Misogyny Filter (?) August 2, 2008 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Misogyny Filter? : A question about condom usage is going down the death-spiral of comments relating more to the perceived misogyny of the answers than to actually answering the question.

I think it would be more helpful to the original asker if the political implications were debated elsewhere. In other words: The forecast for wendell is slim to none.
posted by grapefruitmoon to Etiquette/Policy at 4:00 PM (510 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I removed a few of the more fighty comments and put a note there. It strikes me that NortonDC has some numbers there that might be helpful and a few people were just getting a little hot under the collar about people suggesting getting pregnant on the pill was more or less likely....
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:08 PM on August 2, 2008


huh, man. Looking at the question it seems totally innocuous (and one I've had myself at one point in my life). I agree there are some pretty weird answers that assume way too much about infidelity and divorce and child support in a thread that doesn't seem like it would even need to cover those issues.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:17 PM on August 2, 2008


Not much else to discuss really.

Letting the asker know that he shouldn't feel required to give up his reproductive rights hardly seemed misogynistic, but I wasn't about to get into an argument in the thread.
posted by ODiV at 4:43 PM on August 2, 2008


"shouldn't feel required to give up his reproductive rights"

Doesn't that seem like reading too far into it? I can see how it is technically true we are discussing his reproductive rights, but to even go that far is to imply that there may be a pregnancy, and they may not want it, and they may fight about it, and they may break up over it, and yes, if you take it to that level, she can legally chose to keep the baby and legally force him to pay to support it.

It seems like people are implying stuff five steps down a bad path and we should probably take the question asker at their word and maybe it's just a simple comfort thing, and maybe they love each other, and maybe they'll get married and have children someday, and maybe if their 1% chance of getting pregnant happened it wouldn't be something that would tear them apart?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 5:02 PM on August 2, 2008


to even go that far is to imply that there may be a pregnancy, and they may not want it, and they may fight about it, and they may break up over it, and yes, if you take it to that level, she can legally chose to keep the baby and legally force him to pay to support it...

Last year I had a daydream that began that way and eventually culminated in me being severely mauled by an escaped gorilla. I've worn a condom ever since.

It stops hurting after the first week.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:11 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing is, though, mathowie, a man's decision to wear a condom or not is really his last reproductive choice.

It's true that the consequences are five steps down a bad path, but his decision whether to wear a condom is really the only way he can make a choice about those consequences. Whether he wears a condom or not, everything that happens after is out of his hands.

For that reason, I think any discussion of condom use has to at least touch on this fact.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:13 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


AskMe is like a marriage counselor when it comes to this sort of thing. A guy can go in there seeking advice with his relationship with a woman, even for the most innocent of reasons, but AskMe will almost always come down on the side of the woman, with claims of misogyny and how bad a man he must clearly be for even asking such a thing thrown around with wild abandon.
posted by Second Account For Making Jokey Comments at 5:22 PM on August 2, 2008


This is a good example of an anon question that isn't clearly presented, so people are reading all sorts of things into it. The only solution here would be for the mods to bounce the question back to the user and ask him to clarify a bit. But that opens up another can of worms.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:24 PM on August 2, 2008


And how did this question prove this?
posted by liquorice at 5:25 PM on August 2, 2008


Holy shit, I agree with MPDSEA.*

It is disturbing that the current climate in the USA is such that any woman may get pregnant through mistake or planning, and force the other person involved to pay for a child. It's a weird bit of sexism. Don't get me wrong--I understand how that has come about, and I have absolutely no idea how to deal with it in a manner that is fair and equitable to all parties involved.

That being said.. it wasn't the question. It may bear mentioning once in an answer, in terms of looking at consequences of a planned course of action (similarly, one should be warned that serious burns are possible when making anything with caramelized sugar, for example), but beyond that it's not really answering the question.

*I feel slimy. I'm going to go have a shower.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:26 PM on August 2, 2008


That was directed at Second Account..., whoops.
posted by liquorice at 5:27 PM on August 2, 2008


I'm guessing First Account For Making Serious Comments got screwed in the settlement.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:28 PM on August 2, 2008 [9 favorites]


AskMe will almost always come down on the side of the woman, with claims of misogyny and how bad a man he must clearly be for even asking such a thing thrown around with wild abandon.

I'm sorry a question you asked there once went badly, but I really don't see this as the case generally. The paternity laws in the US are weird, I'm with you there. I also wish the asker had included more information but our choices were to not approve it because it was vague, or approve it and hope for the best.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:30 PM on August 2, 2008


It seems like people are implying stuff five steps down a bad path and we should probably take the question asker at their word and maybe it's just a simple comfort thing, and maybe they love each other, and maybe they'll get married and have children someday, and maybe if their 1% chance of getting pregnant happened it wouldn't be something that would tear them apart?

You're starting by saying that people are inferring thing that there's no evidence for but then you imagine this couple's future based on the exact same lack of evidence.

I can see how it is technically true we are discussing his reproductive rights, but to even go that far is to imply that there may be a pregnancy, and they may not want it, and they may fight about it, and they may break up over it, and yes, if you take it to that level, she can legally chose to keep the baby and legally force him to pay to support it.

The problem with this line of argument is that it says that reproductive rights only appear after something happens. If that's the case, there'd be no reason to protect access to or the right to use birth control. For me the core question is whether the asker is comfortable with not using condoms. His questions wasn't; "Hey, me and my girlfriend want to try sex without condoms". It was, "We normally use a condom during sex, but she'd like me to stop". That doesn't read to me as if the asker wants to stop using condoms. If the question is just about what are the possible consequences of not using condoms while his girlfriend is on the pill, then answers about STDs and relinquishing his part of the couples reproductive choices are exactly on topic.
posted by rdr at 5:39 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing is, though, mathowie, a man's decision to wear a condom or not is really his last reproductive choice.

He could not have sex with women. That'd be a reproductive choice. I could kind of give you a pass on this righteous last stand thing you've got going on if the question concerned casual sex.

But the asker is discussing a decision regarding a relationship. Just like pregnancy would be an issue for both of them, the decision about how to prevent it involves a joint decision. They don't have to both take the active role in contraception to be equally affirming that they want to prevent pregnancy.

Her asking him if he wouldn't rather just skip the latex isn't depriving him of his right to not have a child, FFS. It does require some basic trust. (As does him assuming that she won't steal his stereo or murder him in his sleep or cheat on him with his best friend.)
posted by desuetude at 5:45 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Her asking him if he wouldn't rather just skip the latex isn't depriving him of his right to not have a child

And, oddly, because paternity laws are weird in the US, even his wearing a condom is not a real failsafe against eventually being liable for child support for a child she conceives. His word against hers; a demonstrable established relationship, etc.

Not that it would ever come to that, but in an academic argument about who's responsible for birth control decisions, it's worth noting.
posted by Miko at 5:57 PM on August 2, 2008


...because if the question was "can my girfriend be on BCP and I use a condom and still get pregnant?" the answer, technically of course, is yes. In fact, I think we just recently had that exact question or one similar to it.
posted by Miko at 5:59 PM on August 2, 2008


It is disturbing that the current climate in the USA is such that any woman may get pregnant through mistake or planning, and force the other person involved to pay for a child. It's a weird bit of sexism. Don't get me wrong--I understand how that has come about, and I have absolutely no idea how to deal with it in a manner that is fair and equitable to all parties involved.

I figured out an overview of a solution a while back.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:08 PM on August 2, 2008


He could not have sex with women. That'd be a reproductive choice.

Similarly, sundry sluts could have just not let men fuck them if they didn't want to be pregnant, so availability of birth control pills, non-abstinence based sex ed, etc. are not all that important to worry about.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:10 PM on August 2, 2008


That's not a solution!


-Both want the baby. In this case some legal mechanism should be in place to register this, and they are both responsible for child support,,,


They are both responsible for child support, whether in or outside of a marraige, as current law sees it. It's not like only the man is paying child support in a situation where he doesn't have custody; the woman is providing money, a household, and other forms of support as well. The child-support laws are an attempt to make sure the man is paying an equivalent share - not that he pays it all. Unless he has full custody and all guardianship, he's only paying a share.

-Man wants the baby, woman does not. The man can't force the woman not to abort, but I'd argue there could be some mechanism where the woman could choose to carry the baby to term but then be absolved of responsibility.

There is - adoption.

The problem that we'll bump up against in this sort of formulation, until human reproduction undergoes serious change, is that carrying a baby for nine months is a significant burden that will never fall equally on the other partner. It is, in part, recognition of the fact that the burden of physical risk, impact on earning potential, impact on social standing, and permanent change to the body does not ever fall equally on male and femal that is responsible for the weighting of legal decision making on the woman after conception but before birth.
posted by Miko at 6:17 PM on August 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry a question you asked there once went badly, but I really don't see this as the case generally.

the guy who worked in all-women office and they were totally taunting him and making him feel uncomfortable? he got buried under an avalanche of "GET OVER IT" while, reverse the genders, everybody would be shitting themselves advising the female asker to sue for harassment and hostile workplace -- I guess the protection of the law only travels one way, when it comes to gender. it's a proven fact that askme as a community fetishizes quite a few things -- recurrent & pointless accusations of misogyny being a big favorite (the absolute lack of a link between one's food intake and one's fatness, the all-curing power of antidepressants for everything from severe depression to a normal dislike of rainy days are other staples of the menu there). and you jessamyn, being the one who grimly deletes a nice chunk of askmefi's output on a daily basis, you should know this pretty well.

back to the condom dude: whether he thinks his semen has magic powers and can impregnate women from across the street and really feels he needs that extra protection, or whether he fears that his girlfriend will replace the pills with breath mints to get herself impregnated, we just don't know. unless besides being able to read our IP addresses, you can read minds, too.

if someone wants to wrap themselves in sarin wrap before sex, go nuts is what I say. but then, I think that on askme it's wiser to stick to narrower questions about computers, cameras, airplanes, travel, etc.

it's just me, I know.
posted by matteo at 6:22 PM on August 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


[to clarify]

TOCT's formulation is based on reasoning from "who wants the baby." Any realistic formulation will have to take into account that regardless of how anyone feels about a baby, there also has to be an agreement by the woman to undergo a pregnancy before there is any baby to argue about. When women have abortions, it's not only babies they don't want (or there'd be more adoptions) but pregnancies. To leap to the ultimate fate of any hypothetical baby is to skate right over the question of whether pregnancy can be coerced. And that is at the crux of the problem of contraception decisions. The burden of pregnancy doesn't fall equally.

As desuetude notes, in most relationships, a degree of trust and communication provides all the insurance necessary. Sometimes lousy situations happen. Figuring out who's responsible in lousy situations gets complicated. This is one reason that deciding to have sex with someone is, in fact, a reasonably serious decision, even though we've come pretty far in convincing ourselves that it's not.
posted by Miko at 6:26 PM on August 2, 2008 [8 favorites]


I guess the protection of the law only travels one way, when it comes to gender.

Nonsense. Men can and do bring lawsuits for sexual harrassment. The protection of the law applies equally in theory, if in fact men rarely do bring lawsuits in practice.
posted by Miko at 6:27 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think we know next to nothing about this couple, and so the more information given the better. People who say "But of course she'll remember" are making just as many assumptions about the woman in question than people who say "She might forget" At least the latter are realistically representing the situation, as disagreeable as some people seem to find the implication that the average person isn't very good at taking pills.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:29 PM on August 2, 2008


it's a proven fact that askme as a community fetishizes quite a few things

Lousy vikings.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 PM on August 2, 2008


Can we skip the discussion of "odd" paternity laws?

Our laws aren't odd or unfair. Nature and society are odd and unfair. The way we turned out is that women bear the responsibility of carrying a child. The way society, and perhaps some of our natural instincts, is that women ultimately bear a greater responsibility for raising their children. Men leaving their children is common among humans, at least in societies I'm familiar with. So our laws basically start from there, trying to make things as fair as possible in an unfair system.

Now, I fail to see how wanting to wear a condom and, yes, have some control over one's own reproduction is misogynistic or distrustful. The girlfriend is on birth control. I take it she doesn't want a child yet. The asker wants to wear a condom still, so he still does not want to have a child. The question specifically mentions her birth control pills, so I take it STDs are a secondary concern, if at all. So there we have it. The asker and his girlfriend don't want children. They're in agreement there. So together, they ought to do something to prevent conception. Either birth control, or condoms ought to take care of it. But they're also two individuals. He's taking responsibility for his reproduction. To me it seems that by wanting to wear a condom, he's acknowledging a certain amount of responsibility when he comes to reproduction. After all, rights and responsibilities usually go hand in hand, right? So he's implying that he would want to take his fair part in raising a child. And he's not ready to raise a child. Neither of them are. We've established that. HE's not ready to raise a child, so HE's doing something about it. He could decide along with her, and that'd be fine. And it would not necessarily imply that he's more likely to be irresponsible if reproduction were to become a reality for them. But he'd still be taking a lower responsibility for preventing pregnancy. He'd be letting her take care of it. Instead, he's also taking it into his own hands.

That doesn't mean he's afraid she'll forget the pill, or that she'll "forget" the pill. It means no contraception is perfect on it's own, and especially not when put into the hands of real humans, even one's that he trusts more than anyone else, and he knows that. It doesn't necessarily mean that he's afraid that she'd keep the baby if she became pregnant, and he wouldn't want that. It could mean that he's neither ready to be a parent with someone, nor to be involved in a decision to terminate a pregnancy. Maybe he just wants to do everything possible to prevent himself and his girlfriend from having to decide to become parents, which they've both agreed they do not want, and having to terminate a pregnancy.

Or maybe he doesn't fully trust her to remember her pill every day at the same time. Maybe he doesn't even trust her to be faithfull 100% and not contract an STD. And maybe he still loves her anyway and wants to stay with her and be able to trust her to do those things, and in the meantime...

Reproductive rights don't involve men's bodies nearly as much as they do womens'. That doesn't mean we have no reproductive rights. That doesn't mean we should not do everything we want to in order to ensure we have as much say as possible in our own futures. No, he wouldn't have to carry the child. Sure, it'd be a lot easier for him to skip out on his responsibility to raise a child. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be his child too, and that he can't do whatever he wants to avoid having one.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:48 PM on August 2, 2008 [14 favorites]


To leap to the ultimate fate of any hypothetical baby is to skate right over the question of whether pregnancy can be coerced. And that is at the crux of the problem of contraception decisions. The burden of pregnancy doesn't fall equally.

? I explicitly considered the problem of coerced pregnancy and designed my hypothetical system such that the man cannot force abortion or force carrying to term, while solving the problem of the woman being able to force the man to support her choice to carry to term. You can add to my fourth choice that a woman's choice to carry a baby that the father will be completely responsible for could be contingent upon the man providing some recompense for the burden of pregnancy - it's basically surrogate motherhood. Maybe this wouldn't happen often, but why close off the option? I think my setup weights the biological "unfairness" against the man to avoid forced carrying-to-term: both may choose to have and support the child, the woman may unilaterally choose to have and support the child, but the man may not unilaterally choose to have and support the child.

I guess adoption could be the mechanism, but in practice I haven't heard of a biological father having to adopt his own child, because the law currently places responsibility for child support on both biological parents. My system places responsibility for child support on the parents who wish to undertake that responsibility.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:56 PM on August 2, 2008


Seconding "how are US paternity laws weird?" Is it weird that men can't force women to have abortions? Or is it weird that kids, helpless and blameless for their own existence, have a right to be supported financially and otherwise by their parents?
posted by moxiedoll at 6:58 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing is, though, mathowie, a man's decision to wear a condom or not is really his last reproductive choice.
He could not have sex with women. That'd be a reproductive choice.


I think you may have misread the original quote. The word "last" here wasn't used in the sense of "only", it was used in the sense of "last of a series".

Which is to say that the choice of whether or not to use the condom is made after the choice to have sex or not. It is in fact the last of a series of choices that can lead to paternity.

Women have several choices after that point about maternity, a fact that men are understandably jealous about -- particularly because the man's paternity after that point is entirely at the whim of the woman in question.

The odd thing about paternity/maternity is that it is the largest (and certainly the longest) legal commitment that you can make in the U.S. -- even the military will let you go after 10 years of stop-losses -- and yet the discussion around birth control and bedroom habits often treats the topic extremely lightly. Love and trust are frequently trotted out -- as if the forces that yield a 30% divorce rate were somehow infinitely more suitable for making paternity/maternity decisions.

Basically what I'm saying is that a man's surrendering his choice to wear a condom *is* a big deal. I don't blame the OP for being unsure around it, and I think he is well served by the in depth discussion of the potentional repercussions going on in that thread.
posted by tkolar at 6:59 PM on August 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


My system places responsibility for child support on the parents who wish to undertake that responsibility.

But it doesn't make any difference to the kid whether their parents wish to support them or not. Once they're here, child support is the right of the child. Since we live in a society that (presumably, broadly, and with plenty of horrible exceptions in practice) takes care of all children, the only options are whether the burden falls on the kid's parents, or on the rest of society. Kids need to eat regardless of what the relationship was between the parents.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:02 PM on August 2, 2008


Is it weird that men can't force women to have abortions?

No, it's weird that a man can decide not have a child and in some cases be tricked and forced into having and supporting one anyway.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:15 PM on August 2, 2008


mathowie -- maybe if their 1% chance of getting pregnant happened...

More like their 8.7% chance of getting pregnant, in year one.


gauchodaspampas -- Our [paternity] laws aren't odd or unfair.

So long as men proven to not have fathered children are forced to pay child support, yeah, they're odd and unfair.
posted by NortonDC at 7:23 PM on August 2, 2008


the guy who worked in all-women office and they were totally taunting him and making him feel uncomfortable? he got buried under an avalanche of "GET OVER IT"

Oh bullshit, that thread could not be described in any such way. Reread the thread. ONE person (a male) told the guy to "man up"; the rest of the posters generally posted very thoughtful suggestions about how to distinguish between his being too sensitive and his co-workers being out of line, and made suggestions on how to deal with either possibility.
posted by orange swan at 8:25 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, it's weird that a man can decide not have a child and in some cases be tricked and forced into having and supporting one anyway.

Uh - a woman can decide not to have a child and in some cases be tricked and forced into having and supporting one anyway, too.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:31 PM on August 2, 2008


Well, actually, I should amend that. That was stupid of me. It depends where you live and what the laws are on abortion, closed adoptions, all that sort of stuff.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:32 PM on August 2, 2008


I guess the protection of the law only travels one way, when it comes to gender.

Nonsense. Men can and do bring lawsuits for sexual harrassment.


Miko: that bit you responded to is out of context. The whole statement is:

he got buried under an avalanche of "GET OVER IT" while, reverse the genders, everybody would be shitting themselves advising the female asker to sue for harassment and hostile workplace -- I guess the protection of the law only travels one way, when it comes to gender.

matteo was talking about the AskMe response and their take on rights and responsibilities. I don't hang out in AskMe much, but I've certainly seen this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:40 PM on August 2, 2008


No, it's weird that a man can decide not have a child and in some cases be tricked and forced into having and supporting one anyway.

It's weird to read things like this on MetaFilter after a discussion of "should I wear a condom when my girlfriend's on the pill." Man. Are you guys all wearing full body condoms while your female s/o's are taking five different forms of the pill AND wearing the birth control patch?

Also, I would like to state that implying that the girlfriend can't be trusted to take the pill responsibly is misogynistic as we know nothing about this woman. Why do we, as a group, assume the worst? Why wouldn't we instead assume that she does take the pill reliably and would be responsible enough to use condoms as back-up should she need to take a medication that interfered with its effectiveness? Why can the man be trusted to use the condom to protect his reproductive rights, but the woman in the situation may or may not be "tricking" him?

I thought it was a fairly simple question and I'm completely and totally baffled by the men who answer as if they are all collectively being forced to pay child support for babies that were conceived immaculately when they were wearing aforementioned full body condoms.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:43 PM on August 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


I thought it was a fairly simple question and I'm completely and totally baffled by the men who answer as if they are all collectively being forced to pay child support for babies that were conceived immaculately when they were wearing aforementioned full body condoms.

Yes, that is a disturbing aspect. It's like some women who act as though all other women must be wildly attracted to and out to get their husbands.... if you're really THAT fearful that your partner will cheat on you or deliberately and maliciously get pregnant without your knowledge and consent, it's probably time to leave the relationship. Otherwise, get a grip.
posted by orange swan at 8:51 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, it's weird that a man can decide not have a child and in some cases be tricked and forced into having and supporting one anyway.

No, actually, in having sex, the man is waiving his right to decide not to have a child. I don't see how it's "weird" that a man can take precautions because he would prefer not to have children, and then face his responsibility when his partner becomes pregnant, and decides to have the child because she does not like the idea of ending the pregnancy because of what it does to her body, and the fetus she is carrying in her body.

That's why it's perfectly normal that a man might want to wear a condom despite the fact that his partner is on birth control. It's his last say in the matter. By having sex, he is in no position to choose whether or not to be a father. So if he doesn't have a desire to be one, all he can really do is wear a condom, have his partner use a female condom or diaphragm, pull out, go through family planning with her and verify all her data, or surveil her to make sure she's taking her pills properly, or going to the doc to get her shot. Some of those are not viable options to a man for obvious reasons.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:51 PM on August 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


As for the protection of the law trending one way when it comes to gender: women need more protection from legal sources because women encounter more gender-based obstacles. Whine and cry all you like about that one dude you know who was discriminated against for being a dude - and yes, there should be repercussions - but he is the minority.

Sexism has been entrenched in society as long as there has been society. We are inching ever closer to equality, but that doesn't mean that we've hit the point where we are all truly gender-free and men require just as much protection from gender-based discrimation as women do. It's just not the case.

Yes, sexual harrassment should work both ways. Yes, men who are being put in an uncomfortable position based on their masculinity should assert themselves as having equal rights. However. This question was not "do my reproductive rights matter?" it was "my girlfriend wants to try this new thing sexually that we haven't done, and I'm thinking about it and I'm not quite sure if I'm ready for it." Yes, the "thing" in question has a direct impact on his reproductive rights, but the question was framed in terms of his sexual relationship, not "omg, if I stop using condoms, is my girlfriend going to get pregnant and I'm going to have to pay child support for a kid I never wanted?!"

The latter is the question that many people are answering, but it's not the question that was initially asked. If it were, this debate would be entirely reasonable. As it is, it's assuming the worst of women and claiming that the man has only one option if he wants to avoid being taken advantage of.

If the question were turned around, if it were a woman writing "I'm on the pill, so my boyfriend who wears condoms would like to stop wearing them, but I don't know how I feel about that..." my predictive powers would bet that most of the answers would be along the lines of "Sure, go for it! Sex feels better bareback!"

Blah blah blah sex sex sex blah blah blah condoms blah blah blah. Blah blah blah sexism blah blah blah blah blah.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:53 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why do we, as a group, assume the worst? Why wouldn't we instead assume that she does take the pill reliably...

Because the data show that to be a big assumption, potentially with quite drastic consequences. You're basically asking why do we assume she's not in the very small percentage of people who never fail to take their medication as directed. You're asking why we are assuming she's "normal". Because the data show that with average/normal use, the efficacy of birth control is pretty good, but for some, still high enough to make some nervous. You're asking why we're assuming that she is extremely knowledgeable about her own body, and pharmacy and biochemistry. You're asking why we're assuming that when it comes down to one's own reproductive preferences, you (the figurative you) are the only person you can fully trust.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 8:58 PM on August 2, 2008


No, it's weird that a man can decide not have a child and in some cases be tricked and forced into having and supporting one anyway.
It's weird to read things like this on MetaFilter after a discussion of "should I wear a condom when my girlfriend's on the pill." Man. Are you guys all wearing full body condoms while your female s/o's are taking five different forms of the pill AND wearing the birth control patch?


No, we're just choosing to be fully aware of the potential consequences of our actions. Sorry if that kills the romance for you.
posted by tkolar at 9:05 PM on August 2, 2008


Yes, the "thing" in question has a direct impact on his reproductive rights, but the question was framed in terms of his sexual relationship, not "omg, if I stop using condoms, is my girlfriend going to get pregnant and I'm going to have to pay child support for a kid I never wanted?!"

Maybe you want to re-read the original question. The OP said, in part:

I'm a bit paranoid about this, and I'm not sure whether it's a valid concern or a holdover from the scare videos in my middle-school sex education classes.

He's asking if he has a valid concern. We have no idea why he's "paranoid". The rest follows.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:05 PM on August 2, 2008


I still think people are reading too much into things and taking their hypotheticals way too far. It seems akin to someone asking about which car to drive on a long road trip, and seeing the majority of comments discussed the weight of the vehicle in high-speed head-on collisions. As if there weren't dozens of less-doomsday aspects to discuss.

I guess I'll chalk up "male reproductive rights" up there with cat declawing, SUVs, and obesity discussions on mefi.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:06 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


and the fetus she is carrying in her body.

By fetus, I of course meant to include embryo. If there's one thing that is not needed in the discussion of contraception, reproductive rights, abortion, and related topics, it is inaccuracy in.... anything. Sorry folks.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:09 PM on August 2, 2008


Also, I would like to state that implying that the girlfriend can't be trusted to take the pill responsibly is misogynistic as we know nothing about this woman. Why do we, as a group, assume the worst?

I wasn't implying that she couldn't be trusted, I simply said that since we know next to nothing about her it's important for the OP to decide if he thought she could be relied upon to be solely responsible for birth control in the relationship. Is it misogynistic to suggest that there is such a thing as women who do not use birth control perfectly?

That's news to me, being a woman who has in the past had instances of not using birth control perfectly. An accident, of course, which is all I'm suggesting could happen here. And I'd guess I'm in the majority rather than the minority.

Speaking for my own comments and not for other others that I do think were questionable, it would be irresponsible to give the OP advice without cautioning him that while the pill is great, when not used perfectly it is a little less than great and he should consider that in his decision. That's the truth. I'm firmly in the camp of "give them as much information about birth control as possible and let them make their own decisions." I grew up in a school district that refused to give out information about anything other than "abstinence" and I think that's a pretty lousy system that uses the same argument you do here - that we shouldn't make, in our mind, negative assumptions but instead withhold truthful information that could be useful if our negative assumption played out.

Yes, sex ed for kids might assume that some young kids are going to be having sex. But I think it's better to be prepared than to be willfully ignorant of every factor of a decision. Same here. Maybe she's as reliable as anyone and never forgets anything, or maybe she can be kind of forgetful (like me.) Since I don't know anything about her, I'll throw out all the ideas I can and let the OP decide what is relevant.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:11 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I still think people are reading too much into things and taking their hypotheticals way too far.

So, what are you saying? Are you calling me fat?
posted by carsonb at 9:12 PM on August 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow. Retract those claws, carsonb.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:18 PM on August 2, 2008


Why wouldn't we instead assume that she does take the pill reliably and would be responsible enough to use condoms as back-up should she need to take a medication that interfered with its effectiveness?

I'm assuming the girlfriend is like other women. Again, 8.7% unintended pregnancies in year one. Assuming normalcy is the only course that makes sense to me. If you've got some argument for her being exceptional, it sure didn't come from the questioner's text, but I'd love to hear where it does comes from.

Or, on preview, what Solon and Thanks and gauchodaspampas said before.
posted by NortonDC at 9:18 PM on August 2, 2008


if someone wants to wrap themselves in sarin wrap before sex, go nuts is what I say.

Preliminary studies suggest that sarin wrap would prove highly effective as a birth control method.
posted by dogrose at 9:19 PM on August 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I found some of the posts (a few of which were trimmed) in that thread really weird, and some of the above even weirder.

There are a lot of problems with gender and the law in the modern era... but I just don't see how you can really claim with a straight face that men as a group are being oppressed by the (wo)Man. Yes, in some cases a man is forced to pay child support for a child who is not biologically his. I'm going to go way, way out on a limb here (cue sarcasm music, please), and venture a totally wild guess that the number of deadbeat biological fathers rather exceeds the number of oppressed guys paying for some other dude's progeny.

The fact that the playing field is becoming very slightly more level does not warrant all the histrionics about uneven maternal/paternal rights.

That aside, I think it's really interesting how much emotion gets invested in the question of condoms. After about two decades of pervasive HIV/AIDS campaigns (many of which were based on really problematic assumptions about who was or was not on board with condom use), plus a couple of decades longer of the abortion wars, we bring a lot of assumptions and feelings to questions of condom use.

Condoms are kind of like veganism and other fervent diets — in a scary, out of control world, it's one of the ways to assert control over the most intimate parts of one's body. And like vegetarianism, condoms are binary — you use them, or you don't. Good people on one side, bad on the other. (Sheeps from the goats, as it were, though that allusion leads to uncomfortable jokes when condoms are under discussion.)

But "birth control" is not so binary -- you can use something partway, or use two things, or use something in a way that looks effective but isn't. And so those binary divisions between pure and impure, good and bad, get knotted up in nuance and shadows.

There's a lot of nuance involved. Yes, "typical use" of birth control pills has an 8% failure rate — but there is significant variation between groups within that. Someone who is educated, has a stable living situation, feels in control of her sexuality, and is highly motivated to avoid pregnancy will have a different "typical use" pattern than someone in a very different demographic category. Similarly, a woman being on the pill can reflect that the guy has shoved all responsibility onto her, or it can reflect that together they chose an option and are taking responsibility together — and there's no way to tell from the outside. Making these assumptions gets further away from the original question, rather than helping answer it.

The one really good outcome of that AskMe question, and this MeTa discussion, is that it illustrates in big flashing letters how Mr Anon is not alone in finding this a difficult issue, and one that has a lot of personal meaning to a lot of people.
posted by Forktine at 9:21 PM on August 2, 2008 [13 favorites]


Are you guys all wearing full body condoms while your female s/o's are taking five different forms of the pill AND wearing the birth control patch?

BTW, can I just take a moment to express my annoyance that men apparently have the choice of being either

a) total dogs with no care at all about the trail of children they leave behind

or

b) full body condom wearing misogynists?
posted by tkolar at 9:29 PM on August 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just don't see how you can really claim with a straight face that men as a group are being oppressed by the (wo)Man.

For someone who wants to look at nuance, I sure don't see a lot of it here.

Look. This isn't that complicated. As a matter of fact, women should be able to relate, since they were faced with a similar situation for some time (and unfortunately, who knows, could be again): where there last decision you get to make before having a child is having sex. Have we gotten to the point where we've forgotten how chilling an idea that is?

The patrimony fraud issue is fringe, so I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you were answering that group rather than constructing a strawman. The malice issue is nonexistent, since your partner can certainly proclaim (a true) intention not to have children and then change her mind. The issue is choice, and I'm baffled at people's inability to understand that.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:34 PM on August 2, 2008


I'm feeling a huge urge to get out the Mr. T Snickers Cannon on this thread. Talk about baggage.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:36 PM on August 2, 2008


BTW, can I just take a moment to express my annoyance that men apparently have the choice of being either
a) total dogs with no care at all about the trail of children they leave behind
or
b) full body condom wearing misogynists?


I don't believe that I ever stated or implied (a). So the either/or in response to my comment is a bit ridiculous.

I do believe that both exist, yes. But I think that most men (including the original asker of the question) fall into category (c) in terms of reproductive health: careful decision makers who are willing to accept the consequences of a sexual relationship.

What bugs me is that people are - as mathowie states - taking this to absurd conclusions. And those conclusions have been along the lines of the girlfriend being misleading in some manner, which I find to be really unsettling. Hence, my worry that "careful decision makers" are finding themselves transformed by rabid paranoia into aforementioned full body condom wearing misogynists.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:38 PM on August 2, 2008


And those conclusions have been along the lines of the girlfriend being misleading in some manner, which I find to be really unsettling.

I see few examples of people making the assumption that the girlfriend might mislead the asker. What I mostly see are concerns that, *shock*, the girlfriend is a normal person, and will not use the pill perfectly, but rather normally.

But I think that most men (including the original asker of the question) fall into category (c) in terms of reproductive health: careful decision makers who are willing to accept the consequences of a sexual relationship.

Agreed. Said consequences being pregnancy. And, as the wise Juno so thoughtfully pointed out, pregnancy can in most cases lead to babies.

Babies.

Little balls of human that are born far more prematurely than any other species, and are completely dependent on others for every need.

Persons who in their first 18 years can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to support.

Little miniature versions of you, who will end up picking up so many of your characteristics, habits, traits, etc, be they good traits or bad.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:48 PM on August 2, 2008


where there last decision you get to make before having a child is having sex. Have we gotten to the point where we've forgotten how chilling an idea that is?

Color me clueless and spank my ass nicely or something, but I don't find this chilling at all.

Maybe this is just a product of my age — I grew up in an age of legal-but-difficult-to-get abortions, HIV/AIDS education, and the rise of the Christian Right. I had friends who got into that whole Iron John "men's movement" thing back in the 1990s, too. Someone older or younger than me might feel very differently, I don't know.

I've never, ever (well, in the US at least — other countries deal with these questions differently) had sex without the full knowledge that a) the woman in question bore the serious weight of any pregnancy risk, because I could skip town and leave her holding the fetus, and b) that the counterweight to that is that she gets more legal rights in terms of being able to make choices about aborting or keeping the child. (I add the caveat about geography, because I have a vivid memory of the time I realized right in the middle of having sex that there was no legal abortion in that country; it was a sobering thought. Context really matters.)

That the woman has those rights to her body is not chilling — it's a bit closer to fair than it was in the 1950s, while being quite clearly imperfect in a whole bunch of ways.

Having sex is risky business. You can catch a disease, get your feelings hurt, cause a pregnancy, or get rousted by the police for humping in your car. You can avoid all of these by not having sex, but then you avoid all the nice stuff, too. The moral weight of those possible consequences is part of what makes sex hot, honestly.
posted by Forktine at 9:51 PM on August 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm feeling a huge urge to get out the Mr. T Snickers Cannon on this thread. Talk about baggage.

Heh. When I saw this one MetaTalk was the first thing to come to mind.
posted by Artw at 9:51 PM on August 2, 2008


Why was this question not deleted as chat filter? The poster literally does not even ask a question any where in the post.
posted by afu at 9:51 PM on August 2, 2008


Basically what I'm saying is that a man's surrendering his choice to wear a condom *is* a big deal. I don't blame the OP for being unsure around it

I agree entirely.

I would like to state that implying that the girlfriend can't be trusted to take the pill responsibly is misogynistic as we know nothing about this woman.

I think this is incorrect. In laying out the OP's decision parameters, it's a real question whether the other person in the equation will follow through. Not because women are bad or sneaky or more irresponsible than men, but just because anytime you place that kind of reliance on another person you need to consider the likelihood of them screwing up/flaking out/etc.

He's concerned (among other things?) about giving up his control over the likelihood of conception. And although we don't know anything about his situation, that's a reasonable concern. It really will be out of his hands if he stops routinely using condoms. That doesn't mean that everyone thinks the girlfriend is unreliable -- but if he stops using condoms, her reliability becomes really important and so it's something he needs to consider.

As for the question whether she is reliable: who knows? We certainly don't have any idea. All people screw up sometimes, we're all human. Most people I know who are on the pill have missed a couple of days here and there. Missed pills happen, and acknowledging this doesn't mean anybody thinks women are too stupid to take medicine. Also, we all know some people who (as individuals) are especially flaky, forgetful, or whatever. Maybe the gf is one of those flaky people -- completely sincere in her intention to take the pill routinely, but it's predictable that she will miss pills at least once every few months. We have no idea. This is something he needs to assess honestly before he gives up his control over contraception.


He needs to think about his risk tolerance, as well. Mistakes happen. If it would be the end of the world for him if she got pregnant (who knows? we don't know. he has to weigh this stuff), i.e. if his conception-risk tolerance is zero, then he should keep using condoms.

There is a boogeyman in some of these discussions: the Trickster Girlfriend! She intentionally skips birth control because she wants a baby, or she doesn't really want a baby but wants to use a pregnancy to trap a man. She'll do anything to get her lazy hands on that sweet child support check. That boogeyman is often exaggerated using all kinds of unfair and misogynistic stereotypes (especially online), and I take it that the reason some are feeling the misogyny vibe in this conversation is because we've been close to invoking the Trickster Girlfriend, and her handmaiden, Women Are Selfish And Devious and Out to Get Men.

I get that some of these answers invoke the specter of the Trickster Gf, and that's why the answers feel misogynist. But in this case the answers don't depend on saying that the actual gf is a Trickster Gf.

In this case we're talking about ways for him to think about this choice. So we're considering hypotheticals -- what if he stopped using condoms and the gf missed some pills for *whatever* reason? Accidentally, on purpose, whatever. In that case he will have given up his control. So he needs to think about the likelihood of that happening in his own case, and he needs to think about his risk tolerance (which means partly thinking/talking with her about her attitude about unplanned pregnancies etc).

I don't think anyone was saying the girlfriend IS trying to dupe him into fatherhood, or that this is something that most, or many, women do. And it doesn't matter for the sake of this conversation what each of us thinks, anecdotally, is the prevalence of Trickster Girlfriends -- so for the love of God, let's not go there. People for the most part (when addressing the pregnancy question) are saying: think realistically about your risk tolerance here. There are nonzero risks, so you're reasonable to have some level of trepidation -- back up to the first line I quoted above.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:52 PM on August 2, 2008 [13 favorites]


It does require some basic trust. (As does him assuming that she won't steal his stereo or murder him in his sleep or cheat on him with his best friend.)

None of those things cause 18 years of child support payments for a child which he did not consent to parent. Yes, I am fully aware that such cases are not very common. They do happen, though--witness the case, posted on the blue, about the woman who used sperm from her (if memory serves) ex husband, who didn't want a child--and is now forced to pay child support.

Our laws aren't odd or unfair

Er, actually they are. Very much so. Explain to me why a man who has taken on good faith that the woman he is with is using birth control should be forced to pay child support? That is how the law works in the USA.

Basically it boils down to: men cannot force women to either abort or carry to term, yet women can choose to do either and force the man in question to be responsible for the outcome, whether or not he consented to creating a child in the first place. This is patently unfair. Is there a good solution? I don't know. But the laws as they stand in the USA unfairly punish men. One could argue that's a logical extension of sex- and puritanism in USA society in general, and that wouldn't be unreasonable. Something needs to change, but how? Other than signing a legal release every time there is sex, men having sex with women are (pardon me) screwed if anything other than some bouncy naked fun happens.

I don't know how this should change in a way that treats the adults equitably while still ensuring the future child is treated carefully. But it does need to change.

Seconding "how are US paternity laws weird?" Is it weird that men can't force women to have abortions?

It's weird that men cannot force women to have a child and care for it, but women can. See above.

but I just don't see how you can really claim with a straight face that men as a group are being oppressed by the (wo)Man

Errr.. nobody's claiming that?

Condoms are kind of like veganism and other fervent diets

Yeah, um. No? Condoms, unlike the other things you mentioned, when properly used categorically prevent a deadly disease and pregnancy.

As a matter of fact, women should be able to relate, since they were faced with a similar situation for some time

Bin-fucking-go. Up until Roe v. Wade, women were (unless they wanted to break the law and risk their lives, or knew a sympathetic doctor) in the position of being forced to carry babies to term whether they wanted to or not, with the attendant lifelong support. Under current laws in the USA, men are forced into the same position. How is this either fair or reasonable?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:02 PM on August 2, 2008


I still think people are reading too much into things and taking their hypotheticals way too far. It seems akin to someone asking about which car to drive on a long road trip, and seeing the majority of comments discussed the weight of the vehicle in high-speed head-on collisions. As if there weren't dozens of less-doomsday aspects to discuss.

This analogy doesn't work. People only wear condoms for two reasons: (i) to avoid pregnancy and (ii) to protect against STDs. Any discussion of condom use is intrinsically a discussion about preventing pregnancy and STDs, because that's all condoms are for.

Your objection would more on point if the original question had been "my girlfriend wants to have sex with; what now?" Discussing sex solely in terms of pregnancy and STDs would be weird, because there's so much more to sex--just like there's so more to a road trip than high-speed head-on collisions.

This isn't the question he asked, though. He asked about condoms, and pregnancy and STDs are precisely what he needs to be thinking about. He should make sure they're both tested for STDs, and he needs to really think about whether he's comfortable putting responsibility for implementing his reproductive choices solely in the hands of another person.

There's nothing paranoid or misogynistic about deciding that one is most comfortable keeping as many reproductive choices in one's own hands as possible. That's exactly the decision that's being made when one chooses to wear a condom or not, so that's what people were talking about.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:09 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Our laws aren't odd or unfair

Er, actually they are. Very much so. ...

Basically it boils down to: men cannot force women to either abort or carry to term, yet women can choose to do either and force the man in question to be responsible for the outcome, whether or not he consented to creating a child in the first place.


I'd be very interested to hear of other contractual obligations of this magnitude that result from someone else's choice.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:10 PM on August 2, 2008


None of those things cause 18 years of child support payments for a child which he did not consent to parent.
...
Er, actually they are. Very much so. Explain to me why a man who has taken on good faith that the woman he is with is using birth control should be forced to pay child support? That is how the law works in the USA.


Actually, he did consent to parent the child, when he had sex. Because he should know, as I think most men do, that no form of birth control is perfect.

I'm trying so very hard to show that most people here are not assuming that women rampantly go about forcing men to be fathers by tricking them into thinking they're on birth control. And here you are, assuming just that.

Oh, and what about the post on the blue? Is this the one where the woman had oral sex with a man, and then use that sperm to impregnate herself? Cause that happens so often right? Hardly relevant. Was one of the tags for that one batshitinsane? Or are you talking about a different post (serious non-rhetorical question here)? Did she just use his previously preserved sperm to have a child after they divorced? I admit if that's the case, the law may have some shortcomings in that area. Still, in such a case we aren't talking at all common, and we're not talking about vaginal intercourse, which is what I think this discussion should be limited to.

It's times like these I wish we had the smileys that are banging their heads into walls.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:16 PM on August 2, 2008


"I would like to state that implying that the girlfriend can't be trusted to take the pill responsibly is misogynistic as we know nothing about this woman."

I think that the comment is more misanthropic than it is misogynistic.
posted by 517 at 10:18 PM on August 2, 2008


I'd be very interested to hear of other contractual obligations of this magnitude that result from someone else's choice.

Birth control is not based on someone else's choice to have or not have a baby, or use or not use birth control. It's based on your choice to have sex with them. In doing so you are accepting that, as no method of birth control is perfect, you might become a daddy.

If abortion were illegal it would be exactly the same still for the man. You still might become a daddy. There's a bit more of a chance now, because the government is not letting the woman have control over her body. But once you have sex with her, you are accepting the possibility of being a father. If she decides to have an abortion, or not to have one, that's her damn business, so too fucking bad. Oy. I need a time out now. I'll be making my exit.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:20 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd be very interested to hear of other contractual obligations of this magnitude that result from someone else's choice.

Child support isn't a contractual obligation - maybe that's where the confusion is coming from. It's not the result of a contract between a man and a woman, which is why it doesn't matter what representations are made by either party. Child support is the right of the child. So if dad says he had a vasectomy and didn't? Mom is still on the hook to pay for the child who results. Now, Mom can have an abortion - but it's her body, etc., and it's obvious enough that the legality of not having an abortion doesn't spring from some alleged gynocentric bias in the law. And once the kid is born? They don't have a contract with anyone - they have the *right* to eat and live indoors and to be cared for by their parents. All of that said - I think the weirdness some people saw in the thread was that the question was "gosh, since middle school health class it's been drummed into me that you gotta wear a condom and now I'm thirty and monogamous and scared to change that rule".... but it was answered as though he had said "my girlfriend wants me to not use a condom and is she trying to trick me?!?"
posted by moxiedoll at 10:23 PM on August 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


No, actually, in having sex, the man is waiving his right to decide not to have a child.

No, actually, in having sex, the woman is waiving her right to decide not to have a child. Abortion rights are unimportant.

Several arguments in this thread seem to come down to "If men don't want to have a child they shouldn't be such sluts," an argument which has been roundly and rightfully rejected when "men" is replaced with "women."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:30 PM on August 2, 2008


Explain to me why a man who has taken on good faith that the woman he is with is using birth control should be forced to pay child support? That is how the law works in the USA.

I recommend you stop having sex if this bugs you so much. Birth control works most of the time, not all of the time. And, I'd like to say for the record, that I've seen (personally, not anecdotally) women who have been abandoned by their husbands, others who's exes have refused to pay child support on children born in wedlock, women beaten by their husbands who are afraid to leave because they have no-where else to go with their children, women who have had their bodies permanently damaged during childbirth, women who live in poverty because they have children, women who work 2 jobs to support their children alone.

So cry me a fucking river.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:34 PM on August 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


So if dad says he had a vasectomy and didn't? Mom is still on the hook to pay for the child who results.

Now that's a good point. Though as lobstermitten (great name) says, the "trickster" aspect of this isn't the central one.

once you have sex with her, you are accepting the possibility of being a father.

Of course. That is the state of the law. Is anyone disputing that? The fact is, this was the situation for women, and we rightly decided that there should be some aspect of choice after the decision to have sex.

Oh look this is silly. Why dance around this? Both he and she are taking a chance. Playing odds. Obviously. But after that, she has a choice. He does not. The choice results in a very long-term, extreme financial (if not other) commitment. I don't agree with one of the posters above (Tim?) that this should somehow result in him being able to insist on abortion -- forgive me if I've misread you. But the financial obligation owed, when the other person has the choice to have this baby or not... Could this be any more plain? Are people being wilfully obtuse here?

Absent political content, MeFi is a pretty smart place. But I'll have to agree with one of the persons above: this seems to be another topic where people just don't want to get it. On preview, what Tim said this time around. But if you'll excuse me, I'm done with this treadmill.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:34 PM on August 2, 2008


Here's a post I recall from the blue if you want to read more discussion on this topic. I can't get to the CNN link to see the particulars, but it looks like the father was "tricked", which is in no way what I want to imply is going on with the AskMe.
posted by ODiV at 10:39 PM on August 2, 2008



Actually, he did consent to parent the child, when he had sex. Because he should know, as I think most men do, that no form of birth control is perfect.


Er, no. The analogy would be consenting to being killed by a drunk driver, because everybody knows that they're on the roads.

I'm trying so very hard to show that most people here are not assuming that women rampantly go about forcing men to be fathers by tricking them into thinking they're on birth control. And here you are, assuming just that.

Except I'm not. Or did "Yes, I am fully aware that such cases are not very common." confuse you somehow?

In doing so you are accepting that, as no method of birth control is perfect, you might become a daddy.

So you're accepting that if someone deceives you, you'll pay 18 years of child support?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:40 PM on August 2, 2008


I don't agree with one of the posters above (Tim?) that this should somehow result in him being able to insist on abortion -- forgive me if I've misread you.

You have indeed misread me, though I forgive you. My position is that when a pregnancy, wanted or unwanted, is discovered, the woman should have the sole choice whether or not to abort the pregnancy, with her choice based on the choices made by both parties as to whether or not they wish to be obligated to support the potential child.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:43 PM on August 2, 2008


Several arguments in this thread seem to come down to "If men don't want to have a child they shouldn't be such sluts," an argument which has been roundly and rightfully rejected when "men" is replaced with "women."

That's mostly because they don't grow in our bodies. Once the sperm is past the end of your penis, your job and say in the matter is done. There's really no way to give you further say in the pregnancy and birth (that I can see) that results in no loss of autonomy or rights for the woman.

So if you don't want a kid then don't have sex or if you do, wear a condom. If someone calls you misogynistic for this, then I think it's fair to ignore them.
posted by ODiV at 10:44 PM on August 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


If abortion were illegal it would be exactly the same still for the man. You still might become a daddy.

Yes. And only one person in the situation has any choice in the matter. This is fair because..?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:45 PM on August 2, 2008


Tim: It reads kind of like I was arguing with your point, please don't take it that way. I was mostly using it as a jumping off point.
posted by ODiV at 10:47 PM on August 2, 2008


Oh look this is silly. Why dance around this? Both he and she are taking a chance. Playing odds. Obviously. But after that, she has a choice. He does not.

YES! Exactly.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:47 PM on August 2, 2008


dnab: I'll quote myself from above:

There's really no way to give you further say in the pregnancy and birth (that I can see) that results in no loss of autonomy or rights for the woman.

So right now the rules are:
1) A child has the right to be supported by his/her parents.
2) A woman has the right to do what she wants with her body.

How do we introduce choice for a man after conception that doesn't take away one of these rights?

Anyway, I'm commenting here too much and need to go to bed. :)
posted by ODiV at 10:58 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's mostly because they don't grow in our bodies. Once the sperm is past the end of your penis, your job and say in the matter is done. There's really no way to give you further say in the pregnancy and birth (that I can see) that results in no loss of autonomy or rights for the woman.

