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Never Even Seen A Vagina
Jim Dwyer writes in The New York Time$ about yet another case of paternity fraud, one of the easiest frauds to perpetuate, and at no cost to the mother for lying:

A baby had been born in December. The mother had named Mr. Shaieb as the father. The city wanted him to pay his share. And it, meaning the city, had his Social Security number.

A few readings later, Mr. Shaieb realized that he was due in court in less than two weeks, and that if he didn’t show up, his absence would be regarded as deadbeat-ism, and he could be arrested. He also, the letter warned, might lose his licenses to drive, fish or hunt, or practice barbering, accounting or dental hygiene.

A musical composer who works in film, television and theater, Mr. Shaieb does none of those things, other than drive and brush his own personal teeth. But he often travels from his apartment in Greenwich Village for projects. Lucky for him, he had been home to get the mail.

...Mr. Shaieb’s lawyer said he had never met the woman in question. The magistrate said Ms. Robbins could discuss those particulars afterward with the city attorney.

Ms. Robbins leaned over.

“Do you mind if I tell them?” Ms. Robbins asked.

“Not at all,” Mr. Shaieb replied. “It’s fine.”

Ms. Robbins addressed the magistrate.

“Mr. Shaieb is gay,” she said. “He’s never had sex with a woman in his life.”

As Mr. Shaieb later put it, “In my entire 45 years of living, I have never seen a vagina in person.”

Perhaps, but seeing is not the cause of pregnancy. Moreover, being gay did not necessarily get him off the hook, even though Mr. Shaieb’s partner of nine years, Brent Lord, was waiting outside the courtroom.

That didn't really matter to the judge. But, Shaieb got a lucky break. Turned out the mother, who'd given Shaieb's name to city officials when she'd applied for welfare, said the father had been born in Jordan. Shaieb brought a birth certificate back to court showing he'd been born in Michigan. All in all, it cost him $3,000 to get out of it, plus, probably, a few gray hairs -- and he's one of the lucky ones. Had he not been home to get the subpoena, or had it been sent to the wrong address, he'd probably be in for 18 years of child support.

Here's another example, one of many. Here's my column on paternity fraud, and Matt Welch's excellent Reason magazine article, "Injustice by Default: How the effort to catch "deadbeat dads" ruins innocent men's lives." A woman can pick the name of a man -- like Matt and Emmanuelle's good friend Tony Pierce -- out of the phone book, and if he's not home to get the paperwork, like, because he's fighting on behalf of the rest of us in Iraq, or ignores it thinking it must be a mistake, he's screwed. He's in for 18 years of child support for a kid he didn't father, and never mind showing the DNA doesn't match...because, under the law, that doesn't matter. Just keep those checks comin', dude!

Sheila Kuehl, a California state senator who fights reforming this injustice against men, should be run out of office -- and, if life were fair, forced to pick up the cost of child support wrongly (and obscenely) stuck on men who didn't father the children in question, and often, have never even met the women they're said to have sex with. Kuehl's logic: Somebody has to pay. Sure. And why not you, Sheila?


UPDATE: Here's a column from the Balt Sun by Mike McCormick and Glenn Sacks on the issue. McCormick and Sacks quote D.C. attorney, Ronald K. Henry, author of “The Innocent Third Party: Victims of Paternity Fraud,” a new article in the American Bar Association's Family Law Quarterly:

“The paternity fraud victim is hustled through the formality, often in less than five minutes, and may not even realize what has happened until the first garnishment of his paycheck. The State’s direct financial incentive is to establish paternity regardless of actual paternity facts. In welfare cases, there is almost always only one attorney in the courtroom and that attorney is not representing the paternity target.”

State child support collection efforts are heavily subsidized by federal dollars. Therefore, Henry asserts, the federal government could greatly reduce the problem of false paternity establishments by reimbursing states only for establishments which are confirmed by DNA tests. States could purchase bulk DNA tests at a cost per unit considerably less than even one month of child support.

States should also act to reduce default judgments by improving service of process and by making the procedure more understandable for litigants, few of whom have legal representation. In default judgment cases, DNA testing should be required as soon as the child support enforcement agency locates the putative father. And states should pass laws or institute policies which allow fallacious paternity judgments to be retroactively challenged.

Because of the indifference of both the states’ child support enforcement systems and their federal funders, no firm figures exist on how many men have been mistakenly defaulted into fatherhood. Henry estimates that the number could exceed one million.

Child support debtors receive little public sympathy, at times with reason. Yet the victims of false paternity judgments aren’t men trying to evade their legitimate responsibilities, nor are they Nicholas Barthas determined to ensure that their exes will never get a penny. They are instead victims of one of the most indefensible civil rights violations in America today--an injustice which cries out for redress.

Posted by aalkon at June 7, 2007 12:21 PM

Comments

Every feminist who cares about single mothers should want her to be tarred, feathered, hung, cremated and have her ashes shot out into space for pushing these policies. There is **nothing** I can think of that would make men more hostile to taking responsibility than knowing that the system is designed to shaft them on this level.

Posted by: MikeT at June 7, 2007 8:50 AM

Personally, I think people like her do a service to the rest of us by reminding the public of how sick most feminists in power and academia are.

Posted by: MikeT at June 7, 2007 8:52 AM

This has nothing to do with feminism. This is about using the system to screw people over, which, though vile, has been going on since the beginning of civilization and is not part of a social movement.

That said, if I were roped into paying support for a kid that wasn't mine, I think I'd make it my duty to be a pain in the ass for 18 years. Maybe sue for joint custody.

Posted by: Monica at June 7, 2007 9:23 AM

But, one of my problems with what feminism has become is the notion that injustice in the service of "justice" is okay. The way I see it, either you're for equal rights and fairness for all, or you're just using the pretense of it to get special rights and special treatment for your particular group.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 7, 2007 9:32 AM

Amy,
In theory, I'm totally with you.

But there's nothing like dinners with wealthy lawyers in their fifties (nice enough chaps, many of them) bitching their socks off that their sons can't claim their 'legacy' places at ivy league colleges - or jobs in the best firms- because of women, women, women (and minorities!)everywhere these days.

I deplore these criminal paternity shakedowns you highlight. The injustice makes me feel sick.

When the system used to tick along supposedly as a self-correcting meritocracy of sorts - it was with injustice built into the engine.

Men often did not deal out fair shakes when they were the ones with power in society and academia.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 7, 2007 10:53 AM

@Jody Tresidder
Right Jody, injustice in the pursuit of "justice." Punish those fat-cats by picking guys out of the phone book and hauling them into court.
So where does it end? When someone gets screwed over by the system, they consider it only fair to screw someone else over.

It seems like feminists would be in the front row demanding fairness in family courts regardless of gender. Not many are.

Posted by: martin at June 7, 2007 11:52 AM

But, one of my problems with what feminism has become is the notion that injustice in the service of "justice" is okay. The way I see it, either you're for equal rights and fairness for all, or you're just using the pretense of it to get special rights and special treatment for your particular group.

Exactly. This is why I say that libertarianism already contains all of the positives of feminism, but none of the weaknesses of feminism. Feminism focuses on women, which is why it devolved into the sort of vile hatefest that it has become today in its institutional incarnations. The civil rights movement went through the same thing. The moment you focus on your group, rather than bringing liberty to the entire society, you set yourself onto a course of us-versus-them which invariably dehumanizes the other.

Posted by: MikeT at June 7, 2007 12:10 PM

There is nothing wrong with focusing on your group, it gives you a sense of community which the whole of society does not provide. It's very important to belong to a group but not be stifled by an individual’s rigid philosophy that a group might adopt. This whole paternity crap stems from a time when birth control wasnt cheap and available for women. I have alot of sympathy for the guy in this article, but I do not have sympathy for most of the people that get into this sort of financial mess. When a guy sticks his dick in a girl, he is as much responsible for birth control as she is. How can you trust anybody but yourself with this kind of thing? And dont take this to mean that I do not want the law changed.

