, but her too. Forever. He’ll love the child, no doubt, but the methods with which he’s getting the child he’s always wanted are totally fucked.

    Anyone that purposely tricks their partner into becoming a parent is asking for some bad juju to come their way. Not only isn’t it fair to the unsuspecting partner, it’s not fair to the child. Especially if there are other options, like waiting a couple of years, or possibly finding another partner who actually wants to have kids with you.

    As for the chick in the letter, I can’t imagine how shitty she’s going to feel once she’s matured and is reminded of how she manipulated the father every time she looks at her child.

  10. Unfortunately, there are posters both on and that make it absolutely clear that there are women who are deliberately choosing to “accidentally” get pregnant, despite knowing that their partners either don’t want children, don’t want children yet, or don’t want more children. I find those posts absolutely chilling in their selfish indifference to the interests of their partners. I personally know one very nice guy who made it clear before he got married that he didn’t want kids; his wife had not one, but two “accidents” – and yes, it merits those quote marks, because she admitted to someone else that she made sure the “accidents” happened. Unfortunately, a lot of these women never mature enough to feel awful that they manipulated the men in their lives; mostly, they seem to be quite pleased with having gotten their own way.

Comments are closed.