I think this is right. Once the child is born, it understandably has the right to support from both of its parents, since it certainly didn't choose to be born and it can't support itself. Allowing a man to force a woman to have an abortion is just unacceptable.

I suppose having the government pay child support instead of one of the parents in some circumstances (e.g., a woman impregnating herself with sperm fished from a discarded condom) might seem more fair, but this creates a moral hazard. Also, it's true that someone can incur a support obligation without being the biological parent, but this has nothing to do with condom use.

Since the man, understandably, has no say in the matter after the sex act is finished, I just think men should be encouraged to feel comfortable exercising the reproductive autonomy that they do have.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:59 PM on August 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


How do we introduce choice for a man after conception that doesn't take away one of these rights?

I don't know. I do know, as I said several times, that the situation as it stands is just wrong. Maybe the solution is to have people sign off before fucking---"I do not wish to support any child that may come of this liaison". I don't know.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:18 PM on August 2, 2008


How do we introduce choice for a man after conception that doesn't take away one of these rights?

1) A child has the right to be supported by his/her parents.
2) A woman has the right to do what she wants with her body.

I'll reiterate my suggestion which was: either or both parents may sign on for obligated support, but support may not be forced upon either.

I think perhaps my idea somewhat implies a redefinition of "parents" from "sperm/egg donors" to "those who wish to support a child," but I think that's a Good Thing.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:24 PM on August 2, 2008


I do know, as I said several times, that the situation as it stands is just wrong. Maybe the solution is to have people sign off before fucking---"I do not wish to support any child that may come of this liaison".

Not all "wrong" situations can be fixed. The right of support belongs to the child, who didn't (and can't) sign anything. It doesn't belong to the mother, so she can't waive it before the child is born.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:25 PM on August 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


Also, I would like to state that implying that the girlfriend can't be trusted to take the pill responsibly is misogynistic as we know nothing about this woman.

Bollocks. Implying that the girlfriend might miss a pill implies that she's human.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:39 PM on August 2, 2008


Implying that the girlfriend might miss a pill implies that she's human.

Speaking as someone who remembers to take medication every morning by putting it right next to my toothbrush, I read it as implying that she lacks good dental hygiene. But perhaps that's just me.
posted by scody at 11:51 PM on August 2, 2008


Also, I have to admit, LobsterMitten's description of the Trickster Girlfriend made me laugh out loud. I imagine this malign, Loki-like figure running around stealing mens' sperm and dreaming of juicy child support checks. Someone should turn that into a cartoon or comic.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:53 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The right of support belongs to the child, who didn't (and can't) sign anything. It doesn't belong to the mother, so she can't waive it before the child is born.

But if she's choosing to bear the child without the consent of the other person involved, who may have had a very reasonable positive belief that she was taking birth control, and who does not wish to parent a child? Why should he be forced to pay? This is what I do not understand.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:12 AM on August 3, 2008


But if she's choosing to bear the child without the consent of the other person involved, who may have had a very reasonable positive belief that she was taking birth control, and who does not wish to parent a child? Why should he be forced to pay? This is what I do not understand.

Because it's the child who is entitled to support from its parents. Just as a general matter, if you owe me something, Alice can't waive my rights by acting like a screwball. No matter how little say the father had in the child's birth, I assure you that the child had even less.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:20 AM on August 3, 2008


Yes, the child does. Why does one person--when both were involved to create it--have the sole ability to decide whether that child is born? And what about consent?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:32 AM on August 3, 2008


The way I see it, this is a nice example of what's wrong with a halfass approach to anonymous questions that we have.The way the question is phrased completely invites everything being debated. The asker never says exactly _why_ they have a problem with not using the rubber. There are enough possible reasons he'd have a problem that it's wide open open enough that it maybe shouldn't have been approved, on grounds of being too open ended.

I can see how the question was approved though, I'm sure I would've in the shoes of them that did, so to me it really points out that that a way to ask anon questions without the way that normal posters get to interact in the comments is going to lead to this sort of thing occasionally.

Given the soap opera responses , if the poster isn't trying to contact someone to clarify what they meant, i would argue to consider the question a troll, and delete it.
posted by 31d1 at 12:38 AM on August 3, 2008


Why does one person--when both were involved to create it--have the sole ability to decide whether that child is born?

Because the idea of forcing someone to have an invasive medical procedure is grotesque, and there's no other way to "decide whether that child is born" once it's conceived. I'm sympathetic to your position, too--I personally don't have sex with women partly because I can't tolerate any risk of pregnancy.

As for the consent issue, maybe there should be a tort for fraudulent conception.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:41 AM on August 3, 2008


Why does one person--when both were involved to create it--have the sole ability to decide whether that child is born?

dnab, you know already why women have the sole say on whether they carry a pregnancy to term. In a situation where the parents disagree about whether to have the kid, there can't be a halfway compromise answer - either the kid will get born or no. So one of the parents must have the final say.

It's the mother, for the obvious reason that the kid is inside her at the time the decision is made.

You are protesting that this is unfair, but as Dr President etc and others above have aptly said, not all unfairnesses can be equalized. This one can't, I think.

Now the question about child support is a separate one, and there may be more room for a solution there. But on the issue of who decides whether a conceived child gets carried to term or not, how can there possibly be a solution that allows both parents equal say?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:46 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


DNAB, it's because it's the woman who carries the child and she controls her body and that's the way it is. I don't have much sympathy for men who whine about how they have no control over what happens with a pregnancy but I also think we should respect the choices that men can make.

Not every relationship is headed towards a life long nuclear family with 2.1 children, monogamous partners, and the rest. Maybe we as a culture should acknowledge that and stop acting as if anything that isn't progressing towards that norm is an aberration.
posted by rdr at 12:57 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


You are protesting that this is unfair, but as Dr President etc and others above have aptly said, not all unfairnesses can be equalized. This one can't, I think.

But the unfairness of forcing someone who is not consensual to the birth of the child, that is an unfairness that could be fixed. How? I don't know.

rdr... "that's the way it is" is not really a good argument. As it so happens, I absolutely agree that women should have the completely unfettered choice whether to bear a child or not. It's the paying for that child that kind of sticks in my craw.

And, I hasten to point out before someone else does, I know that this is an academic question for me. I'm not particularly likely to ever get a woman pregnant, so the issue cannot have the same resonance for me that it does for people who engage in heterosexual sex. My question here is about people who can be forced into spending 20-25% of their lives paying for a situation to which they have not given consent.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:13 AM on August 3, 2008


But the unfairness of forcing someone who is not consensual to the birth of the child, that is an unfairness that could be fixed. How? I don't know.

That's because it can't be fixed. Unless you want to shift the unfairness over to the child who is the one that will ultimately suffer from lack of parental support.

The only misogyny I found in that AskMe was the implication that there are many women out there who consciously or even subconsciously want a baby so bad that they'd deceive and betray their partner to do so.
posted by liquorice at 1:55 AM on August 3, 2008


There are some, liquorice, that's undisputable. We have seen FPPs on the subject.

Honestly, as much as I understand why such laws exist, I still see them as sexist; there is an assumption (and yes, please don't jump down my throat, I understand there is still a lot of sexism in terms of hiring women and their earning potential as compared to men) that women cannot provide for children the way men can. Is it necessary sexism in the same way that affirmative action is (and I mean this in an extremely narrow sense) necessary racism? Yes. Does it contribute to ongoing sexism? I think it might, in some small way.

I don't think that these laws are unfixable. I think they are fixable, in an equitable way, but that it will take people far more intelligent than I to do so, and to see and prevent the negative ramifications of doing so.

I mean.. I know anecdote is not the plural of data, but:

My stepsister's father was not a wanted child. His father did not want children and had (trust me on this; it came up at uncomfortable family gatherings) made it very clear to his wife before they were married. He used condoms. She poked holes in them and eventually, of course, pregnancy. His father was forced to raise a child to which he had not only not consented, but had clearly indicated that he would never consent. I'm trying to understand why he should have been forced to do so.

I know this is an edge case, and edge cases generally make bad law. But in law, while it should be written for the majority of cases, there should be an understanding that the outliers exist. So why should a man who has not consented be forced to do something? There aren't any other laws in North America (I think) that make this happen. And the very, very real world consequences are severe: for the next 18 years the man in question must give up significant sums of the income derived from his work. Whether or not he consented to raising a child. How is this even remotely reasonable?

I can understand if two heterosexual people go at it, don't bother with a condom, and don't discuss the issue. But what if they do discuss the issue? What if he has made it clear that he does not want a child? What if she isn't on birth control but says she is? What if she is but hasn't taken it properly? What if she is but is one of the statistical percentage? How do we deal with those situations in a way that is fair for everyone involved?

In the latter two cases, well, you rolls the dice and you takes your chances. Fine. That isn't unreasonable. But in the first case? How do we reconcile the needs of a child against the expressed will of a now father?

This is what I don't get. The current solution is manifestly unfair to the putative father. No rational human being can argue otherwise. And similarly, no rational human being can argue that a man should be able to force a woman to abort a fetus. But what do we do?

Do we say "Okay, you're going to have sex. To protect yourself you need to fill out this easily obtainable form that is legally enforceable and lays out what you are both agreeing to."? Maybe we do. Maybe it looks something like:

We __________ and ________ agree to participate in sexual intercourse.

________ (male) will use the following form(s) of birth control:
_ none
_ condom
_ vasectomy performed on _____date by Doctor ______ in ______

________ (female) will use the following form(s) of birth control:

_none
_female condom
_spermicidal jelly or foam
_diaphragm
_IUD inserted on _____date by Doctor ______ in ______
_Tubal ligation performed on _____date by Doctor ______ in ______
_Birth control pill type _______ taken per instructions ______ (signature)
(etc)

We the undersigned agree that should a child be conceived as a result of this sexual intercourse:

_the fetus will be aborted ___initial ___initial
_the fetus will be carried to term and adopted ___initial ___initial
_the fetus will be carried to term and both parents will provide for the child's upbringing and welfare
_the fetus will be carried to term and the mother will provide for the child's upbringing and welfare, the other parent permanently revoking all rights to the child
_the fetus will be carried to term and the father will provide for the child's upbringing and welfare, the other parent permanently revoking all rights to the child

Signed this ___ day of etc etc etc, copies for everyone. Maybe a single form with carbons to help prevent forgery.

And of course any duplicity in the first two sections would render the rest null and void in favour of the person who wasn't duplicitous.

All that would obviously be ridiculous (but was a fun intellectual exercise for me). And to be clear, vasectomies/tubal ligations do fail, but would be simple to deal with: was it performed and was it performed correctly? Ok, default to both providing for the child.

So how do we do this? How do we balance these rights? As it stands, men are fucked. Their sperm hits an egg, whether they want it to or not, and they are on the hook for 18 years. I find it mindboggling that anyone can see this as reasonable.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:29 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Honestly, as much as I understand why such laws exist, I still see them as sexist; there is an assumption (and yes, please don't jump down my throat, I understand there is still a lot of sexism in terms of hiring women and their earning potential as compared to men) that women cannot provide for children the way men can. Is it necessary sexism in the same way that affirmative action is (and I mean this in an extremely narrow sense) necessary racism? Yes. Does it contribute to ongoing sexism? I think it might, in some small way.

OK, since we are putting in advance requests, please don't jump down my throat: you have posited an assumption that I think is incorrect, which is not the same as my saying you are sexist. I don't think the assumption is that men must contribute because they make more money on average, I think the assumption is that raising a child requires both a colossal investment of time and a simultaneous increase in income over that which a single person requires, which one person of any gender is hard-pressed to pull off optimally in the same 18-year (plus however many months of pregnancy that the woman is aware of) timeframe. All respect to single moms and single dads who do that with no extra help, but I think most of them would be pretty happy to get good-faith assistance with the finances or effort (other than those near the apex of the financial food chain).

I think the practical answer to your concern here would be the male pill. Each party would then have comparable methods for managing their risk, depending on what they considered the big risk to be. I think it's around the corner, so that should help.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 4:05 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


So how do we do this? How do we balance these rights? As it stands, men are fucked. Their sperm hits an egg, whether they want it to or not, and they are on the hook for 18 years. I find it mindboggling that anyone can see this as reasonable.

Wait until it's viable and safe for the fetus to grow outside the womb and then the "it's a woman's body" argument will probably be shown the door. I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing, but I can see it happening somewhere down the line.

Man, that would make an interesting scifi story.

As for men being fucked, yeah this particular situation isn't completely equal, but somehow, we'll survive. Not that I don't agree agree with ya DNAB, I just spent an hour crafting responses to all this stuff, but eventually decided not to post, because it seems my energy would be better spent elsewhere, such as worrying about kids who are here now (or tragically gone, dammit) and not getting the love they need and deserve.

So why should a man who has not consented be forced to do something?
Lesser of two evils, I think. Kids tend to turn out better when they have two parents, so in absence of their being a better solution, the biological father is it.

What I'd prefer to see in the option for a guy to give up his rights and responsibilities if another person (not necessarily male) choses to take said rights and responsibilities. It may be better for a child to have two parents rather than one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:18 AM on August 3, 2008


Why do men get so outraged over paying child support? Not just here, but a see frothing "how dare a mere woman tell me what to do" rage IRL. My personal experience and all statistics I have ever read point out that most men are not-paying/underpaying court ordered child support; it isn't like there is a huge segment of the female population living large off the baby daddy's $200 monthly cheque. This hatred towards mothers has a strong undercurrent of the hatred towards "welfare queens" by the american right wing to me.

Even if a man honourably pays the child support it is such a little amount (in Canada at least it is a federally regulated amount based on his income, rather than the child's needs) that a single mother needs a very well paying job herself just to keep her head above water with the double whammy of daycare costs and (usually) lower wages/less work flexibility due to her parental responsibilities. Knowledge of her precarious financial situation strongly affects the "choice" of a pregnant women in a non-supportive relationship. A woman considering continuing a pregnany makes her decision after weighing the physical risks to herself, restrictions on her career and travel, expenses during pregnancy for clothes and food, medical expenses, psychological effects, time commitments for pre-natal appointments, social standing among coworkers, family, friends and strangers as well as then considering the consequences choosing to keep the baby afterwards (all of above PLUS much higher financial/career and social implications).

I realise as a culture we are try to legalise and regulate everything but personal health cannot fit within that paradigm. My employer can not legally demand my body stop suffering from a GI illness because they would rather have a healthy worker, I can't legally compel my body to continue a wanted pregnancy even though something has gone wrong with the fetus. A sex partner should not legally force a woman to end a pregnancy when she is concerned about physical and psychological effects on herself. Rather than a choice to end the pregnancy he has the choice to not let the pregnancy happen (no sex or a vasectomy with frequent sperm count exams).

Life is messy and sometimes the consequences of our actions force us to deal with things we would rather not have to. Many consequences women face (lower wages, less job opportunities, physical danger, excessive societal pressure to look and act appropriately) are not the result of our personal actions but simply the fact that we are born female.
posted by saucysault at 5:57 AM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wait until it's viable and safe for the fetus to grow outside the womb and then the "it's a woman's body" argument will probably be shown the door. I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing, but I can see it happening somewhere down the line.

Yes, this is true. If a couple divorce when they have fertilized eggs in the fridge at the fertility clinic and one person wants to go ahead and have the eggs implanted while the other doesn't, then no, it should not happen. Consent of both, or no way.

This argument about the unfairness of one non-consenting person being forced into the burden of parenthood makes me throw up my hands. Yes, I totally agree with the unfairness. But I see no better options. Reproductive biology is a bitch and we've just had to try to cope with it in the best way we can. The general consensus is that women should have the right to decide on an abortion or not, and a child has a right to support from both biological parents, and we can't seem to come up with a way to fix the unfairness of one unwilling person being forced to shoulder the responsibilities of parenthood that doesn't breach one of these rights. If anyone can come up with a better solution I'm listening.

One interesting aspect of this is that it isn't only the woman who can force a man into parenthood. The decision to give a child up for adoption has to be mutual on the part of both biological parents, or it doesn't happen. There have been cases in which a father refuses to agree to an adoption and the mother is forced to keep the child. I know of one: a woman got pregnant accidentally. She could not bring herself to have an abortion, so she proceeded with the pregnancy. The father told her if she tried to give the baby for adoption, he would take the baby himself. The father is abusive, controlling, a rapist — a sociopath who really thinks he can do exactly what he wants and experiences no remorse afterwards. I don't say these things lightly. I know them to be fact. The mother knew he was not a fit person to have main custody of the baby. So, with him refusing to agree to adoption, she had two options: keep the baby herself, or let him have full custody of the baby. She opted for the former choice. And since the father has visiting rights and is indeed a very bad father, it's a disastrous situation.

Women really only have one extra choice that men do not, and that is the right to decide on an abortion or to carry the baby to term. Once the baby is out in the world, both parents have to agree to an adoption or it doesn't happen. The reality is though that it's usually the mother who refuses to give the baby up for adoption as she has a greater attachment to the child given, again, the realities of biology.

What I'd prefer to see in the option for a guy to give up his rights and responsibilities if another person (not necessarily male) choses to take said rights and responsibilities. It may be better for a child to have two parents rather than one.

I do agree with this — basically it would be a "unilateral adoption". But you know, basically we do have this option already. The custodial parent can choose not to make a claim for support from the other parent and recieve child support from whomever she or he wants. There are all kinds of informal arrangements made between parents every day. The civil court legal system really only exists for cases when people can't work our their own problems, and so they have this policy of forcing biological parents to take financial responsibility for their children.
posted by orange swan at 6:03 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Always, always, always, always, always, always, always wear a condom.

Always.

You want a baby? You sure? Are you sure you're sure?

No. You're not sure.

put on a condom.

There are way too many humans on this planet, and 50% of the humans born in the U.S. are unplanned. We're not talking about pregnancies. Births.

Alway wear a condom.

do it now.
yes. right now.

posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:15 AM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, the core difference in reproductive rights in the U.S. is that women have the right to choose motherhood but men do not have the right to choose fatherhood.

Any dilution of these two premises is a red-herring and so much fraudulent hand-waving.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 6:20 AM on August 3, 2008


The "misongyny accusations" in that thread--as I saw it--came from the idea that it was a double standard to tell a man being pressured by his hormonal-birth-control-using-girlfriend to not use the condom that he should just not use a condom (because it feels better for everyone) when--were the question reversed, everyone would be lecturing how women shouldn't be pressured over anything having to do with sex and contraception by their boyfriends.

Someone said something about it being an equal proposition. But it's not. A woman, balking at being asked by her vasectomy-having-boyfriend to forego the condoms is in the same position as the OP. Cause, you know, vasectomies fail. But the OP, whose partner is on hormonal birth control and whose partner wants to ditch the condoms in favor of better sensation, less interruptions to the whole sex act, and the visceral feeling of intimacy barred by latex (or latex-substitute) is simply not in the same position as a woman (who is not on hormonal birth control) getting pressured by a man (who has not had a vasectomy) to ditch the condoms.

I realize there are steps there--namely the vasectomy thing, but also stuff about being raised to believe sex and babies are your only power in a relationship--which were not articulated in a lot of the initial comments of "hey! what's with the woman are all trying to entrap us with babies! nonsense?". I certainly am guilty of skipping them. But the bottom line is if you got a man and woman, and he hasn't had a vasectomy and she's not on the shot or the pill or the patch, either of them is out of line for eschewing the condoms. But when she is on the hormonal birth control, it's not coercive for her to suggest not using condoms (and it's also not misandyronistic to suggest that he's being a little irrational or assuming she's trying to entrap him when he refuses).

in my opinion, if you've made it to your twenties, are monogamist and having the sex, but haven't discussed what you'd do in the event the birth control regime fails, you are doing it wrong and someone ought to take away your nookie privileges until you figure it out. Forewarned is, as they say, forearmed.

Anyway, he didn't seem to me to be asking whether he should or shouldn't give up the condoms, but was asking how to get past the OMG SEX = BABIES ALWAYS ALWAYS DON'T DO IT!!! sex education he received as an adolescent. One way to do that is to put a stop to the never-trust-a-woman-who-says-she's-on-birth-control nonsense.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:24 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


As it stands, men are fucked. Their sperm hits an egg, whether they want it to or not, and they are on the hook for 18 years. I find it mindboggling that anyone can see this as reasonable.

I'll take your anecdote and raise you one.

My father wanted children. My mother was on the fence. My mother became pregnant due to failure of birth control (not the pill). So, there she was. Pregnant and not sure if she wanted the child. Because my father wanted a child so badly, she went for it.

Around the time I was born, my father started going crazy. He also found Jesus. The combination of the two lead him to do things like not pay his car registration because Jesus told him that he (Jesus) would take care of it. After my birth, this got even crazier with my father refusing to take me to the hospital for pneumonia because Jesus would heal me. Needless to say, this didn't last long and my mother left him.

My father almost never paid child support. Ever. For a child that he wanted. For a child that he convinced my mother to have.

My mother, thankfully, is a loving and gracious mother and took to parenthood naturally and never looked back. However, this situation was hardly reasonable.

I know plenty of other people in my life whose fathers have pulled similar "hit and run" parenting strategies. And their mothers are always left trying to fix it.

I can not for a minute accept "wah wah wah, men are forced to be fathers" as reasonable. Men can, and sometimes do, choose to run away at any moment. It's not the responsible choice, but humans (as so often implied in this thread) sometimes do irresponsible things.

Also: I find the moral high-horse of someone lamenting the woes of men being fucked in terms of pregnancy to be a bit condescending coming from people (dnab & MPDSEA) who don't have sex with women. What are you guys so worried about? It's not going to happen to you! Just relax!

I personally don't have sex with women partly because I can't tolerate any risk of pregnancy.

Y'know, I was kidding about the full body condom, but you've just admitted to taking it one step further.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:29 AM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I hear an aspirin can be a 100% effective birth control option for a woman. She just has to hold firmly between her knees.
posted by orange swan at 6:50 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


When and why did this become a discussion about child support? See my original comment.

-I'm trying so very hard to show that most people here are not assuming that women rampantly go about forcing men to be fathers by tricking them into thinking they're on birth control. And here you are, assuming just that.


-Except I'm not. Or did "Yes, I am fully aware that such cases are not very common." confuse you somehow?


Great. So let's not talk about something that has little to do with the OP, the askme, or reality.

Also, the core difference in reproductive rights in the U.S. is that women have the right to choose motherhood but men do not have the right to choose fatherhood.

And women have the responsibility of carrying the child, and usually raising it, while men don't have to carry it, and have a much easier time getting out of raising it. And by the way, only one of these is strictly dictated by nature. Why is it a crime for a woman to dump her child in a trash can, while it's not a crime for the father who wasn't there? Some people treat a child like a hot potato. Sure, it's possible for the man to wind up holding it in the end, and left to care for it. But that's usually not the case.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:52 AM on August 3, 2008


Can we end this thread yet? It's been hijacked by the child support discussion. Yeah, some of those folks were there all along, but they were in the minority. Now we've all fallen to humoring the outright misogynists.

*Hugs*
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:57 AM on August 3, 2008


Since the man, understandably, has no say in the matter after the sex act is finished, I just think men should be encouraged to feel comfortable exercising the reproductive autonomy that they do have.

I couldn't agree more. That includes celibacy, condoms, mapping out other strategies with their partner, and so on.

I'll reiterate my suggestion which was: either or both parents may sign on for obligated support, but support may not be forced upon either.

That basically describes the "way it used to be." A decent guy (or one on whom community or familial pressure could be exerted) did the decent thing, which was support the child (either by marrying the mother, or just supporting it financially). A guy who using your terms "didn't want to have the support of the child forced upon him" simply didn't do it, and by and large it was unenforceable in the courts; even if there was a judgment he could just skip town and it was sayonara, baby.

We have societally moved away from that system because it left all the weight of the responsibility on the women, outlier cases aside. Insisting that fathers support their children (though hardly all do) has the unfortunate effect of being unfair in the outlier cases (like the stolen sperm and so on), but with the benefit of being much, much fairer in the more common situation.

But the financial obligation owed, when the other person has the choice to have this baby or not... Could this be any more plain? Are people being wilfully obtuse here?

No one is being obtuse. I understand your point completely — I just think you are being wrong to equate a man having the responsibility to support a child that might come out of a sex act he chooses to take part in as some sort of repression or unfairness. Yes, only the woman can chose to have an abortion — but would you really want that to be different? The decision to be willing to make child support payments for 18 years happens before you shove your dick in. "Having sex" is when you agree to be supportive if something goes wrong and your three simultaneous methods of birth control fail.

It's not afterward — you don't get to walk away then (obviously people do, but they aren't supposed to and sometimes they can be chased down and made to pay). That choice is part of the decision to have sex, just like when a woman chooses to have sex she is taking on the possibility that if a pregnancy results she will have to choose between an abortion and carrying the fetus to term, and then will have to negotiate child support and custody and all the other options (including adoption) with you.

Sex isn't just wiggling around and fluids — there are consequences and risks. Disease, shame, pregnancy. Insisting that men share some of the weight of one of those outcomes is not gender discrimination — it's just fairness. (Now, I'd be the first to agree that the way those laws are applied, particularly in edge cases, is often unfair, but that's a different argument from the basic one about having some responsibility if you go humping.)
posted by Forktine at 7:21 AM on August 3, 2008 [10 favorites]


The decision to be willing to make child support payments for 18 years happens before you shove your dick in.

Rather than a choice to end the pregnancy he has the choice to not let the pregnancy happen (no sex or a vasectomy with frequent sperm count exams).


So, like I said, if this argument is accepted, logically we don't really need legal abortions because the women should just not have sex (or get their tubes tied) if they don't want to get pregnant. Those sluts.

Is that where you want to go?

We have, quite rightly in my opinion, accepted the idea that having sex should not obligate the woman to be responsible for a child if she does not want to be a mother. Why should this idea not extend to a man who does not want to be a father?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:42 AM on August 3, 2008


Always, always, always, always, always, always, always wear a condom.

What makes going to take a leak awkward, no thanks.

Now we've all fallen to humoring the outright misogynists.

One of things that bothered me initially about this thread is the use of the term misogyny without naming, you know, names. It's like there's this secret army of misogynists lurking about somewhere, probably with the trickster girlfriend. Is these people are so horrible, call'em out.

I can not for a minute accept "wah wah wah, men are forced to be fathers" as reasonable.

Alrighty, then no complaining in the next boyzone thread when some guys are refusing to accept "wah wah wah that joke was misogynistic" as reasonable. It's your choice not to take seriously what someone considers important, but in doing so you limit communication.

I find the moral high-horse of someone lamenting the woes of men being fucked in terms of pregnancy to be a bit condescending coming from people (dnab & MPDSEA) who don't have sex with women. What are you guys so worried about? It's not going to happen to you! Just relax!

I agree, so next time I hear of a woman being raped, abused or otherwise unfairly treated, then I'll shut up, because hey, it's not going to happen to me, right?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:43 AM on August 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Holy crap. Watching y'all duke it out is fun and all, but this really needs to stop.

Can we just agree on a few simple premises?

1) Women on the pill DO get pregnant.
2) To suggest that a woman may occasionally forget her pill is NOT misogynist. People forget important shit all the time. Hell, I almost forgot to pay rent this month.
3) If a man wants to keep his jimmy hat on, that does not automatically mean that he doesn't trust his girlfriend.
4) People have different tolerances for risk, and thus are willing to accept different tradeoffs.

And, while the child support discussion may be a conversation worth having, there's no reason to have it here or now. I swear, you people. It's as if there's this undercurrent of wanting to argue about things like child support, and some of you are just waiting for a break in friendly civility to trot out their agendas. Last time I saw this much baggage, I was at Carousel 3 in LaGuardia. Personally, I sympathize with people on both sides of the argument, but that doesn't mean I'm going to beat you about the head and face with my viewpoint.

Now everybody, take a deep breath and repeat after me :

None of this matters.
Arguing about social issues on MeTa accomplishes nothing.
I am not going to convince anybody of anything. I am only going to make people angry and lose friends.
Instead of tearing others to shreds over social issues, I am going to go outside and do something nice for somebody.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:05 AM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also: I find the moral high-horse of someone lamenting the woes of men being fucked in terms of pregnancy to be a bit condescending coming from people (dnab & MPDSEA) who don't have sex with women. What are you guys so worried about? It's not going to happen to you! Just relax!

I don't think "lamenting the woes of men being fucked" is a fair summary of what I said. Instead, I said, "the man, understandably, has no say in the matter after the sex act is finished," and I've been arguing to DNAB that, even if he thinks this is a fundamental unfairness, there's no way to fix it.

This isn't "lamenting the woes." This is accepting that things are the way they are and dealing with it.

Personally, fathering a child would be catastrophic. I deal with my intolerance of that risk by not having sex with women at all, but I realize this isn't realistic for a lot of men. So I'm sympathetic to men who don't want to have a child, but still want to protect themselves as much as possible while still having sex with women.

Frankly, I think it's absurd and offensive that women would suggest that a man ever feel less than perfectly comfortable choosing to wear a condom. Pressuring people to give up their reproductive choices simply is not OK.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:17 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


To me the question simply represents a guy who's only sex info was from school hygiene class. We don't know if he's worried about birth control or STD's, or both. Take it to mean talking to your kids openly and honestly about sex and all the choices and responsibilities therein.

I had an unplanned pregnancy when I was a Freshman in college. I was using the diaphragm, because the pill seemed scary to me and my only info was from a secret visit to the planned parenthood clinic. Someone had told me the pill was too strong so I opted for the less-sure but seemingly safer diaphragm. Used it properly but it was not 100% effective. I was too young and naive to insist on my boyfriend using a condom. Had I had more knowledge, I would have taken the pill (which I did without fail after the baby, never missed a one until I was trying to get pregnant with my son where we both wanted a child) and would have insisted on condoms against STD's.

The attitude of the day was that guys could go around and have sex all they wanted, but not with "girls like me." That's so unrealistic, young people experiment with sex as a natural outcome of having hormones. So regardless of the support laws, etc., arm young people with knowledge and let them make their choices. Someone who is having frequent sex with a longterm partner should have already talked about what would happen if an unwanted pregnancy occurred. But the guy's parents probably didn't talk openly about sex so here he is at 30, not even knowing if it's safe to stop using a condom while his girlfriend is taking the pill. Then his question gets turned into a huge debate on pregnancy and child support laws. Sheesh.

(by the way I had the child, my boyfriend didn't want one, so I told him to eff off and later she was adopted by my son's father, I raised her without a dime from her biological father, so there all you trickster-girlfriend-self-righteous people, we're not all betraying gold digging tramps)
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:44 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


The only misogyny I found in that AskMe was the implication that there are many women out there who consciously or even subconsciously want a baby so bad that they'd deceive and betray their partner to do so.

I totally agree, and actually suspect this is what a some people were getting at when they said the idea of not "trusting" the woman to take birth control perfectly was misogynistic.

Taking birth control perfectly means never missing a day, or taking it off by a few hours, or taking it with certain kinds of medication that might mess it up, or even being perhaps overweight to the degree that it doesn't work so well. One or more of those things can happen to most women.

So, in my mind, when we know next to nothing about this women the logical thing to assume is that she is normal and takes pills like most women do. That is, not perfectly. That's being safe rather than sorry and I have no idea how that is misogynistic. I hope people don't have too many problems with the idea that the OP's gf is probably normal and behaves normally, and that we should therefore caution that pills have less than a 99% 'success' rate with normal (that is, not perfect) behavior.

However, I do think that implying that this woman is out to secretly get a baby from the OP is taking "safe rather than sorry" a step way too far. Because, unlike taking pills normally for the reasons listed above, that is not a thing that normal women do.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:05 AM on August 3, 2008


A) Men and women have equal rights up until the point of conception-- both have to accept that there is some risk of pregnancy every time they have sex and have the right to a variety of imperfect (birth control) and perfect (abstinence) ways to avoid pregnancy.

B) Women get some extra rights once pregnant because there are medical decisions to be made about their body-- there is no reasonable way to extend these choices to men without taking away the woman's right to choose the medical decisions she makes about her own body. Yes, in some sort of ideal world everyone would have rights here, but in the real world that doesn't work, and it's pretty obvious that if one person has the decision-making power, it should be the one whose body is intimately involved.

C) Then, after the child is born, the child also has the right to be supported by two parents, which means the parents also have equal responsibilities to financially support the child. If you don't like it, then push for government policies that prioritize child support as a collective societal responsibility rather than an individual responsibility. But that's not our society (in the U.S. where I'm from, or probably most of the other countries mefites are from; though I'd be interested in hearing about differences in countries that are less individualistic.) Our society puts responsibility for the well-being of children almost entirely on the child's parents. So that means that any system that's not terribly unfair to innocent children means that both their parents are required to support them.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 9:07 AM on August 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


Frankly, I think it's absurd and offensive that women would suggest that a man ever feel less than perfectly comfortable choosing to wear a condom. Pressuring people to give up their reproductive choices simply is not OK.

Quoted for truth. This is the real problem I had with some of the replies that seemed to think it silly that anyone would caution the OP to not stop wearing condoms if he wasn't comfortable doing so, regardless of what the girlfriend preferred.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:09 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, like I said, if this argument is accepted, logically we don't really need legal abortions because the women should just not have sex (or get their tubes tied) if they don't want to get pregnant. Those sluts.

Is that where you want to go?

We have, quite rightly in my opinion, accepted the idea that having sex should not obligate the woman to be responsible for a child if she does not want to be a mother. Why should this idea not extend to a man who does not want to be a father?


Huh-- what?

No one has the right to have sex free of obligation to be responsible for a child. Not women, not men. I don't see any way this can be defined as a basic right for anyone. Sex sometimes produces children, and if you were one of the people involved in having the sex that ends up producing a child, you're responsible financially for supporting that child.

But that is not what abortion is about. Abortion is not about a woman's right not to be a parent. Abortion is about a woman's right not to be pregnant, to control their own body and the medical decisions that affect their body.

No one has any extra rights or responsibilities here. It just feels like it if you're reasoning quickly or sloppily. Women have the right not to be pregnant (which is irrelevant to men), and to not undergo forced medical procedures such as abortions (men also have this right.) Neither men nor women have the right not to be a parent, and both have the responsibility to support their child. It just so happens that as a necessary and unavoidable side effect of allowing women to exercise their right not to be pregnant (via abortion), women can also choose not to be a parent by that same method. But it doesn't follow that we should undermine everyone else's basic rights (the woman's right to choose what happens with her body, the child's right to support) because men are jealous of this side effect (choosing whether to be a parent) that the woman gets from exercising her basic right (choosing whether or not to be pregnant.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 9:27 AM on August 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


Since the man, understandably, has no say in the matter after the sex act is finished, I just think men should be encouraged to feel comfortable exercising the reproductive autonomy that they do have.

Absolutely.

Forktine has it.

One of the most interesting things about this thread is seeing that there is at least some sense among men that the decision whether to have sex or not shouldn't be yoked to the risk of having a child. But the flat reality is that it IS. As others have said, until we incubate babies in labs, the reproductive decisions available to men end with the choice to have sex, because that is the last time they have any physical involvement in the question.


So, like I said, if this argument is accepted, logically we don't really need legal abortions because the women should just not have sex (or get their tubes tied) if they don't want to get pregnant. Those sluts.

Is that where you want to go?


You're the one heightening the language - no one else has called anyone a slut or suggested that people are sluts for wanting to have sex. But there's no logical need for us to go there. The reality is that win many countries today women do have legal (though restricted) abortion, so when women choose to engage in sex, they know that there is at least one choice they can still make if all protections fail. The decision to have sex for women may be, therefore, slightly (only slightly) less weighty. Most people don't want to exercise that last available choice, but it makes a bit of a difference to know that there is one more method of preventing birth should conception occur. It may not be fair, but that's a biological unfairness, not a legal one. If it were men that carried fetuses, they would certainly also be interested in finding safe ways to end pregnancies.

That should certainly give men pause. I wonder why it is that many men seem to think that they should have another choice after choosing to have sex? Why has it not been communicated to men that the choice to have sex is a choice to take on the risk of an unplanned pregnancy? There's a chorus of "but that's not fair" -- who said it would be fair? Did someone do you the disservice of suggesting to you that you could always have sex in the complete confidence that it was totally recreational in nature and that you would never be faced with the potential consequence of fatherhood? (Was it our entire culture?)

That message is just false. The choice to have sex is an adult choice about accepting a set of risks - physical, financial, emotional. If there are any of these potential outcomes that a man simply can't live with, then he should definitely not have sex with women. Similarly, there are women who know that an abortion is possible but would never choose to have one on moral grounds. They have to adopt the same approach: don't accept the risk. Don't have sex. Or accept the risk, have sex, and be ready to carry to term.
posted by Miko at 9:31 AM on August 3, 2008 [15 favorites]


This fairness thing is so strange. It's not fair that the physical and health risks of pregnancy (and abortion) fall *entirely* on women. We could use the law to partly make up for that - say, extra taxes on men (maybe only men who've impregnated women) to support extra health care for women; have the father be half responsible for any of the costs related to pregnancy and abortion (including disability, lost work, lost capacity, etc); You still couldn't really equalize it because even if the man is sharing the costs, she's still the one living in the body.

If we're going to use the law to protect people against the inequitable consequences of biological division labor, it has to apply BOTH to men and women.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:59 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Explain to me why a man who has taken on good faith that the woman he is with is using birth control should be forced to pay child support?

Because there is a child, and children have a claim of support from their fathers.

And only one person in the situation has any choice in the matter. This is fair because..?

This is fair because biology allows women to have this choice as an incidental side-effect of simply controlling their own bodies. This is not the case for men, who can continue to exercise sole control over their own bodies even when someone is carrying their child.

This will become interesting when technology allows embryos to be safely excised and brought to term externally or in technologically-assisted men, and at that point we will see women being "forced" to care for children that they did not bear and that they don't want. We are not there yet.

His father was forced to raise a child to which he had not only not consented, but had clearly indicated that he would never consent. I'm trying to understand why he should have been forced to do so.

Because there was an indisputable child that actually existed and that was verifiably his offspring, and because children have a claim of support from both their parents. Including their fathers. Irrespective of how their fathers feel about them.

About the only point I can see where current law gets it wrong is with men who can demonstrate that they're not the father after all. In such cases, the actual father should be required to take over future child support payments and should owe compensation to the previously-assumed father.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:03 AM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I never thought I'd side with the other guys on this one, mathowie! I think your confusion over people considering the worst case scenario would make sense if we were talking about, you know, buying an appliance or going on a road trip. But with sex and pregnancy issues, I dunno, I'm one of those people who wants to know the statistics, who are wary because of past experiences I and others I know have had, etc etc. It's just NOT something to take lightly at all--reproduction is arguably one of the most important decisions of one's life. So it's no wonder people want to be in as much control as possible when it comes to the issue. And your hypothetical is definitely common and possible--a couple well off enough in all aspects that if they had a child accidentally it'd be fine and turn out for the best eventually--but equally so is the kind of situation people I know are in--just the pregnancy itself, plus having a child unexpectedly now would ruin so many parts of their lives, and wouldn't be doing the kid any favors either. I know that isn't the nicest sounding thing to say, but for a lot of people it's true, men and women. So I dunno, this is one issue where I think regardless of sex it's definitely a-ok to consider every single outcome in great detail. (Shrug)

And I always considered myself one of the sadly silent but occasionally pissed off feminists in Mefi, cheering the more vocal ladies on, but I gotta say I'm baffled by people acting like it's misogynistic for guys here to pipe up and reassert that condom usage is one of the only practical, concrete ways a sexually active man can do something he can clearly see, choose, and control re: his reproductive future. People are acting like this is over the top and pessimistic and implies a fucked up suspicion of women and I don't get it. I think there really might be a bizarre double standard here. And yes, I completely comprehend the uneven burden of pregnancy that Miko so articulately pointed out (and how!--more people need to realize). But that doesn't mean a guy should just sit back and give up all agency in the parts of reproductive protection he can control (i.e., condoms), and if he doesn't just accept this passive fate he's some kind of woman-hating jerk. I am completely confused by this reading.

(Too many italics! Just so much emphasis, I guess because I'm so surprised.)
posted by ifjuly at 10:10 AM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm with MPDSEA all the way on this one (and that is not something I say often). If a man does not feel comfortable having sex without wearing a condom, pressuring him to stop wearing it is no different than a guy pressuring a woman to have sex without protection beacuse of course the dude promises to pull out before he ejaculates. Promise. Swear to god. You can trust me, baby.
posted by Justinian at 10:13 AM on August 3, 2008


It's moot at this point.

If anonymous is over here reading this, there's no way he could still be in the mood to have sex with his girlfriend.
posted by desuetude at 10:17 AM on August 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I definitely think there's a double standard here.

Suppose that a woman posted "My BF wants to stop wearing condoms. He says it's okay because I'm on the pill, but I'm not sure what to do." I can't imagine that there would be many responses accusing her of being some kind of paranoid nitwit. And if there were, I'm sure they'd be buried under an avalanche of well-favorited, sharply-worded counter-responses.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:24 AM on August 3, 2008


So if dad says he had a vasectomy and didn't? Mom is still on the hook to pay for the child who results.

This is false. She may abort the pregnancy or give the child up for adoption. This theme of "both parents owe the child" comes up a lot, and legally it's flat out false. The mother gets to legally walk away from any obligation to the child via adoption, while the father is completely subject to the mother's whim. Somehow a few people manage to see that as unjust to men.

Because the idea of forcing someone to have an invasive medical procedure is grotesque, and there's no other way to "decide whether that child is born" once it's conceived.

No, not if you're referring to mechanically invasive procedures. RU-486 is legal in all US states for abortions in the first two months, which is of course quite a bit after conception.

Why do men get so outraged over paying child support?

For those men that are outraged, I'd guess it's the injustice of the woman having multiple opportunities after conception to avoid legal responsibility for a child but the man having none. Fundamental inequities in law do tend to generate outrage.

My personal experience and all statistics I have ever read point out that most men are not-paying/underpaying court ordered child support

Uh, no. Check your stats. BTW, one thing you'll find is that men are more likely to comply with orders to pay child support than women.

so they have this policy of forcing biological parents to take financial responsibility for their children.

Still false. Women get to legally walk away.

Pressuring people to give up their reproductive choices simply is not OK.

Exactly.
posted by NortonDC at 10:29 AM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I want to get angry at the extremely small percentage of women who immorally abuse reproductive laws to use men in some way... But, right now, it just seems like there are bigger fish to fry. More important issues, worthy of our anger and action.

Like, say, the proposal to define most forms of contraception as abortions.

I think, at least, we can all agree that this is bad for everyone's reproductive rights in the US.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:40 AM on August 3, 2008


I just wanted to say that it's wrong for obese Palestinian women to pressure their Israeli boyfriends to stop using condoms. What would happen if they got pregnant? Would they get the kid circumsized?

Man, that kid would have a tough time growing up. They'd probably have to start taking antidepressants at an early age.

Not like I expect any of you to understand, since it's such always such a freakin' boyzone in here.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:52 AM on August 3, 2008


Pressuring people to give up their reproductive choices simply is not OK.

I agree with you on that completely.

I apologize if I commented too quickly before in the heat of the moment when all of my thoughts regarding men and fatherhood were swirling in my head. Clearly, from the story I shared before, it's a heated issue for me. So, sorry everybody for foisting my mental vomit upon MeTa unnecessarily.

What does bug me here:
1) It bothers me that the discussion about men's reproductive rights seems centered on a fear of women and pregnancy. I think that it's totally reasonable for a man to insist on wearing a condom if he doesn't trust the odds that the pill offers. I'll quote my advice in the original thread to back this up:


My recommendation, which I'm surprised to see hasn't been mentioned already, would be to try it once. (After you've both had STD testing, of course.)

If you're really, really worried about a possible pregnancy, try it in the day or two before she gets her period (since she's on the pill, you have a pretty good idea of when this would be) when she's least likely to be fertile.

If you feel uncomfortable and freak out that the pill isn't reliable enough as a form of birth control - go back to using condoms. Easy as that.
I am not advocating for anyone to give up their rights. What I am advocating for is trust, not fear. I would like to assume that the poster is in a trusting relationship. And I would like to assume that in relationships where sex is involved, discussion of a possible pregnancy is also involved. And what bothers me is that people in this discussion are so heavily weighing down on the fear side of "what IF she DOES get pregnant oh noes!" that there's no trust for the woman in the situation. Granted this is an anonymous question based on the user's self-admitted paranoia, but if they as a couple are having this dialogue about birth control in the first place, it seems reasonable to me to assume that he trusts her and her ability to decide for herself what's an acceptable risk.

And yes, the question becomes what's acceptable to him. And that is something only he can decide. And yes, he should have all of the information about the risks involved.

What bothers me is that this information has been given out with a lot of stress on the worst-case scenarios. And from those worst-case scenarios, there's been a lot of extrapolation on the reproductive rights of men on the whole.

I will agree that wearing a condom is a man's fundamental right that only he should decide. I'm not arguing that at all.

What disturbs me is the fear that women, in general, do not respect this and will subvert the man if at all possible. Pregnancy is a big deal, but to say that men should have an equal say in whether or not it's carried to term isn't fair at all because they are not the ones carrying it. And this is where the discussion runs downhill to the child-support issue, but the bottom line is that HE is never going to be pregnant and men who choose not to have sex with women are never going to personally have to deal with a pregnancy and so the people who are the most heated about the issue of an unwanted pregnancy are the ones who will never personally be pregnant.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:23 AM on August 3, 2008


Not like I expect any of you to understand, since it's such always such a freakin' boyzone in here.

It's not generally, but comments like this make it moreso.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:25 AM on August 3, 2008


And that last paragraph didn't make as much sense as it did in my head, but the jist of what bugs me so much about this is the implication that women are trying to TAKE the control away from him in a situatoin where he biologically couldn't have control in the first place. No one is trying to take anything! It's just how life is! Women get pregnant. Men don't. Tough choices have to be made and the one with the uterus is the one with the veto power. It's not because we as women chose this, it's because it's how we were set up, biologically. No one is trying to take anyone's rights away, there are just some rights that men don't have. Period. And it's not because of any inequality of the system or any maliciousness on anyone's part. It's because they don't have anywhere to gestate a fetus.

And now I'm reminded of the part of Life of Brian where Stan wants to become Loretta because he wants to have babies and someone asks him "Well, where's the fetus going to gestate? In a cardboard box?"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:28 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


. I think there really might be a bizarre double standard here.

There may indeed have been some comments in the thread that indicated a double standard - I haven't seen deleted or more recent ones. But I see no reason why both these statements can't be simultaneously true:

A: When choosing to be sexually active, men and women should be take all the precautions they feel necessary to prevent pregnancy, because there is always a risk of a pregnancy occurring; and

B: It can be misogynistic to suggest that a women or women are decieiving their sex partners about birth control, especially in the absence of evidence.

Both can be true and apply equally to both sexes, so there isn't necessarily a double standard being imposed.

Nor is there a necessary linkage between the two statements. If someone explicitly links them ("definitely he should use condoms because his girlfriend is probably lying to him; women often lie about birth control"), I can see why that can be considered a categorical slight against women.
posted by Miko at 11:28 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


By the way, the increasingly small number of posters in this thread is at least partially the result of males who have simply become disgusted and are walking away rather than deal with the sort of self justifying sexism being displayed by grapefruitmoon and Miko.

Enjoy your little coffee klatsch, girls.
posted by tkolar at 11:38 AM on August 3, 2008


Afroblanco: Not like I expect any of you to understand, since it's such always such a freakin' boyzone in here.

Jessamyn: It's not generally, but comments like this make it moreso.


Uh, Jessamyn, that whole comment was obviously tongue-in-cheek.
posted by orange swan at 11:40 AM on August 3, 2008


Why is it misogyny to say that some people (who happen to be women) do bad things? And that this guy's girlfriend *could* be one of those people who do bad things?

I personally saw more anti-man stuff in that thread, and this. A lot of "lots of men abandon their children, therefore you should do whatever the woman wants or get out of the relationship" kind of false logic. Or comments like "cry me a river" in reference to men's reproductive rights.
posted by gjc at 11:46 AM on August 3, 2008


so they have this policy of forcing biological parents to take financial responsibility for their children.

Still false. Women get to legally walk away.


No, your comment is false. Women do not get to unilaterally absolve themselves of the responsibilities of parenthood. BOTH bio parents have to agree to give up the child for adoption or it won't happen. If the man says, "I don't want to give up the baby for adoption, I want to keep it," he can do so, and the mother will have to pay child support if he takes her to court over support issues.
posted by orange swan at 11:46 AM on August 3, 2008


self justifying sexism being displayed by grapefruitmoon and Miko.