Posted by: PurplePen at June 7, 2007 12:50 PM

When a guy sticks his dick in a girl, he is as much responsible for birth control as she is.

Actually, I disagree. By that logic, a baker who sells a diabetic a cake is as responsible as the diabetic who knowingly eats it and goes into shock.

Women's bodies get pregnant. If you have a kid with a guy you're in a relationship with, who expresses a desire to have a kid, that's one thing. I'm opposed to allowing women to do what I call "turning casual sex into cash-flow sex." If you take some guy you just met home from a bar, since it's your body that gets pregnant, you should either be prepared to have an abortion or raise any resulting kids on your own.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 7, 2007 1:04 PM

"When someone gets screwed over by the system, they consider it only fair to screw someone else over."

Martin,

..and I would deserved to be keelhauled here had I even implicitly supported any payback of that nature.

I don't.

I loathe state senator Sheila Kuehl's argument (as described in Amy's post) and can see only justified fury and hatred resulting. Kuehl's stillborn logic doesn't represent my feminism at all.

MikeT wrote:

The moment you focus on your group, rather than bringing liberty to the entire society, you set yourself onto a course of us-versus-them which invariably dehumanizes the other.

Historically, this hasn't always been so easy.

The early American feminists (then mainly suffragists) got hammered for trying to campaign jointly for black suffrage as well, then got well and truly shafted at state level when they were persuaded to campaign only for women - then all but disappeared from the early 20th century political scene in tatters as a result.

I take your general point, however.

But it's disingenuous to insist the alleged absence of outraged feminist voices is ruining all chances of preventing perverted deadbeat dad legislation.

Where is this all-powerful feminist cabal when it comes to the current erosion of pro-choice laws?

Either "the feminists" have their evil paws on the law - or they don't. You can't have both.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 7, 2007 1:15 PM

"I'm opposed to allowing women to do what I call "turning casual sex into cash-flow sex." If you take some guy you just met home from a bar, since it's your body that gets pregnant, you should either be prepared to have an abortion or raise any resulting kids on your own."

Unfortunately, a woman can't get preg on her own (unless it's a shark). A woman's body "has" the baby but it's fifty percent HIS DNA. He also made a conscious decision to have sex and if he is equally as concerned with preventing a pregnancy he should take proper precautions. This can be as simple as, when in a relationship and not using condoms, ensuring the woman is on the pill.

Amy, just to be clear, do you feel that a woman should be solely responsible for raising a child which is the result of an unexpected pregnancy? That doesn't make sense since he had just as much a hand in the pregnancy as she did...unless he was raped.

Further, could someone explain to me why DNA disproving paternity is not enough, in the eye of the law, to abscond a man from child support responsibilities? That seems insane!

Posted by: Gretchen at June 7, 2007 1:27 PM

...also, no every woman who accidentally gets pregnant is a malicious man-hater. Shit happens. Sometimes you are as careful as you can be and you still get pregnant. This "cash-flow" isn't intended to allow the woman to live in the lap of luxury. Do you have any idea how expensive children are? The bottom line is that he had sex, just like the mother, and it resulted in a child. It doesn't seem logical to think a person could walk away from that responsibility.

Posted by: Gretchen at June 7, 2007 1:30 PM

...p.s I am rethinking my use of the word "abscond" above. I'm not liking it.

Posted by: G at June 7, 2007 1:33 PM

If I'm a dude and I dont want kids and I'm with a random girl, obviously I'm gonna need some protection. Whether or not the law is fair (which it isnt) I'll still suffer the consequences. That's what I mean when the dude is as much responsible for birth control as the chick. My personal view on how the law should be does not matter if I'm sticking my dick in a girl. I know what could happen. In the same manner my personal views on drugs does not matter if I'm caught snorting coke.

Posted by: PurplePen at June 7, 2007 1:37 PM

Further, could someone explain to me why DNA disproving paternity is not enough, in the eye of the law, to abscond a man from child support responsibilities? That seems insane!

I find it unspeakable, too Gretchen.

And it is so obviously an insane application, it damages women by implication. (Less so, of course, than the poor bastards made to pay - I'm not equating the suffering!).

No decent feminist of ANY stripe should support it (and most feminist websites I read do not.)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 7, 2007 1:39 PM

I'm not a malicious man-hater, but I still have always thought it is my responsibility to deal with any pregnancy that results from casual sex. And I, in general, take personal responsibility in all areas of my life. It's generally not good for children to be brought into the world as a result of casual sex, where daddy is likely to be nothing but a name on a check.

And the fact that men are gamed into paying for children that aren't even theirs is appalling, and anybody truly for equal rights and fairness, man or woman, would be against it. Sheila Kuehl and anyone else who is for this sort of thing is a thief, and has no business in government or anywhere their twisted thinking can touch anyone else's life.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 7, 2007 1:51 PM

"He also made a conscious decision to have sex and if he is equally as concerned with preventing a pregnancy he should take proper precautions."

I had one experience which made me have very little sympathy for alot of men and women. I was dating a guy and I was not on birth control. He didnt want to use condoms. Neither one of us wanted to have a baby, and we werent bf/gf. Each time before we had sex I would say "I dont want to get pregnant", his reply was silence. But we never used birth control. Come on, if I had gotten pregnant neither one of us would deserve any sympathy for all the shit that would happen afterwards. I think alot of people have kids this way.

Posted by: PurplePen at June 7, 2007 1:55 PM

"And the fact that men are gamed into paying for children that aren't even theirs is appalling..."

Absolutely!

But my issue was with the comment that a man shouldn't pay when the kid IS his. This person is beyond twisted - taking advantage of the law is one thing but she intentionally attempted to destroy the financial health, reputation and possibly the relationship of an innocent person! This isn't arguable.

But I was saying that just because a woman is the one whose body develops the fetus doesn't vindicate the dude from responsibility. If he doesn't want a kid, he needs to do everything to prevent it. If there's an "uh-oh" 9 months later then he has to pay up because 1) it's half his 2) he was there to make it 3) who else is going to care for all these children...it's expensive and in many cases it takes duel incomes to raise a child. I'm not paying for other peoples' choices through my ass being taxed when the woman can't afford it and goes on government support.

If either party can't deal with the outcome of a pregnancy then maybe they shouldn't have sex. I think PurplePen is very reasonable and realistic in the anecdote she gave!

Posted by: Gretchen at June 7, 2007 2:19 PM

Yay for PurplePen! (Truly).

Amy,

You are clearly NOT a beserk man-hater or a woman-hater.

Unfortunately the definition of "casual sex" may differ after the act is completed, and often depends on the outcome.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 7, 2007 2:36 PM

Wow, the guy in the NYT story was so lucky to:
- have read the letter on time
- have enough resources to hire a lawyer and be able to take a day or two off and take care of this
- be totally gay.

Our friend Tony could underline a big similarity in his case: he was required to produce documentation and hire a lawyer while the woman didn't even have to show up!!! She skipped many appointments for a DNA test for her kid, if I remember well and this dragged on forever, all the while Tony was paying "child support". The guys in these situations are totally at the woman's mercy.

I'm not saying that these women are malicious or cunning etc. From what I understand, they are pressured to give social services the names of the guy(s) with whom they've had sex around the time of conception. These women give approximative names (misspelled etc.) or whatever detail they remember and the state jumps to its own conclusions.

This is an absolute scandal.

Posted by: Emmanuelle at June 7, 2007 2:38 PM

I wasn't implying that Amy hated either sex.

I WAS implying that child support is necessary and many women collect child support but their intention isn't to cause financial harm to the man, but rather, to help raise a child both of them made. Thus: such a woman is not doing collecting money to live the high life and stick it to men (and Amy seemed to feel that no woman should be able to collect child support b/c 1) it's only the woman's problem 2) she should get an abortion if she can't raise it alone)

Posted by: Gretchen at June 7, 2007 2:42 PM

Right, Emmanuelle...and I linked to Matt's Reason piece in which he starts off with the bit about Tony. This is the only area in our legal system where you're considered guilty until you spend megabucks to prove yourself innocent. Please, everybody put the word out -- to men not to ignore the documents if they're one of the unfortunate ones who gets them -- and pressure lawmakers to change this travesty. There are men out there paying 18 years of child support simply because they were fighting in Iraq when the letter came and didn't mount a defense in time.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 7, 2007 2:44 PM

"If there's an "uh-oh" 9 months later then he has to pay up because 1) it's half his"

If you wait 9+ months to even tell him, then the decision to keep it wasn't half his.

Posted by: smurfy at June 7, 2007 3:12 PM

The mother made all these assertions under oath, didn't she?

If so, at the very least she should be nailed (no pun intended) for perjury, and--given that her claim was conclusively proven bogus--extortion.

Posted by: Doobie at June 7, 2007 7:10 PM

The thing is...the reason we're hearing about this particular case is because the accusation was SO ridiculous in this case. How many similar cases do we *not* hear about because there is perceived to be some doubt prior to the DNA test? I understand the desire of the state to ensure that both biological parents are paying to support a child, but fingering the *wrong* guy for child support lets another guy off the hook...probably to go father another child somewhere else that he'll abandon. It's in no one's best interest for the wrong guy to be fingered in these types of situations.

As for the issue of responsibility for birth control et al...leaving aside the issue of whether or not men should have a say once women get pregnant, the fact is that right now, the state demands that you support a child that you father, whatever you claim the situation to be. (I say "claim" because many people - men and women - say one thing when a pregnancy is an abstract concept, and another when a baby becomes an imminent reality.) Given that, men who view birth control as "women's responsibility" are utter fools (much like the guy described in a recent letter to Amy who was balking at helping his near-penniless girlfriend pay for the patch). Men who *know* they don't want children ever should get a vasectomy. Men who are sure they don't want children at a given time should be willing to use condoms - they may choose to forego those and have their partners take care of birth control instead, but they should be willing to use them. And men who agree with their partners that they don't want more (or any) children but who are unwilling to get a vasectomy are, to be uncharitable, insane.

Do I want to see guys insisting, say, that their girlfriends use hormonal birth control if said hormonal birth control causes serious side effects in said girlfriends? No. (Among other things, one of the most common side effects is decreased libido.) But many, if not most, heterosexual men I know have only hazy knowledge at best of what's being done to prevent them from becoming fathers, despite the fact that, if these methods fail (deliberately or accidentally), they suddenly become the parties with the least autonomy in the situation. And many of them are perfectly happy to never spare a thought for birth control...but man, are they furious when the stick turns blue.

My ultimate message? Paternity fraud sucks, but men should take charge of their own fertility rather than leaving the matter up to chance. Stock up on condoms, offer to volunteer to test a male birth control pill prototype, and talk with your partner frankly about birth control, kids and other such matters.

Posted by: marion at June 7, 2007 8:41 PM

By the way, was the mother's name ever revealed, like Mr. Shaieb's was?

If not...why not?

Disclosing her identity will make it more difficult for her to try it again. She almost got away with it this time. Remaining anonymous is all the incentive she needs.

Posted by: Doobie at June 7, 2007 9:54 PM

Unfortunately, Doobie, these women are not prosecuted for fraud, and I don't think they need any incentive to try to turn a man (and a total stranger) into a paycheck.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 7, 2007 10:17 PM

Just an answer to Doobie her name was not posted because it could identify the child, which in theory could open the infant to harm: baby-snatchers, child-molesters etc.

Posted by: Pixilated at June 7, 2007 10:26 PM

I like the male birth control pill idea. Not sure how much longer it will be in development but the tech behind the two front runners in the feild look promising

When it does come out I would suggest ALL MEN take it - but dont tell your girlfreinds.

It should be interesting to see how many "accidental" pregnancies there are when a woman doesnt know her lover is incapable of having children.

I use condoms always, and had I known what a witch this woman was I never would have slept with her, after a few months she said she was pregnant, I asked how given I always used condoms(even when she said 'Dont worry I'm on the pill')
She said one of the must have broke, needless to say I am freaking out and she wont get an abortion cause its morally wrong - but apperently sex before marriage wasnt

One of her "friends" told me my girlfreind had confessed to her that she had been punching holes in my condoms with a needle, and she had been cheating on me as well.

Thankfully my cousin, who has the same name as me had a vesectomy a few years before, and agreed to give me a copy of his medical records. So I shoved those records in her face, claimed the only reason I wore condoms was for STD's and to test her loyalty.

She broke down crying and begged me to forgive her for cheating on her - we broke up, and apperently who ever else she was sleeping with wanst good marrige/daddy material because she suddenly lost her moral objections to abortion.

I'll never know if the child was mine or not, I would have had to wait until it as born to do a DNA test - but as you can see Gretchen sometimes a man has no responsibility what so ever in making a child.

Posted by: lujlp at June 7, 2007 11:07 PM

One point that I think no one has raised: one of the articles referenced by Amy points out that the vast majority of men fingered in these scams make less than minimum wage - many of them have annual incomes of less that $10,000!

What does that say about the people most involved in this mess? It says that these are the poorest, least educated people in the country. Many if not most on welfare.

Amongst chronically unemployed males, promiscuous sex is often a status symbol. Birth-control is not even on the radar-screen for most of the women, and condoms are an insult to masculinity.

One dreams of a solution whereby one would have to choose to become pregnant. Want welfare? Contraceptive implant required. Having a child would require a deliberate decision, not to mention a job providing a steady income.

I can hear the howls of protest from liberals already...

Posted by: bradley13 at June 8, 2007 1:04 AM

Just one problem, lujlp.

Your story ironically explains WHY these crazy cases go to court.

You snowed your girlfiend with bogus medical documents - to "prove" you couldn't be the father, when it's possible you were.

So you wouldn't have been a surreally innocent party out of pocket if your girlfriend had filed a claim against you - as in Amy's appalling examples.

(I take the point regarding the hearsay about the two-timing of the "witch" you were with. It's true, condoms don't protect against terrible relationship choices.)

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 8, 2007 4:10 AM

And Jody's right. The first line of defense is choosing wisely in who you have sex with...let alone a relationship.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 8, 2007 5:33 AM

It's amazing how many guys figure out that the woman they are having sex with is a 'witch', but only after months and months of spending all kinds of time with her. Does she suddenly turn into another person at some point? Wasn't she always a horrible person, but you chose to ignore all the red flags because you were so desperate to get laid? At least this way you can act like a victim, which absolves you of taking any personal responsibility for your choices.

Posted by: Chrissy at June 8, 2007 8:26 AM

"The first line of defense is choosing wisely in who you have sex with...let alone a relationship."

Yep. The biggest issue I have with the men's movement is that so many members (rightly) condemn male-bashing...and then turn around and engage in women-bashing based on their own experiences with a few women. Guess what? Women who are "bashing" men generally have experienced a few awful examples of the gender, too. Bashing either gender is a cop-out by people who don't want to admit that their own bad judgment is at least partially responsible for a negative relationship. Mature adults learn and grow from their bad relationships, and use that knowledge to choose more wisely the next time around.


"When (the male birth control pill) does come out I would suggest ALL MEN take it - but dont tell your girlfreinds."