I'm honestly having a really hard time seeing this. No one has pointed out anything I've said that's sexist. I didn't even comment on the original thread; I agree the OP should wear a condom if he feels it's a better and more responsible choice. Would you like to point out what I've said that's sexist? I try very hard not to be sexist.

When people stop posting in a thread, there are a variety of reasons (some people just get bored, some decide maybe they're not so sure about their original argument, some get fed up and frustrated, and some, like me very soon, have appointments or plans that interrupt hanging out online). Incidentally, walking away from threads is sometimes a good choice when you're either fed up or unsatisified or need to think some more or have reached a dead end. It's a choice that many female MeFites are accustomed to exercising, as well.
posted by Miko at 11:48 AM on August 3, 2008


Also: I find the moral high-horse of someone lamenting the woes of men being fucked in terms of pregnancy to be a bit condescending coming from people (dnab & MPDSEA) who don't have sex with women. What are you guys so worried about? It's not going to happen to you! Just relax!

Which is why I said "And, I hasten to point out before someone else does, I know that this is an academic question for me. I'm not particularly likely to ever get a woman pregnant, so the issue cannot have the same resonance for me that it does for people who engage in heterosexual sex. My question here is about people who can be forced into spending 20-25% of their lives paying for a situation to which they have not given consent."

Condescension doesn't even enter into it.

Now we've all fallen to humoring the outright misogynists.

I beg your fucking pardon?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:49 AM on August 3, 2008


Why is it misogyny to say that some people (who happen to be women) do bad things?

It's not if you're talking about some specific people or a specific person. It is if you're suggesting that it's something a class of of people do, that it's a characteristic of the entire class.
posted by Miko at 11:50 AM on August 3, 2008


I hear an aspirin can be a 100% effective birth control option for a woman. She just has to hold firmly between her knees.

Side effects include walking like a penguin.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:55 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


...Another good time to leave a thread is when the goodwill is gone. In this case, I'm not sure there was ever enough goodwill present to have a meaningful conversation. This seems to have tapped into general feelings about reproductive and family rights that were not a specific response to the thread.

The main point I wanted to make was that the decision to have sex isn't risk-free for either gender, and that a body of law exists for the protection of the person physically involved in gestation that doesn't exist for the person who isn't involved in gestation, which seems reasonable and necessary until such time as technology may change that distribution of labor.

I'm not sure this was a good callout, because I agree with those who say that the question really is about the potential consequences of birth control decisions, so it was always appropriate to talk about those consequences.
posted by Miko at 12:02 PM on August 3, 2008


males who have simply become disgusted and are walking away rather than deal with the sort of self justifying sexism being displayed by grapefruitmoon and Miko.

Hey! Your turn as spokesman has ended, after that shitty beer you bought.

Uh, Jessamyn, that whole comment was obviously tongue-in-cheek.

Don't believe her, she's a puppet of the Trickster Girlfriend!

It bothers me that the discussion about men's reproductive rights seems centered on a fear of women and pregnancy.

Having a child is a decades long commitment of emotional, mental and financial resources. As such it's perfectly natural to fear it, be it happening via accident or on purpose, particularly if it's something you know you don't want.

I would like to assume that the poster is in a trusting relationship.

Trust is one thing, but there's nothing quite like that cold moment of fear when your GF mutters "Damn, I forgot to take my birth control again." Yeah, nothing will probably happen, it's a completely innocent mistake, but still, a guy's gotta wonder "wtf?!"

Yeah, yeah, if a guy is so worried about it, don't have sex. I doubt many women would go for that.


Pregnancy is a big deal, but to say that men should have an equal say in whether or not it's carried to term isn't fair at all because they are not the ones carrying it.

I think people are arguing whether the man should be responsible if the man should be responsible for the baby (be it financially or emotionally) if he doesn't want it and she does, therefore carrying it to term.

And this is where the discussion runs downhill to the child-support issue, but the bottom line is that HE is never going to be pregnant and men who choose not to have sex with women are never going to personally have to deal with a pregnancy and so the people who are the most heated about the issue of an unwanted pregnancy are the ones who will never personally be pregnant.

You keep bringing up the "you're not personally involved in this, so why are you talking about it" argument and that view really isn't healthy for society. We should be caring about things that don't personally effect, that's the definition of a good society, IMO.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:02 PM on August 3, 2008


Yeah, yeah, if a guy is so worried about it, don't have sex. I doubt many women would go for that.

Yeah, but many women actually do go for it, and perhaps a majority went for it before Roe v. Wade. It's completely reasonable and I wouldn't advise my daughters or sons in any other way. It's something I always knew and, as an adolescent female, I heard it a lot from my mom, my friends, older girls, and so on. It was always clear that having sex had potential consequences and I needed a plan for those. I'm wondering now if men heard it a lot less. Want to have sex? Great, but there is a lot you need to know and a lot to be ready for in case the undesirable happens. It's just reality that pregnancy can happen, and it's really a wrong to people to suggest it's any other way.
posted by Miko at 12:07 PM on August 3, 2008


Did you hear about the guy who tried to go on the pill for men but his pharmacist screwed up so he was actually on Valium instead?

Now he has twenty kids, but he doesn't care.
posted by orange swan at 12:09 PM on August 3, 2008


It's completely reasonable and I wouldn't advise my daughters or sons in any other way.

Calrification: it's completely reasonable to say that, and I wouldn't advise my daughters or sons to have sex without thinking that decision through its possible consequences. I think you can think it through and still decide to have sex, but be prepared for the potential results. Risk management is the mindset to approach it with. If you're terrified of being in a car accident, the only way to prevent that is not to ride in cars. If you can accept the risk of accident, you learn how to manage it, knowing that one day you might be in an accident, but taking precautions: learning how to drive properly, getting a license, driving safely, wearing a seatbelt, not driving impaired, etc. None of that will prevent an accident 100% of the time. You might still get into an accident, though chances are very small. So then you should have insurance, to pay for the damage an accident might cause, and health insurance, in case you're injured, and a will, in case you don't pull through, and kids in a car seat so they don't get hurt, and all that. We think all that is reasonable, though we don' think about it every time we get into the car. I see sex in a similar way: the unwanted consequence might occur, so it's important to be ready for those eventualities before you agree to engage in it. You can still engage in it, but you're agreeing to accept the risks.
posted by Miko at 12:24 PM on August 3, 2008


Yeah, but many women actually do go for it, and perhaps a majority went for it before Roe v. Wade.

I'm not trying to argumentative, but I am curious about that statement, since it runs counter to my life experiences. Do you have a cite for it, maybe?

Because most women I've known (no, not just in the biblical sense) can quite reckless and foolhardy when it comes to sex.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:25 PM on August 3, 2008


Afroblanco: Not like I expect any of you to understand, since it's such always such a freakin' boyzone in here.

Jessamyn: It's not generally, but comments like this make it moreso.

Orang Swan : Uh, Jessamyn, that whole comment was obviously tongue-in-cheek.


Yeah, I thought it was pretty obvious that I was messing around. Basically tying together lots of things that people like to argue about on MeTa.

But I guess horsing around is completely inappropriate in a Really Serious Discussion like this.

So please, ignore my attempts at humor, and let's continue with the regularly scheduled program, Feminist Blowhards vs. Psychologically Unhinged Males Part XXXIX : Who Will Keep Posting The Longest.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:28 PM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ah, damn preview, you Trickster Feature!

You can still engage in it, but you're agreeing to accept the risks.

I honestly don't think that people who take birth control are really thinking about the risk of getting pregnant per se. Yeah, maybe they should, but I just don't think they do. It's probably more along the lines of "I don't want to get pregnant/her to get pregnant, so let's get birth control. Woo hoo, now let's party!"

Who Will Keep Posting The Longest

Heh. you said longest. Heh.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:34 PM on August 3, 2008


Yeah, I thought it was pretty obvious that I was messing around

It was totally clear you were messing around to me, I'm pretty familiar with your contributions here generally. Yet, my comment still stands. Making dismissive jokey comments about touchy subjects other people are discussing in earnest is something that is one of the many hallmarks of the sort of boyzone behavior people complain about here. I have no interest in a discussion of boyzoneish stuff here at the moment, but I certainly did get your joke.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:36 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


>>>so they have this policy of forcing biological parents to take financial responsibility for
>>>their children.
>>
>>Still false. Women get to legally walk away.
>
>No, your comment is false. Women do not get to unilaterally absolve themselves of the
>responsibilities of parenthood. BOTH bio parents have to agree to give up the child for
>adoption or it won't happen. If the man says, "I don't want to give up the baby for adoption,
>I want to keep it," he can do so, and the mother will have to pay child support if he takes
>her to court over support issues.

I did some checking and it does look like my statement was wrong, and it looks like yours is also wrong, at least as far as I can tell. I haven't found any evidence of mothers being forced to pay child support in a case where they tried put the child up for adoption and the fathers refused to consent. Please share examples if you have any. I'm genuinely curious.
posted by NortonDC at 12:36 PM on August 3, 2008


let's continue with the regularly scheduled program, Feminist Blowhards vs. Psychologically Unhinged Males Part XXXIX : Who Will Keep Posting The Longest.

My friend, you should know that the winner of that contest will always be the Cranky Old Drunks. To everyone else, I say: quit arguing about sex, go out and have some and STFU. Thank you.
posted by jonmc at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2008


"By the way, the increasingly small number of posters in this thread is at least partially the result of males who have simply become disgusted and are walking away rather than deal with the sort of self justifying sexism being displayed by grapefruitmoon and Miko.

Enjoy your little coffee klatsch, girls.
"

Tha fuck?

And, after reading through this thread, I'm dismayed at the strain of "Why can't I say 'nigger?'" reasoning. The recurrent attempt to show that because you cannot swap "men" for "women" and still have the same social response regarding sexual harassment or reproductive rights or legal choices and responsibilities, something is "unfair." That would be true if men=women, but they don't. If they did, there'd be no reason for the debate at all. This is not an injury done to men (though I might snidely respond that the lack of legal coercive power regarding a partner's reproductive choice is why we get to be paid more per hour) any more than having a uterus is an injury to women. Likewise, Matteo's farcical sexual harassment fable from above.

Finally, this all reminds me of sitting at a campfire at a family reunion, alone with my uncle. He started giving me advice for living my life, like "It's easy to like a factory job, but it's easy to get to hate it too," and then "Women are always trying to steal your seed. They'll catch ya, steal it, and then you're tied to them."

Later, when putting together the chronology of his meth addiction, I realized he was probably tweaking out his mind.
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


Making dismissive jokey comments about touchy subjects other people are discussing in earnest is something that is one of the many hallmarks of the sort of boyzone behavior people complain about here.

This is interesting to me. I don't agree that dismissiveness in by definition a male attribute. I'd say that there's defitely a wow-you-take-everything-really-serious-don't-you-mister-earnest contingent here that definitely is opposed to the everything-I-do-is-so-very-important-so-how-dare-you-joke-about-it contingent, but I'd hesitate to say that the line between the two is drawn based on gender.
posted by jonmc at 12:45 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Making dismissive jokey comments about touchy subjects other people are discussing in earnest is something that is one of the many hallmarks of the sort of boyzone behavior people complain about here.

There's nothing specifically male or sexist about the behavior that you're describing.

And I think that making dismissive jokey comments about touchy subjects that people are discussing in earnest is EXACTLY what these discussions need.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:45 PM on August 3, 2008


Besides, people use all kinds of rhetorical devices in discussions like this. Humor should not be taken off the table.

I mean, christ, people say the meanest things to each other in MeTa. And *my* little jokes are the problem?

yeeesh.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:49 PM on August 3, 2008


Well, it's a difference in worldview rather than gender, I think. It's 'we're all shit and we're all going to die meaninglessly, so taking yourself seriously is really kind of stupid,' versus 'I can save the world simply by being swell, because, doggone it my swellness matters Oh so Much!' going on.

My posting history makes it pretty clear what side of the fence I'm on.
posted by jonmc at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


Uh, dudes, the "boyzone" comes from women's complaints historically being dismissed as frivolous. So, there's a bit more context than just LOLZ v. BORES.
posted by klangklangston at 12:54 PM on August 3, 2008


Yeah, I thought it was pretty obvious that I was messing around.

It seemed like your post was an accurate representation of the fact that there have to be at least 10 super-charged debates going on all at once in this thread and not that many people trying to sort out one from the other.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:54 PM on August 3, 2008


Uh, dudes, the "boyzone" comes from women's complaints historically being dismissed as frivolous.

I don't know that the line is that strictly drawn, based on what I've seen in threads, email conversations and IRL. It's not even LOLZ vs. BORES, so much as nihilism vs. narcissism.
posted by jonmc at 12:57 PM on August 3, 2008


I'm not trying to argumentative, but I am curious about that statement, since it runs counter to my life experiences. Do you have a cite for it, maybe?

No cite, just my life. I said "perhaps" because there's no easy way to reconstruct sexual behavior before Roe v. Wade: I know people had unprotected sex, but I also know from talking to older women that a lot of women just lived in mortal fear of pregnancy (and of the consequences of being socially branded for having sex) and were celibate before marriage for that reason only. Today, there are many women who still choose celibacy outside of marriage - sometimes it's related to religious belief, but there's also the obvious advantage of totally avoiding pregnancy risk. And there are still many more women who recognize the risks of accept but accept them and use risk management. I am one of those women - I have sex, but use birth control which I carefully chose, have a prescription for Plan B at the ready, know where I could obtain an abortion and how much it would cost, have a regular GYN, and also have a willingness to discuss the possibility of carrying a child and becoming a parent at this point - something that wasn't true not that long ago. In other words, I've thought it through - partly because I was told to while growing up in no uncertain terms, and partly because part of being an adult is taking responsibility for your decisions, sexual and otherwise.

Because most women I've known (no, not just in the biblical sense) can quite reckless and foolhardy when it comes to sex.

Well, I know there are a lot of women who haven't had the benefit of sex education and clear messages about sex and relationships and reproduction. And that sucks. Similarly, clearly, there are a lot of men who don't think it through either. And that sucks. But it doesn't really change the endgame, does it? Whose responsibility is it to decide whether to take the risk of sex? Who decides whether to sleep with reckless, foolhardly partners? I understand that the reality is that many people fit that mold. But in my life experience, it's not the standard. The standard is more like teenage years spent in mortal fear of pregnancy, with its scare element gradually declining as maturity and security in adult life rise, with management and information-seeking all the way through.

Again, I wonder why this is like news from overseas for some folks. If you haven't done this, I'd suggest asking women about how they decided to be sexually active and how they feel about potential pregnancies. Not just your partners; your friends, people here maybe, your sisters and mothers. When they first had sex, were they afraid of pregnancy? What did they know about it? How did they manage that? What would they have done if they got pregnant? What have they done when they got pregnant? I think some of the men who've been talking here might be surprised to find out that the sort of thought process about risk I outlined above is not at all unfamiliar to the women in their lives.

Most of the women I know spend a fair amount of time talking about stuff like this with one another, at least while growing up.
posted by Miko at 12:57 PM on August 3, 2008


Well, how about this - not every goddamn discussion has to be dragged down in the muck of peoples' weird gender issues.

For example, this whole thing started off with a pretty straightforward argument about condom use. That was fine, for the most part. But then it became a discussion about child support, and the usual ridiculous circus ensued.

And I'm not saying that the system is broken or anything - the mods rarely close threads unless they turn into TOTAL trainwrecks, so there's no reason not to let this thread run its ugly course.

But all the same, I think it's hilarious how people are acting, and I think that if they took a step back, they might feel the same way, too.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:57 PM on August 3, 2008


Well, how about this - not every goddamn discussion has to be dragged down in the muck of peoples' weird gender issues.

'TO DREAM...THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM...'
posted by jonmc at 1:00 PM on August 3, 2008


I haven't found any evidence of mothers being forced to pay child support in a case where they tried put the child up for adoption and the fathers refused to consent.

I don't know of any (haven't looked for that matter) but I don't see why I need any to prove my point. Child support laws work both ways. If you can find child support legislation from any jurisdiction in North America which specifically absolves a biological mother from paying child support to a biological father under any circumstances, I'd like to see it.
posted by orange swan at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2008


not every goddamn discussion has to be dragged down in the muck of peoples' weird gender issues.

And not everybody has to participate in every discussion. If you aren't getting anything out of it, you could opt out, but I agree that just chiming in for laugh lines doesn't do much to improve the tone.
posted by Miko at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2008


That should have read "which specifically absolves a biological mother from paying child support to a biological custodial father under any circumstances".
posted by orange swan at 1:04 PM on August 3, 2008


just chiming in for laugh lines doesn't do much to improve the tone

I think this is where all the head butting on this site is going to happen (regardless of the issue involved). The antangonists might actually respect or like eachother but here's where the twain shall never meet. It's the 'deathly serious' vs. 'nothing matters and what if it did.' I maintain that that's the deeper underpinnig of just about every mefi conflict, even though nobody really wants to admit it.
posted by jonmc at 1:07 PM on August 3, 2008


just chiming in for laugh lines doesn't do much to improve the tone.

And they said that feminists were humorless. Hah!
posted by Afroblanco at 1:08 PM on August 3, 2008


nobody really wants to admit it.

I don't believe what you believe, so I won't admit what you want to admit.

And they said that feminists were humorless. Hah!

I'm not, but I have a feeling my polished array of man jokes wouldn't go over so well right now.
posted by Miko at 1:09 PM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


> It's true that the consequences are five steps down a bad path, but his decision whether to wear a condom is
> really the only way he can make a choice about those consequences. Whether he wears a condom or not,
> everything that happens after is out of his hands.

Mr. Steve, it's been a long time since I took sex ed, and my youngest is 18 now and it's getting kind of vague in my mind exactly what we did back then that got her launched, but with all due respect I would swear I remember a different sort of decision, even prior to the condom-yes condom-no question, that could have affected the offspring-yes offspring-no outcome pretty strongly.
posted by jfuller at 1:09 PM on August 3, 2008


I'm not, but I have a feeling my polished array of man jokes wouldn't go over so well right now.

And the worst part is that I couldn't even counter it with any woman jokes because .... I don't actually know any.

(feeling oddly deficient)
posted by Afroblanco at 1:13 PM on August 3, 2008


nobody really wants to admit it.

I don't believe what you believe, so I won't admit what you want to admit.


I'm not sayin that there aren't legitanite gender issues, merely that once arguments reach a certain point they become either a)pissing contests or b)arguments between points of view that will never meet ie: nihilism vs. utopiansm. This is hardly an incediary proposition.

I have a feeling my polished array of man jokes wouldn't go over so well right now.

Go crazy. as long as their funny.
posted by jonmc at 1:19 PM on August 3, 2008


And the worst part is that I couldn't even counter it with any woman jokes because .... I don't actually know any.

dude, don't shit a shitter. You have plenty, you just won't say them publicly.
posted by jonmc at 1:19 PM on August 3, 2008


Well, the thing is, I don't really take the time to memorize jokes anymore. I mean, I think I probably knew a bunch of blonde jokes back when I was in middle school, even though I probably only understood about half of them.

But my sense of humor now is more ranty and observational, and.... hell, what am I doing explaining this to you? You know what I'm like.

:)
posted by Afroblanco at 1:23 PM on August 3, 2008


I'd suggest asking women about how they decided to be sexually active and how they feel about potential pregnancies.

Heh, we must have moved in different circles then. That level of thought you're talking about didn't really come about until later from most of the people I talked to, say after a pregnancy scare. Mostly it was about "I want and I can, so I will!" Birth control was seen a get of jail card, so to speak. and I grew up in mixed race and religion suburbs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:30 PM on August 3, 2008


-Now we've all fallen to humoring the outright misogynists.

-I beg your fucking pardon?


After I left, I reconsidered that comment. It's harsh indeed. Because some of your comments display deeply misogynist views does not make you a misogynist in general. I apologize.

My point is that a lot of the genuinely misogynistic stuff that has been said in this thread has related to child support. And child support is not even directly related to the askme or the OP. There seems no reason to discuss it really, since it has proven such a hot topic.

Why is complaining about our "unfair" child support laws misogynistic?

There is always a possibility of pregnancy during vaginal sex, unless one or more party has had had their testicles, ovaries, or uterus removed. Men need to realize this.

Discounting abortion, then there is always a chance that a baby will result from vaginal intercourse.

A man can raise a child without a woman. She would then owe child support.

A child is owed child support. Not either parent.

Based on the above, women and men are treated the same.

There is no reasonable legal remedy.

Forcing a woman to have an abortion (or carry to term) is unreasonable.

The laws are not unfair. Nature is.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 1:42 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey. Usually pretty opinionated about issues pertaining to sex and feminism, yet I found myself ignoring this thread.

I just figured out why: my father is this horrible guy we're imagining. If you are the kind of cat who might call his child "a trap," please wear a condom.

After my birth, my 22 year old mother, abused, cheated on, struggling to get out of an alcoholic marriage, got pregnant by him again. She did terminate, and has really never forgiven herself, and is pretty anti-choice as a matter of fact. It came to cases for her.

Surely there are manipulative women out there, lurking. But by all means wear that jimmy hat, ye suspicious assholes of the land. Misogynists are no daughter's father.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:55 PM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Because some of your comments display deeply misogynist views does not make you a misogynist in general. I apologize.

That's hardly an apology. None of my views are misogynistic, period.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:59 PM on August 3, 2008


Perhaps the girlfriend of the AskMe poster is a porn star, or wishes to emulate one, and is looking forward to a cavalcade of money shots. Crazier things have happened.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:10 PM on August 3, 2008


I haven't found any evidence of mothers being forced to pay child support in a case where they tried put the child up for adoption and the fathers refused to consent.

Well, we can get to an essential equivalent in a couple of steps.

While relatively rare, it does happen that sometimes fathers get full or residential custody of children in a divorce. It seems reasonable to think that in any relevant proceeding, the fact that the mother had attempted to put the child up for adoption would incline a court towards giving the father full or residential custody.

In such circumstances, it is routine for a woman to write child support checks to a man. Is "My mother did this for my sister" good enough, or do you need me to dig up the relevant court records?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:24 PM on August 3, 2008


"That's hardly an apology. None of my views are misogynistic, period."

Right. I deleted a comment that snarked at you regarding the substance of your views in response to this, but I do feel that regarding your views here as misgynist per se is wrong; they could fairly be considered gynophobic (though, unfortunately, the adoption of "homophobic" as over-broad has somewhat tainted using words like "gynophobic").
posted by klangklangston at 2:26 PM on August 3, 2008


They're not gynophobic, either.

Do women generally have a raw deal when it comes to child rearing? Undisputed.
Is it more likely that a man will get a woman pregnant and then scarper off? Undisputed.
Is it fair or reasonable that a man can be forced to pay child support for a child that is not his, or for a child to whose creation he did not consent? No.

I really don't understand how that's hating women.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:32 PM on August 3, 2008


We've firmly established that if the guy consideres ANY of this a legitimate concern him and his girlfreidn probably shouldn't be together, for either his or her sake, right?
posted by Artw at 2:34 PM on August 3, 2008


A child is owed child support. Not either parent.

But then, if both biological parents will be forced to support a child, the consent of both should be required to have a child. Forced abortions. Or, if the consent of only one is required, forced carrying to term. And if two people should be on the hook because they're biologically related to the child, why not three? Four? Rope in the uncles and aunts legally. They consented just as much as the man who doesn't want to be a father did.

To avoid that problem, I suggested that when a pregnancy is discovered, either or both of the biological parents may make a binding commitment to support the child. This takes away nothing from the woman, except the ability to unilaterally, without consent, place obligations upon the biological father.

In general, in a few cases society has managed to move away from the idea that the sperm/egg providers and the provider of the womb are the parents (in a moral and legal, rather than biological sense) to the idea that those who want to care for and support a child are the parents - adoption, surrogate motherhood, and sperm/egg donation when the legal system doesn't fuck it up. My proposal generalizes that. And let three or four or whatever sign on to that binding commitment if they want, it's all good to me.

You're the one heightening the language - no one else has called anyone a slut or suggested that people are sluts for wanting to have sex.


I have often seen the argument that women who don't want a child should not have sex, therefore there's no necessity that birth control and abortion be legal and available, termed "slut punishing" or similar, which is what I was referring to.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:26 PM on August 3, 2008


I forgot: What I propose also does away with the whole Trickster Girlfriend problem.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:28 PM on August 3, 2008


ROU_Xenophobe:Because there was an indisputable child that actually existed and that was verifiably his offspring, and because children have a claim of support from both their parents. Including their fathers. Irrespective of how their fathers feel about them.

If this were true, then we would not allow sperm banks to exist and we would not allow single parents to conceive or adopt (because doing so would not be fair to the child). We maintain, in general, that a child has a claim on their biological parents when the parents have had sex or have a prior relationship, but that the child does not have a claim in other cases (though I understand this gets legally messy in the US). From the child's perspective, it doesn't matter how conception took place, so it doesn't make sense to argue that the child only has a claim on their biological parent in some cases.
posted by ssg at 3:37 PM on August 3, 2008


This will bellend.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:44 PM on August 3, 2008


You want a baby? You sure? Are you sure you're sure?

No. You're not sure.

put on a condom.


The folks at graphjam.com should turn this into a flowchart.
posted by metastability at 4:24 PM on August 3, 2008


"That's hardly an apology. None of my views are misogynistic, period."
-DNAB


Well, that's the apology you're getting. I don't know you. You could well be a really nice, fair guy when it comes to gender relations. Calling you and outright mysogynist, or gynophobe, or anything else along those lines was out of line, and I don't have nearly enough evidence to back that up. But I do find the views you've expressed in this thread offensive. You still don't see why. That's fine. I don't have much desire to pursue it further if I haven't swayed you much at all by now.


Right. I deleted a comment that snarked at you regarding the substance of your views in response to this, but I do feel that regarding your views here as misgynist per se is wrong; they could fairly be considered gynophobic (though, unfortunately, the adoption of "homophobic" as over-broad has somewhat tainted using words like "gynophobic").
-KlangKlangston

Okay. We could get into a really specific semantic discussion if we wanted. Basically what I'm saying is this. The views DNAB and others have expressed in this thread are misguided. They are biased too much by the gender of those expressing them, and the society that lets those biases flourish. They serve to keep a hold on power that those making them currently, as males, enjoy. So whatever your word for that...
posted by gauchodaspampas at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2008


Metafilter: misogynistic until proven otherwise, no returns
posted by Artw at 4:32 PM on August 3, 2008


If this were true, then we would not allow sperm banks to exist

I fully expect that sometime within my life, a child of sperm-bank sperm will discover who his or her father is and successfully press suit for support, or back support, or for inheritance as an heir.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:43 PM on August 3, 2008


I'm strictly a back door man.

And if she wants to run the risk of a urinary tract infection by pulling the old orificial switcheroo -- well, that's a price I'm happy to pay.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:46 PM on August 3, 2008


gauchos.. I'm gay. So uhh, power over women? Not really something I give two shits about, actually. But why don't you go on with the ad hominems? If you try real hard, maybe you'll actually get something right about me.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:57 PM on August 3, 2008


But I do find the views you've expressed in this thread offensive. You still don't see why

I really don't, actually. I'm talking about pretty specific circumstances: a man can be forced to pay support for a child that he had no interest or intent in conceiving. There is something wrong with this. I'm trying as hard as I can to understand how that could possibly be offensive and I'm coming up pretty empty.

So you can take your 'apology' and stuff it somewhere uncomfortable, mmkay?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:03 PM on August 3, 2008


DNAB. I specifically apologized for the ad homs, and tried to focus just on your arguments. And being gay doesn't mean you're not still male. Sorry. Yes, it puts you also in an oppressed group, but you still do have some power over women. And regardless of your sexuality, you are arguing for things that simply are not possible without taking more power from women.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:05 PM on August 3, 2008


They are biased too much by the gender of those expressing them, and the society that lets those biases flourish. They serve to keep a hold on power that those making them currently, as males, enjoy. So whatever your word for that...

Sexist. That's the word for that. Not misogynistic.

But really, tossing around the labels too freely is what turns these threads into such grindingly dour slugfests, because even when carefully used to describe individual clauses of individual sentences of individual responses, terms like sexist or racist or misogynist or homophobic are going to feel like ad hominem attacks.
posted by desuetude at 5:05 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, ROU_Xenophobe, that's not what I asked about. Interesting, though.
posted by NortonDC at 5:10 PM on August 3, 2008


I think it's hilarious how people are acting, and I think that if they took a step back, they might feel the same way, too.

Yeah, I admitted in my earlier comment that I was a bit hasty with my vitriol. I guess I forgot to take my birth control Valium this morning.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:14 PM on August 3, 2008


you are arguing for things that simply are not possible without taking more power from women.

Where, exactly? Please show me where.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:16 PM on August 3, 2008


I fully expect that sometime within my life, a child of sperm-bank sperm will discover who his or her father is and successfully press suit for support, or back support, or for inheritance as an heir.

That may well happen, but I don't think you'd find that there is broad agreement that it would be morally right. I think the argument here is more of a moral, rather than legal, one. I'd be interested to hear a moral argument as to why children conceived with donated sperm should or shouldn't have claims on their biological fathers. I tend to think of sperm donation as morally equivalent to adoption, but obviously that belief is incompatible with your belief that the rights of the child are primary.
posted by ssg at 5:28 PM on August 3, 2008


I have often seen the argument that women who don't want a child should not have sex, therefore there's no necessity that birth control and abortion be legal and available, termed "slut punishing" or similar, which is what I was referring to.

Of course I've seen that/experienced that too, but it's not my argument, and I don't agree with the argument. I also don't think you agree with the argument. What I do agree with, and was stating as clearly as possible, is the argument that women and men who don't want to take any risk of pregnancy should not have sex (intercourse, that is).

It doesn't follow that someone of either sex who chooses to have sex is a "slut," though. For one thing, "slut" usually connotes promiscuity, not just interest in sex. You can get just as pregnant from your husband and sole partner for life as you can from an unknown member of the football team. For another, its connotation is negative, and I don't think sexual activity is negative. It's possible for someone to recognize some utility in celibacy without believing that people who have sex are "sluts." So there's really no reason to drag a loaded word into the argument - it seems designed to shock, and doesn't really relate to the topic. That's why I chose to mention it.

As I've said before, the decision to have sex is serious because there is always a risk of pregnancy, and both partners need to know that. And knowing that men have no decision-making power about what happens during a pregnancy does mean that men need to view their decision to have sex perhaps a bit more seriously than women do. It seems reasonable to say that. It's certainly the current state of reality.
posted by Miko at 5:34 PM on August 3, 2008


Basically it boils down to: men cannot force women to either abort or carry to term, yet women can choose to do either and force the man in question to be responsible for the outcome, whether or not he consented to creating a child in the first place.

There. He did consent. When you have vaginal intercourse with a woman, you need to accept that a child could conceivably result. You could just be one of the unlucky ones. The woman could even have lied to you. Too bad. If you can't accept that, don't have sex with women (and by you, I obviously don't mean you, DNAB). And wear a condom. How are we supposed to change the legal system to make it more "fair"? If the woman says she takes birth control, and gets pregnant, the man suddenly doesn't not owe child support? As has been stated, it's not the child's fault. It might not even be the woman's fault. It probably isn't. Unless we want the law to apply to all "normal" women who miss a pill occasionally, or don't pay close enough attention to other meds they're on. That's a step too far. And even bringing up the question of the "trickster girlfriend" is a bit mysoginist. They are few and far between and hardly relevant to the OP or the askme.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:35 PM on August 3, 2008


I'm gay. So uhh, power over women? Not really something I give two shits about, actually.

You say that, and then you design shoes.
posted by Artw at 5:35 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm strictly a back door man.

And if she wants to run the risk of a urinary tract infection by pulling the old orificial switcheroo -- well, that's a price I'm happy to pay.
posted by PeterMcDermott


CAN WE NOT DO THIS PLEASE
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:38 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


CAN WE NOT DO THIS PLEASE

Seconded.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:42 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


There. He did consent. When you have vaginal intercourse with a woman, you need to accept that a child could conceivably result. You could just be one of the unlucky ones.

200 comments and this is still where we're at?

I guess if abortion (and RU-486, etc) becomes illegal once again, it won't bother anyone in this thread. After all: you have vaginal intercourse, you know a child can result. You could just be one of the unlucky ones.

I see now it was mathowie who made the comment about adding this topic to the list. Thems insights for ya.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:44 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


As has been stated, it's not the child's fault. It might not even be the woman's fault. It probably isn't. Unless we want the law to apply to all "normal" women who miss a pill occasionally, or don't pay close enough attention to other meds they're on. That's a step too far. And even bringing up the question of the "trickster girlfriend" is a bit mysoginist.

This is everything that I wanted to say that I was too emotionally warped by my own personal bullshit to articulate.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:45 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd be interested to hear a moral argument as to why children conceived with donated sperm should or shouldn't have claims on their biological fathers.

Donor Insemination - A Legal Perspective:
Many single women and lesbian couples mistakenly believe that they can protect their families by entering into donor contracts which state that their known donors are not the legal fathers of their children. For the most part, parentage is determined by law, not by contract. There are two reasons for this: (1) the right to have parents lies with the children, who weren’t parties to the contract; and (2) it is against public policy to allow men who by law would be legally responsible for children to contract out of this responsibility. What this means is that a donor contract will not prevent a man from being a legal father if he would otherwise be a father under the law of the state in which the child was conceived and/or born. For these reasons, many states will not honor a donor contract, even if all the parties remain in agreement with its terms.

There are significant risks to all parties involved. The risk to a donor is that either the mothers or the state will come after him for child support if the mothers become unable to support the child themselves. This is a very real risk, as states around the country have become increasingly rigorous in enforcing their child support statutes.

The risk to the mother(s) is that a man they never intended to be a parent to the children will have an enforceable right to visitation – or even to shared custody – against their will. Again, this is a very real risk, especially for single mothers (given strong public policies in many states favoring two parent families) and for lesbian couples in states that do not offer the non-biological mother the opportunity to forge a legal relationship with the child through second-parent or co-parent adoption.
Sperm Donor Ordered to Pay Child Support - 5/2007

Straight Dope Staff Report: Can a Sperm Donor be Forced to Pay Child Support?:
Nobody's really sure, Nick. Believe it or not, the law is just catching up with these newfangled biological advances. There's a case pending before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the issue of sperm donor child support, and some states have handled it by statute. Most courts that have considered the question have ordered the donor to pay support, which may seem a perverse result, but the issue is more complicated than you might think....
posted by Miko at 5:46 PM on August 3, 2008


There. He did consent. When you have vaginal intercourse with a woman, you need to accept that a child could conceivably result. You could just be one of the unlucky ones. The woman could even have lied to you. Too bad.

Um, no?

Why on earth should you be responsible if you were lied to? There is no good reason at all for that.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:54 PM on August 3, 2008


I guess if abortion (and RU-486, etc) becomes illegal once again, it won't bother anyone in this thread. After all: you have vaginal intercourse, you know a child can result. You could just be one of the unlucky ones.

God, of course not. That doesn't logically follow at all. First, it's not that "a child can result," it's that a pregnancy can result. And the fact is that pregnant people can and do have ways to not be pregnant. They always have, though the legality and regulation certainly makes ending a pregnancy easier, fairer, and safer -- and for that reason I will always be an abortion rights activist.

But in this discussion, recognize that even if abortion were illegal, other people still wouldn't be able to tell you what to do with your body during a pregnancy, or any other nine months of your life, and it would still be possible for women to do all kinds of things to end that pregnancy.
posted by Miko at 5:55 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with Jessamyn on the dismissive or jokey responses in the various gender threads we've had of late in general hurting those threads (and in at least one case causing someone, Danila, to leave the site), and just wanted to say that I am specifically tired of Afroblanco coming into these threads midway through to poke fun at people who are trying to have a serious conversation about topics that are important to them. I have watched this happen many times: ha ha silly people getting hissy about boobs; insert random joke re same; how about a joke designed to offend everyone to show these folks they are overreacting?; and another?; more dismissiveness; Afroblanco says Metatalk isn't really the place to have sexism discussions (despite some people's desire to have them here); see also the complaints (mostly by women, including me,) in that thread disagreeing with him that the threads were useless; etc.

I've specifically complained to Afroblanco before that I didn't think his comments were helping, and at his request I have taken the conversation to memail instead of discussing his comments further in Metatalk. But since then he has continued to come into these gender threads and to seem to take pride in mainly contributing dismissive, jokey comments, and it continues to frustrate me.

It frustrates me because, to me, it suggests an attitude of (1) there is not really a problem here, and why are you all taking this so seriously? (2) anyone who thinks they could learn something and expand their views from one of these threads is a nutcase who deserves mocking (which he proceeds to do).

People who comment seriously in these threads actually do, by definition, want to have these discussions, and I wish he would just let them instead of trying to distract them. Personally, in the past I have learned alot from these kinds of threads, and, for example, I feel like I have a much better perspective than I did before on some men's angry and conflicted feelings about child support from this thread.

I guess Afroblanco is certainly within his rights, as a Metafilter member, to come into these threads and pooh pooh everyone. I do just find his behavior in these threads to be dismissive and almost purposely frustrating, because he has been told time and time again by people who do gain something from these discussions that they can be useful and Metatalk is the appropriate place for them. I have to believe that if he doesn't actually want to learn anything from these threads, then he must have better things to do than try to discourage others from doing so, or even other threads to comment in.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:57 PM on August 3, 2008 [8 favorites]


That doesn't logically follow at all. First, it's not that "a child can result," it's that a pregnancy can result.

Miko, what the hell. That's exactly the point.

I give. I'm going back to the accent thread. I think we're speaking different languages here.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:06 PM on August 3, 2008


Looking back over this thread, it's clear that everyone on the pro-man side should've just let me argue it. I was doing a great job.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:10 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


but you still do have some power over women. And regardless of your sexuality, you are arguing for things that simply are not possible without taking more power from women.

I'm really not seeing this. I'm a woman, and I can understand why it can seem unfair to make men who have not ever wanted to have children and had thought that they had taken adequate precautions to prevent such a thing, have to pay child support. We've already established why these children need to be taken care of anyway, but yeah, it can still seem unfair, and I think that in certain cases it is unfair to some men; it's just that it's more unfair to the child (who had no say or control in the matter) not to be supported. That doesn't seem misogynistic or patriarchal or gender biased to me. It takes away no power from anyone to say such a thing, either.

Why on earth should you be responsible if you were lied to? There is no good reason at all for that.

Yeah, my feeling is that women who insist on having a child when there partner does not want one should be in a position to care for that child, and accept the responsibility as such. (Many do, actually.) I think it's just too hard to legislate such things when they are disputed. It could so often hinge on a he said/she said sort of deal, and in the end, the child loses. What would help would be free health care for children, and free child care for working parents. That would help eliminate some of the costs associated with childrearing, and make child care payments less.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:13 PM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


Jeeze. I previewed three time, for chrissake, and still used the wrong "their". ugh.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:14 PM on August 3, 2008


pulling the old orificial switcheroo...

Looking back over this thread, it's clear that everyone on the pro-man side should've just let me argue it. I was doing a great job.

I'm with onlyconnect about these throwaway lulzish comments.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:15 PM on August 3, 2008


I'm really not seeing this. I'm a woman, and I can understand why it can seem unfair to make men who have not ever wanted to have children and had thought that they had taken adequate precautions to prevent such a thing, have to pay child support. We've already established why these children need to be taken care of anyway, but yeah, it can still seem unfair, and I think that in certain cases it is unfair to some men; it's just that it's more unfair to the child (who had no say or control in the matter) not to be supported. That doesn't seem misogynistic or patriarchal or gender biased to me. It takes away no power from anyone to say such a thing, either.

BINGO. Thank you.

I think it's just too hard to legislate such things when they are disputed.

Well yeah. I said that several times, but certain people decided it would be better--surprise!--to project than to actually read what I wrote.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:18 PM on August 3, 2008


-That doesn't logically follow at all. First, it's not that "a child can result," it's that a pregnancy can result.

-Miko, what the hell. That's exactly the point.


No, it's not; I think a lot of people are conflating "pregnancy" with "child." They are not the same, legally or in reality. The male partner does not have control over a pregnancy, but does have legal rights and responsibilities relative to a child. A central problem in the thread has been that pregnant women have control over what happens to a fetus during a pregnancy, but their male partners don't.
posted by Miko at 6:22 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm with onlyconnect about these throwaway lulzish comments.

I didn't mean my comment to be throwaway or lulzish. I was just trying to express frustration without being bitchy.

When I joined the thread, there was still the chance of keeping it on the subject of condom use as an aspect of male reproductive autonomy. It's just unfortunate that it turned into a gender relations grab-bag of angst. That's all.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:23 PM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


I have enjoyed this thread because for this one time, I got to agree with MPDSEA.
posted by Miko at 6:29 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


onlyconnect - just got back and noticed your little nastygram.

My Golden Rule for MeFi has always been "What goes on in X thread stays in X thread." If I didn't follow by that rule, I probably would have left this site long ago, because I'd have too many grudges to keep track of. I can see that you do not follow by this rule, and you do choose to hold grudges. That's your problem, not mine.

Have fun being angry.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:18 PM on August 3, 2008


Yeah, how dare someone notice you doing the same poisonous, belittling shit over and over again? really!
posted by NortonDC at 7:22 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


I have to agree with onlyconnect here, Afroblanco- it wouldn't kill you to stay out of these threads (or would it? If so, don't be a stranger).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:25 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


My Golden Rule for MeFi has always been "What goes on in X thread stays in X thread."

If that were the case, there'd be no need for MeTa. Petty grudges are surely poisonous, but I the concerns onlyconnect articulates don't strike me as petty.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:26 PM on August 3, 2008


None of my views are misogynistic, period."

because at the end of the day, it;s an issue that;s mainly an abstration to otyu reallly.
posted by jonmc at 7:41 PM on August 3, 2008


Yes, as I very clearly stated.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:46 PM on August 3, 2008


So mybe for once in yourlif you should keep your opinion to yourself.
posted by jonmc at 7:51 PM on August 3, 2008


Someone cut off your fingers, or are you just in the bag?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:52 PM on August 3, 2008


I'm so far in the bag that I cant even see the fastener, but that's beside the point. I think we'rer all pretty sick of dnab appointing himself spokesperson for the gay nation.
posted by jonmc at 7:56 PM on August 3, 2008


I can see where you're coming from, bu I don't think it's going to help matters, unless the goal is to get this MeTa zipped, and "we'rer all pretty sick of dnab appointing himself spokesperson" is a precarious perch upon which to roost even when stone sober.

Now, let's all go help the butterflies!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:59 PM on August 3, 2008


jomc, this isn't the time or the place to be picking random fights when you've admittedly been drinking. Please take the evening off and feel free to come back and join the thread tomorrow.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:01 PM on August 3, 2008


And, separately from onlyconnect's nastrygram -

I've finally figured out what really irks me about the gender discussions on MeTa. Although my previous grievances stand - the needless vitriol, the self-seriousness, the insolubility of the debates themselves - I've realized that these are really only minor points.

What really gets me is how these discussions typically consist of people who agree with each other 90% of the way, tearing each other to shreds over the remaining 10%. It's the same damn thing that's happened to the political left in this country, which is why we've had our asses handed to us for the last 30 years. (Clinton doesn't count, he wasn't a leftist)

You have these orthodox feminists who just can't stand it when someone strays from the feminist party line, even one iota. Doesn't matter if the person they're arguing with agrees with them on most of the important issues. They attack their opponent with the same vitriol that they would use against a Limbaugh-loving dittohead. (although, truthfully, I highly doubt that they ever argue with people who don't already agree with them 90% of the way.) This combination of orthodoxy and vitriol make these threads absolutely impossible to participate in for anyone who doesn't enjoy getting worked up into a good angry froth.

You want to know why the feminist movement has failed to attract men in great numbers? Look no further than these gender threads. They'll tell you everything that you need to know.

Now, this particular discussion was a bit different. The viewpoints about child support were actually pretty damn far apart. I guess what bothered me about this thread was that it actually started out with a rather interesting discussion about condom use, but then it became derailed into the typical gender crap because apparently People Want To Argue About Child Support.

Anyway, I think I'll take your suggestion and leave these threads alone. The first couple times I saw gender threads on MeTa, I tried to participate, but I was repelled by the nature and framing of these discussions. So then I decided to have some fun and try to make people laugh and stop taking themselves so damn seriously. But, apparently, That Isn't What These Discussions Are For. So I'm done. Now you have one less person who disagrees with you in your midst. You are that much closer to Total Orthodox Feminist Hegemony.

Enjoy!
posted by Afroblanco at 8:02 PM on August 3, 2008


I think we'rer all pretty sick of dnab appointing himself spokesperson for the gay nation.

I umm... I did that where, exactly? Grow the fuck up.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:03 PM on August 3, 2008


I decided to have some fun and try to make people laugh and stop taking themselves so damn seriously.

Well, you don't get to decide what's serious for someone else. Asking someone to stop taking something seriously because you don't think it's serious isn't going to get you very far, especially when what they are doing is making an effort to get people to see their point of view as serious.
posted by Miko at 8:15 PM on August 3, 2008


Actually, this thread wasn't hellish. Nobody has to agree with the other side(s) 100%, but sometimes it's just good to discuss the stuff and listen. Cheers all.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:30 PM on August 3, 2008


You have these orthodox feminists who just can't stand it when someone strays from the feminist party line, even one iota. Doesn't matter if the person they're arguing with agrees with them on most of the important issues. They attack their opponent with the same vitriol that they would use against a Limbaugh-loving dittohead.

As someone who has participated in every one of the threads I think you are referring to, I can't say I've ever seen that happening here. Maybe I'm mising something or have a blind spot because you're talking about me, but I've almost never seen someone who would describe themselves [or even be described by someone else] as an "orthodox feminist" and I've never seen any sort of party line lockstep.

I see people trying to come to some sort of mutual understanding of terms and issues both on MetaFilter and in the larger world we live in, and at least try to get a handle on what the other people are talking about. I also see a lot of people on the sidelines saying "what's the big deal anyhow?" which is certainly an okay question to ask but the tone of disdain that it often comes along with isn't really condusive to furthering anyone's understandong of anything as Miko says.

To be honest, I'd be very very surprised if you could find any current feminist MeFite who has atacked anyone in any of the MeTa threads on these topics for not following a "party line" approach to gender politics. There have definitely been some folks hot under the collar, but we see that MetaFilter-wide and it's just part of talking about stuff online, to my mind. It's not your responsibility to cite sources, of course, but I'm just saying the way you see it and the way I see it are dramatically different.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:34 PM on August 3, 2008 [4 favorites]


Well, my main point is this - I feel that most of us agree about the main tenets of feminism - equal pay for equal work, abortion rights, not tolerating any sort of gender discrimination, that sort of thing. Many of us (such as myself) will even go a step further and support things like universal daycare and expanded family leave. To me, this is the 90%, the important stuff, the stuff that we can actually accomplish.

The other 10% is hairsplitting and beanplating as far as I'm concerned. We can go around and around tearing each other to shreds over it, never coming to any conclusion, and that's mostly what I see in MeTa gender threads. And yes, if you advocate a contrary opinion, you generally do get pounced on.

But whatever. I think at some point I made a statement to the effect that "MeTa is not a good place to talk about gender issues." And I take that back, because obviously some people do enjoy these arguments. Instead, I'll just say that MeTa is not a good place for *me* to talk about gender issues. I'll stick to talking about it with my feminist friends; a few of whom actually work for well-known feminist NGOs. We usually wind up agreeing with each other.

I wonder why that doesn't happen on MeTa.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:55 PM on August 3, 2008


Well, one thing is that I don't think of feminism as some sort of specific policy agenda, and you seem to, Afroblanco. Some of your best friends may be feminist, and you may find you agree on points that you discuss, which is great. I usually find there is much to agree on, as well; but I also think that forums like this are good ones to find out where the points of disagreement are, and what lies at their roots, and perhaps discover how they can be overcome. We can't do that without talking about things, and we can't talk about the hard stuff if we're patting ourselves on the back for agreeing on so much all the time.

I think the final 10%, the issues where after all this time, many men and women still disagree, is pretty important, -- especially if it's the 10% that is still preventing some people from living as first-class citizens with full rights and representation. I don't view males as adversaries, I view outmoded cultural messages and normas as adversaries. It's hard to discover what those are, and whether any of them are lurking around, if you smooth them over and rush on to agreement.