Actually, I think telling your SO that you're going to take a male birth control pill would be an excellent way of weeding out the good partners from the not-so-good ones. Assuming your method of revealing this isn't along the lines of, "You worthless bitch, I'm now going to take birth control pills because I think you're too stupid or too unethical to control your fertility, HAH HAH HAH!", then the response of your SO should range from, "Okay, that's cool," to, "Wait, you mean that if I have to go on antibiotics, we no longer have to mess with condoms or other more cumbersome form of birth control? You PRINCE." Women who freak out are likely immature and bad romantic choices. Yes, yes, I'm sure there are some exceptions here, as there always are, and I'd advise following the 48-hour rule - i.e. giving your girlfriend 48 hours to come back and say, "You know what? I acted like an idiot about the birth control thing, and I'm sorry. I think the reason is that past boyfriends haven't trusted me/I actually would like to have kids sooner than I thought/etc." But in general, announcing that one is on a male birth control in a situation where both partners are theoretically supposed to be avoiding conception seems an excellent way to separate the wheat from the chaff. That is, assuming you want a romantic relationship based on trust, rather than on overwhelming mutual self-protection.

Posted by: marion at June 8, 2007 8:35 AM

What Marion and Chrissy said.

There was a long string with some troll on one of my recently posted columns and it's something I say over and over: You chose her. People don't go psycho overnight. As the therapist Nathaniel Branden once told me (paraphrasing from memory) "People will tell you what they're all about, you just have to be willing to listen."

Go in blindfolded, fine, that's your choice -- but don't tell us you were screwed because all women are evil.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 8, 2007 8:40 AM

Gretchen, I think I understand your viewpoint, but not sure I am totally in line with it. BECAUSE it is the woman's body that gets pregnant, she alone gets to make the decision whether or not to abort. This is as it should be. If the man wants her to have an abortion, she doesn't have to. If the man wants her to give birth to the kid, she doesn't have to. See where I'm going with this? He has no say. Why should be forced into the financial obligation? Let's say they were both equally negligent with regard to birth control. Or, worse, she lied about being on birth control. Why should she have all the say in the matter and then stick him with the bill? I agree that it's her body and the choice to have an abortion should be hers alone, but I also think men should have opt-out rights.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 8, 2007 9:12 AM

I agree that it's her body and the choice to have an abortion should be hers alone, but I also think men should have opt-out rights.

Pirate Jo,
I don't think I'd be able to argue you away from your position - which I understand.

You know as well as I do that - the guy can't opt in to sharing the abortion or the birth.

I expect you might also agree - possibly grudgingly - the Mr Horrified Daddy-to-be is likely to swear blind he never agreed to a child - even implicitly - when the shit hits the fan.

I've two sons in their late teens. In my heart - I'd be screaming bloody extortion/bloody women etc etc if either got miserably "caught".

I'd view it as pretty much a disaster right now.

Nevertheless, I don't share your opinion about opt out.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 8, 2007 9:37 AM

"I expect you might also agree - possibly grudgingly - the Mr Horrified Daddy-to-be is likely to swear blind he never agreed to a child - even implicitly - when the shit hits the fan."

Quite possibly. I think the guy should have 30 days from the time of notification to make his decision. And then, if he severs all rights and responsibilities (a "male abortion," if you will) the woman should prepare to be on her own and choose from her available options accordingly.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 8, 2007 10:05 AM

"but I also think men should have opt-out rights."

Right - it's called not having sex in the first place if you aren't willing to "foot the bill" if the result is a child...even if the child was unwanted by the man.

I like your argument but I am having trouble getting over that hurdle - just because he doesn't have a say in whether or not the child is carried/kept/adopted/aborted doesn't negate the fact that he participated willingly in the sex and with consideration of the potential of a pregnancy.

Posted by: Gretchen at June 8, 2007 11:13 AM

Currently, men and women don't have the same say over what happens regarding a pregnancy for which they're both genetically responsible. Does that seem unfair? Yes. But it's not because someone is out to screw men - it's because male and female biology are fundamentally different when it comes to reproduction. The flip side of this is that men can become biological parents without running any sort of physical risk to themselves. Men have zero chance of dying in childbirth (something that still happens occasionally even in the First World), getting stretch marks, getting painful tears, what have you, in the course of perpetuating their genes. Now, obviously this advantage is less apparent to guys who don't want to have kids, ever - but I point out that the vasectomy option is always there for those guys.

The idea behind the law right now (I am aware that the practice often differs) is that, until the kid is born, the mother's autonomy over her own body is the guiding factor in its fate; then, once the kid is born, its best wishes - including its need for diapers and onesies - move to the top of the chart. Does this sometimes suck for men? Yes, yes it does, just as historically it sucked for women who announced their pregnancies and were abandoned by partners who skipped town the next day. (I've known a few people raised by mothers like this.) My biggest problem with the laws intended to change this is that, all too often, they don't do a thing to keep the *real* pop from skipping out of support, as long as someone else can be found to hit with a court order. But I'll agree with Jody's point - many people are a lot more excited about the abstract prospect of a thing than they are the reality. There are women who trick men - but there are also men who encourage women to get pregnant, then change their minds later.

Nevertheless, I go back to my main point: Given that the laws as they exist tend to err on the side of compelling support from biological fathers or those presumed to be that, and given that these laws are unlikely to change significantly, men need to take charge of their fertility - just as women do all the time - and of their relationship choices. The optimum scenario is not to be able to opt out of supporting a child you did not want to have conceived - the optimum scenario is never conceiving an unwanted child in the first place, and making wiser relationship choices as one goes on throughout life. One reason why jerky people of both genders tend to get so much tail is that many people look past good potential partners in favor of ones who seem "cooler" on the surface. And remember, pregnancy isn't the worst thing that can happen if you don't use a condom - just ask Magic Johnson.

Do I want changes in the current law? Yes. I want some real penalties for paternity fraud - set things up so that a woman can tell the system that some guy MIGHT be the father, but discharge him from the case if a DNA test and a backup test show that he's not the pop (sometimes women genuinely aren't sure, after all), but put penalties in place for cases where women swear that men they've never met are the father, 100% sure! And I'd also call for men who can proved that they were tricked into pregnancy - especially ones tricked through exotic means such as a woman stealing sperm from a used condom - to have automatic preference in terms of child custody.

For now, though, I'd say that most men are in basically the same situation I am when it comes to unplanned pregnancies. I am fully in support of abortion being legal, and I will go hold someone's hand if they want to have one, but I can't see having one *myself* except in very extreme circumstances (i.e. I'm two months pregnant and it's about to kill me, or the fetus is so massively disabled that it will never have any sort of life, etc.). For me, an unwanted pregnancy would be a *disaster*. I make my life choices about relationships, birth control, etc. with that in mind. And yes, I tell men for whom it might be relevant about my feelings in this regard. So far, no disasters. It can be done.

Posted by: marion at June 8, 2007 11:15 AM

I will admit I made a huge mistake in having a relationship with that woman, and while I did indeed 'snow job' her with fake medical records I feel no remorse for doing so, she was cheating on me and had destroyed the integrety of all of my condoms.

And while I knew I would be judged for my poor decisions, accuretly and deservedly, by Amy and others Gretchen missed the point of my story

I took every resonable precaution I could think of and she either got pregnant thru some other guy or by destroying my birth control measures which means even if the child was mine I had no resonsibility in its creation

Posted by: lujlp at June 8, 2007 11:45 AM

I can't tell, lujlp, what a pleasure it is that you're rational and personally responsible in your response -- unlike a certain troll we experienced recently in the comments on one of my columns!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 8, 2007 12:15 PM

lujlp, dude, why was she handling your condoms in private? Or were you relying on her buying the condoms? Punching holes in 'em is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I personally think she's guilty of attempted fraud, but...

And I think Amy's larger point applies: These things don't happen in a vacuum. It's great that you're taking charge of your fertility - your next step is to figure which warning signs that you missed, and to know how to avoid them in the future. Sorry you got suckered this time by a faithless wench, but chalk it up as a learning experience. The next woman willing to punch holes in condoms may not be cheating, and could call your "vasectomy" bluff by saying, "Well, I've heard that sometimes those fail. Let's go to the DNA test and see what it says." Presto! 18 years of child support.

Posted by: marion at June 8, 2007 12:16 PM

"Right - it's called not having sex in the first place if you aren't willing to "foot the bill" if the result is a child..."

Would you also say the same thing to a woman? I mean, my idea is pretty much the equivalent of giving the man the right to have an abortion. There are a lot of people who don't want women to have the right to an abortion, and they say the exact same thing you said above.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 8, 2007 12:42 PM

lujlp: That really friggen sucks that she was such a POS. Don't think I missed the point.

First, props for taking charge of birth control. You'd be surprised how many guys assume that they must be shooting blanks and don't care about STD's. But I stand firmly: if in fact the child was yours you DID have a role. You tried damned hard to prevent it and unfortunately you were dating a sneaky and dishonest person. It was clear you did not want a child.

...but you still had sex and sex is inherently risky. No amount of caution guarantees the prevention of an unwanted pregnancy. As humans we're lucky to get to experience a pleasurable and intimate experience with another person. However, the ultimate purpose of sex is procreation and it's easy to forget that.

She may have gotten pregnant through deceptive practices... But.....you did the deed and YOUR sperm (possibly) impregnated a (pathetic) woman. The "responsibility" starts and ends with the decision to have sex and assumption of the inherent risks of sex. You can hedge against pregnancy all you want but you took that step and had sex. So that's the "control over your procreation" part. The risks include not knowing that your girlfriend was an asshole.

That said, I really do feel for you - that's a shitty ass position to be in. If my boyfriend somehow managed to mess w/ my pills and caused me to get preg I have no idea how I'd handle that but I do know he wouldn't be my boyfriend anymore!!

All this talk about unplanned pregnancy is making me awfully un-horny...and on a Friday night, too!

Posted by: Gretchen at June 8, 2007 12:45 PM

Would you also say the same thing to a woman?

I think the woman gets a bill either way, Pirate Jo.

Abortion isn't a joke.

And one thing that consistently gets lost somehow is the raising of the child.

It is easier to have your male wages garnished as an uninvolved father than it is to bring up a kid you never intended to have.

The woman pays for a long time - with her freedom curtailed in all sorts of ways that the garnished dad does not.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 8, 2007 12:50 PM

"However, the ultimate purpose of sex is procreation and it's easy to forget that."

As decided by whom? Who decides what the "ultimate purpose" of sex is? When I have sex, the only purpose at all is pleasure, intimacy, and maybe exercise (haw). I've had my tubes tied because pregnancy is the equivalent of a disease to me. To me, viewing the purpose of sex as procreation is the same thing as saying the purpose of driving is to get into car accidents. Granted, you wouldn't get in a car accident without driving a car in the first place, but no one thinks we should all give up driving just because accidents occasionally happen. And if you DID get in an accident and, let's say, broke your leg, you'd go have a medical procedure to get it fixed.

All "male abortion" debate aside, Marion's absolutely right that it amounts to worrying about what to do after the horse is out of the barn. Best bet is to keep the horse in the barn to begin wth.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 8, 2007 12:57 PM

"I've had my tubes tied because pregnancy is the equivalent of a disease to me."

Pirate Jo: Good for you! No, seriously. You've made a rational choice about your fertility and taken charge of it. No, one doesn't have to have one's tubes tied to do that, but congratulations for backing up your belief that sex for you should be unrelated to procreation by taking active advance steps to stop that procreation. I would highly advise ANY guy who is sure that he doesn't want kids - any kids, or any more kids - to undergo permanent sterilization, as you've done. Yes, surgery sucks. And yes, sometimes people change their minds - but there are workarounds for that (reversals, sperm extraction, adoption) and the right woman will be willing to explore those if that situation occurs. Now, I will say that you should NOT undergo permanent sterilization with the expectation that it will be any less than, well, permanent, but if you're a guy and thus more limited in terms of birth control options and want to approach sex as being totally divorced from procreation for the rest of your life, please, please go have a chat with a urologist about your options.

That having been said, I'll say that people who approach sex without being very careful about birth control - whether through permanent means or just careful practice of temporary birth control - are EFFECTIVELY leaving procreation open as an option even if they aren't thinking about sex in terms of procreation. I agree with Jody's larger point - our society often presents sex as being completely separate from procreation, but our technology and behavior haven't quite made that possible. You may not be thinking about procreation when the hot babe at the bar invites you back to her place, but you may be forcibly reminded of the biological purpose of sex nine months later if you aren't careful. I'd say that women think about this a lot more than men, given the whole monthly cycle/fear of getting pregnant thing, but women are perfectly capable of making stupid decisions in the heat of the moment, too.

Until we have the technology/behavior to create a society like Beta Colony in Lois McMaster Bujold's books - women get a permanent contraceptive implant upon menstruation that can only be de-activated by passing tests and finding a co-partner of whatever gender, and most babies are conceived in a lab and gestated in an uterine replicator - procreation will still be a much bigger element of sex than, say, the average porn magazine would have you believe.

Posted by: marion at June 8, 2007 1:16 PM

You know, marion, I often think the world would be a better place if the default for people was infertility, and you had to take a pill to GET pregnant. Think of the dent that would make in poverty.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at June 8, 2007 1:23 PM

Think of the dent that would make in poverty.

You're talking a pretty big dent in evolution too!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 8, 2007 1:51 PM

Marion, you are hot. I don't know you, but for you to mention Lois McMaster Bujold and the beta colony shows you to be a lover of great literature.

Long live Miles, though I wish Lois would get back to this series.

Posted by: Goomee at June 8, 2007 2:44 PM

Sexually disoriented Ms. Kuehl, Zelda on "The Many Loves of Dobbie Gillis," terms out this election. When she goes, they will spray Lysol on everyting she has touched all the years she has been there, heavily financed by radical feminists groups. Shiela has been incredably distructive to men, women, and children in California in her ruthless campaign against men, all men.

Her sister, Jerilyn L. Borack, also radically pro-feminist, runs her Family Court as an in-your-face war against men. She needs to "Term out" too.

Posted by: Sick of All This at June 8, 2007 3:29 PM

Here's Kuehl's district.

http://dist23.casen.govoffice.com/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={DA9AC258-ABAE-444F-9585-CF8F888C8F24}

Senator Sheila Kuehl represents the 23rd Senate District, which includes the cities of Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Malibu, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Westlake Village, as well as several communities in the City of Los Angeles, including Bel Air, Beverly-Fairfax, Beverly Glen Canyon, Brentwood, Canoga Park, Century City, Chatsworth, Encino, Hollywood, Mt. Olympus, Pacific Palisades, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Tarzana, Topanga, West Los Angeles, West Hills, Westwood and Woodland Hills.

Because Glenn is very informed about the issue, I think it would be great if he'd do an op-ed for the LA Times suggesting a recall effort for Kuehl, if that's possible. Also, I can't imagine voters going for this -- except for the most sicko ones -- so if it's just brought to their attention, perhaps Sheila would be bounced into the kind of job she deserves: collecting trash instead trashing innocent men's lives.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 8, 2007 3:39 PM

I just wrote to Glenn with that suggestion. I told him I'd write it with him if he wants. This issue needs much more public attention, and women need to speak out, too.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 8, 2007 3:42 PM

heavily financed by radical feminists groups

Which ones?