And I don't think that refusing to yield a point on MeTa is going to hold back a progressive social agenda. In one way, it may help move it forward, since it may well be were some portion of people discover a point of view that is unmoving and begin to accommodate it. Or not. But, for instance, I have been generally surprised to learn in this thread that it seems a lot of men do not hear enough about the risks of sex as they grow up - or if they do, as klangklangston illustrated, they don't get a clear and balanced presentation of the risks. Now that that has been surfaced, maybe people will talk about it more and maybe it will become an issue more commonly addressed in parenting.

I was confused by your mention of "orthodox feminists," above, because I'm not aware of a feminist orthodoxy. There are feminists who would take this argument and begin by saying that all sex with men involves submitting to patriarchal control. There are feminists who would reject all current family law, custody law, and paternity law as rules of property control and patriatchy, and advocate community parenting or families of choice. There are feminists who would happily cede baby-carrying to men. There are feminists concerned with family law, and feminists concerned with promoting empowered sexuality who would find a way to be as pro-sex about this as possible. There are feminists who would stand up for condom-carrying guy's right to set boundaries for his own risk tolerance (I'm one of them) and who would stand up for the guy's girlfriend not to be branded a decieving Trickster Girlfriend because she feels comfortable with just the BCP (I'm one of them too). There are feminists who would not be at all interested in what the man's choice was and would be concerned about protecting the woman in the situation. There are feminists would would argue that the condom is the most appropriate form of birth control because hormonal birth control is a corporate-controlled attempt to regulate body cycles that should be normal and natural. The argument between the genders here has been a lot less divided and vitriolic than some of the great historic arguments between differing points of view within feminism.

There are all kinds of feminists. The only point of agreement among the myriad views of the world's diversity of feminists is the single core belief that the female gender is not inferior. "If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist."
posted by Miko at 9:28 PM on August 3, 2008 [13 favorites]


Perhaps I feel that feminism would benefit from a narrower definition. It's pretty hard to argue with someone when they can always say, "but I'm not THAT kind of feminist!"

In any case, I'm beginning to feel that we have reached a fundamental difference of opinion. Which is fine. But it also means that we are not going to agree.

.... and I've responded way too many times in this thread. I hate looking back into my post history and seeing shit like that.

anyway, g'night all.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:34 PM on August 3, 2008


I am specifically tired of Afroblanco coming into these threads midway through to poke fun at people who are trying to have a serious conversation about topics that are important to them.

To be fair, Afroblanco made a number of serious contributions to this thread, so you're probably a bit off the mark in this case, onlyconnect.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:37 PM on August 3, 2008


I was confused by your mention of "orthodox feminists," above, because I'm not aware of a feminist orthodoxy.

Orthodox feminists are presumably on the other team to their heterodox sisters.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:46 PM on August 3, 2008


This combination of orthodoxy and vitriol make these threads absolutely impossible to participate in for anyone who doesn't enjoy getting worked up into a good angry froth.

I assure you, you're wrong.

You want to know why the feminist movement has failed to attract men in great numbers?

No not really. Nice convenient fallacy ya got there.

Now you have one less person who disagrees with you in your midst. You are that much closer to Total Orthodox Feminist Hegemony.

Enjoy!

I'll stick to talking about it with my feminist friends; a few of whom actually work for well-known feminist NGOs. We usually wind up agreeing with each other.

I wonder why that doesn't happen on MeTa.


Ummmm because we have these quiet little plus sign buttons, and we enjoy hashing out these issues to the nth degree, and don't enjoy polite echo chambers. But thanks for the sarcasm. I'm glad you have A Feminist Friend Who Works For A Well-Known Wevs to prop you up and keep you from looking like an asshole for shitting on Metafilter's scattered, messy, vibrant feminism as an orthodoxy.

I DO feel like I've been smacked down for being an abnormal feminist, but that's fine because it's just individuals, because diversity within the body of "feminists" is something I value, and because being safe enough to argue over the last 10%, as you've put it, is a privilege we've earned.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:48 PM on August 3, 2008 [3 favorites]


On non-preview

*much back patting for Miko*

Quite right, quite right. Good show, old boy. Jolly good. Cigar? Snifter? Oh ho, barely knew her! Eh what!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:51 PM on August 3, 2008


Perhaps I feel that feminism would benefit from a narrower definition. It's pretty hard to argue with someone when they can always say, "but I'm not THAT kind of feminist!"

But no one defines it; it's not a political party or an organized movement. That's like saying "progressivism would benefit from a narrower definition" or "vegetarianism would benefit from a narrower definition" or "conservatism would benefit from a narrower definition" or "Christianity would benefit from a narrower definition" or "racism would benefit from a narrower definition." I'm sure it would be more convenient to argue with large groups of people associated only by a single core belief if they had bulleted lists of platform items, or some sort of manifesto, but that's not what happens outside formally organized groups. And though there are formally organized feminist groups, not all feminists are in formally organized groups, and not all the formally organized groups agree with the other groups and/or with the other feminists.

Compare it to the Civil Rights movement in the 60s - there was a core belief (African-Americans are not inferior), but no single consensus on how to express that belief - through violent conflict, or peaceful negotiation? By making your way through the system using the legal process or by bombing post offices? By creating a separate, parallel society or insisting on inclusion in white institutions? By leaving entirely and creating new political entities, or running for office and working to change local representation? By including women as leaders or disempowering women? This is just one example. I can't think of a single major broad-based social movement that did not contain many differing points of view under the umbrella of the largest unifying goal.

What you'll have to do is argue with people as individuals, based upon what they say. No one here has once argued from a "feminist" platform - "Well, I'm a Feminist, and here's what Feminists say about that!" Because, honestly, there is no one kind of feminist any more than there is one kind of liberal or one kind of Muslim or one kind of environmental activist. you get the point. People choose to self-affiliate with such labels, and the expressions of their shared beliefs may take many different forms and go in many different directions. And I think it's clear even from within this thread that many women who may or may not self-identify as feminists have espoused many different shades of points of view. Most of which insist that women have the right of self-determination. But beyond that, they're all saying something different. So their arguments have to be addressed as individual arguments, or collected as arguments of some subset of the people in the thread; but they can't be addressed as the arguments of "Feminism," nor can they be made to go away by saying "See, that's the problem with Feminism." I am a feminist, and my arguments are informed by feminist thought, but they're MY arguments. Talking about Feminism with a capital F in a vague manner doesn't address any specific points of any arguments. And critiquing feminism and feminists doesn't make any arguments in the thread go away.

I am sure that most of us do agree on most things, but there is no end to the thinking and examination to be done where matters of gender are concerned.
posted by Miko at 9:51 PM on August 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


You want to know why the feminist movement has failed to attract men in great numbers?

That's a really terrible case of begging the question.

As the saying goes, "Any woman who refuses to be treated like a doormat but doesn't call herself a feminist has simply got her terminology wrong"

Along those lines, any male who agrees with that sentiment could be considered to be a part of "the feminist movement". Ditto for anybody who thinks it's normal & natural to work & socialise on an equal footing with women, without giving it a second thought, or wishing for a reversion to some kind of barefoot-and-pregnant-in-the-kitchen model.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:04 PM on August 3, 2008 [2 favorites]


We can go around and around tearing each other to shreds over it, never coming to any conclusion, and that's mostly what I see in MeTa gender threads. And yes, if you advocate a contrary opinion, you generally do get pounced on.

I don't think this is true. Gender threads do get heated, but I don't think merely advocating a contrary opinion will draw all that much flak.

I'm no great friend of progressives, and I'm not a feminist, but I think gender threads are actually relatively easy to participate in. Just recognize that you're talking about something that's very important to the people you're talking to and speak carefully and soberly, and you can get away with a lot of disagreement.

I think it's the "plate of beans" attitude that really sets people off.

For example:
  • The very first word you said in this thread was "bollocks." From the very beginning, your tone is dismissive.
  • You then explain how the thread is amusing you.
  • Next, the condescension starts, as you parentally instruct the thread that "this really needs to stop," and that the participants should "take a deep breath and repeat after [you]." The implication is apparently that the people posting are hysterical women who just need to calm down.
  • In the same comment, you're careful to distance yourself from the rest of the posters, calling them "you people" and referring to the way you've been "watching [them] duke it out."
  • You close the comment by helpfully explaining that "none of this matters." Apparently everyone else's concerns are frivolous.
I stopped after that, but it might give you a hint about why you feel "pounced on."
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:14 PM on August 3, 2008 [7 favorites]


Wait, what? I seriously doubt that just about anyone who has seen these threads wouldn't accurately be described as a feminist. It's laughable to say the feminist movement hasn't gotten off the ground.

Think women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen? Then you're not a feminist. Think philosophy and mathematics are topics beyond the grasp of a woman's pretty li'l head? Then you're not a feminist. On the other hand, think that both women and men are equal in almost all respects, that women can be (and are) as intelligent as men, and are capable of the same sorts of accomplishments as men? Then you are a feminist. That's what feminism is.

These threads have mostly be starting out with the basic assumption that feminism is true. The problem has just been about what should be done / not done in order to support and appreciate the truth that men and women are equal. What sort of behavior is morally and socially acceptable, given the fact that women are as worthy of respect as men? So very little of anything that's been discussed has been of the form, "Well, you know, women really are like this..." Most of it, instead, has been of the form, "Well, you know, it really isn't disrespectful to say 'I'd hit it,' or 'look at those boobs' -- I can still say that while accepting the tenets of feminism." Sure, no one puts it in that form, because most of the people who want to make that claim seem to think feminism means something other than what it does. I don't even know what they think it means.

But, that's the thing: we're almost all of us feminists here. Some of us are just more sensitive to feminist issues than others, and some of us are actually female while others aren't, and some of us have spent more time faced with non-feminists, and some of us aren't thoroughly aware of their tacit belief that feminism is true--ie, that women deserve to work and go to bars and even drive cars just as men do. Anyone who most honest-to-goodness isn't a feminist around here is being really, really quiet about it.

There's more than one kind of feminism, granted, and what some forms of feminism entail is a wee bit extreme. But what they all share in common -- what makes them forms of feminism as opposed to any other sort of doctrine -- is the claim that men and women are equal.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:18 PM on August 3, 2008 [5 favorites]


No, it's not; I think a lot of people are conflating "pregnancy" with "child."

I am not understanding the point of this idea, also coming up here:

No one has the right to have sex free of obligation to be responsible for a child. Not women, not men.

A pregnancy is not a child, but allowed to run its course it results in a child. The second quote is clearly untrue at least in the sense of the current legal situation in America: women are able to have sex without taking on the obligation to be responsible for a child.

I know women who do not want to have children and would have an abortion if their birth control methods failed. They would not be getting an abortion primarily to avoid morning sickness and a distended belly, they would be getting an abortion to prevent taking on the unwanted responsibilities, obligations, and costs of having a child. That not having a child is presented as some sort of irrelevant or minor side effect of abortion seems off to me.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:38 PM on August 3, 2008


That not having a child is presented as some sort of irrelevant or minor side effect of abortion seems off to me.

I hear you. Abortion = no baby, sure. But surely you can see that Abortion and Child Responsibility are two different things, right? A woman with a fetus in her body can have an abortion. A man, at this point, cannot have a fetus in his body. So this bit here? Uneven. Unfair, one way or the other.... but not legislated - that's just how we evolved.

OK BUT THEN - if a child is born? equal responsibility for men and women. That's all "we" (as a society, creating laws) have control over, and here, the responsibility is equal.

"Pregnancy" and "child" should not be conflated because they are not the same.
posted by moxiedoll at 10:48 PM on August 3, 2008


I only read about half of the comments here and in the original post. I hope my comment hasn't been made. It's pretty late in the game here.

I can't figure out why the woman wants him to lose the condom. Not being a woman, I can't say what physical sensation she feels when he's wearing one, but I'd being willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference. Admittedly, there's the psychological aspect; taking time to put it on, not feeling the semen as it squirts into her (sorry about being graphic), maybe others, all legitimate. Additionally, assuming that neither of them wants to have children, why eliminate one layer of prevention? But it's the guy who feels less sensation while wearing a condom. It's an unusual situation. A very tiny red flag went up in my mind, and obviously in other's as well. Maybe the woman just needs to be more honest about why she wants him to lose the condom because the guy doesn't seem to know, and none of us do either. Speculation was inevitable. I don't see any reason to get bent out shape about it.
posted by sluglicker at 10:55 PM on August 3, 2008


Possibly because of teh implication that she has some kind of disease and/or would indulge in some kind of pregnancy trickery? Maybe she's just thrifty.
posted by Artw at 10:59 PM on August 3, 2008


I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference.

And I'd be willing to bet against you. Who'd like to adjudicate?
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:14 PM on August 3, 2008


sluglicker: a few women chimed in in the original thread to say they can feel the difference and prefer sex w/o condom.

But also - the point of the comments in that thread wasn't, I think, to speculate about this specific girlfriend's motives or character. It was to spell out a general list of things that the OP should think about in deciding about whether he feels safe to ditch the condoms.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:25 PM on August 3, 2008


Whether or not people can feel the difference without a condom is immaterial. Mentally, it feels more intimate without.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:27 PM on August 3, 2008


*WAVES ANIMATEDLY*

There's the cock part and then there's the cum part and both feel distinctly fabulous. I could elaborate in more florid detail, and often do, in the bedroom.

I don't know about the "vast majority," but that's irrelevant. Good god, man, it's a vagina, not an apple pie! It feels things! It can tell what's going on in it! And the psychology and physiology of condomlessness intimacy are pretty profound. It's wonderful to be able to forgo condoms.

Condoms are the most reliable form of birth control and STD prevention. Why do you think women pursue other options? Think we like being nauseated and fat on the pill, or injected in the cervix with doodads? Think we do it for our men? Maybe... but we also do it to feel cock.

It was my immediate assumption that the girlfriend wanted to forgo condoms for pleasure's sake.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:38 PM on August 3, 2008 [12 favorites]


Did I just get trolled? Sorry to assist derail. Women have sexual agency, pleasure: pet issue.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:52 PM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


i have no idea if you were trolled, AV, but you're making it hard for me to want to keep up my current period of celibacy
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:56 PM on August 3, 2008


Sluglicker, you could read in the original post the several comments by women who say they dislike sex with condoms, so a discussion about whether to use them in a monogamous relationship doesn't indicate that the woman is trying to trick her partner into becoming a father. on preview... should have previewed. what they said.

I support the poster's right to use condoms, because, as so many have mentioned, it is one of the very few choices that a man does have, and to give it up without serious thought would be silly. I will mention, though, that (aside from a vasectomy, for men) the first and best defense against unwanted pregnancy resulting in childbirth is the most fundamental of them all: trust, communication, and intimate knowledge of your partner. In the case of the poster, we don't know how long he has been with his girlfriend. Two weeks? Two months? Two years?

If if you've been with someone for a long time, trust them, agree on what you would do in case a pregnancy did occur, and feel like your partner is emotionally stable, honest, and self-aware, you might feel that losing that extra layer of protection is a more viable option. Likewise, a mentally unstable person determined to trick you can pretty easily thwart your best efforts. Taking the male point of view, you could use condoms every single time, and you could watch her take her pill every single morning, but she could poke pinholes in all your condoms and spit out the pill every day. Or perhaps your partner is wonderful in every way, but tends to be forgetful - and if you haven't discussed and completely agreed on what you would do as a couple if a pregnancy happened, one of you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. So, be safe, yes - but be smart; every relationship is different. In one situation losing the condom might be relatively worry-free and more pleasant all around, while in another, it could be a grave mistake.
posted by taz at 12:11 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was my immediate assumption that the girlfriend wanted to forgo condoms for pleasure's sake.

Why did you assume that? I see nothing that indicates that. And no, I'm not trolling, just offering my opinion.

Like I said, I don't presume to know what a woman feels. And like I said, pleasure, both physical and emotional, are legitimate reasons for wanting the condom gone. But that info wasn't given, so people speculated. No reason to get upset.

Whether or not people can feel the difference without a condom is immaterial. Mentally, it feels more intimate without.

100% agree.

And I'd be willing to bet against you. Who'd like to adjudicate?

All I know is that, if I were blindfolded and 2 women alternated giving me a tug (one wearing latex surgical gloves with K-Y and the other without the latex but with K-Y) I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Considering that a modern condom is perhaps a tenth of the thickness of a surgical glove, I seriously doubt one could feel the difference. But I'm willing to take part in either experiment.
posted by sluglicker at 1:01 AM on August 4, 2008


This thread has taken a serious turn for the creepy.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:05 AM on August 4, 2008


After rereading AV's comment, I'm wondering who's being trolled here. My comment is a response to this OP, not to the derails that have occurred along the way. It was my attempt to explain why people responded to the many possible explanations of the meaning of the askme post, not a response to that poster.

And dnab, maybe you should take your own advice and reread my comment instead of (purposefully?) misrepresenting what it says.
posted by sluglicker at 1:29 AM on August 4, 2008


"but I'd being willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference."

GET BIGGER.

"and if you haven't discussed and completely agreed on what you would do as a couple if a pregnancy happened, one of you might be in for an unpleasant surprise"

Uh, yeah, doesn't everyone have this sort of conversation early in the "we're having sex now okay" part of the relationship? That, "Don't want to freak you out, but what if EVERYTHING FAILS" conversation? So you know whether it's gonna be an early morning drive to the Planned Parenthood or whether you should lay in emergency booties?

"The second quote is clearly untrue at least in the sense of the current legal situation in America: women are able to have sex without taking on the obligation to be responsible for a child."

…By having an abortion, which isn't all slide whistles and afternoon tea. But yes, they get a veto, because it's their body. If they do not exercise that veto, they have equal obligations under the law.

This isn't hard—You can't say nigger.
posted by klangklangston at 1:29 AM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Er, sluglicker, it wasn't just your comment. Thanks for playing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:30 AM on August 4, 2008


With the 8% typical use failure rate of the pill, you're more likely to get pregnant while using the pill than to get into a car accident, yet I don't think many people would suggest you stop wearing a seat belt because it's more comfortable. Additionally, I don't think anyone would accuse you of lacking trust for wearing a seat belt while they're driving.
posted by Pyry at 1:35 AM on August 4, 2008


Thanks for playing.

Do I get a parting gift, or some sort of consolation prize?
posted by sluglicker at 1:42 AM on August 4, 2008


You may have a cookie. BUT YOU MAY NOT DUNK IT IN MILK.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:45 AM on August 4, 2008


was it my comment, dnab?

all i meant was that all this talk of sex is making me want some. is there anything wrong with that?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:14 AM on August 4, 2008


I said it originally in the thread, I'll say it here too if sluglicker is really taking a vote:

I can definitely tell the difference between sex with and without a condom. Definitely. It feels much better without.

Also another valid reason (and someone already mentioned this somewhere) for a woman on the pill to prefer sex without a condom: they taste bad. If you want to switch activities from intercourse to fellatio, having a condom is a big buzzkill because even if you remove it, it tastes awful. And your mouth ends up feeling rubbery.

I agree with taz's statements about the best prevention for pregnancy (aside from whatever birth control method you choose) being trust between partners. I tend to take the "rainbows and puppy dogs" approach to relationships and assume that if you're with someone, you trust them. If you can't trust your partner to take her pill and NOT poke holes in your condoms, you shouldn't be with her. Period. If this is a relationship worth having, and everyone's on the level, this is a reasonable request for a woman to make. And it's also a reasonable request for the man to turn down if he so chooses, but invoking the Trickster Girlfriend also invokes the real answer to the "should I ditch the condom?" in that case to be DTMFA.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:00 AM on August 4, 2008


My girlfriend wants me to stop using windows.

My girlfriend uses a Mac at work --and has been for some time. We normally use a windows machine, but she'd like me to stop. I'm a bit paranoid about this, and I'm not sure whether it's a valid concern or a holdover from the scary experience with one button iMacs in middle school. I'm 30, and I should be old enough to handle something like this... but I'm not sure what to do.


Is this a valid askme question? Or is there some special edict that relationship filter questions get a free pass from being chat filter?
posted by afu at 3:21 AM on August 4, 2008


Nah, I posted a relationshipfilter question once that was deleted as chatfilter.

I do think that they are judged to a softer standard, though, because there's rarely a clear objective answer - humans being as complex & squishy as we are - so they tend to be chattier.

(which is one reason why i like them)
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:28 AM on August 4, 2008


Agree with AV, grapefruitmoon and others about disliking condoms. Still, I can see why a man might want to continue to use them and I'd certainly respect that if he were my partner (though I would also certainly explore to see what his concerns were and why).
posted by Miko at 6:00 AM on August 4, 2008


Not being a woman, I can't say what physical sensation she feels when he's wearing one, but I'd being willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference.

!!?!?!?! Sorry...was grasping for actual words. The difference between bare skin and latex is pretty screamingly obvious. It's a sensitive area.
posted by desuetude at 6:14 AM on August 4, 2008


…By having an abortion, which isn't all slide whistles and afternoon tea. But yes, they get a veto, because it's their body. If they do not exercise that veto, they have equal obligations under the law.

I cannot think of any other situations where specific individuals may be forced to undertake such binding obligations and responsibilities as a result of another's unilateral choice. (I say specific individuals, differentiating from universal obligations like paying taxes and obeying the law.)

The draft was sort of an example.

I also really haven't seen anyone saying what's so wrong with my hypothetical system, except "a child deserves the support of two people," just because. (And it's important to note here that in the current system no one can force real parenthood, just child support to single parents, nor do I think trying to enforce parenthood would be a good idea.) What horrible results would come of removing a woman's ability to put obligations on the man as a result of her choice? If both not wish to support the child, she's still free to go for single motherhood, or carry to term for a single father if he wants a child and she's willing to undergo pregnancy.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:22 AM on August 4, 2008


but I'd being willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference.

Imagine anything you enjoy, be it food, watching tv, sports, or staring at the sky, whatever.

Now put a thin layer of lubricated latex on it. Do you think you'll be able to tell the difference?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:30 AM on August 4, 2008


as a result of another's unilateral choice.

Because it is not unilateral. There other party's buy-in was at the beginning, as I've consistently argued. The obligation to be responsible for any conceived children to be born existed from the time the intercourse occurred. If the woman refuses to bear the child, the existing obligation becomes null - but that is only because the condition changed ex post facto. Similarly, if she had had a miscarriage, the obligation would be null since there is no child to care for.

I cannot think of any other situations where specific individuals may be forced to undertake such binding obligations and responsibilities as a result of another's unilateral choice. (I say specific individuals, differentiating from universal obligations like paying taxes and obeying the law.)

This happens in pregnancies resulting from sexual assault. Regardless of the fact that the female did not invite the sexual activity, she is unable to escape the physical responsibility of pregnancy or the legal responsibility of parenthood. She either has to choose abortion, or bear the child and then handle the issue of parenthood in accordance with the law - through adoption or by remaining a legal parent and keeping the child. The fact that it was not her "unilateral choice" to be raped does not exempt her from legal responsbility.

What horrible results would come of removing a woman's ability to put obligations on the man as a result of her choice?

An uneven distribution of legal and financial responsibility, with the burden being placed on the woman.

I think the stone wall we are going to continue to hit is that some people are still arguing that the choice to have sex with a woman is not a choice to accept the risk of pregnancy. I have yet to see a single strong, logical argument that it is not a choice to accept the risk of pregnancy. Pregnancy is one of the direct risks of having sex. If you have sex with a woman, she might get pregnant. Women can get pregnant when men have sex with them. Having sex with men is the most common cause of women getting pregnant. When a woman gets pregnanct, it's usually because she had sex with a man.

Therefore...if a man does not ever want to run the risk of being responsible for a child, the only foolproof way to avoid that is to avoid having sex.

The choice to have sex is the choice to accept some legal responsibility for any eventual pregnancy.

I'm not saying it's realistic to always avoid having sex. I'm saying that because of these facts about pregnancy and sex and the fact that women are equal citizens under the law who can't be forced to end pregnancies or not end pregnancies, it is wise to think carefully about how and when you have sex, with whom, and what precautions make you feel that the risk is well managed, and, of course, what you would do if a pregnancy resulted.
posted by Miko at 7:01 AM on August 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


And now that I'm thinking about it, can you imagine a more horrific, retrograde legal system than one which makes women entirely responsible for all the possible outcomes of the sex act? If men are not obligated from the beginning to be responsible for their progeny, we suddenly have a land of female chattel where men can have sex with women, but can then refuse all responsibility for the child and walk away without any recouse for the child and with all legal responsibility on the woman. Plantation days. No thanks.
posted by Miko at 7:09 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I also really haven't seen anyone saying what's so wrong with my hypothetical system, except "a child deserves the support of two people," just because. ... What horrible results would come of removing a woman's ability to put obligations on the man as a result of her choice? If both not wish to support the child, she's still free to go for single motherhood, or carry to term for a single father if he wants a child and she's willing to undergo pregnancy.

I think that this is the third time I'm saying this, but isn't repetition the root of all learning?

What you are suggesting is simply the way it was in the US in the early-to-mid-twentieth century. Child support was not easily enforced, and could be avoided by skipping town. In other words, it was your system: a guy who wanted to would say "yeah, I'll support that child" and a guy who didn't want to would say "nah, not my problem, ciao!" and move on.

You are trying to be all rational about this, but the current system (aside from terrible problems with outlier cases) is actually pretty rational. The point of agreement to have a financial role in a child's life happens when you choose to have sex; the pregnancy is in her body and is hers to decide about; once a child is born it becomes (in theory, if not all that commonly enforced) both people's financial problem.

If you think that this really sucks and is unfair, don't have sex with fertile women -- you can date post-menopausal women, or young women who are infertile, or you can stick to sex acts that don't affect fertility. And you can police your semen very carefully, to ensure that Trickster Girlfriend doesn't steal it and impregnate herself behind your back.

But if she is fertile, and you go sticking it in, you are in that act agreeing that accidents happen and if they do you will have a set of rights and responsibilities, some codified in law and others to be negotiated with her.

I'm very genuine here when I'm saying that I don't see the problem with this, but that I do see the problem of trying to return to a 1950's system of apportioning sexual responsibility that you propose. The current system very much needs to fix how it is dealing with outlier cases, but the basic premise of insisting that the woman controls her body and both people have responsibility for a child that they both created is not one that I have any interest in changing.
posted by Forktine at 8:10 AM on August 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


And now that I'm thinking about it, can you imagine a more horrific, retrograde legal system than one which makes women entirely responsible for all the possible outcomes of the sex act? If men are not obligated from the beginning to be responsible for their progeny, we suddenly have a land of female chattel where men can have sex with women, but can then refuse all responsibility for the child and walk away without any recouse for the child and with all legal responsibility on the woman. Plantation days. No thanks.

Actually, it was pretty much like that until fairly recently (I mean, seriously - within my memory). The shame of the unwed mother was so heavy that it was very unusual for women to seek support via legal avenues. Women did take all the risk, for the most part. There were lots of guys who "did the right thing", yes - but that was by no means guaranteed, and if they decided they didn't want to have anything to do with it, it was extremely unusual for it to become a court matter. It wasn't until after 1980, I believe, that financial information could even be collected about the father, and wages or other money withheld for child support.
posted by taz at 8:16 AM on August 4, 2008


What both cracks me up and annoys me, even more than the repeated insistence by men here that women somehow can't feel it when we have a big wad of latex crammed up one of the most sensitive areas of our body, is the masculine assumption here and in the original post that the OP, a man who by his own admission hasn't learned a goddamn thing about birth control in the past 17 years, is even using a condom correctly!

For all we know, the OP is wearing the rubber on his head because he was asleep that one day in 8th grade when the nurse brought the banana to class.

For my part, out of all this, I have a much greater appreciation for condoms being super-important as a man's form of agency in preventing unwanted pregnancy.

I'd feel better about these two topics, though, if I could hope that a few straight men here who didn’t get it previously were taking away the information that vaginas, unlike the inert canned ham Dan Savage recently compared them to, are actually highly sensitive organs that can...feel things! Your future sex partners will appreciate your new insight.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:24 AM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm very genuine here when I'm saying that I don't see the problem with this, but that I do see the problem of trying to return to a 1950's system of apportioning sexual responsibility that you propose

...which in fact sounds suspiciously close to the traditional view of marriage anyway.
posted by desuetude at 8:30 AM on August 4, 2008


I don't know of a woman who has been forced to pay child support for a child she wanted to give up for an adoption, where the father chose to keep the child.

I do know 1 woman who was required to pay child support when her child opted to live with the father. The father owed significant back support, but the mother still had to pay, because the support is for the child. Women don't get to walk away from their obligation to support their children. Some do, and it's just as wrong as when men do.

A number of people in this thread seem to be recommending that a man should be able to ask a woman to have an abortion, and thereby avoid child support. This is
a. totally unworkable. Wanna have sex? Sure, just find a couple witnesses, and sign here. and
b. anti-choice. I'm very pro-choice, meaning a woman should be able to choose what happens to her body, and that includes not having an abortion. No forced pregnancy & no forced abortions is my recommendation.

Can't resist commenting about condoms. Imperfect. They seem to work best for missionary position sex that is fairly fast. Creative positions and changes in pace from fast <> slow may make them fall off. Not all men stay fully erect for the entire event. But if he wants to wear one, he should be able to. And, yes, women notice them.
posted by theora55 at 8:51 AM on August 4, 2008


"I cannot think of any other situations where specific individuals may be forced to undertake such binding obligations and responsibilities as a result of another's unilateral choice. (I say specific individuals, differentiating from universal obligations like paying taxes and obeying the law.)"

That your imagination tends toward misunderstanding the current system rather than the invention of analogies is not an argument for changing the current system.

Think of it this way—If you fire a bullet, and someone has the power to intercept that bullet, but does not, you are still responsible for the consequences of firing the bullet.
posted by klangklangston at 9:58 AM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Should a man who has voluntarily had sex with a woman that resulted in a fetus be able to opt out of future support for a resulting child by telling the woman he thinks she should get an abortion, and that he doesn't intend to support the child in the future?

I understand that some men here are saying that the current system forces them to choose to accept parental responsibility at the time of having sex, whereas women get another veto down the line in being able to choose abortion. So unlike men, women can choose to have sex but still have an out later on through abortion if she really can't handle pregnancy or parenthood. I understand that some men are saying, gee, this isn't really fair.

I think there is another side to the unfairness coin here, which is that, in my view, the decision to have an abortion for a woman is in many ways more serious and life-impacting than it is for a man. A man doesn't have another being living inside of them, giving them morning sickness or announcing their presence in other ways. The man's body is not providing support to this unseen but sensed being. And should a man say to a woman, "I think you should have an abortion and I don't want to pay for raising this child," he will also always know that his word on whether the child lives or dies is not the final word, because (I hope, anyway, unless more Scalias are appointed to the Supreme Court) a woman will always have the final say on whether or not she chooses to have an abortion. The boyfriend or whatever can and will always weigh in, but in his heart he never has to accept final responsibility because the final decision will always rest with the woman. A man can contribute to the decision to abort a child, but he never pulls the trigger. That decision rests with the woman, and she has to deal with it for the rest of her life.

I've never had to have an abortion, but since I was a girl I've always dreaded the thought of having to make that choice. While all my friends were having sex in college, I was not, although I really wanted to, because I didn't want to be faced with that choice, even if birth control might lower the chances of it, and even though philosophically I am pro choice. I think I lost a few boyfriends because of it, and that was hard at the time, but it also built character.

So. Yes, eighteen years of child support is a lot of consequence for a single sex act. But you know what? So is the decision to kill something inside of you that could have turned into an adorable and loveable human being. Women who decide not to have abortions because they don't want to kill their fetus still have the same financial obligations as men, plus, usually, the day-to-day responsibility for raising a child that may not fit easily into the plan they had for themselves. I'm not talking about financial obligation, which women also have; I mean feeding and caring for and all of the attendant emotional support and nurturing that goes along with it. In many ways it's a bigger obligation than the man's. So it does not seem that inappropriate to me that men acquire responsibility at the time of sex, as do women, but women have one final opportunity for decisionmaking down the line. The burden of having and raising the child (or making the abortion decision) does not, to my mind, fall equally, so I'm not upset if the decisionmaking burden also gets a little skewed.

To me, this just reinforces what NortonDC and Dr. Steve Elvis etc. have said from the beginning, which is that a man should be encouraged to exercise those birth control rights and abilities, such as condoms and vascectomies, which he does have at his disposal, and women should recognize men's vulnerability here and not try to force this choice from their hands. Even if sex might be more pleasurable for them without a condom. (But that doesn't mean folks should immediately leap to the "Trickster Girlfriend" assumption when the OP said his girlfriend wanted him to switch to no condoms.)

And Afroblanco, please believe me when I tell you that my post above was not "personal" in that I have not been holding a grudge against you for weeks. I complained about your behavior in these threads before, took it to memail at your request, and since then have seen you behave in just the same way in two other similar threads. If I think you've shown a tendency to behave dismissively and unhelpfully in these threads, and we've lost people like Danila due to dismissive comments in such theads, what should I do besides put it out there for people to disagree or agree with? Memail clearly was not the solution.

I also think it's telling that the 90% of what you think we all agree on generally has nothing to do with the contents of these gender threads. These threads have been about the norms and standards that we as a community hold participants to, and whether certain posts break these norms and standards and, if so, whether and how this hurts the community. You call this "hairsplitting and beanplating" and say this is not "the important stuff" like equal wages etc. I just really disagree with you on this. But if you don't think these discussions are important or that anything can be accomplished from them, I hope that you can recognize that some people do, and that baiting jokes and condescendingly dismissive rhetoric are not helping to improve them.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:11 AM on August 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


What I meant above in saying that a man doesn't have the same feelings of a fetus growing inside him as a woman is that I don't think a man recognizes as potently or viscerally the potential for human life of a fetus that a woman who has that fetus growing inside of her does. And, as a result, I'm not sure that any feelings of responsibility or guilt for choosing an abortion can really be the same.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:27 AM on August 4, 2008


klangklangston: ...an abortion, which isn't all slide whistles and afternoon tea.

onlyconnect: I think there is another side to the unfairness coin here, which is that, in my view, the decision to have an abortion for a woman is in many ways more serious and life-impacting than it is for a man.

Well, I am glad at least a few people have mentioned this, because if the only thing I knew about deciding to have an abortion and following through with it was the attitudes about them in this thread, I would have to assume it was as easy as deciding to have a martini and pedicure on my lunch hour, with no repercussions other than having nice toenails and a bit of a buzz for a couple of hours.
posted by Orb at 10:50 AM on August 4, 2008


What you are suggesting is simply the way it was in the US in the early-to-mid-twentieth century. Child support was not easily enforced, and could be avoided by skipping town. In other words, it was your system: a guy who wanted to would say "yeah, I'll support that child" and a guy who didn't want to would say "nah, not my problem, ciao!" and move on.

The difference that keeps this from being a 1950s system is that abortion wasn't legal and available in the early to mid twentieth century. My system has a binding commitment - signing on to be a parent forbids skipping town thereafter, and it also includes a bit of both accepting the risk of a pregnancy, that both should cover the cost of an abortion. (The physical costs of an abortion do fall entirely on the woman, so I guess we could place the financial costs of an abortion upon the man. Minor quibble, I think.) The point of this binding commitment is to allow the woman's choice to have a child to be based on this binding promise of support. This would ideally be as part of a relationship, but if they divorced or broke up, child support kicks in. If the man does not wish to be a father, than, as her-body-her-choice, it is up to the woman whether or not to go it alone. There's no running off leaving women stuck alone with a baby, unless the woman decides that situation is what she wants. No childbearing burden is forced upon the woman.

At the core of this, as I said before, is that "parent" shouldn't be "hey, your DNA is in here," but should be those people who make a willful decision to take on these responsibilities. Every birth planned, in other words.

This happens in pregnancies resulting from sexual assault. Regardless of the fact that the female did not invite the sexual activity, she is unable to escape the physical responsibility of pregnancy or the legal responsibility of parenthood.

Something like this happens in any crime, and was not what I meant to get at. If I shoot you in the face, you are forced to deal with being shot in the face. If I steal your money, you're forced to deal with not having your money. However, the woman is indeed able to escape the legal responsibility of parenthood, by having an abortion if she would like to.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:54 AM on August 4, 2008


No, it's weird that a man can decide not have a child and in some cases be tricked and forced into having and supporting one anyway.

I think what you meant to say was that it was weird that a man could want to have sex but not a child and, despite the fact that pregnancy is a known risk of having sex, could be tricked into having one and supporting one anyway.

In other words, you break it, you buy it. Nobody "forced" you to engage in that risky behavior.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:56 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't say what physical sensation she feels when he's wearing one, but I'd being willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference.

Annnnhhhhh! Wrongo.
posted by agregoli at 10:57 AM on August 4, 2008


The physical costs of an abortion do fall entirely on the woman, so I guess we could place the financial costs of an abortion upon the man. Minor quibble, I think.

That you reduce the physical costs of an abortion to a "minor quibble" is a pretty good indicator of how silly your idea is, honestly.

You are right — my comparison to the 1950s is off because of legal abortion. You are actually advocating a return to the mid-to-late 1970s. Post Roe-v-Wade, post widespread availability of the pill, but before contemporary enforcement of "deadbeat dad" laws and other changes. Now, I like those funky 1970s velour shirts as much as the next guy, but that really isn't a good model for how to apportion responsibility for a child. I think you have to be only a few years older than you are to have had lots of friends whose absentee fathers routinely failed to send their child support checks; single mothers I know now seem to have a much easier time extracting money from the men in question than did women of my mother's generation.

Anyway, I'm starting to get the sense that this is more of idea-as-performance-art rather than a serious presentation of your feelings on gender roles and parenting, so I'll bow out at this point and leave you to it.

I can't say what physical sensation she feels when he's wearing one, but I'd being willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference.

What a weird statement to make. Have you ever had sex with a real, live woman? Or talked with any women about sex? Or read any of the thousands of books, blogs, and articles written by women about sex?

Now, obviously, everyone is different. Some people will like it one way, some people will like it another way, not everyone is equally sensitive or cares about the same things. All kinds of caveats apply.

But even if we play devil's advocate and accept that the woman in question can't feel the difference between a latexed penis and a bare one, do you think she might notice that she has a couple of teaspoons of sticky, smelly spooge trickling out of her afterward? Or that when things were paused halfway through the fucking to enjoy a bit of 69, that things didn't taste like latex? I mean, this isn't real subtle stuff, you know?
posted by Forktine at 11:23 AM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The point of this binding commitment is to allow the woman's choice to have a child to be based on this binding promise of support.

No, the point is to allow men to walk away from the consequences of their actions. Because in our present system, we already have a situation in which a woman's choice to have a child is accompanied by a binding, and enforceable, condition of required support. The only benefit to changing to your proposed system is to allow males to refuse any legal responsibilty for their progency, forcing it onto the females in entirety.

The problem with your construction is that at no point does the man bear any legal responsibility unless he chooses to, and all the decision and thus all the responsibility actually rests with only the woman, since she has control of the fetus ; - again, being not only an unfair burden, but also impinging upon the rights of the child, who is entitled to the support of both parents. Your proposal is unacceptable for this reason.
posted by Miko at 11:25 AM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


The only benefit to changing to your proposed system is to allow males to refuse any legal responsibilty for their progency, forcing it onto the females in entirety.

Only if the female chooses to bear this entire responsibility. No forcing.

The problem with your construction is that at no point does the man bear any legal responsibility unless he chooses to

In the current construction, at no point does the woman bear any legal responsibility for a child unless she chooses to. I think one of our points of disagreement as I see this as the point of legalized widely available abortion, while your view is coming across that it's some unavoidable side effect.

That you reduce the physical costs of an abortion to a "minor quibble" is a pretty good indicator of how silly your idea is, honestly.


Well, yes, an abortion is a non-trivial thing in general, but I think it's a minor thing in comparison to a child.

Anyway, I'm starting to get the sense that this is more of idea-as-performance-art rather than a serious presentation of your feelings on gender roles and parenting, so I'll bow out at this point and leave you to it.

I very rarely troll and I don't think I ever have on Metafilter, believe it or not. This idea is what I arrived at when I tried to figure a system that considers: a women's right to choose abortion or no abortion, the consent of all parties, and the idea that with modern technologies sex does not carry an obligation to reproduce. The last one seems to be the sticking point in our argument for where consent takes place - I've seen the separation of the sexual act from reproductive obligations as a general argument for or feature of birth control and abortion, but maybe that last one isn't as widespread as I thought.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:51 AM on August 4, 2008


Only if the female chooses to bear this entire responsibility. No forcing....In the current construction, at no point does the woman bear any legal responsibility for a child unless she chooses to.

That's actually false. Because a woman is present at the baby's delivery, and is fingerprinted along with the baby, her identity is always known and from the moment of birth she has legal responsibility immediately. This is true even in cases where the father is as yet unknown or cannot be found. She continues to have legal responsibility until such time as she legally turns it over through adoption, with the father's consent, unless he cannot be found; even then, he is still assumed to have responsibility, and if the child grows up and seeks him out, he can be liable for back support because of his disappearance or refusal of support.

Again, from the moment of conception, the woman has had responsibility for the ultimate outcome of the pregnancy. The laws regarding paternity are an attempt to ensure that the identity of the fathers are also known at the time of birth; and if they are, to codify their legal responsibility. In your formulation, a man could choose or not choose to have responsibility before birth - a luxury that can not be legally afforded the woman. The advantage to men you are offering under your formulation is that it assumes that men do not have legal responsibility unless they choose to.

sex does not carry an obligation to reproduce. The last one seems to be the sticking point in our argument for where consent takes place - I've seen the separation of the sexual act from reproductive obligations as a general argument for or feature of birth control and abortion, but maybe that last one isn't as widespread as I thought.

No, it can't be a good argument in practice, because as we've seen exhaustively, the sex act can result in pregnancy even when birth control is in use. So it is indeed a sticking point, and as long as sex carries some risk of causing pregnancy, the single biggest risk factor for becoming pregnant is having sex. Resposibilities attend the choice to have sex. Whoever told you we had successfully separated sex from reproduction was wrong. Or at least a few decades ahead of themselves.
posted by Miko at 12:03 PM on August 4, 2008


In the current construction, at no point does the woman bear any legal responsibility for a child unless she chooses to.

That's actually false... In your formulation, a man could choose or not choose to have responsibility before birth - a luxury that can not be legally afforded the woman.


Uhm, it currently is legally afforded to the woman. She can choose to have an abortion or choose the responsibility of having a child.

Also, remember, my system allowed another option, that the woman could carry to term if she wanted but abdicate legal childbearing responsibility to the father if he wants a child and she does not.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:26 PM on August 4, 2008


In the current construction, at no point does the woman bear any legal responsibility for a child unless she chooses to. I think one of our points of disagreement as I see this as the point of legalized widely available abortion

Besides which, abortion is not an act of no responsibility. It's a medical procedure for which the patient contracts. She is responsible for the bill, and responsible for finding the practitioner, and responsible for post-op self-care, and has the ability to sue the provider, etc. etc. It's not extra-legal. Matters relating to the abortion and neonatal care in general are her legal responsibility.

I see abortion law not as a "side effect," but as a set of activities and policies related to a condition that can occur in only one class of people; just as policies related to sperm donation can impact only one class of people.

It also is interesting that in your formulation, if neither male nor female wants the baby, you think the cost of the abortion or delivery and adoption services should be split evenly among them, because (ahem) I guess they're equally responsible. If they're equally responsible when they don't want the baby....
posted by Miko at 12:27 PM on August 4, 2008


Uhm, it currently is legally afforded to the woman.

Umm, no, it's not. It's easy to research.
posted by Miko at 12:28 PM on August 4, 2008


Uhm, it currently is legally afforded to the woman.

Umm, no, it's not. It's easy to research.


Pardon me, my mistake - I misread "abortion" as "adoption."
posted by Miko at 12:29 PM on August 4, 2008


Uhm, it currently is legally afforded to the woman. She can choose to have an abortion or choose the responsibility of having a child.

My point being that she cannot choose not to have responsibility for the pregnancy. It has occured. She can't make it un-happen. She is responsible for it from the moment of conception. Like he is.
posted by Miko at 12:30 PM on August 4, 2008


If they're equally responsible when they don't want the baby....

Right, they're equally responsible for the choice to have sex and equally on the hook for the risk of pregnancy. But in not conflating pregnancy with child, and in allowing the right to choose, the man is currently not responsible for the decision to have a child, but is equally on the hook for supporting the child.

You could put in all situations an equal responsibility (or even more financial burden on the man as he bears no physical cost) for the abortion/adoption/prenatal care. Fine by me.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:34 PM on August 4, 2008


I can't say what physical sensation she feels when he's wearing one, but I'd being willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference.

I know many people (including me) have jumped on this statement, and I don't mean to continue to berate the poor person who said it, but it's reverberating in my brain as one of the strangest things I've heard on MeFi in awhile. One has to wonder where this assumption would come from - it appears to treat women as vessels who don't really feel the sexual act or experience any nuance from different acts. It's very odd. Women and men experience sex differently, of course, but women aren't devoid of sensation.
posted by agregoli at 12:35 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


the man is currently not responsible for the decision to have a child, but is equally on the hook for supporting the child.

We're not going to agree on this (and neither are any courts). He is responsible for the decision to have a child. He had sex, knowing that he is legally unable to control the events of any ensuing pregnancy. The policy continues to fail on this point alone.
posted by Miko at 12:37 PM on August 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


He is responsible for the decision to have a child.

To my eyes, if we keep the right to choose, the woman is responsible for the decision to have a child. Literally, she gets to choose, on her own, child or no child.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:45 PM on August 4, 2008


agregoli: see the last paragraph of sluglicker's follow-up comment. He says he doesn't think he would feel the difference himself, something that doesn't match my own experiences as a man, but probably why he made the assumption re women.
posted by danOstuporStar at 12:47 PM on August 4, 2008


the man is currently not responsible for the decision to have a child, but is equally on the hook for supporting the child.
This simply isn't true. If the man does want to have a child, and the woman does, the man will bear a financial burden he shares with the woman, the woman will bear the other costs and responsibility of actually raising the child, in addition to her share of the financial burden. These are massive in terms of time commitment, affects on lifestyle, potential earnings etc. The man has to take on none of this -- except voluntarily, so the situation can not be construed as equal.
posted by tallus at 12:57 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't say what physical sensation she feels when he's wearing one, but I'd being willing to bet that the vast majority of women can't feel the difference.

>I know many people (including me) have jumped on this statement, and I don't mean to continue to berate the poor person who said it, but it's reverberating in my brain as one of the strangest things I've heard on MeFi in awhile.


To be fair, none of the women I've slept with have reported feeling any differences. Actually, most of them have said that they didn't actually feel anything aside from vague embarrassment and a lot of pity.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:00 PM on August 4, 2008


To my eyes, if we keep the right to choose, the woman is responsible for the decision to have a child. Literally, she gets to choose, on her own, child or no child.

After you have chosen, potential child or no potential child.

You haven't convinced me that we need to overhaul our system to make it easier for men to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood or the risks of sex. I'm sorry; it must be very frustrating not to have control over the choice a woman makes as to whether to bear a child you have concieved with her. But there is nothing legally to be done about that that doesn't give you control over her or create a second-class citizenship where you can elect which responsibilities you want, but she can't; as soon as she is pregnant, she has responsibilities and rights which you don't have, simply because you will not experience the condition of being pregnant, to which those responsibilities and rights apply.

She "gets to choose," but you have already chosen. You have already decided to approve the idea of a potential childbirth by engaging in sex, since there will be no later physicial condition for you in which you change your mind, roll back time, stop the pregnancy or carry a baby to term. That won't be happening to you. You don't have choices about that. Your choice happened earlier. The choice is concomitant with being the one with the pregnancy. No pregnancy, no choice. Pregnancy, choice. You hand over that power when you impregnate someone. You can choose all you want, but as a man, you cannot choose a baby away, or choose a baby into being. You have only one moment in which to make a choice; the pregnant person has another, in a later condition, that doesn't apply to you.

I'm sorry that it feels so harsh to accept the responsibility that accompanies having sex. But it's fair. It's the fairest way to go for all parties. I've never once in my life been able to have sex without knowing that there were potentially serious consequences; the potential consequences are inseparable from the choice to have sex.

Until we can transplant embryos around to other people or into lab jars, there is not going to be a way to give you a choice not to be responsible for the legal disposition or care of any babies that result from your sexual activity.
posted by Miko at 1:03 PM on August 4, 2008 [14 favorites]


TheOnlyCoolTim, I think it might be very easy for some men, after having sex, to say, if a pregnancy occurs as a result, "please get an abortion; I choose not to pay to support this child in the future." He knows he's not getting final veto power, that the woman may still choose to have the child on her own. He is in many ways less than 50% responsible for making the decision to abort the child, because he isn't pulling the switch, he's just expressing his opinion.

A woman pregnant in her first trimester has all sorts of indications that she is not alone in her body anymore. There may be morning sickness, weird churnings in the stomach/uterus, weird food cravings, strange bursts of hormones, the everpresent reminder that you are pregnant heralded by the constant need to pee, etc. After all of this, should a woman choose to have an abortion, she is by necessity, I think, left with a greater feeling of guilt and responsibility than a man. Plus, of course, she physically undergoes the operation where the fetus is removed and all of the attendant sensations.

The fact that the decision to choose an abortion can sometimes be a very objective decision for a man whereas it is not at all an objective decision for a woman, because it is tied to killing something that is living inside of her, may make it easier for a man to choose abortion whereas a woman just might not feel comfortable pulling that trigger. Is it really fair then to allow men to opt out of financial responsibility by making that easier choice? Just as you think there is unfairness in allowing the woman to get an extra veto against a child by choosing abortion whereas a man doesn't get that same choice, I don't think it would be fair to allow a man to nullify any financial responsibility by simply making what would be for him a much less personal and emotional decision in favor of abortion. Maybe if, in order to do so, the guy had to become licensed to perform the abortion and then physically perform the operation himself. I'm not sure how may people would sign on for that, but that's the closest I can think of to make the mental consequences of the abortion decision more equal, and even then he still would not have had that feeling of supporting some other living presence in his own body and then choosing to terminate it.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:03 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


My dad's take on things was simplicity itself. He told me, when I came of age to be verbing nouns with girls, that before I had sex with anyone, I should carefully consider whether I wanted to raise kids with that person, because that was one possible outcome. And, you know, it gave me pause any number of times when my hormones were overriding my common sense.

At the risk of sounding crude, whacking off had a much better risk/reward ratio. C'est la monkey-spank.

There seems to be this weird entitlement thing going on in this thread, like people want to be able to have sex the way they want it when they want it as often as possible without any risk. Nice thought, but the science just ain't there yet. Maybe someday it will be, but absent permanent surgical alteration, it's just not possible to have sex with someone with absolute, 100% assurance that it will not result in conception.

A friend of mine has more experience with this than I think he ever wanted: their last three kids (out of five) were unintended, SURPRISE SURPRISE SURPRISE "IUD babies". Three different doctors. Three different IUDs.
posted by scrump at 1:32 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


she is by necessity, I think, left with a greater feeling of guilt

That's religion, which should not enter into laws in my opinion. I certainly know women who have had abortions and for whom it was a matter-of-fact thing, "I took this pill, I felt sick for a bit, the end."

create a second-class citizenship where you can elect which responsibilities you want, but she can't


But the woman CAN elect whether or not she wants the child-supporting responsibility. All my plan takes away is that the woman cannot unilaterally choose to put obligations upon the man. Her choice, made alone, should only put obligations upon her. I have the binding fatherhood commitment to allow for the input of both man and woman as part of the woman's decision. I accept the responsibility of both for the risk of pregnancy as it is the choice of both, but to have or not have the child is the choice of only one.. I don't see how this creates second-class citizenship.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:44 PM on August 4, 2008


To be fair, none of the women I've slept with have reported feeling any differences. Actually, most of them have said that they didn't actually feel anything aside from vague embarrassment and a lot of pity.

Is that really you, T-Rex?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:59 PM on August 4, 2008


Religion has nothing to do with it for many women and the issue of abortion raises questions of morality that need not implicate religion at all and certainly not exclusively. I'm an atheist, but an unwillingness to have to make an abortion decision has had huge ramifications on my teens and adulthood.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:06 PM on August 4, 2008


No. Religion says you should feel bad. Practical matters about human psychology and culture mean that many women simply do feel bad.

If you cannot understand this simple fact -- if you cannot imagine how it could be painful to tear a living thing out of you when you know it could grow into a person you would love and cherish, even if you fully believe that doing so is perfectly fine, morally... Then you should stop. Just stop. You are failing to understand something central to the issue at hand.
posted by Ms. Saint at 2:14 PM on August 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


I still think that's leftover religious influence, and am wary of basing laws on hurt feelings. In any case, I was more or less stopping with this thread, seeming to have more or less reached its endpoint where anything else we can do is just start repeating ourselves even more, so I shall stop.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:41 PM on August 4, 2008


But there is nothing legally to be done about that that doesn't give you control over her or create a second-class citizenship where you can elect which responsibilities you want,

I don't understand that statement. He doesn't have control over her, because she can still chose to have the child. I think what Tim is arguing is that a man should not have to accept responsibility (financial and otherwise) if she chooses to have the child when he does not want the child. The woman's choice to have the child against his wish implicitly says she is not under his control. Nor does it mean that she's a second class citizen unless you're arguing that single moms are second class citizens, which I don't think you are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:51 PM on August 4, 2008


"I think what Tim is arguing is that a man should not have to accept responsibility (financial and otherwise) if she chooses to have the child when he does not want the child."

When the child is 18, they can arrange to pay the father back. Until then, the obligation is between parent and child. The woman is not a party to that compact.

And, frankly, since Tim has had this explained to him ELEVENTY-GODDAMN-MILLION-GOOGLEPLEX TIMES, I believe we have reached the limit of teaching French to a pig.
posted by klangklangston at 3:07 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think what Tim is arguing is that a man should not have to accept responsibility (financial and otherwise) if she chooses to have the child when he does not want the child.

This violates a basic premise of society - that children should be provided for. Regardless of whether or not you consent to father a child, it is still your child. Society demands that the child be provided for by its parents if at all possible before becoming a ward of society. Your intent means nothing.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:10 PM on August 4, 2008


And, frankly, since Tim has had this explained to him ELEVENTY-GODDAMN-MILLION-GOOGLEPLEX TIMES, I believe we have reached the limit of teaching French to a pig.

I just checked - the dude's only 22. Maybe he's not done baking yet. It definitely explains the absolutist mindset.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:12 PM on August 4, 2008


The core of TheOnlyCoolTim's proposal to legally treat pregnancy and child support separately has value. Automatically forcing men to be legally and financially responsible for pregnancies they contribute to is just. It holds men directly responsible for their choices. Cementing women's choices and responsibility together regarding abortion is also just. It holds women directly responsible for their choices. There are other important aspects to work out, like when choices are fixed, how a father might disclaim parental rights, etc., but it is very intriguing overall.

As for the idea that children have some inalienable right to support from both their biological parents, that doesn't seem to square up with fact of legal adoption. What's the story there?
posted by NortonDC at 3:17 PM on August 4, 2008


This violates a basic premise of society - that children should be provided for.

Not really, as the woman could provide for the child with her resources.

If she can't, then why is the woman deciding to have the child without the support of the male? Doing so goes against the premise you speak of.

Your intent means nothing.

Kids who grow up with parents who remind them that they're unwanted would probably differ with you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:24 PM on August 4, 2008


she is by necessity, I think, left with a greater feeling of guilt

That's religion


That's not only insensitive but reductionist in the extreme. You think only wacko fundies feel badly about having to make that choice? You are so pitifully wrong. I think very few people, when carrying an embryo or a fetus, are perfectly clear on when they believe they're ending a life. It's a personal, personal, personal decision.

If having my cervix scratched for a Pap can make me feel weirdly demoralized and hurty in my happy place for the rest of the day, the hormonal and emotional tangle of an abortion has got to be monumental.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:33 PM on August 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Perhaps women told Tim that they didn't feel anything about their abortions because they didn't want to get into the details with him. Or perhaps they hadn't really absorbed the weight of their decision. Or maybe these just aren't the sort of women that I've met.

In any case, I know a number of women who have made the decision to have an abortion and it was never an easy decision. It was not the "easy way out" that a lot of comments in this thread have implied. When I think about abortion, I think about Claire from 6 Feet Under who, when telling her boyfriend about it, states that she "cried more than you have ever cried in your entire life." And I bet that's true. And this is a plot in a storyline where this was the obvious choice to make. I don't imagine it to be something that anyone can do lightly.

I'm with onlyconnect on the issue of choosing whether or not to abort - this is such a serious decision that I've gone with the option of not ever having sex with someone I wouldn't want to have a child with. Perhaps I would want a child at that moment, true, but I've always had to think "if I got pregnant with this man, would I want to keep the baby?" And if the answer has been "no," I've skipped the sex altogether. I can count the number of partners I've had in my life on one hand for this very reason.

Birth control, no matter what, is imperfect. I'm a result of a failed diaphragm. If I can't accept the idea of a child, I don't have sex because I know that I would not be capable of having an abortion - not for any religious reasons but because I know that the moment I became pregnant, I would be too attached to that potential life inside of me to let go of it.

Every woman I know who has had an abortion has been changed by the experience. It is not something you can just do and then go on with your life and keep doing exactly the same thing. While the procedure is not unlike removing your appendix, the emotional results are completely different. Religious beliefs can't begin to cover the parenting impulse that we feel as animals and it's this impulse that governs our bodies when we become pregnant. Sure, it can be overcome and women can have an abortion, but there are always consequences - emotional and physical - to actions (it's a law of physics!) and abortion isn't exempt from that.

And yes, there are physical consequences as well. Due to scarring (which is a result of any surgical procedure), women who have had an abortion may not be able to conceive later in life. It's certainly the minority of women who experience this, but it's a risk that most women know that they take when they contemplate abortion.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:33 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


And no, that's not "hurt feelings," it's a perfectly normal function of female physiology. We have millennia of mothering in our genes (and I say this as the biggest "no I will NOT be breeding" atheist on the block) and any emotional reaction we have to reproductive trauma should not viewed as something we need to man up about, medicate away, or otherwise attempt to ignore. Attempts to create gender equality like this usually favor those who hold power.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:46 PM on August 4, 2008


I think the 2nd class citizen idea is that men could always say, "Hey, I don't want this kid," forcing countless unplanned pregnancies into a situation where the men get off scot free and the women have to make a decision between having the baby and raising it alone or having an abortion. As many have pointed out, having an abortion isn't so easy peasy. And raising a child on your own is likely to lead to tighter funds, fewer career opportunities, possibly foreshortened education, etc. (Not for all woman, of course, but come on. Single parenthood, usually single motherhood, isn't easy.)

The OnlyCoolTim, dnab, and others would force the entire responsibility for unplanned pregnancies onto women. A man would only have to say he doesn't want the child and then the entire burden thereafter would rest solely on the woman. And the woman can't just say, "well I don't want this kid either," end of story. She has to deal with the agonizing choice of abortion vs. completely single unsupported parenthood. It sucks that men (and women) have to deal with unwanted pregnancies and children, but it's frustrating that some men commenting here don't see how allowing men to throw the responsibility for the pregnancy entirely onto the woman is regressive in the extreme and pretty much exactly the system that existed in the bad old days.
posted by Mavri at 4:06 PM on August 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


No, she could carry and then put it up for adoption.
posted by NortonDC at 4:19 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


As for the idea that children have some inalienable right to support from both their biological parents, that doesn't seem to square up with fact of legal adoption. What's the story there?

It does, because legally it's the case that both parents have responsibility until a legal adoption contract is made with all parties (both biological parents and new parents). Oftentimes the male cannot be found or doesn't contest the adoption contract, so his silence is considered acquiescence. However, interestingly, this isn't a legal protection; unless he's directly a party to the adoption contract, the child can later sue for back support, if the child can find him. Cases on this get muddy and aren't necessarily settled law, but unless the father agrees to the adoption as a party to the agreement, he's open to being held liable for support.

The OnlyCoolTim, dnab, and others would force the entire responsibility for unplanned pregnancies onto women. A man would only have to say he doesn't want the child and then the entire burden thereafter would rest solely on the woman. And the woman can't just say, "well I don't want this kid either," end of story.

Exactly.
posted by Miko at 4:23 PM on August 4, 2008


No, she could carry and then put it up for adoption.

You say that as if to carry a child is an easy thing that does not greatly risk the mother's health, financial independence, life.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:27 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, she could carry and then put it up for adoption.

That too, but this is another choice often offered up as an easy way out, when in fact, it's rather agonizing and carries its own dangers. For one thing, childbirth is more dangerous than abortion. A full-term pregnancy makes changes to the body and complications and pregnancy symptoms may impact the ability to work. And finally, giving a child up for adoption is really not always an easy nice relief, like for Juno, where you snuggle back up with your high school boyfriend and everyone lives happily ever after. It's an emotionally complicated choice which can result in a lifetime of regret and second-guessing, concern that can't be satisfied, frustration at trying to locate an adult child you've let go, rejection when the relationship with a found child isn't what you had fantasized, etc. On the other side, there are the perennial questions and anxieties of being an adopted child - having always-insufficient information about your medical history and inherited traits, wondering why you were given up, seeking a parent who may disappoint when found, etc. I'm definitely not saying adoption is a bad thing - it's not - but it's often presented just as breezily as abortion: "why not just have the baby and give it up?" IT's a pretty tough choice to make with its own set of repercussions. So Marvi's point still stands: the remaining decisions available to the women if the man elects to opt out all come at a much higher personal cost than his decision. At no point after becoming pregnant does she get to say "yeah, hell with this" and just walk off with no further consequence.
posted by Miko at 4:30 PM on August 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


> I think the stone wall we are going to continue to hit is that some people are still arguing
> that the choice to have sex with a woman is not a choice to accept the risk of pregnancy.

Personal responsibility's a pain, ain't it? One can (and many do) feel "I shouldn't be responsible for the results of my choice to have sex; I'm absolved because the outcome is so patently unfair." It's perfectly true that the area of a father's rights vs. his responsibilities is rife with legal inequity and unfair disadvantages for the male just now, if a relationship trainwreck gets as far as the courts and there are children.

But it's not like this is news to anybody. Except in the unlikely event of a man's being dragooned into having sex at gunpoint, he gets an entirely fair opportunity to say to himself "I know I'm entering territory where I may get legally shafted and there won't be a damn thing I can do about it. Am I willing to go there anyway?" before he drops his pants and pulls out his weiner. And if his answer is "yes" then that's a decision he made, by which he placed a heavy responsibility on himself. It remains his decision even if it was the martinis and his other head that decided for him (though in that case the decision probably sounds more like OH YEEAAAHHHH!!)

It's also not like the path to this particular decision point was forced by mortal, irresistable pressure. Biological imperative, you say? Sex is that. But it's not an imperative on the same level as "Become my slave or I'll kill you," nor "Bring $100,000 in small unmarked bills or we shoot the kid." With knives or guns out of the picture it's entirely within a normal individual's strength to refuse a sexual opportunity until the legal implications are straightened out by legislation, or until there's a written, signed pre-bed agreement, or until your verbal understandings with the lady are repeated in front of witnesses. Can't tie a string around it even that long? Fine, take the risk. But you know what the risk is these days, and you're giving your informed consent.

This is not to say the existing inequities shouldn't be fixed, because of course they should. But then, all inequities should be fixed, and it's a slow process, and society's attention is limited and tends to wander, and fixing inequities forced upon us as we try to satisfy mortal needs like food and water and air have a higher moral priority than fixing inequities we suffer in the course of chasing tail.

We wait for and (intermittently) work for the rosy, perfectly equitable future; but in the mean time we have to live and decide in the imperfect now. Unforced decisions are still decisions even though the world is imperfect. No pass.
posted by jfuller at 4:38 PM on August 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


No, as a demonstrably false dichotomy, Mavri's proposition is still patently false.

What's truly novel (at least for this discussion) in TheOnlyCoolTim's thinking is separately addressing the risk the couple accepted together, pregnancy, from the risks the woman alone gets to decide, child delivery, etc. For what they both decided, they are responsible; for what she decides, she is responsible.

As for the difficulty of the choices available, yeah, responsibility and choice do tend to travel together like that. You get the choices, you get the responsibilities.
posted by NortonDC at 4:53 PM on August 4, 2008


I think the 2nd class citizen idea is that men could always say, "Hey, I don't want this kid," forcing countless unplanned pregnancies into a situation where the men get off scot free and the women have to make a decision between having the baby and raising it alone or having an abortion.

I find your implicit assumption that countless (what does that even mean?) men would do this and not regret it, while women are stuck in this horribly agonizing position to be an interesting take on men and women.

...would force the entire responsibility for unplanned pregnancies onto women

Well, not counting the men who would agree to having the child, yeah it would prompt some decisions to be made as to whether the woman wants to raise the child alone or not. I think this is a good thing because it lays everything flat out on the table: you both want the kid, great. There's a difference of opinion, well then some decisions need to be made.

And the woman can't just say, "well I don't want this kid either," end of story.

I don't understand what you're saying here, because women do decide to have abortions, effectively saying "I don't want this kid".
And again, you seem to be saying that men can just say "Hey, I don't this kid, la de da, I'm done thinking about that, what's on tv," which is a sad stereotype.

and pretty much exactly the system that existed in the bad old days

Except for the fact that women don't need a man to make a living.

And if his answer is "yes" then that's a decision he made, by which he placed a heavy responsibility on himself.

What's odd about this line of thought is the casual dismissal of birth control, i.e. if he or they are using birth control, then that pretty much says "I/we don't want kids," yet people seem to be arguing that "Well, the accident happened, tough shit, you gotta have the kid now!"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:39 PM on August 4, 2008


Because no birth control is perfect. And grown ups of both genders know that.
posted by agregoli at 6:42 PM on August 4, 2008


I find your implicit assumption that countless (what does that even mean?) men would do this and not regret it, while women are stuck in this horribly agonizing position to be an interesting take on men and women.

Aren't we dealing in hypothetical? Some people on this thread want men to be able to walk away from a pregnancy. You can't continue that argument by saying "But no one would ever do it!" All she is doing is exploring the consequences of laws that other people are bringing up.

And again, you seem to be saying that men can just say "Hey, I don't this kid, la de da, I'm done thinking about that, what's on tv," which is a sad stereotype.

I think it's safe to say that most men and women have emotional attachments to their SOs and their children and would not walk away. I think the point isn't that this is wrong, but rather than in every sense other than emotional it is obvious and unarguable that women suffer from pregnancy in a way men do not. Because women get pregnant, and men do not.

We're talking the logistics of having a law that would hypothetically allow men to disassociate themselves from a pregnancy they don't want to be a part of anymore. It's a fact that men can, physically, walk away and not suffer any lasting financial or physical harm. Women can not do that. There is no similar option afforded to women that would allow them to not take part in a pregnancy without any (usually significant) physical harm or financial loss (of job, for instance.) It takes two people to make a child, but one is tied to that decision in a physical way the other is not. That's not a stereotype.

It would be a stereotype to say that most men would chose to do this, or that men who did so would enjoy it. But we're simply talking about the problems behind a law allowing parents to decide they simply don't want a child, and be done with it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:46 PM on August 4, 2008


I should have added, in response to this:

What's odd about this line of thought is the casual dismissal of birth control, i.e. if he or they are using birth control, then that pretty much says "I/we don't want kids," yet people seem to be arguing that "Well, the accident happened, tough shit, you gotta have the kid now!"

That's exactly what people are arguing, and it's by no means a novel argument. It's common knowledge that birth control does not work perfectly and you're taking a risk by having sex. Not "meaning" to do something doesn't absolve you of your responsibilities if you do it.

You can use a condom to prevent getting STDs and still get an STD - it'd be ridiculous to complain that "We were using a condom, that pretty much says 'I don't want an STD', yet I have one what's up with that!"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:53 PM on August 4, 2008


ridiculous to complain if in the sense you expect anything to be done about it, not in the sense that failed birth control sucks for everyone involved and complaints are natural in such a stiuation.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:00 PM on August 4, 2008


Some people on this thread want men to be able to walk away from a pregnancy.

Well, yes. If they don't want a kid, then they don't want a kid. Trying to force them to have a kid doesn't sound like a good option, as it'll put undo stress on the child, if it has a parent that resents it. Wouldn't it be better for a child to only have parents or a parent that really wants it?

I'd be curious to hear people thought if the situation was reversed, i.e. the man wanted the child and the woman didn't. Should she have to have the baby anyway?

You can't continue that argument by saying "But no one would ever do it!" All she is doing is exploring the consequences of laws that other people are bringing up.

But is the term "countless men" really exploring? It sounds more like projecting and weighting the argue to a particular side i.e. "countless men would just up and abandon pregnant women!". Sadly, there's no doubt that some would, but countless?

It's a fact that men can, physically, walk away and not suffer any lasting financial or physical harm. Women can not do that.

Are you saying that every woman who has had an abortion has suffered financial or physical harm? Mind you, I'm not saying it was cakewalk, but the idea that they have all suffered financial or physical harm seems a bit of stretch.

You can use a condom to prevent getting STDs and still get an STD - it'd be ridiculous to complain that "We were using a condom, that pretty much says 'I don't want an STD', yet I have one what's up with that!"

Depends on the STD, as some of them can be cured. The analogy to pregnancy doesn't work, as a pregnancy can be terminated.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:53 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Trying to force them to have a kid doesn't sound like a good option, as it'll put undo stress on the child, if it has a parent that resents it. Wouldn't it be better for a child to only have parents or a parent that really wants it?

Doesn't seem like it, and yet the courts feel that it is better for a child to have two parents and leans toward that direction in almost all decisions. In fact, both parents don't even need to want the child. They just need to provide support to the child, because that's the right of the child.

I'd be curious to hear people thought if the situation was reversed, i.e. the man wanted the child and the woman didn't. Should she have to have the baby anyway?

To coerce her to is for someone else to assume control of her body. Unconstitutional.

some would, but countless?

We can only point to the billions of dollars in uncollected support that went unpaid until 1986.

Are you saying that every woman who has had an abortion has suffered financial or physical harm?

Yes. Of course.

Depends on the STD, as some of them can be cured. The analogy to pregnancy doesn't work, as a pregnancy can be terminated.

No, it's a near perfect analogy, because the analogy is not to pregnancy, it's to birth control. Specifically, it's to point up the way in which the assumption that birth control will prevent an unwanted condition is false. You can have no intention to experience the condition, no desire to experience the condition, and take all reasonable precaution to prevent the condition, and yet still experience the condition. The fact that you never intended that to happen does not mean you can walk away from the actions you need to take to deal with the condition. IF you have an STD, even one that can be cured, you have to seek treatment for it, follow up on the treatment, pay for the treatment, abstain from sex for awhile, whatever's involved. But you don't have the choice to say "I don't want to have to do any of that; take it away." The condition of pregnancy is similar in this way - despite intention to avoid the condition, the condition has been settled upon an individual as a result of joint action.
posted by Miko at 8:05 PM on August 4, 2008


Interesting data from the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement:
In 2005, 91 percent of child support collections have gone to families. Welfare recipients now make up just 16 percent of our caseload; the largest group of clients is families who no longer need public assistance, in large part because of child support collections. Preliminary data indicate that, in FY 2005:

* The program collected $23 billion.
* The total caseload was 15.9 million.
* The FPLS returned employment or address information for over 4.7 million individuals during FY 2005.
* During FY 2005, the Multistate Financial Institution Data Match (MSFIDM) program located a quarterly average of 2.1 million accounts containing financial assets owned by 1.1 million obligors.
* The number of paternities established or acknowledged was 1.6 million.
* The number of new support orders established was 1.2 million.
This helps make clear why the state has an interest in encouraging two-parent support.

And that it's not countless, after all. Right now it counts at about 15.9 million.
posted by Miko at 8:23 PM on August 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Handbook of Child Support [PDF]:
The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Program is a Federal/state/local partnership to collect child support: We want to send the strongest possible message that parents cannot walk away from their children. Our goals are to ensure that children have the financial support of both their parents, to foster responsible behavior towards children, to emphasize that children need to have both parents involved in their lives, and to reduce welfare costs.
posted by Miko at 8:44 PM on August 4, 2008


I think the issues being explored here indicate that there's something wrong with the binary model of child care. It's worth noting that this is not obviously the best, fairest, or most obvious of providing for the needs of children.
posted by clockzero at 1:58 AM on August 5, 2008


That should say, "or most obvious method of" etc.
posted by clockzero at 2:04 AM on August 5, 2008


It's a fact that men can, physically, walk away and not suffer any lasting financial or physical harm.

For current law, that is false. Men owe child support under current law.

You can have no intention to experience the condition, no desire to experience the condition, and take all reasonable precaution to prevent the condition, and yet still experience the condition. The fact that you never intended that to happen does not mean you can walk away from the actions you need to take to deal with the condition.

That's 100% true, but only for the condition of pregnancy, not the condition of parenthood, because pregnancy may happen against one's wishes while parenthood, for women, only happens with their consent. The two conditions are distinct, and the law needs to address them distinctly. Hold men accountable for pregnancy and its range of costs, including abortion and maybe even including delivery, but grant them the same options regarding parenthood that women have. That's the right and feminist thing to do.
posted by NortonDC at 4:59 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I'm sort of late to the party but...

As one of those accidental bastards, a number of things frustrate me about being abandoned by my father. One of my strongest complaints is that his response to my mother getting knocked up (after 'what will I tell my parents?!') was a variant on 'gold digger!', and threats that if she came after him for money he would 'take me away'. The problem with his reaction is that my mother was telling him because it was ethically appropriate to notify the father, and as well as insulting her character, it was extremely irresponsible and acted like I was an unwanted house pet my mother insisted on getting. It still rankles that, after tracking him down as an adult, I'm an unwanted second-class citizen, to be called a 'cousin' by my sisters, and given an affordable but minor handout to pay for a portion of my tuition that feels like I'm validating his belief I was a finacial burden. He never paid a dime of child support, aknowledged I existed and refused to be photographed anywhere near me, lest a claim be stuck.

And he's pro-life. It sort of boggles the mind that he could spend 21 years ignoring and pretending it was only slightly possible he had a daughter while voting for canditates who promise to make abortion unavailable.

I have no sympathy at all for guys who abandon their offspring. My mother may have 'chosen' not to abort, but she didn't exactly rape him either.

Oh well, at least my mother and the province of Quebec both accepted me as an okay accident. :P
posted by Phalene at 5:41 AM on August 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


To some extent or another, everyone's an okay accident.
posted by Ms. Saint at 7:17 AM on August 5, 2008


Hold men accountable for pregnancy and its range of costs, including abortion and maybe even including delivery, but grant them the same options regarding parenthood that women have. That's the right and feminist thing to do.

They have the same options regarding parenthood now. They're legally responsible for any children they've conceived unless they give the children up for adoption. Same as women.

I definitely agree about the outlier problem, that it needs fixing, but our present system seems essentially fair to me until human biology changes:

-Two people have sex, managing the risk as best they can, but knowing that a pregnancy may result.
-Both parties understand that there are many potential outcomes to a pregnancy, including: childbith and shared legal responsibility, abortion, miscarriage, adoption, injury or accident to mother or fetus, medical complications, death of mother or fetus, damage to the fetus, etc. etc. Any of these outcomes are a possible result of conception.
-The male recognizes that he will be legally unable to make choices about whether a pregnancy will be terminated or carried to term at the time of conception, as that right resides with the pregnant person only.
-With this full understanding of all possible outcomes, both parties accept all the potential risk of having sex.
-Both are legally responsible for any children born

It's so simple. I don't agree that, in essence, it needs changing.

It was quite sobering to read some of the information on the child support web pages. It is one thing discussing this while assuming a theoretical middle-class couple, equally able to make all choices comfortably, and referring only to their own feelings about parenthood in the decision. Clearly, that's not the reality. Until the child support legislation, the de facto policy in the United States was that a pregnancy or childbirth was the woman's problem, unless the man opted to take part. The enormous numbers of children growing up in poverty is staggering, and I can only speculate about how this problem has contributed to chronic conditions of poverty - a single-parent family needs an income, and there is only one adult earner, time spent parenting is traded off for time earning income, children lack a support network of adults who are regularly present and live in neighborhoods where they raise one another. Child support may make the difference between dental care and no dental care, a shitty neighborhood to live in and a decent neighborhood, a college education or no college education, affording a mother's birth control to prevent another unwanted pregnancy or not, health insurance or no insurance, a car to have a better choice of decent-paying jobs or reliance on public transportation...And so on.

To read some of the data recontextualized this conversation for me and reminded me why child support is a feminist issue, and why the two-parent system provides a much greater social safety net and needed services for children that they would not otherwise be experiencing. It's not about "whim," it's really about responsibility for children.

Proposals attempting to balance the perceived 'unfairness' about the fact that women have to carry conceived children, and thus legally must have the choice to end pregnancy, cannot possibly be fair to the children who are their genetic descendants.

Finally, it strikes me as odd that men are viewing the availability of abortion as "unfair" to them, since that legality of that choice has undoubtedly let many more of the men who don't want to be parents walk away scot-free than would otherwise be the case. By sparing roughly 1.5 million men a year the liability for child support, it can be argued that men have enjoyed a benefit to their financial and personal freedoms as a result of women's choices to abort; in only ten years, abortion has prevented the births of a number of children equal to the the 2005 caseload of the Office of Child Support Enforcement. The availability of the choice to abort benefits men and women in exactly equal numbers, so it's actually quite fair in its ultimate effect.

Finally, I find it personally disgusting and depressing that men are seeking a system which would allow them to avoid being personally impacted in any way by their decision to have sex. It is not a choice available to women under any proposal system, and that is the final, inherent unfairness we won't be able to solve with law.
posted by Miko at 7:29 AM on August 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


Let the record show that I mean "some men," not at all, are seeking etc. I know there are many of you who are willing to accept the risks and potential responsibilities of sex, and it's appreciated and admired. I hope you get laid a lot.
posted by Miko at 7:32 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Hold men accountable for pregnancy and its range of costs, including abortion and maybe even including delivery, but grant them the same options regarding parenthood that women have. That's the right and feminist thing to do."

Noting that they have the same rights of parenthood, I'll go further and grant that it's fair that they have the same rights in pregnancy: any man who is carrying a fetus should be able to have a safe and legal abortion.

After all, we are arguing from the thin edge of reason anyway.
posted by klangklangston at 7:49 AM on August 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


"Hold men accountable for pregnancy and its range of costs, including abortion and maybe even including delivery [snip]"

Because I am not American I have often wondered how abortion/pregnancy/childbirth costs work under the American health care system. Can a woman have her costs covered by the father's insurance (if he has it) if they are not married or common-law? I am not sure if America has the same definition of common-law marriage; in Canada, a relationship becomes a common-law marriage after 12 months of living together (according to CRA) or immediately after the birth of a child when both parents live together. If it becomes adversarial can she sue him for the health care cost? Sorry if this seems self-evident, but after reading all the recent health askme's (smashed thumb, vomiting 16hrs) the American system is non-intuitive to me.
posted by saucysault at 8:36 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing about a guy saying that he will not contribute to a child he sires, is that he's effectively said that we, as a collective tax paying body, will pay instead. Generally first world countries make it a priority to provide some form of welfare, so as the beneficiary of this sort of set up, I know first hand that babies don't typically go untended. Modern morality says we don't expose children to die on a hillside anymore, so when a parent abandons a child, s/he elects you, the reader, as part of a collective guardianship. Short of advocating infanticide, some adult(s) with money will have to pay. Children do not go away just because you don't want them; thus deadbeat dads merely end up shifting the expense onto everyone.
posted by Phalene at 11:18 AM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Except for the fact that women don't need a man to make a living.

This statement completely ignores the poverty of many single parent families. Despite child support reforms that some (a few) men are decrying in this thread, woman disproportionately suffer from single parenthood. As for my use of the word "countless" to describe how many men might walk away, Miko has ably provided factual back-up. It may be a "sad stereotype," but it's also a sad fact.

You (generic person arguing for this "reform") might not walk away. And the men you know might not walk away. But I wonder, if the law told men that unplanned pregnancies aren't their responsibility unless they want it to be, how much easier would it be to say to their pregnant girlfriends, "Hey, baby, sorry the condom broke, but your poverty isn't my problem. Have an abortion or give it up for adoption if you don't want that struggle." It's stunning to me that people think this scenario is how it should be.

I must spend way too much time around progressive people, because this whole thread has been mind-boggling.

I really appreciate Miko and the others who have patiently, logically, and reasonably argued against the really antiquated view of some people here about whose problem an unplanned pregnancy is supposed to be. (And yay to the boys weighing in too.)
posted by Mavri at 11:32 AM on August 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Try to figure out what's different between your new fangled contract version of the world and just letting guys "walk away". Guys have always been able to walk away. There have been legal and social impediments created to discourage this. You want to turn it back based on hubris. The hubris is that the hundreds of years folks have been thinking about this they've never had the great insights you have.

The biology is not symmetric, there are massive consequences to what you suggest. Let me restate that last point: there are massive consequences. We've collectively decided that the consequence of poor men being put over the barrel by women who want to keep children is far less important than having people support their children, even the ones they don't want.

In what world does all this BS about "rights" really play into it? We're not stupid, we can handle an abstract argument, but these situations have been played out millions of times over hundreds of years in concrete terms and abstract rights are not the magic bullet. Rights are always being traded off, lesser of two evils and of course that asymmetric biology that throws a wrench into any absolutists interpretation.

This fantastic idea of a written and signed contract is not going to change anyone's mind. I'm sure it seems great to you, but of course you'd be fine with an unsigned ability for any man to ask a woman to get an abortion and thereby relinquish any responsibility he has.

(FWIW I'm pro-choice but as a practical matter the fact that abortion is not widely beloved or even supported makes this whole issue a political deadend.)

Men's rights types (MRAs) would do well to concentrate on supporting the right of men to see and raise the children they love rather than just being a party of neo-misogynists.
posted by Wood at 11:47 AM on August 5, 2008


They have the same options regarding parenthood now. They're legally responsible for any children they've conceived unless they give the children up for adoption. Same as women.

No, absolutely false. Women have the option to end a pregnancy and legally avoid the rights and burdens of parenthood. But you knew that.

What's being discussed is a new legal framework that maintains shared responsibility where shared consent exists, namely in assuming the risks of pregnancy, and ending shared responsibility where shared consent does not exist, such as in a case where a man yields his paternal claims but a woman maintains her maternal claims.

As for your bullet points, living under an unjust system doesn't signal consent to the system, nor does it pledge one to the maintenance of it. Realizing that the man is denied equality of reproductive legal freedoms by the current law doesn't make it just, it just makes it known.

Finally, I find it personally disgusting and depressing that men are seeking a system which would allow them to avoid being personally impacted in any way by their decision to have sex.

I hope realize that this does not include me, as the foundation of many of my comments in this thread is that men are to be held responsible for pregnancies that result from their sexual decisions.

I really appreciate Miko and the others who have patiently, logically, and reasonably argued against the really antiquated view of some people here about whose problem an unplanned pregnancy is supposed to be.

I hope you're realize that you are praising me in this comment, because, again, I am explicitly calling for men to be held accountable for unplanned pregnancies.

P.S. - I'm still hoping to see something on this: "I haven't found any evidence of mothers being forced to pay child support in a case where they tried put the child up for adoption and the fathers refused to consent. Please share examples if you have any. I'm genuinely curious."
posted by NortonDC at 2:55 PM on August 5, 2008


What's being discussed is a new legal framework that maintains shared responsibility where shared consent exists, namely in assuming the risks of pregnancy, and ending shared responsibility where shared consent does not exist, such as in a case where a man yields his paternal claims but a woman maintains her maternal claims.

We understand that. Thus the paragraphs of explanations as to what is flawed about this. Let's say both people give up their paternal and maternal claims. What then? The woman still must either choose between an abortion or carrying to term and giving up for adoption. Don't you at least think the man in question should be responsible for half the costs of an abortion, or of pregnancy, in this case? These things are not easy nor cheap and often have no easily definable "costs" - the mother will still deal with the physical risks, but there is no way to be fair about those. They are equally responsible for her situation, and yet she faces all of the consequences and he none.

Both systems are relatively unfair, depending on who you ask. In the current system, it is perhaps unfair to men who have decided that they don't want children after having sex. In your proposed system, it is unfair to the women, who have no recourse that does not involve some sort of physical harm to their body and financial risk (birth and abortion both do) and will face that harm alone even though it took two people to put her in that situation. It is unfair, also, to the child who we as a society have agreed deserves to be supported by both their parents (if that child is carried to term.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:30 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Because others are arguing good points here very eloquently (thanks Miko and onlyconnect) I'll just note that I was conceived when my parents were using both condoms and a cervical cap, which was as close to foolproof as you could get in 1958; that I know a woman who conceived after a tubal ligation; and I have another friend who got pregnant at least twice while she was taking birth control pills (and she was not being careless or missing days).

Also, that abortions are not trivial, and definitely not inconsequential.
posted by jokeefe at 3:31 PM on August 5, 2008


such as in a case where a man yields his paternal claims but a woman maintains her maternal claims.

Good luck getting laid after that!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:45 PM on August 5, 2008


Don't you at least think the man in question should be responsible for half the costs of an abortion, or of pregnancy, in this case?
Hold men accountable for pregnancy and its range of costs, including abortion and maybe even including delivery, but grant them the same options regarding parenthood that women have.

posted by NortonDC at 7:59 AM on August 5
posted by NortonDC at 3:52 PM on August 5, 2008


"No, absolutely false. Women have the option to end a pregnancy and legally avoid the rights and burdens of parenthood. But you knew that."

Bullshit, and pernicious bullshit at that.

As I already mentioned, any man who would carry a child should and does have the right to abort it as he sees fit. Likewise, were a surrogate mother to be selected, it would still be HER right to decide to have an abortion, not the biological mother or father.

But none of this is going to convince you, is it? We've reached the point at which you're the boor haranguing everyone about your pet issue at the cocktail party, blind to all reasonable considerations of persuasion or logic and instead simply repeating the nonsensical assumptions over and over, hoping to "prove" that Democrats are traitors or that immigration takes jobs or that Marx was right.

You have a right to your views—but by God, they are stupid ones.
posted by klangklangston at 4:04 PM on August 5, 2008


Hold men accountable for pregnancy and its range of costs, including abortion and maybe even including delivery, but grant them the same options regarding parenthood that women have. That's the right and feminist thing to do.

I'm with klangklangston here: once you start gestating fetuses on your own, you have the right to all the abortions you want.

Also, to partially answer saucysault's question on US insurance costs: abortion is considered an "elective" procedure and is not covered by insurance, since the insurance companies can make the argument that you don't need it. Likewise, under a lot of policies, the birth control pill isn't covered either.

And yet... Viagra? Yeah. They cover that.

The system has a few flaws.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:14 PM on August 5, 2008


In what way is what I wrote wrong, klangklangston? Your comment is fantastic as a personal attack, but less adept at communicating what's wrong with what I wrote.

As I already mentioned, any man who would carry a child should and does have the right to abort it as he sees fit. Likewise, were a surrogate mother to be selected, it would still be HER right to decide to have an abortion, not the biological mother or father.

But none of this is going to convince you, is it?


No, you've convinced me just fine, at least in that I don't find internal fault with what you wrote there. I don't see how you connect it to what I wrote, though. What I'm proposing treats the abortion rights as inalienable from the pregnant woman. What are you getting at?
posted by NortonDC at 4:17 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I don't see how you connect it to what I wrote, though. What I'm proposing treats the abortion rights as inalienable from the pregnant woman. What are you getting at?"

The objections are myriad, and have been articulated as many times as there are children.

Your argument is that it's somehow unfair that only women can have an abortion, thus terminating their responsibilities as parents—but this ignores that generally only women can have abortions (I do note that there was a recent post on a man carrying a child to term). The "unfairness" is biological, and there is no remedy possible for it save that men also bear children and then also have a defended right to abortions. Everything else is an abrogation of women's rights (privacy, autonomy).

Everything else from you has been an attempt to muddy the waters with a lot of sloshing about how women have this extra right, without an acknowledgment that said right comes directly from the greater responsibility regarding the pregnancy. Everything afterwards is equal and a red herring.

And the reason that I am, with this, giving up any real hope of persuading you is that this is only, what, the fifteenth or so time that I've laid out the same case without getting any inkling of comprehension or cognition. A simple repetition of positions is not a debate, nor a conversation. Given your apparent inability to understand how your fundamental assumptions are flawed (if in doubt still, reread those earlier paragraphs until it sinks in), I do not foresee this becoming a debate or conversation any time soon.
posted by klangklangston at 4:47 PM on August 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair. It's not fair that sex can result in pregnancy. It's not fair that only one of the people involved in the sex-havin' have to carry the child. It's an unfair system by design.
posted by desuetude at 5:14 PM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yet another nail in the coffin of intelligent design.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:26 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I'm with klangklangston here: once you start gestating fetuses on your own, you have the right to all the abortions you want."

Excellent example of misandry right here.

.

There is an interesting disconnect going on in this thread. People are saying "women's bodies, women's choice" but at the same time saying "the child deserves a father". So, which is it? A child with rights, or a reproductive choice?

The truth of the matter is that men do have a choice. One choice, not to have sex. Women have that same choice. Perfectly fair. It takes two to tango, so to say.

But it becomes perfectly unfair after that, that women have more choices available to them after that first one. Abort, keep or adoption. Essentially, making that first choice less important to women.

Women have two legal, relatively safe ways out of an unwanted pregnancy. Actually three, in places that have no questions asked, leave a newborn at a hospital or firestation laws. Men have none.

Nature is biased against women- they are stuck with the kid. But the legal system has corrected for that- women now have legal options. Any of which, by the way, makes any consideration one way or the other about the financial rights of the child. So that's not an excuse for denying men their reproductive rights.

So it is incontrovertible that the legal system is skewed against men.
posted by gjc at 6:06 PM on August 5, 2008


As I already mentioned, any man who would carry a child should and does have the right to abort it as he sees fit.

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:33 PM on August 5, 2008


I just solved all of this paternity law nonsense. I'm easily the smartest poster on Metafilter.

The solution is simple: Paternity insurance.

Men who pay a monthly fee would be indemnified for child support obligations. Men who conceived frequently (whether the conception ended in a birth or an abortion) would see their rates go up, while men who didn't would see their rates go down.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:50 PM on August 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Paternity insurance! That's absolute genius, MPDSEA!

And at long last, it would be an insurance product I'd actually be interested in, as opposed to the monthly offers of life insurance I receive now - as if I'd care in the slightest, being single with no kids.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:05 PM on August 5, 2008


I think that paternity insurance would be sort of the inverse (or orthagonal?) to life insurance. Get both and balance your risk portfolio!
posted by Forktine at 7:06 PM on August 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, but as males in possession of a uterus -have- carried children to term, that's hardly misandry to give abortive rights to the owner of the womb. Indeed it's biologically possible for a legal woman to impregnate a legal man. Now you can argue that's the extreme outlier, but then we're back in reality and reality's tricky problems. Like, you know, single mothers, which, demographically speaking, make for a thorny issue. 'Cuz while they may have chosen to carry a kid to term, the baby is still going to get whatever other people pick for it.

A human baby already exists at the point you get a legal obligation to it. Short of killing it, you can’t get rid of it. I would not argue that paternity laws, as they stand, could do more to provide for a male custodial parent, but do you have an answer that provides for the real issue here, a naked, screaming infant, freshly scooped from its mother’s loins or belly?
posted by Phalene at 7:09 PM on August 5, 2008


"I'm with klangklangston here: once you start gestating fetuses on your own, you have the right to all the abortions you want."

Excellent example of misandry right here.


This is not misandry. It is not an expression of hatred for men as a gender. It is an intentionally over-literal argument, perhaps you don't think it's fighting fair, but it's not misandry.

Hell, even if you're so sensitive that you think that this statement is mocking your male inferiority, it's still not really misandry. Do you think the intent is earnestly to mean "You men, so inferior in your lack of ability to gestate a fetus, ha ha, you can't have a painful, expensive medical procedure to prevent an unwanted baby to be born!"

Women have two legal, relatively safe ways out of an unwanted pregnancy. Actually three, in places that have no questions asked, leave a newborn at a hospital or firestation laws. Men have none.

Women have one way out of an unwanted pregnancy -- abortion. Adoption and abandonment are not ways out of an unwanted pregnancy.
posted by desuetude at 7:39 PM on August 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


This is not misandry. It is not an expression of hatred for men as a gender.

Well, if we're going compare geese with ganders, plenty of things are labelled as misogynist that are not actually expressions of hatred for women as a gender.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:53 PM on August 5, 2008


Are you all seriously suggesting that abortion is a magic wand? I mean, I'm pro-choice but sheesh. Hate to break it to you poor sods but abortion is considered a tough choice by 99% of the world.

In fact here's the rub: even among most pro-choice people the idea of abortion is considered contentious enough that all of these arguments are hot air. I consider a woman saying that she won't have an abortion a morally privileged choice, not just a choice choice that we say: "oh no? well tough titties bitch." Instead we say, ok, you made that difficult decision now the child has two parents.

This is an extremely widely held belief. Even among far-left feminists who believe that stuff like "legal but rare" is unfairly pejorative and that abortion can be a morally neutral choice they will generally also subscribe to the opinion that reproductive rights include the right to not be coerced into having an abortion.

Nature is biased against women- they are stuck with the kid. But the legal system has corrected for that- women now have legal options. Any of which, by the way, makes any consideration one way or the other about the financial rights of the child. So that's not an excuse for denying men their reproductive rights.

So it is incontrovertible that the legal system is skewed against men.


DUDE: THIS IS NOT MATH. There is no adding up you can do to prove your incontrovertible. It's a judgment call. Again the idea that y'all are some cut rate John Rawls and are going to definitively prove the nature of justice is insane.

Let's make this real simple: suppose we had a hypothetical world where men or women could get pregnant and we had the same basic rules as we have now except for the "baby carrier" instead of the woman. Would that be biased against men? Obviously not.

Now throw in the natural asymmetry and enjoy the real world.
posted by Wood at 8:50 PM on August 5, 2008


Instead of refuting the individual points, because the willful misrepresentation of my words is tiresome, I'll take a more affirmative route here.

First, pregnancy and parenthood are distinct and ought to be treated as such.

Next, the burdens of unwanted pregnancy are the product of mutual consent and must be born mutually to fullest extent that the law can orchestrate.

Next, the burdens of unwanted parenthood are the product of one person's decision, precisely because only one person has the right, the sole and inalienable right, to choose to end the pregnancy.

Finally, when a woman exercises her right to assume the mantle of parenthood by carrying a pregnancy to term against the father's explicit wishes, the rights and responsibilities of parenting become hers alone.

To compress the ideas further, the fact of abortion rights creates a distinction between what should be the shared burdens of pregnancy and what may become the individually assumed rights and burdens of parenthood.

I've focused on ideas to improve the basic justice of the legal structures. There are all sorts of other aspects to wrestle with, which could be significant enough to scuttle the whole idea. That's not what I've been focusing on, because it's not what interests me most. If you really care about how I think the idea might be implemented, it would basically amount to child-support checks sometimes coming from the state instead of the father, with the additional wrinkle that the father would also forfeit any parental rights and still be on the hook for pregnancy costs.

So all the vitriol is comes down to me thinking child support payments should came from state instead of the father, under certain conditions. Really. It's been revealing, so thanks, of a sort, for showing me how you are with people that disagree with you.

Also, I've only ever called one thing "unfair" in this discussion, and that's making men pay child support for children they did not sire. Other than that, using scare quotes while complaining about what you imagine I've called "unfair" isn't showing much except that you're not actually responding to my words.
posted by NortonDC at 9:30 PM on August 5, 2008


must be born mutually

if that were possible, the whole issue would disappear.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:05 PM on August 5, 2008


I understand where you are coming from, NortonDC but it seems to add too many shades of grey to what is really a black or white situation. Either a man is the biological father and has rights and responsibilities or he isn't. As soon as a woman is pregnant, she is trapped, all her choices involve physical, financial and psychological costs to her alone. That is biology no law can change. Letting the father choose parenthood or not after a pregnancy is already fact is too ripe for abuse. If parenthood should only be mutual does that mean abortion can only be mutual too if he is willing to assume sole custody? What if he agrees to be a co-parent when the pregnancy is discovered at 6 weeks, can he withdraw the consent at 29 weeks? Does he have a 24 hour window to decide, a week? Can he change his mind after the baby is three months old and cute and burbling; what about when it is five? I think most people would agree that two parents are usually better for the child, both financially and emotionally; under your proposed system it sounds like he everyone would be punished by a decision he may have made in haste. All this focus on the man's rights seems to dismiss the rights of the child to the best possible life. Does the man giving up his parental rights also deny the paternal grandparents and aunts and uncles the right to be involved with the child? Human nature being what it is, I would expect to see a lot of waffling. Even when the legal relationship is severed between a child and parent though adoption the parents are still the birth-parents, they may not have rights nor responsibilities but they still have a connection through biology and genetics. I think a person giving consent to possible parenthood by willingly participating in the sex act itself is the clearest way of determining rights and responsibilities.