Posted by: deja pseu at June 8, 2007 4:43 PM

Thanks, Goomee! Reading Lois's books has definitely given me a...distinctive approach to reproductive matters (including cloning). Like Cordelia, I'd probably be happier on Barrayar...as long as I were in Cordelia's position.

As for Sheila Kuehl, ugh ugh ugh. I agree that someone has to pay - how about the REAL FATHER? Lest he go KNOCK SOMEONE ELSE UP WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES? Good lord. If someone steals my credit card and uses it, I'm not liable for his or her spending. Why are things so radically different in paternity fraud cases?

Posted by: marion at June 8, 2007 8:55 PM

Gretchen - if a woman were to wind up pregnant thru a mans deception and lies she could opt out - why cant a man if the roles are reversed?


Perhaps what should happen is after these kids reach 18 the guy that was forced to pay child support should sue the mother and child(now an adult) for restitution

Posted by: lujlp at June 9, 2007 12:54 AM

Why is it that everyone here assumes the guy paying "child-support" is an uninvolved father? The VAST majority of guys paying "support" are trying everything possible to stay involved in their child's lives, with no help from the government. I have 1/2 custody of my daughter (it ends up being more than 1/2 in reality), but the state doesn't even consider the expenses I incur. I have a hard time paying my bills and keeping food on the table, while my daughter's mother just bought a new car with CASH! She hops from guy to guy, and left me for her (married) boss, spends the nights in the bars, but it doesn't matter to the state. Since she's the mother, she automatically gets appointed the magical "custodial" parent title. The court originally wanted to relegate me to visitor status, but I fought like hell (fought dirty) to get half custody. I firmly believe that shared custody should be the starting point, and that the state should vigorously enforce visitation/custody agreements. Having a good relationship with BOTH parents is far more important than the money transfers they currently enforce with draconian methods!

Posted by: Chris at June 9, 2007 1:14 AM

Contraceptives for males would help. Sadly, there is little money available for research into such. Mind you, the IVD (reversible vasectomy) should be available soon as it is nearly finished its third stage testing (2012 maybe).

There, I think, is a clear need to recover the costs from women who target men who could not be the father, such as in this case. For men who could be the father, well the costs are part of the thing.

I do find the idea of politicians supporting evil to be beyond disgusting. With the power of elected office comes DUTY, too often politicians cannot understand that: They should forcibly be reminded by being chucked out of office by large margins.

Posted by: jw at June 9, 2007 2:23 AM

You folks all have this basic position: Woman has choice of abortion or raising child, man has choice of sex or sterilization, man should be forced to pay up so he can't abandon. You're all forgetting something: Woman can also put the child up for adoption or even just drop it off anonymously at a shelter or orphanage, without telling Dad (in many states).

If the responsibility starts and ends with the decision to have sex - which both sexes share - then why is it that all the escape hatches are granted to the female of the species? And don't give me that claptrap about "the man can walk away", because (1) he can't, thanks to paternity laws, and (2) the woman has a lot more available exits that are legally protected.?

Fact still remains: Women have all the choices, men have only the one (to have sex). Women can escape the consequences in lots of ways besides abortion. If a woman is raising a child alone, she has chosen to do so.

And, on top of that, women still get all the control over the child's life. "Joint custody" is a joke, because Mom still gets "final decision authority" - which is the same thing, in practice, as "sole decision authority".

As far as Mom's freedom being curtailed, or the responsibility involved with raising a child - why do women fight so hard to prevent shared parenting (where kids spend equal time with Mom and Dad)? That would relieve the burden - but it would also cut into the cash. Which, by the way, is NOT a pittance, as some would claim. The average child support award in 1995 was $758 per month per child - more than twice the poverty level welfare payment. (And, by the way, I pay more than that for each of my two children - one of whom I adopted before my divorce.)

The vast detriment to children from not having both parents present and active in their lives is well documented. And yet, we have a system that essentially treats fathers as two-weekend-a-month visitors whose only purpose is to transfer cash to Mom's bank account.

Posted by: Mike at June 9, 2007 6:07 AM

There, I think, is a clear need to recover the costs from women who target men who could not be the father, such as in this case.

I agree. And I agree with Mike above. A woman who cannot afford to raise a child resulting from poor attention to birth control on her own has the option of putting it up for adoption if she doesn't believe in abortion. Guys should not, in this day and age, with the science we have for prevening pregnancy, be forced into parenthood.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 9, 2007 7:52 AM

"Contraceptives for males would help. Sadly, there is little money available for research into such."

If pharma companies thought there would be an enormous market for contraceptives for males, they'd be testing them out the wazoo. The fact that they're not indicates, at least to me, that they don't believe there's a huge market. Which strikes me as ironic, given that the current situation in which a woman can decide whether or not to have an abortion without the responsible guy's input is highly unlikely to change, and having a greater range of male contraception would be a vast boon TO MEN.

Why don't more men see things this way? Not 100% sure, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that many men still view contraception as something that, well, women handle, just like the guy mentioned in a previous column of Amy's who balked at paying half of the price of the birth control patch that his girlfriend was using. Let me be clear: I think that that was a more extreme case than usual. But whenever I hear of a case in which a couple has decided not to have kids or to have more kids, and the guy is strongly in support of the decision, yet freaks out at the idea of a vasectomy, I roll my eyes. Hard. And my sympathy level, though it does not disappear, goes down rather noticeably.

Am I saying that women shouldn't take charge of their fertility? God, no. I'm in charge of mine. We're the ones who get pregnant. Responsible women figure out effective birth control options and think about how they'd handle an unwanted pregnancy - and if they can't stand the idea of an abortion, they go to great lengths to avoid getting pregnant unless they and their respective partners have decided it's time to conceive. What I'm saying is that if one-fourth of the effort I see put forth online arguing that men should have the right to an abortion/are screwed in the current setup were instead directed toward writing drug companies and politicians *demanding* more research and work into new forms of male contraception, men would, on the whole, be better off. Obviously, this is just my opinion, but...

Posted by: marion at June 9, 2007 3:32 PM

WRT male contraceptives: Most of the prototypes I've seen either offer really poor reliability (on the order of 50% - 60%) or nasty side effects (like increased risk of testicular cancer or frequent epididymitis - which is really painful, for the information of the ladies in the audience).

I don't think the level of interest is very high not because men wouldn't use alternate methods if available, but because the offerings so far are pretty poor.

Personally, I've always used condoms, partly because I don't just "trust fate" and partly because my ex-wife couldn't take the pill (made her sick). I don't have an issue with the "raincoat". But no birth control method ever has been or likely will be invented (save abstinence) that will be 100% effective, so arguing that more birth control options for men will mean we won't have to fix a broken and biased legal system is at best optimistic and naive.

Posted by: Mike at June 9, 2007 6:18 PM


Where is this all-powerful feminist cabal when it comes to the current erosion of pro-choice laws?

Probably scared that they will be screwed by the all-powerful patriarchy.

Posted by: Loki on the run at June 9, 2007 6:44 PM

Jody and Gretchen,

What you're missing is that no one should be forced to become a parent against her or his will.

You can't blame biology for the policy decisions of the state. This has nothing to do with which sex carries the fetus to term, or who has indoor vs outdoor plumbing.

It is a fundamental violation of human rights to force someone to become a parent against their will.

If a woman gets pregnant and wants to keep the baby against the wishes of the father, that is her choice. And she should be responsible for that choice.

Having said all that, I am entirely in agreement that (a) men should actively control their own fertility, (b) that men need far more options in contraception. I would add that (c) men need to be able to exercise a meaningful choices after a pregnancy begins, just the way women can exercise meaningful choices after pregnancy.