I think the availability of legal abortion throws confuses too many people. Abortion has been with us as long as women have gotten pregnant. That doesn't make it an easy, consequence-free choice however. It was interesting to me that I was talking with a fellow mefite about this thread and despite being well educated and feminist-leaning he honestly thought abortions were no big deal, just a one pill and the pregnancy is over. He was surprised that I had negative memories of using Plan B, the morning after pill, and that surgical abortions were what all my friends have had. I wonder how many men positing the easy choice of abortion are also mis-informed about the reality of it. Not one woman I know regrets her abortion(s), but all wish they had never happened, and they have all felt physical and psychological effects. He was also surprised that sex and reproduction were so tightly tied in my mind, that I make choices about what sex acts I participate in based on the risk of pregnancy.

I am not sure why you feel some men should walk away from their individual responsibility and have the state pay instead. The state is all of us, so a person who is supporting his own children will also have to pay taxes to support children they did not consent to support instead of the biological father. I very much agree with social assistance, but it seems odd to posit that a mothers and chlidren should be forced onto social assistance because some men do not want to take responsibility for their actions. I honestly can't wrap my head around the logic of this. Men know that sex may lead to pregnancy which may lead to parenthood, but they should be able to say "no thanks" for the responsibility after the risk-taking behaviour and the state should pay instead? And this will be socially acceptable. That seems like a social experiment we do NOT want to make.

As to forfeiting parental rights, many children seek out their biological parents as adults when they have had little or no contact growing up. Would the father be allowed to have a relationship with his biological adult child? If so, isn't that unfair that he gets the rewards of parenting without the obligations; if not, isn't that unfair to the child to deny them a father? Who really wants to police all this?

Yes, I think it is completely unfair for a man to support a child that is not biologically his. But such cases make the news because they are rare, and not the more common and boring story of 66% of parents not in compliance with their support orders (statistic courtesy of Ontario's Family Support Office FSO). Any father paying child support should ask for a paternity test, I am surprised they are not the norm in Family Court at this point. And if the child is his, he should financially support it (and parent it, if he is willing). And now, since it is 2.40 am here, I think I shall go to bed.
posted by saucysault at 11:47 PM on August 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


"I'm with klangklangston here: once you start gestating fetuses on your own, you have the right to all the abortions you want."

Excellent example of misandry right here.


Um. Two things.

#1: I was making a ludicrous statement for comedic effect as many of the statements made in this post have been taking things a bit too far in all directions.

#2: It is not misandry to point out that a man can not gestate a fetus. This is biological fact. As demonstrated by Monty Python.

"Why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?"
"I want to have babies."
"But you can't have babies. Where's the fetus going to gestate? In a cardboard box?!"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:23 AM on August 6, 2008


I think the availability of legal abortion throws confuses too many people. Abortion has been with us as long as women have gotten pregnant. That doesn't make it an easy, consequence-free choice however.

I think saucysalt just nailed the problem with your arguments right there, NortonDC. You and others are acting like abortion is a get-out-of-jail-free card for women, and, wah, men should have one too! But very few women view abortion that way. And what about pro-life women? And what about pro-choice women who couldn't go through with having an abortion? And what about women who live in South Dakota and can't afford to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion? And what about teenage girls whose parents won't consent? What about women who can't afford an abortion, even if the father were willing to chip in?

Legal abortion doesn't mean what you think it means. That's the problem.
posted by Mavri at 6:34 AM on August 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, if we're going compare geese with ganders, plenty of things are labelled as misogynist that are not actually expressions of hatred for women as a gender.

A point that I made upthread as well.
posted by desuetude at 6:36 AM on August 6, 2008


do you honestly think that *anybody* could be bothered reading this whole thread?

i'd bet that one could take, say, two dozen random comments & have a perfect microcosm of the entire thing. for slightly different odds, i think about eight random comments would almost do the trick.

it's basically a Pareto thing, but instead of an 80-20 rule, it's probably closer to 96-4.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:51 AM on August 6, 2008


do you honestly think that *anybody* could be bothered reading this whole thread?

I did! If you think this thread is a waste of time then why did you post 13 comments in it? I thought it was an interesting discussion, it gave me an insight into a male point of view I was vaguely familiar with but didn't have a nuanced view and it made me think about the reasoning behind my own beliefs. I had several interesting conversations IRL based on this thread.

But I am a feminist that went to Trent University at the height of the identity politics debate. So I like long winded conversations.
posted by saucysault at 7:44 AM on August 6, 2008


"So it is incontrovertible that the legal system is skewed against men."

All cats eventually die. Socrates is dead. So it is incontrovertible that Socrates was a cat!

"Next, the burdens of unwanted pregnancy are the product of mutual consent and must be born mutually to fullest extent that the law can orchestrate."

However, you cannot legislate mutual risk and responsibility for pregnancy unless your congress assures each man a uterus. So, while this point feels good to say, we can only hold it as indistinct from the issue of reproductive rights.

"Next, the burdens of unwanted parenthood are the product of one person's decision, precisely because only one person has the right, the sole and inalienable right, to choose to end the pregnancy."

Bullshit. As noted prior, that someone else can stop a bullet that you fired does not remove your responsibility for firing the bullet. You made a positive choice to have sex, with full knowledge of the possible outcome of pregnancy. That the woman did not exercise her veto is purely her prerogative.

"Finally, when a woman exercises her right to assume the mantle of parenthood by carrying a pregnancy to term against the father's explicit wishes, the rights and responsibilities of parenting become hers alone."

Wrong. The woman abstains from making a negative choice, leaving the underlying reality of mutual positive choice in effect. Further, your argument here gives the lie to the idea that abortion should be a free choice for the woman—that she should be compelled to get an abortion if that is what the putative father argues for or face the consequences alone.

Despite your protests of misinterpretation, how else should this be taken but the rationalizations of a shirker?

"To compress the ideas further, the fact of abortion rights creates a distinction between what should be the shared burdens of pregnancy and what may become the individually assumed rights and burdens of parenthood."

And this is what I referred to as muddying—The burdens of pregnancy cannot be shared equally, no matter how you try to define legally cats as dogs, and the burdens of parenthood must be, because that is the interest of the child. You are exactly bassackwards in your conclusions.

"If you really care about how I think the idea might be implemented, it would basically amount to child-support checks sometimes coming from the state instead of the father, with the additional wrinkle that the father would also forfeit any parental rights and still be on the hook for pregnancy costs.

Read this and reflect.

"Really. It's been revealing, so thanks, of a sort, for showing me how you are with people that disagree with you."

You mistake me. I am also like this with those who agree with me when they agree with me by such foolish reasoning as you have advanced here.
posted by klangklangston at 9:44 AM on August 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


They have the same options regarding parenthood now. They're legally responsible for any children they've conceived unless they give the children up for adoption. Same as women.

NortonDC, I think what you're refusing to take in about this point is that the woman's legal responsibility for any child she's conceived begins with the sex act. She's immediately on the hook, because from that point until birth, she is in charge of what's going on in her body. There is no way to give the male legal power over that. Her decisions about her pregnancy are legal decisions about the child she's conceived. She is unable to escape making a decision about it from the moment the sperm hits the egg. She's immediately responsible for the pregnancy.

IF a child comes into the world as a result of her pregnancy, she and the man are equally responsible for the parental support or adoption process. Both are always legally responsible for any children born that they conceived. While pregnant, sheis legally responsible for making decisions regarding the fetus inside her within the constraints of law. It is she that must comply with state and federal law outlining when and how an abortion might take place; it is she who seeks and accepts legal protection if her pregnancy makes her unable to physically do her job, it is she who invokes the Family and Medical Leave act if she needs time away from work. It is she who, in some states, may be held legally responsible if a toxicology report shows signs of alcohol or drug abuse at the child's birth, and, in some states, she who is legally required to take HIV tests, and in some states, she who must comply with parental notification if she is under 18. It is she who bears the responsibility for neonatal care and is financially liable for the resulting bills and/or the Medicaid paperwork. There is an entire body of law in a cross-section of legal fields dealing with the condition of pregnancy, for which the person who is pregnant is immediately responsible for complying with.

But when a child is born, the father and mother have exactly the same options regarding parenthood: support the child, give the child up for adoption, or illegally abandon the child (something that was quite common in the nineteenth century and still occurs with some regularity today). The upshot of all this discussion is that when a human being is born, it is the product of two parents, not one, and those two parents who concieved it are now responsible for it.

The answer to the question of whether a woman has to pay a man child support when a man is awarded custody is "yes." I tried to find a site for you, but after 4 pages got sick of wading through the angry screeds of men who feel oppressed by the system. However, I know of at least one - a heroin-addicted co-worker of my boyfriend, whose ex-husband was awarded sole custody, and has had her wages garnished as a result. There's nothing gender-dependent about support orders - the non-residential or noncustodial parent pays the residential or custodial parent. In cases of shared custody, the state uses a formula to compare costs, incomes, etc. to see whether payments are required. This often seems to be a male problem, though, because women are afforded more custody more often, for reasons which I believe may be sexist or at least reflect sexist conditions in society having to do with income, earning power, and available time.

Finally, someone upthread observed that some men have wished for milennia to have consequence-free sex, and because it's a possibility (since men are not physically yoked to a resulting pregnancy), all these ideas have been tried and, it looks like every now and then, someone else thinks they'll try it. But as the world has grown more equitable and progessive, society has increasingly rejected as harmful models that have let give men an "extra" choice women will never have - being able to walk away from the consequences of pregnancy.
posted by Miko at 10:34 AM on August 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


Woman pleads guilty for not paying child support. So not only can women be responsible for child support, but the laws requiring them to do so will be enforced.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:42 PM on August 6, 2008


If you think this thread is a waste of time then why did you post 13 comments in it?

oh, the topic & the thread themselves aren't a waste of time. there's just no point in reading the whole thing when even a quick skim shows that it's just the same thing over & over & over & over again.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:47 PM on August 6, 2008


How about trying that again, Solon and Thanks?
posted by NortonDC at 2:54 PM on August 6, 2008


oh, actually answering the question: why 13 - now 15 - comments? that's a factor of keeping a Recent Activity tab open & refreshing every half hour or so, as a headcleaner between other activities. if a thread goes on long enough & one adopts that kind of approach to the site, the busiest thread usually ends up first in your Recent Activity, and from time to time something will stand out that you feel like responding to.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:02 PM on August 6, 2008


Here are some of the search results for that exact wording, NortonDC, must be the same case. Here are some Yahoo answers mentioning nonpaying mothers with court-ordered support. Here's an article from Wisconsin, stating that from a proportion of 5% of payors 10 years ago, mothers now "make up as much as 15% of child-support orders in Wisconsin and a similar portion of caseloads nationwide, according to estimates by the state Department of Workforce Development's Bureau of Child Support." And this is a really interesting fact sheet about child support payors and recipients from the Census Bureau. And the data from the 2000 census is even more interesting: it says that
Custodial mothers were more likely than custodial fathers to have child support awards, 64 percent compared with 40 percent. About three-quarters of custodial parents with awards received at least some of the child support that was due. Forty-five percent received all payments and another 31 percent received some payments, but not all thatwas due.
Looks like the imbalance is closing and rather rapidly. But still:
Between 1993 and 2003, the proportion of custodial parents and their children living in poverty fell from 33 percent to 24 percent. The 2003 poverty rate was higher for households maintainedby custodial mothers (26 percent) than those maintained by custodial fathers (13 percent), as shown in Figure 3.

posted by Miko at 4:19 PM on August 6, 2008


I read the whole thread! Mostly because I started it and I would feel like a jerk for not following it to its (il)logical conclusion.

I read this on the T today and would like to point it out to anyone still advocating for abortion as a "get out of pregnancy free" card. Thanks to George W., emergency contraception may be available based on personal whims.

Terminating a pregnancy is not as easy as turning off a switch.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:20 PM on August 6, 2008


there's just no point in reading the whole thing when even a quick skim shows that it's just the same thing over & over & over & over again.

Well then, perhaps consider calling out these general issues, rather than specific comments without context.
posted by desuetude at 4:21 PM on August 6, 2008


Miko, you put up five links, but none of them describe mothers forced to pay child support after being thwarted in an attempt to put the child up for adoption.

Again, here's what I wrote: "I haven't found any evidence of mothers being forced to pay child support in a case where they tried put the child up for adoption and the fathers refused to consent. Please share examples if you have any. I'm genuinely curious."
posted by NortonDC at 4:35 PM on August 6, 2008


Miko, thanks for the thoughtful and informative answers. We may disagree on this, but your patient attidue is appreciated.

Onwards...

yet the courts feel that it is better for a child to have two parents and leans toward that direction in almost all decisions

The court can make serious mistakes in that regard, there's a point when attempting to keep families just because they're family can be unhealthy.

To coerce her to is for someone else to assume control of her body. Unconstitutional.

Agreed.

We can only point to the billions of dollars in uncollected support that went unpaid until 1986.

Actually I'm in agreement with you for the times and places when abortion aren't safe (relatively) alternatives.

Are you saying that every woman who has had an abortion has suffered financial or physical harm?

Yes. Of course.


How so? No, I'm not being flip, I'm curious how you're defining harm.

No, it's a near perfect analogy, because the analogy is not to pregnancy, it's to birth control. Specifically, it's to point up the way in which the assumption that birth control will prevent an unwanted condition is false.

Yes, but that's not the argument. Birth control isn't perfect, things happen, but the fact that birth control was used means that at least one of the participants in sex is trying not to have kids. That fact that a pregnancy can occur doesn't magically make people want to have kids or nor should it mean they shouldn't be forced to do.

Either both agree to have and support the kid or they shouldn't have the kid. Ideally birth control and abortion would be a readily option. Ideally the numbers you cite would't be so high.


And that it's not countless, after all. Right now it counts at about 15.9 million.

That's caseloads (how are they defining that?), yet the number of paternities established or acknowledged was 1.6 million. Shouldn't those numbers be more in line with each other? This isn't an attempt to disprove your point, but curiousity as to how the numbers add up.


This helps make clear why the state has an interest in encouraging two-parent support.

Yes, this is the best arguement for forcing both parents to be responsible for support. Unless we want to start pushing children off the side of cliffs, someone has to pay for them (in the interests of having a stable society) and who best but the parents.


I think we agree on the major points i.e. it's best if two parents give their support to a child and deadbeat parents are all kinds of morally wrong. Where we differ and may have to agree to disagree is on the issue of men being able to forfeit parent rights before birth.

I find it personally disgusting and depressing that men are seeking a system which would allow them to avoid being personally impacted in any way by their decision to have sex. It is not a choice available to women under any proposal system, and that is the final, inherent unfairness we won't be able to solve with law.
Abortion is not easy, but it is an option if a woman knows a man does not want kids and is refusing support.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:16 PM on August 6, 2008


Are you saying that every woman who has had an abortion has suffered financial or physical harm?

I would warrant that yes, every woman who has had an abortion has suffered harm of some kind. An abortion, as a procedure, is painful and usually not done under general anaesthesia. It causes cramping for hours, sometimes days, afterwards. It is not major surgery, per se, but it is certainly painful. Scraping out the lining of one's uterus counts as "physical harm" in my book. Unless your definition of harm specifies the loss of an organ or a limb, abortion does qualify as "harmful." As I previously mentioned, the scarring from the abortion procedure can impair a woman's ability to conceive in the future, which is certainly harmful in the reproductive sense.

As for financial harm, in the US, insurance does not cover abortion, which is an "elective" procedure. Any woman in the US who has had an abortion has paid for it out of pocket. I am not intimately familiar with the pricing scales of clinics and I welcome anyone to provide more detailed information or to refute me on this, but I do know that insurance does NOT cover an abortion. Being that someone does have to pay for it... yes, family members and the partner in conception may chip in, but the bill will be presented to the woman getting the procedure.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:43 PM on August 6, 2008


Well then, perhaps consider calling out these general issues, rather than specific comments without context.

Yeh, sorry about that. I'm down about 6hrs sleep over two nights, which makes me snarkier than usual, and more lacking in judgement, too. Not a great mix.

On the bright side, I was thinking this thread would make an excellent resource for anybody researching an essay on contraception & paternity rights (etc) so I hope it ends up with a nice high Google rank.

I was also thinking it would be interesting to plot out the issues into a mind map. I'll see if I have the motivation to persist with this sometime. Doing so would also allow a quick "coding frame" sort of tally on the various branches indicating the number of times the same points have been made (eg: "child support is about the rights & wellbeing of the child" - 59 hits).

Anyway, carry on & don't mind me. I really don't mean to shit in a thread that is actually of great interest. The only reason I haven't contributed any substantive thoughts is that others have already made my points already.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:46 PM on August 6, 2008


"If parenthood should only be mutual does that mean abortion can only be mutual too if he is willing to assume sole custody?"
What I'm proposing treats the abortion rights as inalienable from the pregnant woman.
posted by NortonDC at 7:17 PM on August 5

only one person has the right, the sole and inalienable right, to choose to end the pregnancy.
posted by NortonDC at 12:30 AM on August 6
"What if he agrees to be a co-parent when the pregnancy is discovered at 6 weeks, can he withdraw the consent at 29 weeks? Does he have a 24 hour window to decide, a week? Can he change his mind after the baby is three months old and cute and burbling; what about when it is five?"

For my first pass at those questions, I would model my answers on the legal abortion options available to women. After some more thought, I'm leaning toward the idea that the man would have to maintain a constant position. But I don't know for sure yet.

"under your proposed system it sounds like he everyone would be punished by a decision he may have made in haste."

I reject the word "punished", but the question of how to distribute the burdens of parenthood, as distinct from the burdens of pregnancy, is central to the ideas I'm describing. I assert that the person or persons who choose to take on parenthood for a particular child are the only individuals to assign the burdens of parenthood to. If poverty threatens that parent's ability to support the child, then it is in the collective interest to provide child support payments so the child grows up up sheltered, educated, healthy, etc.

I chose language that is not specific to either sex for the above paragraph on purpose because it applies whether the man or woman is the sole parent, though of course the man could only become the sole parent if the woman chose to carry to delivery and then yielded her maternal rights and responsibilities to the father. I don't imagine that would be common, but the principle applies anyway.

"I think a person giving consent to possible parenthood by willingly participating in the sex act itself is the clearest way of determining rights and responsibilities."

I don't think you realized when you wrote it, but this statement contains an attack on the abortion rights of women. Please tread carefully with that line of reasoning.

"I am not sure why you feel some men should walk away from their individual responsibility and have the state pay instead."

I have several problems with this statement. I'm not arguing that men should avoid any responsibilities, I'm arguing for men to be able to avoid some legal responsibilities, the same ones women are able to avoid. Also, I'm arguing for men to be held strictly accountable for the risks they do individually influence and knowingly accept, the risks of pregnancy, more strictly than they are now, as far as I know.

Again, a core tenet here is that the fact of abortion rights creates an irreconcilable break between in what had previously been the continuous legal stream from conception throughout parenthood. That break creates a point at which all reproductive control passes to one party, and therefore that party must assume all responsibility in the case of conflict regarding whether or not to reproduce. (side note: using Plan B does not result in abortion)

"I very much agree with social assistance, but it seems odd to posit that a mothers and chlidren should be forced onto social assistance because some men do not want to take responsibility for their actions. I honestly can't wrap my head around the logic of this. Men know that sex may lead to pregnancy which may lead to parenthood, but they should be able to say "no thanks" for the responsibility after the risk-taking behaviour and the state should pay instead?"

Men are responsible for pregnancy, which is the result of their risk-taking behavior. They would not be personally responsible for what comes after the break I discuss above, if they oppose becoming a parent. The power to abort carries the responsibility for the choice regarding how to use that power.

"Would the father be allowed to have a relationship with his biological adult child? If so, isn't that unfair that he gets the rewards of parenting without the obligations; if not, isn't that unfair to the child to deny them a father?"

He would have no right to it, but nothing would stop the adult child from pursuing one. Also, regarding grandparent's rights, I don't have much of an opinion on that, but here's an introduction, which seems to indicate that grandparents have no visitation rights.

"That doesn't make [abortion] an easy, consequence-free choice however."

I don't think it's easy, and I don't think it's consequence-free.

"what about pro-life women? And what about pro-choice women who couldn't go through with having an abortion?"

Those are their choices -- their choices and their responsibilities.

"And what about women who live in South Dakota and can't afford to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion?"

We should try to fix that and work to ensure that reproductive choices are truly available for all people.

"And what about teenage girls whose parents won't consent?"

I don't know, what do you think?

"What about women who can't afford an abortion, even if the father were willing to chip in?"

Subsudize it, or make the man pay. Either way's fine with me. I might lean toward making the man pay.

"you cannot legislate mutual risk and responsibility for pregnancy unless your congress assures each man a uterus."

No, the law will not a give a man a uterus or subject him to contractions, Nonetheless the law has existing frameworks regarding "making whole" that could be directly applied to these circumstances. Much of the hardest work required to legally address these issues has already been done. So yes, there are remedies with the legal effect of balancing the burdens of unwanted pregnancy between the man and woman, including "medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of companionship, loss of future earnings, loss of enjoyment of life, and many other factors."

"As noted prior, that someone else can stop a bullet that you fired does not remove your responsibility for firing the bullet. You made a positive choice to have sex, with full knowledge of the possible outcome of pregnancy."

Absolutely right. Pregnancy is the result of "firing the bullet", and men are responsible for the burdens of pregnancy.

"That the woman did not exercise her veto is purely her prerogative."

Purely her prerogative, and purely her responsibility.

"The woman abstains from making a negative choice, leaving the underlying reality of mutual positive choice in effect."

Wrong. You're assuming an underlying mutually positive choice for parenthood where none is demonstrated. The use of birth control, for instance, constitutes a direct demonstration of the absence of positive choice regarding becoming a parent.

"Further, your argument here gives the lie to the idea that abortion should be a free choice for the woman"

Wrong, its entire foundation rests upon her inalienable right to an abortion, as I've indicated over and over. Her inalienable right to make the free choice of taking up parenthood or avoiding parenthood makes her the sole responsible party in the event of a conflict over parenthood.

"Despite your protests of misinterpretation, how else should this be taken but the rationalizations of a shirker?"

How else should that be taken but as a personal attack? Really, is that where you want this to go? I'd like to keep thinking better of you than that.

"The burdens of pregnancy cannot be shared equally"

See above regarding "making whole". There are existing applicable legal frameworks for this.

"NortonDC, I think what you're refusing to take in about this point is that the woman's legal responsibility for any child she's conceived begins with the sex act. She's immediately on the hook, because from that point until birth, she is in charge of what's going on in her body. There is no way to give the male legal power over that. Her decisions about her pregnancy are legal decisions about the child she's conceived. She is unable to escape making a decision about it from the moment the sperm hits the egg. She's immediately responsible for the pregnancy."

I think you're not addressing the discontinuity between pregnancy and parenthood created by abortion rights. "She's immediately on the hook, because from that point until birth, she is in charge of what's going on in her body." Actually, I'm saying she's totally in charge of the pregnancy AND that the man is still on the hook for the burdens of the pregnancy to the degree that the law can compensate and balance for them. Violent agreement regarding her being in charge, with me placing more responsbilities on him with no additional influence. "There is no way to give the male legal power over that." More violent agreement on this point, all along.

Miko's next paragraph describes the current law. It looks accurate to me, and it doesn't have much bearing on validity of the changes I'm discussing in that body of law.

Then she answers a child support question I didn't ask. Then later she asserts that "society has increasingly rejected as harmful models that have let give men an 'extra' choice women will never have - being able to walk away from the consequences of pregnancy", which is also completely in line with what I'm discussing since I place so much more responsibility on men for "pregnancy" than under current law.
posted by NortonDC at 7:01 PM on August 6, 2008


NortonDC, sorry I misunderstood, and thought you were merely looking for cases in which women paid child support.

Men are responsible for pregnancy, which is the result of their risk-taking behavior.

And if it results in birth, that is the outcome of their original risk.

Pregnancy is the result of "firing the bullet", and men are responsible for the burdens of pregnancy.

And I will continue to say that no, men are not reponsible for the burdens of pregnancy. The pregnant women are; all the rights, liabilities, responsibilities, and physical risks related to pregnancy adhere to the pregnant women only.

Men are responsible to take care of any children they've fathered when they're born.

I think you're not addressing the discontinuity between pregnancy and parenthood created by abortion rights. "She's immediately on the hook, because from that point until birth, she is in charge of what's going on in her body." Actually, I'm saying she's totally in charge of the pregnancy AND that the man is still on the hook for the burdens of the pregnancy to the degree that the law can compensate and balance for them.

The man has no rights or responsibilities regarding the pregnancy. He is liable for the support of any of his children born into the world.

I don't think you're being wilfully obstinate, NortonDC, but I feel as though I have been creating different sentence constructions to ay exactly the same thing for some time now. Klanklangston's shotgun analogy is the clearest reduction of the issue. Once the bullet has fired, someone else may stop it or not stop it, but the person who pulled the trigger is responsible for its ultimate impact.

There's really no more to say, I'm afraid. Brandon Blatcher, you should reread the thread, since most of your questions were answered already. NortonDC, your continued focus on what happens after pregnancy is simply irrelevant to support law or the feal social need for parents to be responsible for their children. I'm sure that if nothing we have said has convinced you of this up to this point, nothing anyone is going to say now will be so stunningly clear as to get through on this point.

I'm confident that the thread has given people a lot to think about, some more than others - I know already, from backchannel communications, that it has caused more than one person to think differently about what the choice to engage in sex means, and that's a really good outcome; it's also caused me to reach much greater clarity about the condition of pregnancy and the need for parental support legislation, as the data makes very clear what happens in society with it as opposed to without it. I'm equally confident that in today's world, there is neither the social will nor any apparent need or benefit to take the retrogressive step of legally freeing men from being obligated to support or legally assign support to their own offspring, once born.
posted by Miko at 7:21 PM on August 6, 2008


Wrong. You're assuming an underlying mutually positive choice for parenthood where none is demonstrated. The use of birth control, for instance, constitutes a direct demonstration of the absence of positive choice regarding becoming a parent.

And oh, yeah, this: not in light of the foreknowledge that birth control is fallible. So that's not wrong - reducing the risk is still accepting the potential outcomes. Positive choice (acceptance of potential childbirth) is the default state until birth control is 100% effective and people use it perfectly.
posted by Miko at 7:26 PM on August 6, 2008


Miko, you put up five links, but none of them describe mothers forced to pay child support after being thwarted in an attempt to put the child up for adoption.

After reading around a bit, I've learned why such a story is so hard to find. That's because if a woman is thwarted in an attempt to put a child up for adoption, all that happens is that the father petitions the court for full custody and is granted it unless he's deemed unfit. If the father pursues a court order for support, and receives the judgment, the mother does pay support. So this situation is already embedded in the Census Bureau statistics above.
posted by Miko at 7:32 PM on August 6, 2008


Wait, are you saying that pregnancy and childbirth are somehow equivalent or more burdonsome than financially supporting a child for 18+ years??

"But when a child is born, the father and mother have exactly the same options regarding parenthood: support the child, give the child up for adoption, or illegally abandon the child (something that was quite common in the nineteenth century and still occurs with some regularity today)."

That's sort of true, except that:

1- Many jurisdicrions have laws that specifically make it perfectly OK to abandon a newborn that the mother does not want.

and

2- The mother can make the decision to put the child up for adoption without anyone's consent (because she has the option to not list a father on the birth certificate) and walk away and suffer no legal consequences. The father does not have that right. QED.
posted by gjc at 8:18 PM on August 6, 2008


"Once the bullet has fired, someone else may stop it or not stop it, but the person who pulled the trigger is responsible for its ultimate impact."

Even if it is just a metaphor, that is a shockingly misandric view of men's reproductive rights and sexuality.
posted by gjc at 8:21 PM on August 6, 2008


2- The mother can make the decision to put the child up for adoption without anyone's consent (because she has the option to not list a father on the birth certificate) and walk away and suffer no legal consequences. The father does not have that right. QED.

Actually, he does. If the mother does not name him, but he wants to contest the adoption, he has to establish paternity, which in most states can be done by filing an affadavit or statement of paternity. He might be required to undergo genetic testing to approve it. Generally, fathers can't oppose adoption unless they intend to apply for full custody.

As to the first one, fair enough, there are all these safe haven laws now. So change my statement to "legally or illegally abandon," which in some states requires the person receiving the baby to try to establish the parent's identity and get an adoption agreement anyway, and in any case leaves a situation in which the child's adoption is not final. The father can still sue for custody.
posted by Miko at 8:32 PM on August 6, 2008


Oh, kiss off, better judgment, I'm posting.

I don't know if you've changed your position further down the line, dirtynumbangelboy, but as far as I managed to read, I'm pretty much in 100% agreement with you.

Women have the absolutely final say in whether or not a child gets born. That's fine with me. However, if only she wants it, why shouldn't only she pay for it? I guess I just don't believe that a child has a "right" to a certain standard of living. I mean, where do we draw this line?

I just got back from a visit with half-siblings I haven't seen in over a decade and a half. All three of them got raised in an environment that was much more monied than the one I was raised in by my single mother, even with the child support payments from my father. Does this seem wrong to you? I would wager not. If my mother had been able to provide an equal level of upbringing on her own, should my father still have been required to pay child support?

Unless we're going to raise everyone in identical camps and give them each seed money when they turn 18, people will be raised with differing standards of living. Men and women should have equal access to decision making power vis-a-vis the consequences of having sex. For women, this means being able to abort or give the child up for adoption. For men, it should mean being able to disavow and rights and responsbilities toward the child. Maybe you think anyone making that choice would be despicable. I know plenty of people who would say the same about a woman choosing an abortion. I disagree with them.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:53 PM on August 6, 2008


To go along with the many good points that have been repeated ad nauseum, here's another one that I haven't seen discussed: pregnancy causes hormonal changes in a woman's body which affect her emotions and may affect her decision-making about the pregnancy. (This goes hand in hand with things we have talked about, the way a woman's decision-making is affected by the fact that the embryo/fetus is in her body, and that an abortion will affect her body.) I'm guessing that we could find a number of women who were sure they didn't want a child until a mistake happened but then once they were pregnant they ended up making different choices than they thought they would. To the extent these choices are influenced by hormones, those hormones are a result of pregnancy which was caused by both parents but whose effects are only being felt by the mother. There's a lot of evolution that went into developing hormones to create maternal attachment to children; the pregnancy (which the man is partially responsible for causing) triggers them. It's just one of the many reasons why the context of women's decisions about whether to continue a pregnancy and raise a child is not the same as men's could ever be, and thus trying to give men "the same choices as women already have" is bound to be unfair to women (along with the already-explained ways that it's unfair to the child.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 10:14 PM on August 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Miko, did it really need to take nearly four hundred comments to get to an acknowledgment that women have opportunities after conception to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood that men lack?

What comes next is looking for ways to align choices with responsibilities. And it's going to look a lot like what I've been describing.
posted by NortonDC at 10:31 PM on August 6, 2008


Miko, did it really need to take nearly four hundred comments to get to an acknowledgment that women have opportunities after conception to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood that men lack?

When a woman gets an abortion, it's to end a pregnancy. It's not to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood. We can demonstrate this by pointing out that adoption is the means by which we allow people to responibilities of parenthood.

It's really true; obviously it makes the issue of parenthood moot, but women have abortions to end pregnancy, not toa void parenthood. They don't wish to go through with a pregnancy. They don't want to be pregnant. If it were parenthood they were avoiding, and everything else were equal, they'd just opt for adoption. But everything else is not equal; their bodies undergo pregnancy, and they can choose to end it or not. This is very clear for me on a gut check - to this point in life, I've been unwilling to go through with a pregnancy regardless of whether I wanted to be a parent. Absolutely unwilling.

Fortunately, the choices are already aligned with the responsibilities - she has the responsibility for the pregnancy. The responsibility for parenthood is shared.

I'm never going to say that men should have rights regarding pregnancy. So if you're waiting for that moment, it's not coming.
posted by Miko at 7:05 AM on August 7, 2008


Is the choice of whether or not to give a kid up for adoption really a joint choice, or is this another one that legally rests entirely in the hands of the mother?
posted by adamdschneider at 8:15 AM on August 7, 2008


I would like to emphasize EmilyClimb's point that women often feel differently when they become pregnant than they would have predicted.

I mentioned earlier that as human animals, we have the drive to parent children. And that animal instinct, once a woman becomes pregnant is hard to over-ride. Not impossible, but it definitely makes abortion a more fraught decision than any simple "I said I didn't want a child, and I don't, so I won't." Biology throws a wrench into it by immediately making a woman feel attached to and protective of the alien being growing inside her.

Throwing the biological changes going on inside a pregnant woman isn't popular in a discussion of politics, but it's certainly an important factor for a woman who wasn't trying to have children in her decision whether or not to continue a pregnancy.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:59 AM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is the choice of whether or not to give a kid up for adoption really a joint choice, or is this another one that legally rests entirely in the hands of the mother?

I've been answering a lot of these legal questions, but for those who are curious, there is really an abundance of information on the web about the legal/procedural aspects of adoption, custody, and child support. It's something you can research easily and it's quite enlightening to realize how very much work has been done to establish and maintain our present system.

The short answer to this is that it's a joint choice: in all states, both parents have the "primary right of consent" to adoption. But there is also a body of policy (varying by state) about what happens when it isn't a joint choice. The consent of both parents is legally required for adoption to be final. But since there are situations in which both parents aren't present at the time of birth, or the father isn't known, or the father doesn't wish to assert his right to parent the child or give consent, there is an accompanying set of means by which the parental rights of either parent can be terminated:
In all States, the birth mother and the birth father, if he has properly established paternity1, hold the primary right of consent to adoption of their child. Either one or both parents may have these rights terminated for a variety of possible reasons, including abandonment, failure to support the child, mental incompetence, or a finding of parental unfitness due to abuse or neglect. When neither birth parent is available to give consent, the responsibility can fall to other legal entities, such as:

An agency which has custody of the child
Any person who has been given custody
A guardian or guardian ad litem
The court having jurisdiction over the child
A close relative of the child
A "next friend" of the child, who is a responsible adult appointed by the court
So, for instance, if the baby is born and the father is a total no-show, the court might terminate his right of consent, or simply assume his consent. This is why it's recommended that men who want to oppose the adoption of their children (and assume custody) are recommended to establish paternity in as many ways as necessary as soon as possible after the birth. But in cases where he is a no-show at that time, and consent is assumed, it's actually possible for him to come back later and sue for visitation rights, or even for the adoptive parents to seek support from him. Whether those cases are successful varies, and they're quite rare, but the theoretical standard is that unless his parental rights are formally terminated there is at least hte legal possibility that he can assert them later.
posted by Miko at 9:11 AM on August 7, 2008


Sorry, here was my source for that.
posted by Miko at 9:12 AM on August 7, 2008


Biology throws a wrench into it by immediately making a woman feel attached to and protective of the alien being growing inside her.

Not always. "Get this thing outta me and now" is also a feeling some women have. Not to override your point that it's not possible to predict how you're going to feel and that it may surprise you.
posted by Miko at 9:13 AM on August 7, 2008


Thanks for that, Miko. However, it all seems to revolve around the rights of the father. Nothing in it seems to point to any ability to abrogate responsibilities absent a similar urge in the mother.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:30 AM on August 7, 2008


No, there's not, and there's not for the mother either.
posted by Miko at 9:35 AM on August 7, 2008


When a woman gets an abortion, it's to end a pregnancy. It's not to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood.

It's really true; obviously it makes the issue of parenthood moot, but women have abortions to end pregnancy, not toa void parenthood. They don't wish to go through with a pregnancy. They don't want to be pregnant. If it were parenthood they were avoiding, and everything else were equal, they'd just opt for adoption.

I'm sorry, this is totally incorrect. I know at least one woman who had an abortion for the sole purpose of avoiding parenthood, and her specific reasons lead to me to believe that she is not some unique case. She wasn't even aware she was pregnant for over 4 months, so it wasn't even close to the situation of wanting to avoid the effects of pregnancy.

While what you say may be true for some women, it is absurd to say that it is universal, and seems that your splitting hairs in a way most people would not.
posted by Snyder at 10:41 AM on August 7, 2008


Yeah, but not wanting to be a parent is one reason I would have for having an abortion, if I was unlucky enough to have to have one. It's a huge reason. Even if the kid is given up for adoption (which, let's face it, is looked at as shameful when it's someone who could take care of the child herself), that woman still became a mother. I don't want to be a mother. At all.
posted by agregoli at 11:33 AM on August 7, 2008


No, there's not, and there's not for the mother either.

I would like to make sure I have this straight, because I'm not sure I do. I don't have the time to research these laws myself, so I thank you for your willingness to share your knowledge. Here is how I understand the sequence of choices:

Men and women can choose to not have sex.

Men and women can choose to use birth control.

Women can choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Beyond this, if the woman chooses not to terminate, is where it becomes hazy for me. If the woman chooses to retain the child, the man is held financially responsible regardless of his wishes, correct? If the woman does not want the child, but the man does, he is given, in effect, the opportunity to raise the child himself, correct? Does the woman incur any financial responsibility in this scenario?
posted by adamdschneider at 11:39 AM on August 7, 2008


Of course she would, in the last one - she would have to pay child support, if he has sole custody. But that doesn't happen very often.
posted by agregoli at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2008


I also forgot to say that I too think it is disingenuous to say that abortions are undertaken to avoid pregnancies rather than parenthood. This suggests that plenty of women would be happy to raise children (with all that entails) as long as they didn't have to carry them for nine months. This strikes me as a gross misrepresentation.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:42 AM on August 7, 2008


I'm sorry, this is totally incorrect. I know at least one woman who had an abortion for the sole purpose of avoiding parenthood, and her specific reasons lead to me to believe that she is not some unique case. She wasn't even aware she was pregnant for over 4 months, so it wasn't even close to the situation of wanting to avoid the effects of pregnancy.

While what you say may be true for some women, it is absurd to say that it is universal, and seems that your splitting hairs in a way most people would not.


I see what you're saying, yet it's still empirically true. Adoption is the means by which someone with a baby avoids parenthood. Abortion is the means by which you end pregnancy, and don't end up with a baby.

This suggests that plenty of women would be happy to raise children (with all that entails) as long as they didn't have to carry them for nine months. This strikes me as a gross misrepresentation.


No, because they could give them up for adoption. They wouldn't be happy to raise children, but they don't have to.
posted by Miko at 11:47 AM on August 7, 2008


I get what your suggesting, adamdschneider - I think the argument is based out of the idea that oftentimes, anti-choicers will suggest adoption as an alternative to abortion - adoption is an alternative to parenting, but not to being pregnant. Abortion is a solution to not being pregnant.

Abortions are undertaken for a huge variety of reasons, but they are usually both, I'm assuming - both to stop pregnancy and avoid parenting/decisions about a child.
posted by agregoli at 11:49 AM on August 7, 2008


If the woman chooses to retain the child, the man is held financially responsible regardless of his wishes, correct? If the woman does not want the child, but the man does, he is given, in effect, the opportunity to raise the child himself, correct? Does the woman incur any financial responsibility in this scenario?

I can tell you haven't read the thread, because the answers to these questions appeared earlier. The answers are 1. Yes, he can be held responsible, just like the woman; 2. Yes, just like the woman; and 3. Yes, if he has some custody and receives a child support judgement, just like the woman.
posted by Miko at 11:49 AM on August 7, 2008


they are usually both, I'm assuming - both to stop pregnancy and avoid parenting/decisions about a child.

Yeah, it is probably both, but the point I'm trying to make is that the choice is definitely one to stop pregnancy first and foremost, because there is another way to avoid parenting and making decisions about a child, which is adoption. Stopping pregnancy does indeed mean there's no child to make a decision about. But it's not necessary to stop a pregnancy in order to abdicate responsibility for a child. Though I suppose, if you don't, you're liable to end up paying child support for a child you don't want in the event that the father sues for custody and gets a support judgement against you. Still an equal risk there.
posted by Miko at 11:52 AM on August 7, 2008


She wasn't even aware she was pregnant for over 4 months, so it wasn't even close to the situation of wanting to avoid the effects of pregnancy.

Out of curiosity, why didn't she choose to have the baby and put it up for adoption?
posted by Miko at 11:54 AM on August 7, 2008


You're right, I didn't read the whole thread (too long), and I admitted as much in my initial post. What it comes down to for me is this: Men and women have similar choices every step of the way (to have sex or not, to use birth control or not, to choose custody of the resulting child or not), save one. I don't think anyone (man or woman) should be forced to financially support a child they do not want, but women have an option (a final, unable to be appealed one) that men simply do not have. No woman can ever be truly forced to support a child she does not want, because she can choose to terminate her pregnancies. This choice (to definitively avoid coercion) is not available to men. To me, this is wrong.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:20 PM on August 7, 2008


I think if you read the entire thread, you'll find all those arguments have already been responded to. I don't have the energy to rehash them, but they're all there.
posted by Miko at 12:25 PM on August 7, 2008


If by responded to you mean people saying, "that's just the way it is, deal with it," I got to those parts, thanks. If you mean some more reasoned critique, then perhaps I'll get around to reading them, but I can't imagine any grouping of words convincing me that the current state of affairs is fair and just.
posted by adamdschneider at 12:35 PM on August 7, 2008


Read harder.
posted by Miko at 12:38 PM on August 7, 2008


I don't think anyone (man or woman) should be forced to financially support a child they do not want, but women have an option (a final, unable to be appealed one) that men simply do not have.

And pregnancy is a risk that men simply do not bear. Evens.
posted by desuetude at 12:58 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Evens.

Hardly. Pregnancy is a risk that can be wholly mitigated by making abortions readily available.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:13 PM on August 7, 2008


Wholly? Uh, no. We've been over that.
posted by agregoli at 1:19 PM on August 7, 2008


Do "men's rights" types at least warn potential sex partners that they think they're entitled to consequence-free sex due to the fact that they don't have a uterus? I can't imagine any sane or rational woman responding to what some of you believe by saying, "You are SO right that the burden of failed birth control should be mine alone to bear! Stick it in, baby." Or maybe you don't think you need to inform her beforehand, because, hey, abortion!
posted by Mavri at 1:21 PM on August 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Absolutely right. Pregnancy is the result of "firing the bullet", and men are responsible for the burdens of pregnancy."

By decree, cats are dogs and day is night. Men can never bear the primary responsibility for pregnancy sans pregnancy. Further, parenthood is the ultimate result of "firing the bullet." Parenthood proceeds from unhalted pregnancy.

"Purely her prerogative, and purely her responsibility."

Absolutely correct. The responsibility of pregnancy rests upon the woman. Responsibility for parenthood rests upon the parents. The intercession of a period of autarchy between the mutual responsibility for sex and the mutual responsibility of parenthood does not obviate that responsibility.

Wrong. You're assuming an underlying mutually positive choice for parenthood where none is demonstrated. The use of birth control, for instance, constitutes a direct demonstration of the absence of positive choice regarding becoming a parent.

As noted, the assumption of risk involved in sex includes parenthood. I make a positive choice to drive cognizant of the risk of accidents, yet obviously do not desire them. Still, should I be in an accident, the responsibilities of dealing with said accident are incumbent upon me.

Wrong, its entire foundation rests upon her inalienable right to an abortion, as I've indicated over and over. Her inalienable right to make the free choice of taking up parenthood or avoiding parenthood makes her the sole responsible party in the event of a conflict over parenthood.

You are still conflating incorrectly. This is a choice of pregnancy, not parenthood. That parenthood may proceed without her negative choice has only a contributory effect on the decision process. She does not want the child AND does not want to be pregnant.

"How else should that be taken but as a personal attack? Really, is that where you want this to go? I'd like to keep thinking better of you than that."

You advocate a system for men to avoid all responsibility for their sexual choices while saddling women with that burden, and it is impossible not to see some self-interest speaking. When captains of industry argue for the privatization of profits and the socialization of risk, their rhetorical interest in a fair assignment may be fairly questioned. You can see this as a personal attack if you wish, though I don't hold any opinion as to the balance of your views on other topics, but I cannot help but see this as a greedy play that advantages men over women and children. Not happy to have the extra defense of a woman's choice, and faced with the impossibility of matching it, you seek a regime that rewards men for not having to make a choice rather than recognizing the difficulty of that choice.

I mentioned the Moral Hazard for a reason, as this is a clear example of it. And I cannot help but assume by your blithe treatment that you have never set foot in a Planned Parenthood clinic and talked to women making this choice.

I can understand that it is uncomfortable for you to face blunt criticism of views you believe well-considered, but this remedy you offer is ill-conceived, illogical and immoral. It smacks of further gouging the vulnerable and encouraging the privileged to abuse that privilege.

With regard to this issue, I feel that your position is reprehensible and I am reprehending.

"1- Many jurisdicrions have laws that specifically make it perfectly OK to abandon a newborn that the mother does not want."

With the further assumption that the father also does not want the child. In fact, these laws argue that the greater good of protecting children is worth the cost of removing both parents from their rights and responsibilities. Further, unless you can show me the legislation, I'm going to believe that these laws allow for either parent to abandon the newborn, and I'd argue that your focus on the woman here is foolish.

"2- The mother can make the decision to put the child up for adoption without anyone's consent (because she has the option to not list a father on the birth certificate) and walk away and suffer no legal consequences. The father does not have that right. QED."

What idiocy! You ignore the cause here—that the father is nowhere to be found! A woman is perforce present at the birth and you wish to grouse about that conferring immediate responsibility? Where is the man?

"Even if it is just a metaphor, that is a shockingly misandric view of men's reproductive rights and sexuality."

Shocked, shocked I tell you! Far be it from you to argue the merit of the metaphor—better to claim an aggrieved stance than face the truth.

"However, if only she wants it, why shouldn't only she pay for it? I guess I just don't believe that a child has a "right" to a certain standard of living. I mean, where do we draw this line?"

Because the child has the right to support from both the parents, and two parties cannot sign away the rights of a third who is not a party to the contract. Which has only been mentioned in this thread slightly fewer times than those who would argue the other side ignore it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:27 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hardly. Pregnancy is a risk that can be wholly mitigated by making abortions readily available.

What? Did you mean contraception? The fallibility of which, I remind you, is the whole catalyst for the AskMe and this MeTa?

Abortion doesn't mitigate the risk of pregnancy. Women can still GET pregnant whether abortion is available or not, whether they carry a child to term or not.
posted by desuetude at 1:32 PM on August 7, 2008


Because the child has the right to support from both the parents, and two parties cannot sign away the rights of a third who is not a party to the contract.

This is where we part ways. I'm guessing (not having the time to read the whole thread; sorry again) that this has been legally established, either through legislation or judicial decision. I still do not agree that it is fair or just. C'est la vie.

Women can still GET pregnant whether abortion is available or not, whether they carry a child to term or not.

Yes, but when they get pregnant they can do something about it. At that point, the man is pretty much along for the ride, and his wishes (assuming he does not want the child or responsibility for it) are entirely contingent upon the woman's decisions. I can see that most people feel that this is the way things ought to be. I do not.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:50 PM on August 7, 2008


How would you propose differently? You think men should be able to demand a woman gets an abortion? That's the only way I see your argument going.
posted by agregoli at 1:52 PM on August 7, 2008


I'm sorry, this is totally incorrect. I know at least one woman who had an abortion for the sole purpose of avoiding parenthood, and her specific reasons lead to me to believe that she is not some unique case. She wasn't even aware she was pregnant for over 4 months, so it wasn't even close to the situation of wanting to avoid the effects of pregnancy.

While what you say may be true for some women, it is absurd to say that it is universal, and seems that your splitting hairs in a way most people would not.


You are missing the point. The issue is not "What are the reasons (some, many, most) women choose to have an abortion?" which naturally varies widely from woman to woman. The issue is "Why do women have a right to an abortion?" and the reason is Because they should not be forced to be pregnant against their will.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 1:56 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


not having the time to read the whole thread; sorry again

I don't believe that you don't have time to read it, since you are posting in it. Instead of posting, you could be reading it, and finding your arguments have already been thoroughly dealt with. Asking the people who are still here trying to either move the conversation to a new plateau or even close it to rehash arguments and counterarguments that have been discussed in exhaustive detail, with references, up to this point is not reasonable or a good use of your time or anyone else's.

If you think the ultimate outcome is that you'll still feel unfairness about child support policy, then you could save yourself a lot of time and not read OR post. The only unfairness we can all agree exists comes from Nature.
posted by Miko at 2:02 PM on August 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine any grouping of words convincing me that the current state of affairs is fair and just.

I think you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone, here or anywhere, defending the status quo as being perfect; everyone here seems to be in agreement that it is failing miserably with outlier cases and has a lot of imperfections throughout.

The issue, though, is with the solution three or four people have put forth, which is dressed up in pseudo-rational language but would serve merely to exempt individual men from the responsibilities of an unplanned pregnancy.

This is based on, I think, two fundamental misunderstandings of how the world works. One is that the availability of abortions is some cost-free get out of jail card for women, and that therefore men need a similar way to walk away. The other is to not see that the proposed system has been tried before and found lacking. It's the "way it used to be" in the US, and those good old days weren't all that good in a lot of ways.

But if you are starting from the position of not being willing to read what has already been written here, and have announced your refusal to be convinced by any sort of written argument, what else is there to say?

Somehow some men here are convinced that there is a real injustice being done to them, in that women can have abortions but the man can't say "nah, I didn't really want a kid, no child support payments for me, thanks anyways." And someday the technology will be there to ensure that — 100% effective and reversible male birth control; or the ability to take the fetus, implant it in the man's belly, and carry it to term that way; or some other innovation. But until then, we are dealing with an imperfect world in which using birth control is no guarantee of preventing a pregnancy, and in which pregnancies are limited to women's bodies, and in which we have decided that both parents should share in the burdens of parenthood.

Men and women both wish that there were better birth control technologies, particularly for men. I mean, my choices are wrapping it up in a rubber sock, getting an irreversible and painful vasectomy, or going without. Great options, huh? And it would be kind of cool if both sexes could carry a fetus to term — "Ok honey, you had the last two, so I guess it's my turn to carry this kid." But that's not around the corner, and how many men do you know that are really itching for the chance to go through the inconveniences and risks of pregnancy? And while there are plenty of other models for ensuring that a child has adequate support (state-run baby farms; tribal- or extended-family groupings; etc), none of them look to be serious contenders for adoption in our society.

So without disregarding it's imperfections, we are left with the current system (whereby if you stick it in, you are agreeing that there is a chance you will be on the hook for 18 years of child support payments) as by and large the fairest option currently available. Taking men off the hook didn't work out in a fair way before; why would it now?
posted by Forktine at 2:06 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


But if you are starting from the position of not being willing to read what has already been written here, and have announced your refusal to be convinced by any sort of written argument, what else is there to say?

Fair enough. I'm out.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:13 PM on August 7, 2008


Hmmm, now I'll be left curious as to whether adamdschneider thinks it would be a good system if men could demand abortions for women. I've been parsing that comment I responded to for the past hour or so and I can't come up with another reading. Ah well.
posted by agregoli at 2:15 PM on August 7, 2008


"You advocate a system for men to avoid all responsibility for their sexual choices while saddling women with that burden"

This is a lie, a deliberate falsehood told by you, klangklangston. Noted, along with your two attempts at launching insulting personal attacks on me within this one thread. You really need to take a long hard look at what's driving this, because this sputtering abuse ain't too pretty. Not too impressive, either.
posted by NortonDC at 2:24 PM on August 7, 2008


This is a lie, a deliberate falsehood told by you . . .

I don't see any other way to interpret what you've written in this thread. How are you not advocating for a system where men can avoid all responsibility for their choices? What responsibility is it that they have to bear, under your system? Not abortion. Not carrying a pregnancy to term and then surrendering the baby for adoption. Not carrying the pregnancy to term and then abandoning the baby at a fire house. Not parenthood. Not even absentee parenthood with child support payments. Under your system, as I understand it, men wouldn't have to bear any of the above responsibilities unless they feel like it.
posted by Mavri at 2:30 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think NortonDC will say again that he wants to apply the concept of financial restitution for physcial harm or "making whole" to allow men to make payments for the costs of pregnancy or abortion. He is exploring a construction in which a man's responsibility ends with the woman getting pregnant, and all subsequent results are her burden. The reason I thnk this is unacceptable is that it assigns men some portion of responsibility for pregnancy, which legally, they don't have, and shouldn't, since it's impossible to take on the risk. But the crux of his argument is that men should only be held responsible for pregnancy, not the eventual birth of a child. It's hard to get beyond the fact that without the introduction of his sperm, there will be no eventual birth. Klangklangston's construction may have offended, but he has the logic right, and I think that NortonDC's protest is on a technicality: that he does not advocate

"a system for men to avoid all responsibility for their sexual choices while saddling women with that burden,"

but is trying to propose a system for men to avoid most of the responsibility for their sexual choices while saddling women with that burden.
posted by Miko at 2:45 PM on August 7, 2008


Oh right, NortonDC thinks paying part of the cost for an abortion is as far as a guy as to go. That's mighty generous of him. If only women could get off so easy. The curse of biology, I guess. Why should the law try to make things equitable?

This has certainly been an interesting, if often infuriating, discussion. I don't think I've ever heard so much effort being put into arguing why a man's responsibility for unplanned pregnancies stops at the end of his dick. I mean, I knew such people were out there, but I'd never interacted with one.
posted by Mavri at 3:03 PM on August 7, 2008


Hey, Miko, anytime you want to apologize for your personal insult of me, feel free.
posted by NortonDC at 3:08 PM on August 7, 2008


"Hey, Miko, anytime you want to apologize for your personal insult of me, feel free."

You're not good with premises, are you?

While it may be fair to assume that I'm being an ass regarding whatever topic I'm declaiming on, when your assumption includes Miko insulting your person, you should probably reread what's been written.
posted by klangklangston at 3:23 PM on August 7, 2008


I'm going to back klangklangston up here, because in reading a well-written comment in which I agreed with everything said, I knew it had to be from him. (Being that his views have overlapped with mine quite a bit in this thread.)

NortonDC, you may object to what klang wrote and feel that it is an unfair portrayal, but it is no personal attack against you. He did not call you ugly or fat or stupid or say that your mom smells funny or anything like that. He simply used his understanding of what you have been saying as a way of constructing his own counter-argument. This is not a personal attack, this is a form of discourse and debate.

If you're looking for sputtering-abuse, there are other MeTa threads in the past that I would be glad to point you to if you would like examples.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:37 PM on August 7, 2008


When klangklangston flat out lies about my statements and then assigns those lies to the greed and self-interest he assigns me, yes, I do interpret that as a personal attack.

When klangklangston directly calls me a boor, yes, I do interpret that as a personal attack.

When klangklangston says "Despite your protests of misinterpretation, how else should this be taken but the rationalizations of a shirker?" yes, I do interpret that as a personal attack.

I had wrongly remembered Miko as the author of the last attack, and I apologize to Miko for thinking she would behave as klangklangston does.
posted by NortonDC at 4:04 PM on August 7, 2008


He is exploring a construction in which a man's responsibility ends with the woman getting pregnant, and all subsequent results are her burden.

No, not correct. I'd have the man inalienably responsible throughout the duration of the entire pregnancy, and I'd create legally equivalent opportunities for men and women to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood.

I do appreciate your inclusion of the making whole doctrine; it matters.
posted by NortonDC at 4:07 PM on August 7, 2008


When a woman gets an abortion, it's to end a pregnancy. It's not to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood. We can demonstrate this by pointing out that adoption is the means by which we allow people to responibilities of parenthood.

You can't be serious, can you? Do you really have the arrogance to believe that you know the reasons why all women get abortions? The temerity to claim that pregnancy and parenthood are somehow unrelated??

If this were any other site, I'd think you were just a troll. It is really sad to see someone so unwilling to see the other side of an argument.
posted by gjc at 4:20 PM on August 7, 2008


I'm going to quote you on where you first claimed that klangklangston was making a *personal* attack on you:

"You advocate a system for men to avoid all responsibility for their sexual choices while saddling women with that burden"

This is a lie, a deliberate falsehood told by you, klangklangston. Noted, along with your two attempts at launching insulting personal attacks on me within this one thread. You really need to take a long hard look at what's driving this, because this sputtering abuse ain't too pretty. Not too impressive, either.


What he said right there was NOT calling you a boor or a shirker. It was continuing a debate and said nothing about your personal character except to indicate that he doesn't agree with you and setting up his counter argument. If you choose to take that as a personal affront, that's doing nothing to continue this discussion except to derail it and make it all about YOU.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:21 PM on August 7, 2008


"No, not correct. I'd have the man inalienably responsible throughout the duration of the entire pregnancy, and I'd create legally equivalent opportunities for men and women to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood."

This is already true.

If a child is born: Both the father and the mother have equal obligations. (Though, to live in this world, you must acknowledge that women generally bear the brunt of childrearing.)

If a child is not born: Both the mother and the father have equal obligations.

Everything else is sophistry.

"You can't be serious, can you? Do you really have the arrogance to believe that you know the reasons why all women get abortions? The temerity to claim that pregnancy and parenthood are somehow unrelated??"

If it were purely to avoid the burdens of parenthood, why wouldn't a woman simply choose to give up the child for adoption or abandon it?

Seeing the other side of the argument does not mean agreeing with the other side of the argument, nor abandoning logic.
posted by klangklangston at 4:37 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


. I'd have the man inalienably responsible throughout the duration of the entire pregnancy,

But for what? He's not pregnant, and has no risk or rights about the pregnancy. Why should he have responsibility?
posted by Miko at 6:08 PM on August 7, 2008


If a child is born: Both the father and the mother have equal obligations.

Not according to Miko. She acknowledges that women get to legally walk away from parenting responsibilities. Men do not.

>>I'd have the man inalienably responsible throughout the duration of the entire pregnancy,
>
>But for what? He's not pregnant, and has no risk or rights about the pregnancy. Why
>should he have responsibility?

Because pregnancy is a risk with shared control and shared acceptance. Frankly, I feel like I've been pretty clear about this point:
What's truly novel (at least for this discussion) in TheOnlyCoolTim's thinking is separately addressing the risk the couple accepted together, pregnancy...
posted by NortonDC at 7:53 PM on August 4

What's being discussed is a new legal framework that maintains shared responsibility where shared consent exists, namely in assuming the risks of pregnancy...
posted by NortonDC at 5:55 PM on August 5

the burdens of unwanted pregnancy are the product of mutual consent and must be born mutually to fullest extent that the law can orchestrate.
posted by NortonDC at 12:30 AM on August 6

Also, I'm arguing for men to be held strictly accountable for the risks they do individually influence and knowingly accept, the risks of pregnancy, more strictly than they are now, as far as I know.
posted by NortonDC at 10:01 PM on August 6
So, yeah, it's that the boundaries of the risk of pregnancy are set and shared by both, while parenthood is limited by the desires of one person.
posted by NortonDC at 7:27 PM on August 7, 2008


I didn't acknowledge that, actually. What I mentioned was that even in "safe haven" states, there is often a requirement to make an attempt to establish maternity and paternity. But let me be clear that 'safe haven' is absolutely an area of non-settled law. They are wide open to challenge and are so new that they have rarely been tested. State legislation on it all over the place; safe haven will necessarily end up in the upper courts before there is any consistent pattern that sets it on a par we have with the mass of family law which I've been referencing. For instance, in some states the recipient of the infant has to file an abandonment charge with the police and the parents have to decide whether to appear for it.

But to your point: what you'll find especially interesting is that upon being notified of a baby left with a safe haven, whatever the local child welfare department is has to petition the court to terminate both parents' parental rights...which are in effect up to that point. Again - both parents are responsible in the eyes of the law until their rights are legally terminated. Safe haven is a de facto abandonment by both parties with decriminalization. The court process is the same as for abandonment: terminate parental rights. There cannot exist a condition in which a child has no custodian.

Because pregnancy is a risk with shared control and shared acceptance.

This is simply not true, as I think has been thoroughly demonstrated, and has no basis in current law. The risks men knowingly accept upon having sex are that (a) a pregnancy can occur and (b) that they will have no control over the outcome of the pregnancy. With that foreknowledge, they take a fully informed risk that they may one day be liable for child support.

The framework you're proposing is a revolutionary change which would threaten the legal status of adult women as independent entities by suggesting that men are somehow responsible for decisions made during pregnancy. They're not, and can't be, because the pregnancy is not happening to them, and none of the events of pregnancy are within their control. You would like to limit the man's liability to responsibility during the pregnancy only; but the period of pregnancy has nothing to do with him. It is solely within the purview of the woman.

And you keep ignoring the fact that one of the risks of having intercourse is the eventual birth of a child. Since that is the only risk undertaken by the man, it is the one element of the episode which he can legally be held liable for without impinging upon the individual rights of the woman. And, as we've seen, he's not responsible to the woman after coneption anyway; he's responsible to the child. Your framework would take away the right of a child to be supported by the two parents to whom he owes his existence.

It's not a novel idea, it's as old as the hills, and it's not a good idea. It encroaches upon the rights of women to propose that someone else be assigned any legal responsibility for any of the risks or benefits of her pregnancy. It prevents millions of children from receiving adequate support, and puts the society at risk to make up the direct lack with public funds as well as bear the indirect brunt of the risks of a larger population of less well-cared for, less well-educated children. I don't think any polishing can make this look any better.
posted by Miko at 8:30 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with Miko that the system being proposed wherein men have control over a woman's choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy is no improvement over the current system.

Women's rights advocates have been fighting for decades for women to be the sole decision makers in matters concerning their bodies. Surely you have seen the slogan "Keep your laws off of my body" - that's referring specifically to a woman's right to choose.

And it is the woman's right to choose because it is her body that is in question.

Again, the second a man grows a uterus and gestates a child is the second that he should be able to make the choice regarding carrying a pregnancy to term or getting an abortion. Until then, it should be entirely up to the woman. Yes, the partner in conception should be consulted, but his opinion is not the be all and end all of the situation, nor should it be.

In a system where men decide whether or not a pregnancy should be continued is a system where men who want a child that a woman doesn't want to carry would be granted sole custody of that child and would be solely responsible for it as a single parent. And oh, if you're arguing that men shouldn't have to pay child support for children they don't want, that needs to go both ways too.

I don't forsee many men wanting to participate in a system that creates more single fathers without support from the women who bore the child.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:54 PM on August 7, 2008


So you know, our system of law in the US evolved from British common law, a body of law which began when England and Wales were united in 1542. As this body of common law migrated overseas in the colonial era and was adapted to the new democratic nation, influenced by enlightenment philosophers, it underwent a few changes but remains soundly within the general British tradition.

It's absolutely fascinating to look at where the idea of family support law comes from. It's been codified in law for at least 400 years that parents are both responsible for their offspring.

IN the early years, the central problem of child support was illegitimacy; because there was no divorce, cases involving unsupported children were almost always those involving children conceived in extramarital affairs.

The first set of laws dealing with them were "poor laws." These were statues set by local parish churches. They registered and classified the poor in their districts, levying fees and fines on the public in order to generate the money needed to provide for the needs of the poor. The assumption here was that relatives must care for one another in family groups. If they didn't, the church would care for them, then take up fines or taxes or enact punishments to reimburse itself for the cost of the duty abrogated by the family. There were people in the community who were needy, and this was the means of providing for them.

Consequences for fathering (or mothering) a bastard child varied by parish, but included fines, ongoing support, imprisonment, etc. Because of the punitive nature of these laws, and the shame associated with illegitimacy, sometimes fathers worked to conceal their names or mother refused to reveal them.

In 1732 laws became stricter:
In 1732-3, a woman pregnant with a bastard was required to declare the fact and to name the father. In 1733, the putative father became responsible for maintaining his illegitimate child; failing to do so could result in gaol. The parish would then support the mother and child, until the father agreed to do so, whereupon he would reimburse the parish - although this rarely happened." Peter Higginbotham.
Also: "Any person after 24 June 1733 charged on oath with being the father of a bastard child shall be apprehended and committed to gaol until he gives security to indemnify the parish from expense.
In 1832 the Trickster Girlfriend makes an early appearance:
"The Commissioners thought that poor men were at the mercy of blackmail and perjury by unscrupulous women.... The bastardy clauses of the Act of 1834 were in line with the opinions of the Poor Law Commissioners. The laws which had enabled a mother to charge a putative father before the magistrates were repealed"
And things got tougher with the "New Poor Law" in 1834:
A Bastardy Clause Act made all illegitimate children the sole responsibility of their mothers until they were 16 years old. If mothers of bastard children were unable to support themselves and their offspring, they would have to enter the workhouse; the putative father became free of any legal responsibility for his illegitimate offspring. Not only did this remove the not infrequent problem of disputed fatherhood, but it was envisaged that the measure would discourage women from entering into profligate relationships.
But only ten years later, we find a change in policy. The bastardy laws are taken out of the poor codes and shifted over into civil law. You no longer had to be on the poor rolls for this law to apply: it was civil law, the law of the land. Why the change?
Took bastary procedings out of the poor law authorities and turned then into a civil matter between parents. Finer.
Enabled an unmarried mother to apply to the Petty Sessions for an affiliation order against the father for maintenance of the mother and child, regardless of whether she was in receipt of poor relief. This was probably in recognition that the 1834 Act had not reduced illegitimacy (by making it harder for mothers to claim maintenance), but in fact increased it (by enabling men to avoid some of the responsibility for their actions).
And in 1868 the Poor Law Amendment Act
Restored to the parish the power to recover from the the putative father the cost of maintenance of a bastard child by providing that, where a woman who had obtained an order against the father of her child herself became a charge of the parish, the justices might order payments to be made to the relieving officer.
The Poor Laws remained in effect in Britain until World War II (!). At that time, they were repealed and replaced with new civil law which took over essentially the same function and stated:
that for the purposes of the Act, (a) a man shall be liable to maintain his wife and his children, and (b) a woman shall be liable to maintain her husband and her children. A woman's children included her illegitimate children and a man's children included any children of whom he had been adjudged to be the putative father. (This is a narrower set of people compared with the poor laws).
Section 43 provided for recovery proceedings by the National Assistance Board from persons liable to maintain under section 42.
Meanwhile on this side of the pond, there was a similar evolution of poor law to civil law. As early as 1808, the government is working to shift the burden of support for poor children from the public to their own relations:
When single motherhood began to emerge in nineteenth-century America, the judiciary was the only institution of the American state that could deal with dependency among single mothers and their children: The poor laws were being overwhelmed by population growth and urbanization, and private charities and state poor-relief agencies had not yet appeared. The first child support statutes built on this judicial innovation, codifying a child support system that relied primarily on payments from absent parents, instead of on public supports for families."
So
By 1886, 11 states had made it a penal offence for a father to abandon or refuse to support his minor children. Typically, it still needed evidence that without this support the children would be a cost to the community.
The big move here was the Social Security Act, which created the AFDC bureaus and also an incentive for them to get people off public support:
Aid for Dependent Children. ADC (later AFDC; F = Families) established a partnership between the federal government and the states by providing appropriations to those states which adopted plans approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The states in turn provided a minimum monthly subsistence payment to families meeting established need requirements (such as an absent parent not providing support). This later gradually drove child support enforcement, in order to reduce expenditure on AFDC (see events below).
"Care for children" becomes one of the few entitlements for welfare. Compared with other countries, this tends to make "child support by parents" a prominent objective.
The clampdown on use of public funds got more serious in the 1970s with Social Security amendments designed to reduce the welfare budget . In 1977 it becomes legal to garnishee wages for nonsupport.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, for me, it strongly cemented the idea that for 400 years, trial and error has shown that private support provided by both parents is a social good that reduces the burden on the rest of the society and creates more favorable conditions for children. It made even more clear that when one parent was allowed to dismiss responsibility for children, the effects on women and families and the public treasury were negative; universally, when they were relaxed, we see they were shortly reinstated.

It's also a reminder that our laws don't exist in a vacuum; they aren't the arbitrary creations of a meanie in Washington who wants to stick it to you, but an outgrowth of combined human experience gradually refined and adapted, then experimented with and recalibrated, for centuries. This shows why when you are one of the two causers of a child's birth, it is a reasonable expectation of society that you be the one to provide for it if you are at all capable. This is why child support must be a serious, and shared, responsibility.

This has a long history, and as you see, the idea "Hey, let me give you some money to take care of things" has been tried, weighed, measured, and found wanting.

And that's all beside the unacceptable idea of crowding in on a woman's independent legal status.
posted by Miko at 10:00 PM on August 7, 2008 [8 favorites]


"What I mentioned was that even in "safe haven" states, there is often a requirement to make an attempt to establish maternity and paternity"

Which does not prevent the woman from yielding her parental rights and burdens. The woman still gets to walk away from them.

Regarding the rest of your initial paragraphs there, since you've already acknowledged that mother's don't have to name fathers on birth certificates, statements about how both the man and woman's rights must be terminated don't have seem to have any connection to reality when there is only one legally recognized parent. Returning to that:
(gjc) The mother can make the decision to put the child up for adoption without anyone's consent (because she has the option to not list a father on the birth certificate) and walk away and suffer no legal consequences. The father does not have that right. QED.

(Miko) Actually, he does. If the mother does not name him, but he wants to contest the adoption, he has to establish paternity, which in most states can be done by filing an affadavit or statement of paternity. He might be required to undergo genetic testing to approve it. Generally, fathers can't oppose adoption unless they intend to apply for full custody.
gjc says the mother has the option to unilaterally put a child up for adoption, walk away and suffer no legal consequences, while the father does not have that ability. You, Miko, say he does have that ability, but then your followup doesn't actually back up that assertion in any way. Instead, you describe his ability to fight the woman's attempt to give the child up for adoption, which does not in any way define his ability to put a child up for adoption unilaterally, walk away, and suffer no legal consequences, which are the rights you have just asserted he possesses. It's a non-sequitor, and at the end of that exchange you've provided no evidence or reasoning to indicate that gjc's assertion is untrue. It still stands unchallenged.

"The risks men knowingly accept upon having sex are that (a) a pregnancy can occur and (b) that they will have no control over the outcome of the pregnancy. With that foreknowledge, they take a fully informed risk that they may one day be liable for child support."
As for your bullet points, living under an unjust system doesn't signal consent to the system, nor does it pledge one to the maintenance of it. Realizing that the man is denied equality of reproductive legal freedoms by the current law doesn't make it just, it just makes it known.
posted by NortonDC at 5:55 PM on August 5
"The framework you're proposing is a revolutionary change which would threaten the legal status of adult women as independent entities by suggesting that men are somehow responsible for decisions made during pregnancy."

No, nothing I've proposed grants any more control to the man over the woman or potential offspring at any point in pregnancy or child rearing.

"you keep ignoring the fact that one of the risks of having intercourse is the eventual birth of a child. Since that is the only risk undertaken by the man, it is the one element of the episode which he can legally be held liable for without impinging upon the individual rights of the woman. And, as we've seen, he's not responsible to the woman after coneption anyway"

The distinction you're ignoring is that unwanted, unchosen parenthood is only a risk to the man. Abortion, adoption or legal abandonment all let the woman walk from legal parental burdens. Men have no such legal options under current law, and this is an approach to correcting that legal inequity. "Since that is the only risk undertaken by the man, it is the one element of the episode which he can legally be held liable for without impinging upon the individual rights of the woman." First, holding him responsible for the end while excluding control of the middle is unconscionable. Since no one is discussing giving him any control in the middle, the way to rationalize it is to remove his responsibility from the end when he has been trying to avoid parenthood. Second, it's only the "only risk" under current law, hence the discussion of a proposed new legal framework that shifts burdens and risks of pregnancy to the man. As for why to share those burdens with the man, see any of the four grouped quotes in my most recent previous comment.

"Your framework would take away the right of a child to be supported by the two parents to whom he owes his existence."

If this principle doesn't justify preventing the mother from unilaterally legally abandoning a newborn, it can't justify preventing a father doing the same.

"I agree with Miko that the system being proposed wherein men have control over a woman's choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy is no improvement over the current system."

Nobody but nobody is proposing any such thing in here. No, that doesn't stop Miko from invoking the specter to stir up some outrage, but that doesn't mean you have to fall for it quite so quickly.

"This is why child support must be a serious, and shared, responsibility."

And yet it's not under status quo. Women get to walk away legally, men don't. What we now have is precisely what you say the all this legal development has been about avoiding, namely that one parent gets to walk away legaly, just so long as that parent is a woman.
posted by NortonDC at 10:34 PM on August 7, 2008


"The distinction you're ignoring is that unwanted, unchosen parenthood is only a risk to the man. Abortion, adoption or legal abandonment all let the woman walk from legal parental burdens."

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

IN THE CASE OF ADOPTION, ABANDONMENT OR ABORTION BOTH PARENTS GIVE UP OR NEGATE THEIR RIGHTS.

And you are ignoring that unwanted, unchosen pregnancy is only a risk to the woman.

First, holding him responsible for the end while excluding control of the middle is unconscionable.

No, it's not. And, had you been paying attention, an enormous swath of history and law back me up. A man doesn't have to have his dick in every decision in order to maintain responsibility, and labeling it "unconscionable" is an appeal to emotion, since it's clearly contradicted by fact.

"If this principle doesn't justify preventing the mother from unilaterally legally abandoning a newborn, it can't justify preventing a father doing the same."

The mother can't unilaterally abandon a newborn—the man is simply forced to assume custody. Your hand-waving "making whole" bullshit from above isn't gender-coded, so a woman would still have to pay child support.

"Nobody but nobody is proposing any such thing in here. No, that doesn't stop Miko from invoking the specter to stir up some outrage, but that doesn't mean you have to fall for it quite so quickly."

The problem is that for anyone with the brains of two sheep, they recognize that your complaints can only be met with two remedies: that of constraining female choice or in abdicating male responsibility. But you whine like a dog at the door any time anyone points out the foreseeable consequences of your regime, even stooping to calling me a liar over it.

"Women get to walk away legally, men don't. What we now have is precisely what you say the all this legal development has been about avoiding, namely that one parent gets to walk away legaly, just so long as that parent is a woman."

Who are you, Goebbels? Just by repeating that women get to walk away doesn't make it true, especially noting that in every case where a woman walks away, a man walks away too.

God, it's like being stuck at a bus stop with a LaRouchite with a hard-on for maglevs, or the guys who want to get their foreskin restored so they can enjoy sex. I'm sorry, but I have seen so many bad-faith and incongruous readings (especially of Miko) that I can't take you seriously here.

"As for your bullet points, living under an unjust system doesn't signal consent to the system, nor does it pledge one to the maintenance of it. Realizing that the man is denied equality of reproductive legal freedoms by the current law doesn't make it just, it just makes it known."

God, you're a fucking question-begger.
posted by klangklangston at 11:59 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to say that this thread has been absolutely enthralling. It's ridiculous that I haven't thought about so many things that have been mentioned in here before, considering that I'm an old single mother myself.

Really, thank you to everyone who has participated. I'm deeply indebted to you. You've given me so many things to think about.

(This is not even slightly sarcastic, just in case you were wondering. Yes, I am that naiive).
posted by h00py at 1:21 AM on August 8, 2008


Yeah, sputtering. Sputtering and Godwinned
posted by NortonDC at 5:52 AM on August 8, 2008


This needs to be said again:

The framework you're proposing is a revolutionary change which would threaten the legal status of adult women as independent entities by suggesting that men are somehow responsible for decisions made during pregnancy. They're not, and can't be, because the pregnancy is not happening to them, and none of the events of pregnancy are within their control. You would like to limit the man's liability to responsibility during the pregnancy only; but the period of pregnancy has nothing to do with him. It is solely within the purview of the woman.

Yes, no one is saying that men should have control over a woman's pregnancy/ending of her pregnancy. However, the above is the REAL issue. If a man is granted any kind of legal responsibility and interest in a woman's pregnancy, than it is no longer her business alone, which means her body and her interest in doing what she sees fit with her body is no longer quite under her control alone, and this is exactly the kind of thing that would be disasterous for women.
posted by agregoli at 5:56 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


NortonDC, I feel I must with a few clarifications on my statements. I wish I was as eloquent as Miko. This has been an interesting thought experiment and I have enjoyed reading your arguements.

"What if he agrees to be a co-parent when the pregnancy is discovered at 6 weeks, can he withdraw the consent at 29 weeks? Does he have a 24 hour window to decide, a week? Can he change his mind after the baby is three months old and cute and burbling; what about when it is five?"

For my first pass at those questions, I would model my answers on the legal abortion options available to women. After some more thought, I'm leaning toward the idea that the man would have to maintain a constant position. But I don't know for sure yet.

If he did not maintain a constant position then realistically, some fathers would sign away their financial responsibilities to the child knowing they could decide to have a relationship with their child at another, more convenient date. I assume that most pregnancies are the result of some form of relationship, so in most cases there would be an existing social network where both parents would interact/be aware of each other's activities, he may still have feelings for the mother, making the possibility that he would change his mind more likely.

"under your proposed system it sounds like he everyone would be punished by a decision he may have made in haste." [sic - i meant to erase the"he" in favour of "everyone"]

I reject the word "punished", but the question of how to distribute the burdens of parenthood, as distinct from the burdens of pregnancy, is central to the ideas I'm describing.

Perhaps you misunderstood me. I was referring to a hypothetical situation where a man legally rejects parenthood and signs away his parental rights but later regrets his decision and wishes to assumes those rights. He is unable to do so even though the mother wishes him to be a parent and share the emotion and financial burden, and obviously the child would like a daddy. In that case, yes, I feel everyone would be punished by the legal system. However, If the rejection of parental rights can be reversed once then can he reverse it back as well?

"I think a person giving consent to possible parenthood by willingly participating in the sex act itself is the clearest way of determining rights and responsibilities."

I don't think you realized when you wrote it, but this statement contains an attack on the abortion rights of women. Please tread carefully with that line of reasoning.

I see no attack on abortion rights with my statement. By having sex both parents are acknowledging they could become parents nine months later. If she becomes pregnant a woman is responsible for the pregnancy. If she does not want the pregnancy she is responsible for getting an abortion. If she wants the pregnancy she is responsible for the care of her body and eventually delivering the baby. A pregnant woman cannot avoid taking responsibility for her pregnancy. She literally cannot walk away from it. A sexually active woman acknowledges that the abortion she may want may suddenly become illegal (if it is legal and available in her area to begin with), may be financially unattainable or she may discover her pregnancy too late for an abortion, or the doors to the clinic may be blocked by protestors on her one day off. Even if she immediately puts the child up for adoption there is a period of time where she is a legally a parent after the birth and she needs to sign documents as well as experiencing the physical (and hormonal) effects of birth. There is no attack on abortion rights to say a woman is responsible for her body.

Actually, I'm saying she's totally in charge of the pregnancy AND that the man is still on the hook for the burdens of the pregnancy to the degree that the law can compensate and balance for them.

Okay, I have five times experienced the "burdens of pregnancy". By being pregnant I have incurred food and clothing costs, medical and dental costs (the physical effects of pregnancy of course last beyond the nine months), loss of income and work opportunities (ever tried going for a promotion or job interview at eight months?), social standing (women's behaviour as mothers are held up to a high standard, hence the shame and secrecy for many women around adoption) loss of travel opportunities, restriction on social life (drinking, no smoky bars, restrictions on dating, limits on sexual activity), lack of ability to become pregnant by a more suitable man etc, etc. Each pregnancy is harder and harder on a woman's body, each pregnancy has a more detrimental effect on her health and earning ability. So each subsequent pregnancy should perhaps have the compensation multiplied by .5. I think the effect of pregnancy should be around $200,000. You may argue that the woman should pay half, so that would be $100,000 bill to the father for the first pregnancy, $150,000 for her second etc. Due in three instalments for each trimester I think. I love the idea of paternity insurance, but I think the premiums would be a little high. Oh, and why should this burden only occur if the father wishes to reject his parental rights. Shouldn't all fathers pay for the pregnancy? Have a husband write a cheque to his wife for a planned pregnancy? Maybe a tax on men to compensate for the unnamed fathers? This seems to be getting absurd. If men can be found liable for the pregnancy then to my mind they can also be found liable for the effects of the pregnancy: namely, a baby.

I think you are trying too hard to legalise social relationships. But relationships are messy, and anytime the law gets involved it gets messier (been to family court lately?). DNAB idea of a legal document that must be presented, signed and witnessed each time two people have sex is an example of the law interfering with normal interpersonal relations. As Miko points out, common-law has evolved over centuries as various ideas have been tried and felt wanting. The burdens of pregnancy fall unfairly on the woman due to biology; the burdens of parenthood must be shared equitably. Although as I have noted, they do not; the vast majority of support orders do not share the parental costs equally. Even if the financial costs were equally shared there is no financial compensation for the other burdens of parenthood that the sole parent assumes.

Personally, I am more in favour of the carrot over the stick method of getting what you want. If american men's rights organisations wanted to help men prevent parental responsibilities then they should work on educating people about sexual health and making informed choices, free and freely available contraceptives, as well making the morning after pill, surgical abortions, and RU-486 legally available, easily accessible and free.
posted by saucysault at 6:35 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


NortonDC - First you say this: First, holding him responsible for the end while excluding control of the middle is unconscionable.

And yet you've claimed several times over that your position does nothing to threaten a woman maintaining sole control of her body and the pregnancy it's housing.

Could you possibly clarify these two positions? Because they seem to me to be starkly contradictory.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:01 AM on August 8, 2008


Really short version: We have tried letting men choose whether or not to take responsibility for kids several times before, it didn't work every time (with or without abortion rights), and the current system works better despite its imperfections.

Abstract objections to the contrary, anyone proposing a return to the old way of doing things needs to find a way to demonstrate that it actually worked better for children and for the society as a whole.

Arguing back and forth about pregnancy support vs parental support, and whether or not abortions are a big deal or not, misses the point that your idea has been tried multiple times and found lacking each time.

Finally, even if you disagree with her, you need to admit that Miko has had exceptional grace and tact in keeping this discussion on an even keel, and she has been the only person pulling in the research.
posted by Forktine at 7:06 AM on August 8, 2008


If a man is granted any kind of legal responsibility and interest in a woman's pregnancy, than it is no longer her business alone, which means her body and her interest in doing what she sees fit with her body is no longer quite under her control alone, and this is exactly the kind of thing that would be disasterous for women.

agregoli is spot on. This can't be emphasized enough. Anyone other than the pregnant woman having legal control over that pregnancy is a disaster for women's rights. It is not "unconscionable" to exclude men from this stage, but rather it is absolutely and totally necessary for a woman to be the sole arbiter of what happens inside her own body.

While pregnancy results in a child, the rights of the child and of its father do not come into play until AFTER it is born. While the fetus is in utero (notice I said "fetus" as it is not a baby until it exits the womb and calling it one is just appealing to emotion rather than reason), control over it in all aspects rests solely on the woman carrying it. It can not be removed from the uterus to be raised by someone else. It is totally reasonable, therefore, to have the woman carrying the fetus responsible for the pregnancy. It is, in fact, the ONLY reasonable option. Should she decide to see the pregnancy through, she is then responsible for heaps of medical care (while the bills can be paid for by the state in many instances, she still must keep her appointments to ensure the health of the fetus) on top of drastic changes in her lifestyle. To impose this upon her without her consent, which is what anti-abortion laws would do, would be sentencing her to having her body colonized for nine months.

Turning the situation around, forcing a woman to abort a pregnancy and not see it through would be denying her the opportunity of giving birth to and raising her own child. And yes, once that child is born, it is no longer solely its mother's responsibility being a biologically independent being with two sets of chromosomes. And both chromosome donate-rs bear equal responsibility for its creation. Yes, the mother carried the pregnancy, but she would not have become pregnant of her own accord being that asexual reproduction is not how things work with mammals.

If you strip this down to a biological level, it becomes pretty obvious to see that a man CAN'T take responsibility during pregnancy because all of the decision making at that point pertains directly to a woman's body which he has no control over. And once the child is born, the child is no longer an entity solely dependent on the woman who gave birth to it. It has TWO sets of chromosomes from TWO parents. BOTH parents are responsible for having created the child.

Putting a legal framework on this where a man has control over a pregnancy not only takes women's rights one gigantic leap backwards, but it makes NO BIOLOGICAL SENSE. Nothing happening within the woman's body is within anyone else's purview of control. Period. Even the woman herself is not in total control over whether a fetus is carried to term - many women who desperately want children have miscarriages. Pregnancy is a biological force. To understand this, think of a fetus as a tumor. It grows inside the uterus unless it is surgically removed. No one - other than the woman carrying it - can do anything about it.

The bottom line here is that anything happening within a woman's body is her business and hers alone.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:28 AM on August 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ok, now that is a real argument.

However, it doesn't really seem to establish a persistent pattern of "trial and error," showing only one example where the laws were relaxed and then reinstated. I also maintain that legal, safe abortions change the picture. Back when these laws were developed, women didn't really have any more of a say in the outcome than men did.

as well making the morning after pill, surgical abortions, and RU-486 legally available, easily accessible and free

None of which men can exercise any control over. I'm not saying they should (before I get jumped on again), but advocating more female choice to alleviate male anxieties over unplanned children seems somewhat naive.

I remain unconvinced. The thought (continually raised here) that enabling men to opt out of child support (and any rights to the child) is tantamount to allowing him control over her pregnancy is to me a non sequitur. It makes no sense. The closest I can come to understanding it is that a woman might choose to terminate a pregnancy that she otherwise wouldn't if she feels she can't solely support the resulting child. Is that monstrous? Some might say that it is. Clearly I do not, as the choice remains, and as has been stated on this site often enough, if you want a child, sacrifices must be made.

Finally, even if you disagree with her, you need to admit that Miko has had exceptional grace and tact in keeping this discussion on an even keel, and she has been the only person pulling in the research.

Absolutely and freely granted. Ok, that's really my final word on the subject. I think the arguments as they are have been laid out, the participants aren't going to convince each other of anything at this point, and anyone following along has probably made up their minds by now. I'm sure I've made enough enemies for one thread, so I'm bowing out for good.

I will, however, continue to think about these issues and discuss them with other people. Perhaps I will even go back and read the rest of the thread. If I end up changing my mind, maybe I'll even make a MeTa post about it so that people can tell me it doesn't belong here and I'm attention whoring. Thanks for the stimulating discussion, folks.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:54 AM on August 8, 2008


The thought (continually raised here) that enabling men to opt out of child support (and any rights to the child) is tantamount to allowing him control over her pregnancy is to me a non sequitur. It makes no sense.

I agree it makes no sense and it's the first time in this thread I'm hearing that argument. It's certainly not the argument that's been continually raised.
posted by agregoli at 9:18 AM on August 8, 2008


"Yeah, sputtering. Sputtering and Godwinned"

It was a reference to axiom, oft attributed to Goebbels, that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

But I'll take that as a concession of all of my other points, since you've failed to address them in any substantive way.
posted by klangklangston at 9:30 AM on August 8, 2008


I agree it makes no sense

Yes, that wasn't NortonDC's argument, which instead of a total opt-out afforded men rights and responsibilities during pregnancy.

Adamdschnieder, I only called out one instance where laws were realxed and negative result occurred, but there are many more. If you read within the links themselves you'll find those mentioned.
posted by Miko at 9:55 AM on August 8, 2008


Although I agree with many of the basic positions you are advancing, klangklangston, I think the tone of your rhetoric is being increasingly unfair to NortonDC. Comparing him to Goebbels seems unspeakably poor form to me, whatever narrow point you attempt to qualify that comparison to now. I admit I'm biased, as I'm married to NortonDC, but I hope I would react the same if this callout were to someone else. I very much admire Miko for her consistently fair minded tone on this topic.

In his actual life NortonDC is a fine human being, not in any way a shirker, who I'm proud to be married to. While I do not admire his arguments here, I think this is a very intellectual debate for him, grounded in the notion that times have changed and equality really can be achieved. Does anyone remember SpaceCadet, the dude who used to complain about women out of one side of his mouth and father's rights issues out of the other? NortonDC is not him, and saw the questionable attitude towards women and the inequality that was present in his arguments. I think NortonDC is seeing this argument on a purely intellectual plane, and may not have thought through the pragmatic effects and ramifications of the system he is proposing (I think NortonDC himself admits this).

I'd like once more to say how much I have admired Miko's tone throughout the duration of this thread. It is really hard to write about a topic that comes really close to home for many people and is filled with emotional undertones (which is one of the reasons I have stayed out of this thread for the most part), and to do so without rancor or insults or letting a certain amount of disdain come through your comment. Even NortonDC's tone has to my mind been overly confrontational, though not actually insulting as a few folks have been to him. But Miko has been really evenhanded throughout, and I really, really appreciate her efforts her for that.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:20 AM on August 8, 2008


"Although I agree with many of the basic positions you are advancing, klangklangston, I think the tone of your rhetoric is being increasingly unfair to NortonDC. Comparing him to Goebbels seems unspeakably poor form to me, whatever narrow point you attempt to qualify that comparison to now."

The point was always there—that the fundamental assumptions from which Norton is proceeding are false, have been shown false, and yet he repeats them as if they were true. He is, in effect, lying and hoping that this lie will be accepted purely through the force of repetition. The Nazis are not being used here as a broad ad hominem, but rather an allusion to a single quotation by a single man, who happened to be a Nazi. I am not comparing Norton to all Nazis, or implying a commonality there. I am comparing his repeated flourishes to the communication philosophy of a single Nazi.

I do regret this now, as it has provided an excuse for the pettifoggery of petty offense to overwhelm the broader point that I was attempting to make.

"While I do not admire his arguments here, I think this is a very intellectual debate for him, grounded in the notion that times have changed and equality really can be achieved."

The problem is that on an intellectual level, he's still wrong. He's wrong in his assumption that the intercession of abortion must be equaled with an invented right for men in order to achieve equality, he's wrong on positing that men lack a right in any meaningful sense, and he's wrong in the repeated proclamation that women can walk away from parenthood.

Your husband may be a lovely person outside of this. I have a co-worker, whom I like, who insists that the government demolished the WTC. Regarding that issue, however, he is an ideologue and a fool. He refuses to accept sense, common or complex, and scrambles to erect a jury-rigged edifice of conspiracy, half-truth and simplification.

On every salient point, he is wrong. As is your husband. His perception of inequity here is more powerful than his ability to reason through it, and where he should have compassion, he has confusion.

I imagine that Gene Ray sees all of his opponents as sputtering as well.
posted by klangklangston at 11:41 AM on August 8, 2008


And as for my being unfair to NortonDC, well, I'll gladly make up for that by giving him as much responsibility as he wants when he impregnates me.
posted by klangklangston at 11:42 AM on August 8, 2008


Well, I guess you were not down with my plea for discussion based on the issues rather than namecalling and random moral judgments about character. I don't agree with your style of argument in that regard, but you are not the first and won't be the last to make these sorts of personal attacks in this forum.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:16 PM on August 8, 2008


I guess I don't see the plea for a discussion based on issues. I see a misguided emotional response to the allusion I made, which I elaborated upon. And I see, in my response, that the core is based on pointing out that your husband is fundamentally incorrect about every point in contention, in a way that he has refused to come to terms with. Those are the issues, and bluntly saying that he is wrong is about as impersonal as this conversation can be. Further, the snarky dismissal that I posted after the meatier comment is still about the issues, not about the man behind them—it mocks his position, not his person.

Again, I'm sure that I agree with him on many other issues, and I don't hold against him his being dead wrong on this one (though I am frustrated, fairly obviously, by what I see as an obstinate insistence on flawed logic).
posted by klangklangston at 1:21 PM on August 8, 2008


I guess I don't see the plea for a discussion based on issues.

Well, it was here: "I'd like once more to say how much I have admired Miko's tone throughout the duration of this thread. It is really hard to write about a topic that comes really close to home for many people and is filled with emotional undertones (which is one of the reasons I have stayed out of this thread for the most part), and to do so without rancor or insults or letting a certain amount of disdain come through your comment. Even NortonDC's tone has to my mind been overly confrontational, though not actually insulting as a few folks have been to him. But Miko has been really evenhanded throughout, and I really, really appreciate her efforts her for that." I thought it was clear that I was trying to encourage people to comment without rancor or insults or disdain. Maybe not? I wasn't being intentionally vague.

And I see, in my response, that the core is based on pointing out that your husband is fundamentally incorrect about every point in contention, in a way that he has refused to come to terms with. Those are the issues, and bluntly saying that he is wrong is about as impersonal as this conversation can be.

Do you really not see what you have done there? In a single, short comment, you specifically liken him to a WTC conspiracy believer whom you call an "ideologue and a fool" who "refuses to accept sense, common or complex, and scrambles to erect a jury-rigged edifice of conspiracy, half-truth and simplification," and then further charge that he is without compassion. WTF? You also conflate him with crazy internet man Gene Ray. With all due respect, I do not believe this is "about as impersonal as this conversation can be." Further upthread, in addition to the Goebbels analogy, you've compared him to a member of the LaRouchite neo-Nazi/fascist party, as well as, completely out of left field, "guys who want to get their foreskin restored so they can enjoy sex." I'm sure I could find more if I had the stomach to look for it. I know this is a loaded topic that is difficult to debate without emotion, but I do not think "impersonal" means what you think it means.

But whatever. I suspect NortonDC is thicker-skinned than me but I don't think I can continue to watch, so I am bowing out of this thread. I simply intended to ask for civility and attacks on arguments rather than people, and I guess to note that we are all actual real people here behind the computers we are typing on.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:20 PM on August 8, 2008


The point wasn't to call your husband a Nazi. The point was that, like those others I mentioned, he's repeated the same claims again and again in the face of every refutation.

I do see that you misconstrued my statements yet again, ignoring the core in order to make the surrounding points seem unfounded.

But, like I probably should have earlier, I'm bowing out for a while now too, lest I have to make one of those WCityMike "I was right but was too much of a dick about it," apologies.
posted by klangklangston at 4:54 PM on August 8, 2008


"A man doesn't have to have his dick in every decision in order to maintain responsibility, and labeling it "unconscionable" is an appeal to emotion, since it's clearly contradicted by fact."

Wow.
posted by gjc at 6:26 PM on August 8, 2008


The point wasn't to call your husband a Nazi.

Point or not, you still DID.

But, like I probably should have earlier, I'm bowing out for a while now too, lest I have to make one of those WCityMike "I was right but was too much of a dick about it," apologies.

I don't think there's any need for any falling on one's sword - a simple "I'm sorry I compared you to Goebbels" would do just fine. (That is, I don't see any need for anything beyond that, but I am not NortonDC.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:30 PM on August 8, 2008


I've only skimmed this thread since my last comment, but this jumped out at me:
that wasn't NortonDC's argument, which instead of a total opt-out afforded men rights and responsibilities during pregnancy.
No, that's incorrect as far as granting men any rights over any person during pregnancy, which is how your statement reads to me. For example:
(Miko) She's immediately on the hook, because from that point until birth, she is in charge of what's going on in her body.

(me) Actually, I'm saying she's totally in charge of the pregnancy AND that the man is still on the hook for the burdens of the pregnancy to the degree that the law can compensate and balance for them. Violent agreement regarding her being in charge, with me placing more responsbilities on him with no additional influence.

(Miko) There is no way to give the male legal power over that.

(me) More violent agreement on this point, all along.
posted by NortonDC at 8:58 AM on August 9, 2008


How can one have legal responsibility but no legal influence? That's where the trouble is. How far is it from a man having some responsibility for a woman's pregnancy (paying some of the monetary costs involved, I'm assuming, since he cannot take on any health risk) to him being able to exert some sort of lawful control over the woman? These ideas go hand in hand in law all the time. Her body is not his responsibility, and shouldn't be, even in part, ever. To allow this would be a huge step backwards for human rights.
posted by agregoli at 9:49 AM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


wow...I just read this entire thread. And while I know I'm late to this party, I just have to say...Miko, way to sustain a lengthy, logical and well reasoned discussion on a tricky and contentious topic. Regardless of where one stands on the subject, i tip my hat to you.

I can't believe i read through this entire thread, and nobody pointed out(unless I missed it) the one equalizing factor in the whole "choice after conception" argument...

During pregnancy, The male has the ability to conceive more children. If you can find willing partners, you can create far more children than you could reasonably care for, provide for, or nurture.

So the argument about "unfairness" misses one valid point. As soon as your soldiers are sent on their mission, every man still has one right left. A right that can not be removed by any law or government. Men with guns can storm your door, They can smoke you out, carry you away in chains, imprison you for life,and you still retain this one fundamental human right.

The right to be an asshole.

Even death can not remove this right, as there are many assholes who are no longer with us, yet their residue coats us long after they are gone.

Women also have the right to be assholes, but when it comes to rearing children, nature has placed a few hurdles in their way. And thank god for that, otherwise we likely wouldn't exist.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:33 PM on August 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Perhaps you misunderstood me. I was referring to a hypothetical situation where a man legally rejects parenthood and signs away his parental rights but later regrets his decision and wishes to assumes those rights. He is unable to do so even though the mother wishes him to be a parent and share the emotion and financial burden, and obviously the child would like a daddy. In that case, yes, I feel everyone would be punished by the legal system. However, If the rejection of parental rights can be reversed once then can he reverse it back as well?"