Posted by: Mikawn at June 9, 2007 7:25 PM

Mike, good for you for being smart and using condoms, annoying though they may be.

"But no birth control method ever has been or likely will be invented (save abstinence) that will be 100% effective, so arguing that more birth control options for men will mean we won't have to fix a broken and biased legal system is at best optimistic and naive."

I completely agree that we need legal reform. Stiffen the measures in place to avoid paternity fraud - mandate that any claim of paternity *must* be followed up by two DNA tests (one primary, one backup, at different labs) in order to go into effect. Provide women with an option of reporting "I think he may be" fathers AND "he's the one, I know it!" fathers, and levy fines against ones who report in the second category if the DNA test doesn't bear out their claims. Penalize parents who practice parental alienation. Give men more standing in matters of custody, and make removal of custody from bad mothers easier. In cases where it can be proved that a woman tricked a man into pregnancy - through sabotage of condoms, theft of sperm from a used condom, what have you - give the bio-father the right to claim full custody of any resulting child and sever the rights of the bio-mother. Etc.

That having been said, I seriously, SERIOUSLY doubt that you're going to get the equivalent of a "male abortion," at least until such a time that we have both a fully-functioning uterine replicator and a way to safely, easily transfer an embryo from a woman's body to that replicator with essentially 100% accuracy in the case of genetically normal embryos. (I read a lot of sci-fi, can you tell?). Male and female biologies are different, and the law reflects that. There are inborn advantages and disadvantages for each. When a woman gets pregnant, her autonomy over her own body is the primary factor in determining what happens with that pregnancy (with a few exceptions). However, when she gives birth, she produces a separate person whose needs take precedence in the eyes of the state. It's in the state's best interest to at least try to get the two biological parents of that child to first support it, stepping in only if they are unable to do so and/or cannot find willing substitutes. I think you can get the state to expand its understanding of the best interests of a child to fully include that child's relationship with its father, not just its mother, but the state is unlikely to go in the other direction.

I know, I know, it sucks. If it's any consolation, now that embryos and women's eggs can be frozen, if someone were to start a pregnancy with eggs they had stolen from me, I'd be able to do jack-all to get the pregnancy terminated. Think that sounds farfetched? Think of all of the stories you've heard of questionable practices at fertility clinics. Is that likely to become the problem that unwanted pregnancies are for men? Not anytime soon (at least not outside of daytime soaps), but I'm using it to point out that the law as written doesn't say "women have the right to decide whether to become parents but men don't." The law just applies differently when a fetus is in utero than it does when that fetus becomes a separate, breathing person, because the law views the two as different entities, and will presumably continue to do so under Roe v. Wade.

GIVEN ALL THAT, the best thing that men can do is avoid fathering kids when they don't want to. Use condoms. Be more open to vasectomies if the idea initially makes you cringe. Push pharma companies to develop, say, easily reversible vasectomies (they're working on more-easily reversible tubal ligations, after all). Most importantly, choose your sexual partners wisely. In doing so, you'll choose any eventual long-term SOs or wives wisely, and will avoid all sorts of headaches that can arise even if you absolutely avoid the kid thing. This is something that BOTH genders need to do - I'd give this exact same advice to women. Women who keep choosing their sexual partners poorly generally end up having pretty sucky lives too - the lesson here is that you need to keep your mistakes from being too enormous, and use them as learning experiences to help you choose more wisely.


"Where is this all-powerful feminist cabal when it comes to the current erosion of pro-choice laws?"

Saying really stupid things. The problem with the feminist movement and abortion, IMHO, is that most high-profile feminists seem bent on portraying abortion as a positive good and empowering life choice. Loath as I am to speak for the average American, I think the majority of Americans want abortion to be legal...but view it as the equivalent of gnawing off one's leg to escape a trap, i.e. a sad necessity. The fact that a self-proclaimed pro-choice advocate would write a piece in the NYTimes Magazine about how, after already having one abortion, she decided to stop using birth control while in a live-in sexual relationship, got pregnant with triplets, and then reduced the pregnancy down to one fetus because she didn't want to live on Staten Island and shop at Costco is, I think, the perfect illustration of why feminists are currently shouting in the wind where abortion is concerned. The average person can relate to someone who ends up pregnant with sextuplets after eight years of trying and has to reduce down to twins, or to someone who got pregnant at 16 by the town yokel and was terrified that she'd be prevented from going to college. The average person, I think, can also understand a person like Amy, who most definitely does NOT want children and, after having one abortion, has been extremely vigilant about birth control. The average person, however, isn't going to listen much to a movement that lionizes the right to abort the template of a human being as the highest shining act of marvelouosness in the pantheon of freedom.

Posted by: marion at June 9, 2007 7:56 PM

Marion -

I think we're actually closer on this than it first appeared. My biggest complaint is that the law gives the woman all the choices and rights, not only pre-birth but after birth as well, but sticks Dad with responsibilities only. Dad is a parent too, and ought to have some rights as well as responsibilities.

There's still the adoption option, too; in many states, Mom can ditch the kid with a shelter or agency without Dad even having the chance to adopt. She doesn't even have to tell Dad she was pregnant in the first place. So I'm not 100% willing to accept the in utero / out of utero argument.

Nevertheless, I appreciate your willingness to agree that dads ought to have some rights and that reforms are needed.

Oh, and by the way...there's a good reason men cringe at the idea of a vasectomy. Being a woman, you wouldn't have any experience with being kicked in the testicles, but there's no pain quite like it. Takes your breath away. And you want to cut me where? :-)

Posted by: Mike at June 10, 2007 4:37 AM

Oh, and by the way...there's a good reason men cringe at the idea of a vasectomy. Being a woman, you wouldn't have any experience with being kicked in the testicles, but there's no pain quite like it. Takes your breath away. And you want to cut me where? :-)

Posted by: Mike

Not a good final flourish to your argument, Mike.

Having babies causes a discomfort that can "take your breath away" too and abortion can require extremely gritted teeth...the levels of pain - physical and psychological - associated with our respective plumbing is probably not a debate a chap wants to start with the dames.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 10, 2007 5:51 AM

I don't recall anyone "rolling eyes" at women giving birth, but that's the response we men get...right here on this blog. Kicking a guy in the nuts is the stuff of humor, but nobody makes jokes about labor pains.

Funny how all the sympathy is one way and one way only...

Posted by: Mike at June 10, 2007 1:42 PM

Kicking a guy in the nuts is the stuff of humor, but nobody makes jokes about labor pains.

The indignities of pregnancy are the stuff of a million jokes, Mike.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 10, 2007 2:38 PM

But not unsympathetic ones. Nobody rolls his eyes and says, "Oh, suck it up! You're only having a baby!"

My ex had very bad menstrual cycles - 21 - 23 days, with bad cramps. I really felt bad for her. And, to top it off, she couldn't take the pill because it made her sick, although her OB/GYN tried several formulations in an attempt to regulate her cycles and ease her symptoms. The situation really sucked for her.

A few years back, I was hospitalized with severe back spasms due to degenerative disc disease. I was describing the pain to my ex - "Like every muscle in your back clamps down and will not turn loose for anything." She said, "Sounds like labor." So, I do have an inkling of what it might be like. Probably not exactly the same thing, but similar.

The point is this: No, we men don't know what it's like to go through labor, or have an abortion, or have the monthly period. (And when I see the Almighty, I'm going to have a chat with Him about that design - engineer to engineer. There had to be a better way to do things than a once-a-month misery session.) But we do try to believe women when they say it hurts. By the same token, however, women have no way of knowing how we men feel - and no basis for claims that we don't hurt, or for making comparisons.

I do not think it unreasonable for a little consideration to be extended our way. Wasn't that what feminism was supposed to be about - mutual respect?