Oh yeah, I definitely did not read that the way you meant. Here's my initial take on your scenario: the man in that situation completely lacks parental rights, and absent those rights his participation as a father is contingent upon the consent of the sole legal parent, the mother. Given the particulars you describe, he does have the consent of the mother to participate as a parent, so he is free to do exactly that. Should she change her mind, he's frozen out. That need for her consent is a price he pays for avoiding the responsibilities of parenthood.

I guess there could a procedure for the man to adopt with the mother's consent and become a legally equal guardian, but if I were that mother, I'd sure be leery of giving that consent.
posted by NortonDC at 3:32 PM on August 10, 2008


As for your itemization of the effects of pregnancy, that's a reasonable start on a that discussion. (But I think you're out of luck on "suitable man" argument, since, you know, "all men are created equal.")

Don't forget to itemize the woman's benefits when working on the math, such as the reduction in breast cancer risk.
posted by NortonDC at 3:50 PM on August 10, 2008

NortonDC - First you say this: First, holding him responsible for the end while excluding control of the middle is unconscionable.

And yet you've claimed several times over that your position does nothing to threaten a woman maintaining sole control of her body and the pregnancy it's housing.

Could you possibly clarify these two positions? Because they seem to me to be starkly contradictory.
Sure thing, happy to. Upon deciding to have sex with each other, both participants accept the risk of pregnancy, and only pregnancy. They have shared opportunities to control the magnitude of that risk, and, under this proposal, shared responsibility if that risk manifests itself in a pregnancy. If that happens, then the pregnancy does exist and both people are responsible for the pregnancy because they both decided to accept the risk of creating it.

Parenthood is distinct from pregnancy. The woman possess multiple options to legally avoid or give up the rights and responsibilities of parenthood after conception, namely via abortion or legally protected unilateral abandonment or adoption. The existence of any one of these options means that the woman can legally avoid the rights and burdens of parenthood after conception but the man cannot. That only the woman can legally and unilaterally do that is a fact.

I am describing a means of correcting that inequality in reproductive rights by granting the man the opportunity to give up his parental rights and responsibilities. That nature of that opportunity would be a chance for the man to enforce a legal status as a non-parent for the relevant child. That opportunity is a matter of the man controlling only his own legal status. I do not propose giving him any new control over any other person. In fact, giving the man legal control over abortion, aside from being repugnant, would mean that women and men would already have shared control over the transition from pregnancy to parenthood, meaning there would be no inequality to address.

I apologize if this explanation is repetitive, but I'm leaning toward completeness and clarity rather than brevity.
posted by NortonDC at 5:22 PM on August 10, 2008


The existence of any one of these options means that the woman can legally avoid the rights and burdens of parenthood after conception but the man cannot.

That's ok, because us guys get to avoid being pregnant. Start running the risk of getting pregnant, and you start getting some control over that process.

Look, you are doing a great job of staying on message, but a really piss-poor job of responding to the actual, substantive critiques of your proposal.

But I hope you can see how your refusal to acknowledge those critiques is really frustrating. I'm not going to go Klang's route and compare you to any nazis, but I am willing to express my disappointment at your selfishness at enjoying other people's serious engagement with your argument while refusing to engage with the substance of theirs.

You are staying in a circular pattern, moving from an insistence that the current system is "unfair" to men (even though it isn't, see above about not getting pregnant), to a claim that requiring men to "opt-in" as fathers is more fair (which it isn't, and this has been refuted by logic, by historical evidence, and by anecdote), to a claim that making men pay for pregnancies and not pay for parenthood will not impinge on women's control of their bodies (which it patently will, and again this has been addressed logically, historically, and otherwise).

And the best you can do is repeat your unfounded and a-historical assertions? Puh-lease.

Your partner has vouched for you being a great guy in person, but your approach here is not making her look good on this one. If we ever meet in person, I will happily buy you a beer; however, I hope you can see why I am finding your approach to this one issue so frustrating.
posted by Forktine at 6:08 PM on August 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


'You are staying in a circular pattern, moving from an insistence that the current system is "unfair" to men (even though it isn't, see above about not getting pregnant)'

No.
I've only ever called one thing "unfair" in this discussion, and that's making men pay child support for children they did not sire. Other than that, using scare quotes while complaining about what you imagine I've called "unfair" isn't showing much except that you're not actually responding to my words.
posted by NortonDC at 12:30 AM on August 6
"to a claim that requiring men to "opt-in" as fathers is more fair"

No. I've never discussed any opt-in policy. This is serious misrepresentation of what I've written.

"to a claim that making men pay for pregnancies and not pay for parenthood will not impinge on women's control of their bodies (which it patently will, and again this has been addressed logically, historically, and otherwise)."

Please show me where it has been addressed in that way. I will read it carefully. It is possible I've missed it before, but what I remember are pure assertions that I'm wrong.

"And the best you can do is repeat your unfounded and a-historical assertions?"

Assuming you're not referring to my description of a legal framework that we all agree is not the current one, please point to my words that constitute unfounded and ahistorical assertions. Your last comment here makes me think you're not very precise in your treatment of my words, so I'll be looking for specific quotations.
posted by NortonDC at 8:49 PM on August 10, 2008


I've only ever called one thing "unfair" in this discussion

Not true at all. Look one post up at what you last wrote:

I am describing a means of correcting that inequality in reproductive rights

I guess we could weasel around about whether "unfair" is the same as "inequality," but that's pretty shabby arguing there.

No. I've never discussed any opt-in policy. This is serious misrepresentation of what I've written.

Gee, that's funny. Because in that same post, you go on to say:

by granting the man the opportunity to give up his parental rights and responsibilities

Or, in other words, he can opt-in to parental responsibilities. Again, we can weasel around about some tiny difference between "can give up" and "can opt-in," but the real-world meaning is the same — the guy has to actively say "yes, I'm into this" to be on the hook for child support.

Assuming you're not referring to my description of a legal framework that we all agree is not the current one, please point to my words that constitute unfounded and ahistorical assertions.

That's easy. Staying with that same post, how about this:

I am describing a means of correcting that inequality in reproductive rights by granting the man the opportunity to give up his parental rights and responsibilities. That nature of that opportunity would be a chance for the man to enforce a legal status as a non-parent for the relevant child. That opportunity is a matter of the man controlling only his own legal status. I do not propose giving him any new control over any other person.

This has been repeatedly shown to have been in fact something that has been tried (eg 1970s US, cf Miko's posts for previous examples) with poor outcomes. Your insisting that it rectifies inequalities does not make it so; you are being a-historical in asserting that this is something new that magically won't produce the same piss-poor outcomes as the last time this was tried. You have plenty of opt-in male parental models to choose from in history (and around the world at this very minute) — why not man up and show one or two that are producing good results for all concerned?

Anyway, I'll leave you to it; perhaps someone with more patience than myself will continue to play this particular game.
posted by Forktine at 9:50 PM on August 10, 2008


I don't think a truly equal status can ever be legally imposed on the pregnancy/parenthood issue because the imperatives are biological and humanitarian. No matter how you cut it, someone gets screwed. Historically, that has been the woman and/or the child. Current U.S. legislation now means men can also get screwed - perhaps "instead of" the woman is some circumstances. Perhaps "because of" the woman in some circumstances. But in the fine-dice, the legal and justice system generally has never really been "equal" and fair in any real way; it's simply a mechanism that attempts to codify behavior, responsibility, and liability in ways most likely to impose order and civil calm on a society in ways that reflect the belief system of that society at any given time.

Much of what is being discussed here regarding rights and responsibilities is probably more realistically the purview of philosophers, sociologists, and, possibly, anthropologists, rather than justice. The legal system will grant rights and impose liabilities when the society it represents is ready to accord those rights or insist on those limitations/liabilities. The greatest promise for more equal reproductive self-determination for men will come from medical advances (safe/reliable reversible vasectomies, for example) and possibly business models (paternity insurance). And of course, for every technological breakthrough, there will be the attendant issues and arguments about related injustices that will inevitably arise via disagreement, misunderstanding, or plain old malice.

What if FutureMan with a reversible vasectomy marries FutureWoman with the understanding that he will reverse the vasectomy and they will have children five years down the line... and he changes his mind? He can't be forced to have the surgical reversion, because it's his body, his choice. She has waited to have children, and now divorcing, dating, re-marrying, if even possible, skews her timeline so that becoming impregnanted and successfully bringing the pregnancy to term is imperiled. Has she been denied her right to reproduce? Etc.

I think that these sorts of thorny issues will always be with us, because - after all - is there any aspect of law and justice as it is conceived and applied that we feel has been successful in conferring perfect equality and fairness? I can't think of any, personally, and certainly not any that attempt to legislate something so complex and intimate. People need to fight for their rights, challenge the system, think about, discuss and argue the questions and concerns as you are doing here, work towards advancing social awareness of the issues you are passionate about... but always realize that the laws are always going to be only "good enough" in the best of circumstances, and apply yourself as well to technological, social, and medical solutions. In this case, especially, add "personal" to that arsenal, and as I said earlier, have sex with sane, stable people you care about; understand each other's positions on these questions; agree on what is mutually acceptable in case things go wrong. These are the very first rights both of you can exercise, after the right to choose abstinence.

I hope the participants here can come out shaking hands, because as I see it, there has been no one sincerely involved in this discussion who has been either entirely wrong, or entirely right - because no such position exists. Putting the magnifying glass over various aspects of the question is a good thing, and one that has given many people following this thread a lot of food for thought and the will to examine all the issues more closely... also a good thing. So, bravo, folks. Shake hands with your opponent, and break out the beer.
posted by taz at 2:26 AM on August 11, 2008


I think that these sorts of thorny issues will always be with us, because - after all - is there any aspect of law and justice as it is conceived and applied that we feel has been successful in conferring perfect equality and fairness? I can't think of any, personally, and certainly not any that attempt to legislate something so complex and intimate. People need to fight for their rights, challenge the system, think about, discuss and argue the questions and concerns as you are doing here, work towards advancing social awareness of the issues you are passionate about... but always realize that the laws are always going to be only "good enough" in the best of circumstances, and apply yourself as well to technological, social, and medical solutions. In this case, especially, add "personal" to that arsenal, and as I said earlier, have sex with sane, stable people you care about; understand each other's positions on these questions; agree on what is mutually acceptable in case things go wrong. These are the very first rights both of you can exercise, after the right to choose abstinence.

Repeating because taz makes a very astute point here.

Beers all around! (Though I don't drink beer. Can I have a Cape Cod instead?)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:39 AM on August 11, 2008


If you're going to count in her benefit the decreased breast cancer RISK, you also have to count all the increased RISKS that come along with pregnancy, whether or not she actually experiences blindness, etc, and all the increased RISKS that come with birth (disability, permanent changes to her body, etc). It's going to be hard to come out ahead in that one, but mainly just impossible to count.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:16 AM on August 11, 2008


More and better responses will have to wait a while, but Forktine, really, claiming there's no difference between being a father by default and not being a father by default? And attributing the wrong one to me? Please put more care into it than that.

I heard a lot about this last night, along the lines of if you're going to leave me alone in bed to comment on the MetaTalk, do better than that, so I will when I get a better chance to write. Highlights may include the importance of not starting out in a hole, what "unfair" really means, and why it can be useful to let yourself look emotionally tone deaf.
posted by NortonDC at 2:17 PM on August 11, 2008


I don't see the conversation progressing, and It's been very interesting, but I've decided to opt out of the aftermath. This comment from onlyconnect about NortonDC enlightened me:

I think this is a very intellectual debate for him, grounded in the notion that times have changed and equality really can be achieved.

And caused me to realize that we'll continue to fail to resolve the discussion because he has begun with this premise.

Times have indeed changed - for the better, in increasingly commonly requiring both parents to support their children and creating mechanisms like contraception and abortion to reduce overall numbers of unwanted offspring - but biology has not changed. That inherent and unavoidable asymmetry will require some means of social management via law until such time as it can be corrected for.

We have equalityunder the law now, in that each individual of each gender is responsible for and has rights to the control of his or her own actions and body, and is responsible to support and has rights regarding his or her children. Any other areas of perceived inequality resulting from the asymmetry of who carries a fetus are necessarily subordinate to those paramount principles, and can't be adjusted without impinging upon the more essential principles of individual freedom under the law, until it's possible for both sexes to become pregnant.

I think it's great that NortonDC believes equality really can be achieved, and I believe that equality under the law exists already in this matter. But compared to principles of law, equality is not quite fully developed when it comes to customs, mores, social behaviors, and things like living conditions and employment and wage prospects for women (or single parents in general) as to have created a world in which it is acceptable for parents to abandon their responsibilities.

It's clear that without support laws in place, children fare more poorly. In some utopian world with an entirely different social and family structure, judicial tradition, and cultural history, it might be possible to discuss consequence-free sex for men as an issue of equality, if there were also some magical way to invent consequence-free sex for women also. But that does not yet describe our world. NortonDC's ideas are purely theoretical and based on a purely theoretical construction of the world that assumes no meaningful gender differences, whereas the obstacles to implementing his ideas are painfully pragmatic ones.

Also, billyfleetwood's point was excellent: that men can sire more children while a woman is pregnant - a rather large number of them, in theory - which is indeed a moral hazard and an excellent argument for a means of restraint on male fertility that is equal to the natural restraint on female fertility.

But anyway. There's no way to arrive at an agreement if we don't agree on premise A: that conditions regarding fertility for men and women are equivalent. Since we don't agree on that, I think we've identified the impasse. Thanks, onlyconnect - I couldn't grasp that that was where the divide was happening. Best, all.
posted by Miko at 7:20 AM on August 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

We have equalityunder the law now, in that each individual of each gender is responsible for and has rights to the control of his or her own actions and body, and is responsible to support and has rights regarding his or her children.
I'm disappointed that you're announcing your departure before you reconcile statements like that above with your acknowledgment that women, who don't even have to list a father on the birth certificate, can legally abandon a child. I remain eager to read your explanation of how the right for one gender to legally abandon its offspring equals the legal incapability of the other gender to do so.
posted by NortonDC at 3:21 PM on August 12, 2008


I remain eager to read your explanation of how the right for one gender to legally abandon its offspring equals the legal incapability of the other gender to do so.

I've been trying to hold my tongue (or... fingers, I guess), but every time the subject comes up that a woman can, in theory, legally abandon a child but a man can not, I become infuriated.

Men, in practice, abandon their children all the time. The reason that the child support laws had to be changed to require child support from the father, rather than having it be optional, is that men WERE walking out on their children! It's been mentioned before that the reason the laws have changed is that it was in the states' best interest to have the fathers be held legally accountable because without their income, single mothers had little financial support and little to no recourse in the matter.

People are imperfect parents. Everyone is. Some women become mothers before they're ready. Some women don't think through the decision of parenting and abandon their children. I am NOT absolving women, not by any stretch. BUT.

And here is the BUT.

BUT any discussion of a man being "legally" able to abandon a child smells of horseshit. I've seen children whose fathers walked out of their lives. Before we start going down a hypothetical road of equality, we need to address the IN-equality that more women are single mothers than men are single fathers. And that the reason that the child support laws are the way that they are is because men have frequently shirked obligations owed to their children.

And we are not talking children who were conceived while both parents were wearing full body condoms. Not every child who is abandoned was a "mistake." My own father disappeared for YEARS of my childhood and he was the one who convinced my mom to have a kid in the first place! Men have signed on for fatherhood in the past and then given up on it later.

No one is a perfect parent. Women are just as liable to fuck it up as men. The system, however, is the way it is because over the course of history women are much more likely than men to raise children alone and it's in the states' best interest to hold the father accountable rather than to increase welfare payments through the roof.

If the split in single parenting were 50/50, then there would be merit in discussing a man's options should he end up in the position of needing a way out of parenthood. I can see that NortonDC's premise does hold true in a world where equality truly has been reached, but it hasn't. That world and the world we currently live in may have some things in common, but we're not there yet. Not at all.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:53 PM on August 12, 2008


When a woman "legally abandons" a child, where is the father?
posted by klangklangston at 4:10 PM on August 12, 2008


NortonDC: I thoroughly answered on that "safe haven" point earlier.
posted by Miko at 6:28 PM on August 12, 2008


Here was the basic response to your assertion that I said women can "legally abandon" a child:
I didn't acknowledge that, actually. What I mentioned was that even in "safe haven" states, there is often a requirement to make an attempt to establish maternity and paternity. But let me be clear that 'safe haven' is absolutely an area of non-settled law. They are wide open to challenge and are so new that they have rarely been tested. State legislation on it all over the place; safe haven will necessarily end up in the upper courts before there is any consistent pattern that sets it on a par we have with the mass of family law which I've been referencing. For instance, in some states the recipient of the infant has to file an abandonment charge with the police and the parents have to decide whether to appear for it.

But to your point: what you'll find especially interesting is that upon being notified of a baby left with a safe haven, whatever the local child welfare department is has to petition the court to terminate both parents' parental rights...which are in effect up to that point. Again - both parents are responsible in the eyes of the law until their rights are legally terminated. Safe haven is a de facto abandonment by both parties with decriminalization. The court process is the same as for abandonment: terminate parental rights. There cannot exist a condition in which a child has no custodian.
In other words, it's legally impossible for only the woman to legally "abandon" the child under the conditions of contemporary (and unchallenged) safe haven laws. Both parents have to legally abandon the child. And what happens after that in family court is not true abandonment, but the same thing that happens in adoption cases: the court terminates the parental rights of both parents and assigns a custodian.

And I'd hesitate to place too much emphasis on these laws. Every source I read about them admitted that they were experimental and in only one case I found.

If this seems like a sticking point to you, I suggest you read about the safe haven laws and how they work in varying ways in the states in which they exist. You'll see that both parents have parental rights until the couret terminates the rights. A parent that does not give an identity or is a no-show is generally legally assumed to have given consent for adoption by default. This applies to both male and female.
posted by Miko at 6:37 PM on August 12, 2008


Here's an excellent summary/overview/critique of safe haven laws. I think this does a good job of showing what a chaotic mess the laws they are. They're unfair and uneven all over the place, and states have wildly different requirements and legal structures. Personally, I think they're lousy, and they deserve to be protested and challenge. But the thing is they're not the law of the land - they're at the beginning stages of challenge and refinement through the appeals process, and I'd guess that there might come a time when they're broadly repealed or overridden by federal decision.
posted by Miko at 8:39 PM on August 12, 2008


What a depressing read Miko. So interpertation of this issue is:

Both adults that engage in consensual that are responsible for the resulting pregnancy (since no contraceptive is 100% effective). (1)

A pregnant woman can choose to abort and end the pregnancy (with the attendant physical, psychological, social and financial consequences).
The man has no options to end the pregnancy beyond persuasion (he may share the financial, psychological and social costs of abortion - the financial, and to some extent the social, costs are his choice). He may not know about the pregnancy/abortion tr all.

The burden of pregnancy (financial, social and physical) fall on the woman. The man may choose to assume some financial and social burdens but is not legally required to proactively do so. (2)

Either parent may ask the courts to release their parental rights and responsibilities though adoption. The other parent may choose to contest the adoption, seek sole custody and receive child support payments from the other parent (who retains such parental rights such as visitation).

Both parents together may ask the courts to release their parental rights and responsibilities through mutual adoption to another adult (or adults) that will then take on their parental rights and responsibilities. Parental rights such as visitation are only available if the adoptive parent(s) agrees, there are no financial responsibilities to the biological parents.

Either parent may abandon the child after birth with various legal consequences (see Miko's link). The parent that did not abandon the infant may legally claim parental rights over the baby and ask for child support from the abandoning parent. Both parents may choose to to abondon the infant and if they are not identified their parental rights and responsibilities are severed by the courts. An infant that is abandoned by the mother without the father making an effort to know the woman he had sex with was pregnant has already been abandoned by the father.

Both parents may choose to co-parent the child with various rights and reposnsibilities (child support/visitation) shared either equally or inequality. Both parents may agree outside of court/legal agreements that one parent will be released from parental rights and/or responsibilities.

The only two times one gender is excluded from a fair choices the choice of being able to get physically pregnant (a choice made by biology at this time) and the choice of abortion. I don't think I need to rehash abortion debates here, I think we all agree it can only be the woman's choice.

(1)As part of taking responsibility for his sexual choices the man should also make a genuine effort to find out if his actions have resulted in a pregnancy. Biology ensures the woman will.
(2)Why haven't the financial costs of pregnancy been shared equally? I'm just going to sit back and wait for the cheques to come rolling in.

posted by saucysault at 9:08 AM on August 13, 2008


(2)Why haven't the financial costs of pregnancy been shared equally?

I agree with the reason agregoli stated so succinctly: once you're legally responsible for a financial matter, you can also have some contractual rights in the matter. Having a case for contractual rights related to someone else's pregnancy threatens the sole and independent legal status of the pregnant person. I think contractual rights would inevitably enter into this immediately, because if the NortonDC plan were in effect, the woman would most likely need to be required to prove she is pregnant (to avoid claiming a false pregnancy and collecting money for it) and then prove that she'd had an abortion (to disallow any later claims for pregnancy support money). Boom, violation of privacy, new contractual rights. That's ugly.

He may not know about the pregnancy/abortion at all.

That's true if the woman fails to inform him. Personally, I think that if there's an intention to carry to term and give birth, legal notice to the father should be required at some point previous so as to give the father every fair chance to contest or consent or make support agreements outside the court. This seems to me to be an area of fairness breakdown - if the man is just out of the loop. I can't quite reconcile that with the requirements of support, so I think it is an area that should be contested.

In the case of abortion I don't think notice should be necessary, as again, this has to do with the pregnancy and is a private matter for the woman to deal with.

I would feel more supportive of father's rights groups if they spent more time arguing for things like a paternal notification of pending birth, right to contest adoption in safe haven cases, etc., instead of mainly arguing for the right to nonsupport.
posted by Miko at 9:57 AM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Re equal costs of pregnancy Miko. I agree with you and agregoli if it was an individual sharing the costs but what if it was the state that spread out the financial burden of pregnancy among the entire population? Perhaps women should be eligible for a belly bonus cheque from the government when their health care provider submits a report that they are pregnant. Men were historically paid more because they were "breadwinners"; why not pay a woman more when she has a bun in the oven? It would just be righting the current inequality. A paid parental leave is another way to make things equal. Free pre-natal and birth care for all women, I am sure there is a gap between women eligible for the current free care and working women not earning enough to purchase the care they need. There are things that the American government pays for that disportionately financially benefit men (free viagara on medicaide; the court/prision system - since they are the more likely to be victims as well as more likely to be criminals as well as more likely to be employed in the system; the military which employs more men etc). I don't know if mothers in America get some form of government assistance but in Canada families earning up to almost $140,000 a year still get a baby bonus (cctb) cheque.
posted by saucysault at 11:45 AM on August 13, 2008


Miko -- "[...]it's legally impossible for only the woman to legally "abandon" the child under the conditions of contemporary (and unchallenged) safe haven laws. Both parents have to legally abandon the child."

No, not really. A two-link chain of "inactions" on the woman's part leaves the man with no opportunity to take up paternal rights and responsibilities: don't disclose the pregnancy and don't list a father on the birth certificate. In such a case by default the woman becomes the sole decision maker regarding the adoption or abandonment actions we've been discussing and unilaterally removes the opportunity for the man to be a parent to the child. Calling such a scenario a mutual abandonment or an abandonment by the man is wrong.

Regarding safe haven / legal abandonment laws, Miko asserts that "they're not the law of the land," but the fact is that they are just as much the law the law of the land as any child support, custody or visitation law in America. The federal role in those laws is limited to acting as a collection agency for the terms set by the state in interstate cases. (See this US Department of Justice page for confirmation.) In the absence of federal laws, state law is the law of the land.

Since they are just as much the law of the land as the other laws, what do they say? Miko's link tells us that...
Currently, all states with safe haven legislation permit a mother to abandon her infant anonymously, never giving the father’s name nor contacting the father, thereby drastically reducing a father’s ability to contest custody or adoption of their children. These concerns raise questions about whether a father’s constitutional rights are being violated by current safe haven laws. Of the 45 states that have safe haven legislation, only 12 provide procedures to safeguard fathers' rights. The other 33 states do not provide for any search or do not require that any notice be given to the father.
Oof, not looking so good for the man, or for someone arguing that "We have equalityunder the law now." Looking more closely at the details doesn't help much:
Safe haven legislation can be split into four categories. Laws in the first category provide for notice by publication or through the media. The second category requires a search of the putative father registry and provides that notice should be sent to any potential father who has registered. The third and most common category of safe haven laws is silent about providing notice to fathers. The fourth category specifically states that a search for parents and notice are unnecessary if the identities of the parents are unknown.
So the various laws either mean: that an ad is put in the paper (no help for unknowing fathers), that the man must preemptively list himself in a government database of potential fathers because he thinks he might have a child coming along soon (again, no help for unknowing fathers), that nothing be done for fathers, or that nothing be done for men not already identified as the parent of the child.

When you run the numbers, they show that 73% of state's legal abandonment laws provide no protections for the man. Please keep in mind that that is the information provided by Miko's link. Also, the penultimate section of Miko's link is all about the exact situation I describe in my first paragraph in this comment. It is real.

Miko, you did accurately report that the laws seem to be undergoing testing and retooling. This period of change presents an opportunity to address the underlying disparity driving this discussion, namely that the current laws hold parents of one gender responsible for the reproductive/parenting choices of the other gender. It is unfair*, and it reeks of paternalism, treating the man like a guardian and the woman like his minor who's actions he is responsible for. I wasn't kidding when I called this "the right and feminist thing to do."

saucysault said:
The parent that did not abandon the infant may legally claim parental rights over the baby and ask for child support from the abandoning parent. Both parents may choose to to abondon the infant and if they are not identified their parental rights and responsibilities are severed by the courts. An infant that is abandoned by the mother without the father making an effort to know the woman he had sex with was pregnant has already been abandoned by the father.
No. "The parent that did not abandon the infant may legally claim parental rights over the baby and ask for child support from the abandoning parent." No on several counts. The parent that did not abandon the infant may not know that the infant exists, or they may merely have the misfortune of living somewhere in the majority of states that fail to "provide any safeguards to protect the rights of putative fathers," per Miko's link. And we still don't have any hard evidence that any woman in America has to pay child support after availing herself of legal abandonment. We've seen Miko say that this is the case, but she has provided nothing more than that assertion.

"An infant that is abandoned by the mother without the father making an effort to know the woman he had sex with was pregnant has already been abandoned by the father." This is, at best, a wholly unsupported conclusion. It really reads as a blanket assertion that no woman would ever attempt to separate a man from a child he sired, and that whenever a child is not parented by his biological father, it's because the father was some sort of "shirker." No.


Miko mused that
I agree with the reason agregoli stated so succinctly: once you're legally responsible for a financial matter, you can also have some contractual rights in the matter. Having a case for contractual rights related to someone else's pregnancy threatens the sole and independent legal status of the pregnant person. I think contractual rights would inevitably enter into this immediately, because if the NortonDC plan were in effect, the woman would most likely need to be required to prove she is pregnant (to avoid claiming a false pregnancy and collecting money for it) and then prove that she'd had an abortion (to disallow any later claims for pregnancy support money). Boom, violation of privacy, new contractual rights. That's ugly.
But earlier Miko asserted that
While pregnant, sheis legally responsible for making decisions regarding the fetus inside her within the constraints of law. It is she that must comply with state and federal law outlining when and how an abortion might take place; it is she who seeks and accepts legal protection if her pregnancy makes her unable to physically do her job, it is she who invokes the Family and Medical Leave act if she needs time away from work. It is she who, in some states, may be held legally responsible if a toxicology report shows signs of alcohol or drug abuse at the child's birth, and, in some states, she who is legally required to take HIV tests, and in some states, she who must comply with parental notification if she is under 18. It is she who bears the responsibility for neonatal care and is financially liable for the resulting bills and/or the Medicaid paperwork. There is an entire body of law in a cross-section of legal fields dealing with the condition of pregnancy, for which the person who is pregnant is immediately responsible for complying with.
I see a serious conflict between these two lines of reasoning, one of which says we mustn't make financial concerns contingent upon pregnancy, and one which triumphantly declares that we do make financial (and other) concerns contingent upon pregnancy. While I don't agree with your projection regarding any creation of pregnancy rights for the man, I do wonder how you reconcile these these two ideas, Miko.

"Personally, I think that if there's an intention to carry to term and give birth, legal notice to the father should be required at some point previous so as to give the father every fair chance to contest or consent or make support agreements outside the court."

Miko, how is that different from the violation of privacy you decry just a few lines above that sentence?



Regarding the importance of not starting out in a hole-
Miko's meaty missive mentioned many, uh, bad things that happened when a male was allowed leave children he sired unsupported. While I do not assert that we now inhabit a utopia of gender equality (quite the opposite, for some of the issues under discussion here), women are not dependent on their fathers or theoretical husbands for their well being. They are free persons with the ability to provide for themselves (with all the incumbent uncertainty that comes with freedom, etc). Yet many single mothers and their charges still suffer by objective measures. I assert that much of the blame for this stems from the fact that upon delivery single mothers of today are starting deep in a hole precisely because they have shouldered the many burdens of pregnancy and the man has not. This is precisely what my affirmative proposal seeks to remedy by applying the "making whole" doctrine to pregnancy. Once we establish parity for new mothers, they will have a real freedom to make independent choices that we merely pay lip service to so long as we force them to start in negative territory. That, combined with the availability of government child support payments, makes for a much more just system that more tightly binds choices and responsibilities. In my opinion!

So, to paraphrase my very-supportive-but-not-on-this-point partner, why have I spent so much time opposing the arguments of others when I have affirmative points to make? In my head, it's a matter of proper sequencing. The merits of my specific proposal for correcting this problem only become fully relevant after generating significant agreement that the gender disparity in legal parenting rights is a wrong. I've not invested much in discussing the full range benefits of my specific remedy, because at the moment there is insufficient acknowledgment of the underlying problem that the remedy addresses. To me, it's a matter of proper sequencing, while onlyconnect thinks I'll never make any converts without making the affirmative case for my proposal.

Making the case for those benefits would be great, but for now I'd be content with accomplishing the first step, building the consensus that current legal arrangement is sexist and wrong.


*Regarding what "unfair" really means
Of course its denotation means unjust, not fair, or unequal, all of which are facets of "wrong". But "unfair" in oh-so-deliberate quotes means, at its most neutral, "I choose to disregard the topic you have raised without addressing it." The real intent of the speaker is to communicate that the person they are "quoting" is whining, naive, immature, less worldly than they, and beholden to interests not worthy of the quoter's time. It completely dodges any question of truth or even validity of the issue being raised, instead attempting to emotionally denigrate the issue, and by association the person raising it.

So I avoided "unfair" for a long time, but that sure didn't stop people from trotting out the trope.

I've come to regard scare quoting "unfair" as tacit acknowledgment that one would rather shame the original speaker in silence than make a viable counterargument. Such tactics rarely impress me.


Regarding why it can be useful to let yourself look emotionally tone deaf
I don't think I have illusions about the power dynamic here. My argument would sometimes eliminate the power of a woman to extract money from a man that the woman then gets to spend with little or no oversight. My passing familiarity with human nature makes me expect that many people will put up serious resistance to losing that potential power purely because many/most people prefer having power to not having power. That is primal, emotional and not easily abandoned. My approach to that is to try leaving no rational cover for the odious idea, leaving the emotional aspects to the wrap up, the "it's all over but the shouting" phase.

Not that I remember you folks asked about that in the thread, but I got grilled about the tone-deaf tone.

I also hear that I ought to lay out a timeline with arrows and decision points and whatnot detailing the sequence of things for my proposal, but it's late.
posted by NortonDC at 8:24 PM on August 17, 2008


This is precisely what my affirmative proposal seeks to remedy by applying the "making whole" doctrine to pregnancy. Once we establish parity for new mothers, they will have a real freedom to make independent choices that we merely pay lip service to so long as we force them to start in negative territory. That, combined with the availability of government child support payments, makes for a much more just system that more tightly binds choices and responsibilities. In my opinion!

Yet I haven't yet see you respond to the points made that a man cannot give financial help for a pregnancy without also having legal claim over it. This is MY main concern with your proposal, and others have brought it up too. It's impossible with the way the law works to grant one and not expect a challenge on the other. This would be absolutely detrimental to woman's rights.
posted by agregoli at 6:36 AM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


see a serious conflict between these two lines of reasoning, one of which says we mustn't make financial concerns contingent upon pregnancy, and one which triumphantly declares that we do make financial (and other) concerns contingent upon pregnancy. While I don't agree with your projection regarding any creation of pregnancy rights for the man, I do wonder how you reconcile these these two ideas, Miko.

You confuse me. I see the two positions you excerpted as not only entirely consistent, but following on one another. You will have to show me how they are in conflict.

Safe haven laws are actually not anywhere near as well established as custody and support law. Note the existence of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement which administers programs in all states and terrotories. The office was created by act of Congress in 1975. In the linked document you can see a list of public laws passed at the Congressional level to establish and enforce child support and custody guidelines, setting parameters which each state is required to follow. So through the federal legislature, we see decades of endorsement, enforcement, and refinement for the custody and support procedures currently operating in each state, under federal oversight[PDF].

The federal judicial branch has had ample opportunity to review and affirm or deny the constituionality of those laws. The United States Supreme Court has heard challenges to elements of state child support law and their findings have then returned to influence OCSE policy.

This history of legislative and judicial action, review, and support at the federal level puts all state child support law on a much more solidly settled footing than safe haven laws, which are nascent, experimental, and as yet relatively unchallenged, originating from within the states, and with many flaws and inconsistencies with federal law. I would expect to see them modified or struck down over time as challenges arise. I'm not interested in reasoning from them, because though they are current law in the states in which they exist, they are not the law of the land (i.e., constitutionally supported federal law), and I believe they are unconstitutional and will not survive challenge by those seeking paternal rights. I think we agree that they are not fair, and I've said so all along, so this is not a point of disagreement in this argument.
posted by Miko at 9:38 AM on August 18, 2008


I don't agree with your projection regarding any creation of pregnancy rights for the man

It's not a projection, it legally follows. Unless you would think it legal for men to be required by enforceable law to give some amount of money to women simply because she says she is pregnant. American law is based on evidence, that which can be shown. Where is the proof?
posted by Miko at 9:41 AM on August 18, 2008


Making the case for those benefits would be great, but for now I'd be content with accomplishing the first step, building the consensus that current legal arrangement is sexist and wrong.

It's been discussed here several times that the way the current legal arrangement came to be is that it's an improvement over the previous system where fathers weren't on the hook for anything, and many single mothers were left with no recourse but State aid for financial assistance.

It may be sending a harsh message about parenthood to require fathers to pay for their progeny, but the reason that our legal system has come to this point is that many men simply wouldn't do so were they not forced.

In the face of evidence (such as that researched and given by Miko) that shows how costly this was to the State, I think that while the current legal system may be unpalatable, it is an improvement over using taxpayers' money to support single mothers. Because that's the alternative. Either you get the father to pay in cases where the mother can not support the child on her own, or everyone pays.

I think the system is much more fair to have the financial burden for parenthood resting on the parents rather than with the taxpayers. Perhaps it is a sexist statement to say that men are required to pay because in the past, men have been more likely to duck out (thus painting men as unreliable) - and perhaps it is wrong - but the systems of the past and the solutions that you offered gave rights to men that by extension severely limited the rights of a woman during pregnancy.

I firmly believe that what a woman chooses to do during pregnancy (whether to carry to term or to abort) should be her decision and her decision alone. Any system that would gave a man rights over a woman that would impede her ability to solely make these decisions is one that I wholeheartedly oppose. For men to be on the hook financially during pregnancy makes them on the hook legally (otherwise, who is holding them accountable for any financial obligations? The two always go hand in hand), and that is just untenable for a society that has worked to make pregnancy a woman's choice. Especially as there is talk of making abortions and emergency contraception less readily available and the constant right-wing buzz about overturning Roe V. Wade, women need to hold on to their reproductive rights.

It's too bad that this does create an inequality between the sexes that can't be righted without someone feeling slighted, but hey, that's biology for you. No one ever said life was fair.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:30 PM on August 18, 2008


A two-link chain of "inactions" on the woman's part leaves the man with no opportunity to take up paternal rights and responsibilities: don't disclose the pregnancy and don't list a father on the birth certificate.

It's really really hard to hide an 7-9 month pregnant belly. All he would have to do is find her and look at her. Yeah, he won't know for sure that it's his, but he'll know he can take steps to find out once it's born. Her entire body and life and lifestyle has to change to deliver this baby, he doesn't even bother to look at her, and you call it *her* inaction?
posted by Salamandrous at 8:18 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Her entire body and life and lifestyle has to change to deliver this baby, he doesn't even bother to look at her, and you call it *her* inaction?

Word.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:21 PM on August 18, 2008


NortonDC, you started posting in this thread claiming the burdens of unwanted pregnancy and parenthood should be separate issues.
The woman possess multiple options to legally avoid or give up the rights and responsibilities of parenthood after conception, namely via abortion or legally protected unilateral abandonment or adoption. The existence of any one of these options means that the woman can legally avoid the rights and burdens of parenthood after conception but the man cannot. That only the woman can legally and unilaterally do that is a fact.
Your fact is wrong. Parenthood is a consequence of pregnancy, with the exception of abortion which may not be available or affordable or desirable for the woman. You have no convincing arguments for the existence of an exclusively woman-only option of adoption or abandonment that do not assume the father has already abandoned the child.
A two-link chain of "inactions" on the woman's part leaves the man with no opportunity to take up paternal rights and responsibilities: don't disclose the pregnancy and don't list a father on the birth certificate.
Again, it is part of the responsibility of the man to see if his actions have lead to pregnancy and possible parenthood. Yes, a woman should inform the father if she is pregnant and list his name on the birth certificate (1) but why is necessarily solely the woman's responsibility to seek him out? A pregnant woman has a rather distinctive shape if the father looks her up. I don't know if there are such statistics but I personally believe the majority of unplanned pregnancies occur in relationships, rather than the urban legend "first-names only" one night stand where the woman purposefully entraps the father hoping for a fat child support cheque. As to concealing the pregnancy, yes, a woman could have sex, become pregnant, uproot herself to a new location and find new employment while pregnant and cut off all family and social ties to hide a pregnancy and birth and then abandon the baby without naming the father. But using an outlier case like that to then justify the more common occurance of a man knowingly impregnating his wife or girlfriend and then refusing to pay child support seems a bit of a stretch. The numbers of parents (we have no way of knowing if it was mothers, fathers or both) that do abandon their children (30,000 in 1998 according to Miko's link) certainly do not outnumber the number of men that financially abandon their children (7 million in 1997 according to the National Survey of American Families). Although sad, abandonment is not the social problem that non-payment of child support is.
My argument would sometimes eliminate the power of a woman to extract money from a man that the woman then gets to spend with little or no oversight.
As noted above, child support payments do not cover even half the cost of raising a child (and do not compensate for non-material losses such as employment and social opportunities). The vast, vast majority of single mothers are spending what little they receive on basics like food and rent. More than half of the expense of childrearing is on the mother. There is no power in being beholden to a man who may or may not pay his child support cheque on time to pay the rent. That single mothers are disportionately poor is fact. Is this really about women "trapping" men into fatherhood to pay for their bling? Each state has child support guidelines you can look up. In one state I was looking at, the lowest payment was under $200, and the highest was $2,000 a month (that parent was earning over $30,000 a month). Even if a woman were to receive the state cheques you propose she would be able to spend it, making your statement inflammatory rhetoric. You sound misogynistic (extract?) and a believer of the "gold-digger" and "spendthrift woman" stereotypes. I expected better of you.
They [women] are free persons with the ability to provide for themselves (with all the incumbent uncertainty that comes with freedom, etc).
I guess you are just ignoring all the evidence of institutional sexism in education and employment. Women who are not mothers or pregnant still stuffer from discrimination because they could potentially get pregnant. Men are at an advantage in our society, single mothers, especially ones without consistent, reliable and equitable child support are disadvantaged. This is not news. Single mothers living below the poverty line are 36% of the population, a great improvement over the 60% of the population they were in 1959, from the US census. (Keep in mind their defination of poverty for a single parent and child is an income under $13,896, - supporting a child on $14,00 in 2007 is not considered poor). How does your proposal improve this situation for children? Currently a single parent on welfare gets benefits below the poverty line. What on earth makes you think this is better for the children than child support from their father (who, without consequence, may choose to have dozens of state supported children). Why would the state be willing to take this burden on, relieving fathers of responsibility over a decade after Temporary Assistance for Needy Families? Child support payments are one of the main funding sources for TANF. The United States is a very individualistic society, I just can't see your proposal being taken seriously by lawmakers or benefiting society as a whole.
I am not sure if you are proposing this re-definition of parental responsibilities in today's clearly inequitable society or if this is something you envision in a new society. If it is the latter, there are too many variables to say if it would be possible. Personally, I do not see an equitable society happening for generations in the United States; clearly in today's society we have far more injustices to attempt to remedy before we prioritise encouraging men to avoid responsibility towards their biological children. Interestingly enough, among all the nanny states out there that already try to share pregnancy and parenting costs through state payments not one have adopted your idea of allowing men to choose legal parenthood after the fact of biological parenthood. Redefining biological parenthood affects too many common-law frameworks such as inheritance, citizenship, immigration, social security, access to medical history and other legal documents etc.
the gender disparity in legal parenting rights is a wrong
Nope, again there is no disparity except for the biological one that women are the only sex that (currently) get pregnant and have legal control over their pregnant body. Both parents have equal say in adoption, abandonment and parenting, with either gender able to veto the choice, ask for sole or joint custody and child support. The fact that the norm is for women to have custody and men to pay support is a societal disparity, but not sexist.
posted by saucysault at 12:57 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anecdotal, but a good example of how pregnancy effects a woman's earning capabilities:

A good friend of mine has been free-lancing for a while and her jobs naturally came to an end. At the same time, a position in her field for which she is highly qualified opened up and she interviewed for it. It is in the same line of work that she's been doing for years - she's EXTREMELY qualified for the job. She interviewed very well and looked forward to hearing from them.

She's 7 months pregnant.

She got a letter saying that they decided not to fill the position at this time. Basically, that the organization would rather hire NO ONE than hire a pregnant woman.

Women are often forced to choose between pregnancy and careers whether they like it or not. Single mothers simply *can't* earn as much as single fathers because employers look at them and simply refuse to offer them certain opportunities. Sad, but true.

Women are already discriminated against when it comes to earning power. Pregnant women even more so. To make this even worse by giving men financial control OVER pregnancy is ass-backwards. If we want to end a system wherein women need a second income of *some* sort in order to be able to afford to raise a child, we need to give women MORE earning power, and not simply let men "off the hook." If women didn't NEED to get child support to stay afloat financially, then your theoretical "no way no how did I want to have a baby" father could make the choice not to support the child without repercussions.

(And also, saucysault's post above is excellent and I'd like to echo what she's saying.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:45 AM on August 19, 2008


grapefruitmoon, I can do you three better! I know three women that have been fired for being pregnant. Their work was exemplary but the businesses did not want to deal with replacing them during their parental leave while guaranteeing their positions. I have spoken to several business owners that refuse to hire women in prime child-bearing years; I can understand their logic but it is real women they are hurting. I have never heard of a father-to-be losing his job or not getting because he might be a father.
posted by saucysault at 7:28 AM on August 19, 2008


Once when I was hiring myself for an assistant, I had my boss, a female director-level person, sit in the interviews with me. We came down to two very good candidates, one male and one female. I strongly preferred the female, since she had better skills and more appropriate experience. In the "tell me about yourself" section of the interview, the female interviewee mentioned that she had a son who was turning four and entering school, and that allowed her to re-enter the workforce.

In my debriefing with my boss following the interview, my boss agreed that the female candidate was the best candidate, but that I should "consider carefully," because she "might want to expand her family," and "leave us in the lurch." She was careful not to say "don't hire her," but the message was abundantly clear.

I hired her anyway, and she was the best assistant I ever had. She actually did have another kid later, but worked through her entire pregnancy and the infancy of her baby. I can't believe, now, that my boss encouraged me to pass over her for an inferior candidate because she was female and of childbearing age, and because of decisions that were imagined in the future.

Here on AskMe, you can find many "I'm job-searching, should I tell my interviewer I'm pregnant?" questions and responses. The truth is you don't even need to BE pregnant - only perhaps capable of getting pregnant - to activate the bias.
posted by Miko at 7:37 AM on August 19, 2008


That reads kind of funny. Make that "Once when I myself was hiring for an assistant..."

I would be a shitty assistant to myself.

posted by Miko at 7:38 AM on August 19, 2008


(While we're being anecdotal about employment and pregnancy...) My own line of work is a bit unique in that one of the first questions that I'm asked point blank is if I plan on having children. I'm a nanny. To say "no" would be extremely suspect - if I like kids so much that I work with them, why WOULDN'T I want my own? If I had my own, that would (in some ways) qualify me *more* for my job.

As is, employers are hazy to hire me as I'm of childbearing age and they want a five year commitment - meaning they'd want to hire someone fresh out of college who "isn't ready" for kids yet, or someone who has already had children. Luckily, I got hired by a family who wanted a two year commitment, and not five, but it still came up in *every* interview.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:27 PM on August 19, 2008


Is that it, then?
posted by agregoli at 6:52 AM on August 22, 2008


sluglicker writes "All I know is that, if I were blindfolded and 2 women alternated giving me a tug (one wearing latex surgical gloves with K-Y and the other without the latex but with K-Y) I wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Considering that a modern condom is perhaps a tenth of the thickness of a surgical glove, I seriously doubt one could feel the difference. But I'm willing to take part in either experiment."

You might not be able to tell but the women probably could. I vividly remember the first time we used latex gloves in science class and how bloody weird just running one's hand under running water felt.

saucysault writes "I am not sure if America has the same definition of common-law marriage; in Canada, a relationship becomes a common-law marriage after 12 months of living together (according to CRA) or immediately after the birth of a child when both parents live together."

Simply living together isn't sufficient in Canada. You also have to self identify as married.
posted by Mitheral at 11:03 AM on August 28, 2008


"Yet I haven't yet see you respond to the points made that a man cannot give financial help for a pregnancy without also having legal claim over it."

Uh, no, not really. Providing financial help for a pregnancy does not create a claim over it.


"You confuse me. [...] You will have to show me how they are in conflict."

Sure, Miko. The first quoted paragraph voices your opinion that the ideas I'm discussing would breach a wall of privacy around pregnancy, while the second quoted paragraph from you tells us that that wall is already breached.


"I'm not interested in reasoning from [safe haven/legal abandonment laws], because though they are current law in the states in which they exist, they are not the law of the land (i.e., constitutionally supported federal law), and I believe they are unconstitutional and will not survive challenge by those seeking paternal rights."

No, sorry, they are the law of the land. Your definition is transparently self serving. I didn't call them the supreme law of the land, so the only room for rational argument is with my use of the definite article. If it makes you feel better, we can all call them laws of the lands, the lands being the 47 American states that have safe haven laws, with each state's version forming the law of the land in that state. Hand waving about federal testing doesn't change the legal landscape people face right now. Those laws have established the legal reality that the people there have to navigate right now, and you can't decide you want to define them out of our consideration.

Miko, you threw eight links into your comment. I quit reading after maybe four of them because over and over they reinforced what I said about the federal role child support: "The federal role in those laws is limited to acting as a collection agency for the terms set by the state in interstate cases." That's exactly what the OCSE you cite does. In your links I saw an awful lot about enforcement (the "E" in OCSE) of state-imposed support obligations in your links, plus a smattering on record-keeping requirements. If there's something else, you're going to have to be much more direct than throwing up handfuls of links and sending us fishing.

I am glad to see that you have abandoned the claim that "We have equalityunder the law now." Finally acknowledging the basic fact that the current laws do not treat the genders equally gives me hope that a rational discussion may still be fruitful.


grapefruitmoon, I appreciated your admission of the sexist assumptions behind the legal structures you advocate for. It was refreshing.


"It's really really hard to hide an 7-9 month pregnant belly."

There are plenty of people that have sex and then stop seeing each other. It happens.


"You have no convincing arguments for the existence of an exclusively woman-only option of adoption or abandonment that do not assume the father has already abandoned the child."

This makes me think that you're not following the discussion closely. Please read Miko's link and then try again. Let me think that you've actually read the full contents of that one link, and then we can try again.
posted by NortonDC at 11:36 PM on August 31, 2008


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