Posted by: Mike at June 10, 2007 3:04 PM

"But not unsympathetic ones. Nobody rolls his eyes and says, "Oh, suck it up! You're only having a baby!"

Actually, that's by no means as unusual as you seem to think, Mike.

But from the POV of this mutually respectful discussion, the woman can't personally do anything to prevent your chronic back pain/ kicked-in-the-nuts agony.

Your vasectomy, on the other hand, certainly does prevent the unwanted pregnancy.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at June 10, 2007 3:49 PM

Don't change the subject. This is not about pregnancy prevention. This is about men's justifiable reluctance on the subject of vasectomy, and women's attitudes of superiority.

When a woman kicks a man in the nuts, it's supposed to be funny. She could prevent that.

I don't think labor pains are funny. Yes, comics do routines about childbirth after the fact, but nobody I know would laugh at a woman in labor during the process. And when my ex-wife was in labor, I was the one on the intercom calling for the anesthesiologist. She was hurting, and I wanted it to stop. I certainly didn't roll my eyes.

Simply put, women want to make judgments that their pains are worse than men's with no point of reference, then just say, "Men are wimps." You have no basis for that judgment. Women rolling their eyes at men reluctant to have surgery in the most sensitive area of our bodies is desrespectful.

Now, I'll stray off subject and agree with you: Surgical sterilization does prevent pregnancy. But I don't think there's any call for snide, judgmental evaluations from women when we men show a reluctance to the procedure - because you have no basis for judging our reluctance!

Posted by: Mike at June 10, 2007 4:15 PM

Okay, that said, here are the basic legal reforms I believe are needed:

1) Eliminate default paternity judgments. Instead, DNA testing would be required for all infants at birth to establish paternity. Personally, I actually hate the idea, but I've seen so many cases of even married men being defrauded and not finding out about it until years later, I believe it's just a necessary evil.

2) Eliminate the terms "custodial" and "non-custodial" parent. Default parenting is shared parenting, where the child spends equal time with each parent, or some other suitable mutually agreed upon arrangement. Exceptions would be made if one parent was unfit in some way. This way, both parents share in child care - and child joys - and both parents get a break from time to time. Decision-making would be shared, with final authority being split with regard to different matters (e.g. school, medical, etc.).

3) Child support would be paid by each parent to Child Services based on the child's actual needs (NOT based strictly on parental income), then distributed back to each parent based on parenting time. The money follows the child. Both parents are culpable to pay. (Even better, each parent supports the child while that child is at his / her residence, but that probably won't fly politically.)

These very basic reforms would eliminate a lot of problems: the adversarial child custody system; paternity fraud; overburdened single moms; dad-deprived kids; overburdensome child support payments; perverse incentives for women to "trap" men; perverse incentives for men to "shoot and scoot". It's fundamentally fair; it gives the child access to both parents; it recognizes the rights and responsibilities of both sexes; it allows both sexes to have lives outside of childrearing; it encourages parents to cooperate because they share authority instead of one parent monopolizing it all.

Comments?

Posted by: Mike at June 10, 2007 6:09 PM

Having been through a pretty ugly relationship, divorce, post divorce custody battle, post custody battle hostility, and current, ongoing legal battle, I think I have a bit to add.

From a man's perspective, women's attitudes about sex and/or reproduction are pretty selfish. In my opinion, if you want men to support women's reproductive choices, women should be a little more LIKE MEN and be responsible for their own choices to the same degree that men are. If you want the right to walk away from a pregnancy, grant the same to men. Otherwise, don't use the same arguments that the Right To Life nut cases use.

I expect that if we stop paying single moms to have babies, single moms will stop having babies they can't afford to take care of.

Yeah, the state's interested in the child's welfare, so long as they can justify their huge staff and support system. It's an industry build on sham of compassion. Since no one except lawyers makes money helping dads out, to no one's great suprise, no one helps dads out.

The decision to have sex is ultimately up to her. Think we can say no? Sure, but it will be a long, drawn out night, complete with accusations of cheating, whatever. It's a rude bit of calculus but I'm sure everyone has at one time or another had to balance sex that they didn't want and getting to sleep at a reasonable time, vs a whole night of petty bickering or worse.

She can get pregnant if she wants, have an abortion, if she wants, put the baby up for adoption at any time, pre or post-partum. In otherwords, she can walk away from a pregnancy at any stage without penalty or lifelong financial responsibility. Well, except for her conscience.

Lied about pregnancy to get married? no consequece. Lied about pregnancy to forstall a divorce? No consequence. Lied about who the father is for a nice support payment? No consequnce. Lied about who the father is during your marriage? Grounds for divorce, but the ex-hubby is likely to get stuck with the child support bill anyway. Again, no consequence. Guy pays support for a decade,*then* finds out she cheated on him? too bad, still have to pay. Can't make the mom have to answer for her actions, since the child might have to suffer an inconvienience. That's a good lesson for kids - you can get away with just about anything, if you can some how tie in child welfare/safety, drug dealers, terrorists, or the mob.

If you're a guy - you put your dick in it. Tough shit. I guess you can consider yourself lucky she didn't go down and press charges for rape, too, since "all sex is rape", right?

She doesn't have to get married. She's a strong, independant, capable person if she doesn't want to be saddled with a loser like you. If she does, it doesn't have to be the biological dad, at any rate - she's free to make that decision, and continues to collect support. Unless she wants to marry you, then you're a scumbag if you won't step up to the plate and do the right thing, you immature selfish piece of shit.

The non-custodial dad, on the other hand, has to ask a prospective spouse to accept the monthly payments and other grief that a custodial parent can cause. Who'd want to put up with that crap? Really, having your husband jump through hoops every time his ex calls with a bs story about his kids?

Oh, and while we're on the subject of that - I don't want to ever hear a single mom gripe that men dump her the moment they find out about the kid(s). Women are worse, and less polite about it.

As a guy, if you miss a support payment, you're screwed. The Attorney General is the new bogey man. If she decides to tamper with visitation? Not a problem. Visitation or custody is not enforced. It's a civil issue, not a criminal one, and you have to pay up front for an attorney. Plan on having the case dismissed after a good sob story from your ex, concluding with a stern finger shaking from the judge.

Ever see the movie "GoodFellas"? Remember the scene with the protection racket? Lost your job? Too bad, pay up. Business is slow this week, can't get any over time? Too bad, pay up. Car wrecked by an uninsured illegal alien? Too bad, pay up. Lost your house? Too bad, pay up. Had to relocate to get a decent job in a lower cost area? Too bad, the math is done where your ex lives. Ex moves away from you? Too bad. Oh, just so you know, the state AG will take your butt to court (at the state's expense) if you get a raise, second job, whatever, but if you lose your job, you can try to go to court, and you might get it reduced. Maybe. You had better have suffered under the current schedule for 6 or more months, exhausted your savings and other assets, and then have a $2000 retainer just to get started. What, you have a house payment? Too bad, dumbass, you stuck your dick in it. "Needs of the child, and all that" And don't come crying to me about your new wife and kids suffering. You stuck your dick in that, too, so suck it up, Deadbeat, and get to work.

Non custodial mothers are far less likely than custodial dads to be current on support, and pay a lower percentage of their income in the rare cases that they are the non-custodial parent. Case in point - My ex didn't pay support for 11 months, without penalty or consequence. Her monthly rate - 140 a month for two children. She only started to pay when she decided to drag me in to court, and then only on the day before our hearing. Oh, and she doesn't have to pick up the cost of the children's insurance or uninsured health care expenses, as I did when I was the non-custodial parent.

Personally, when I comes to the "sex ed" class for teen age boys, I think that the attorney general should drege up the worst cases of divorce, custody, child support, false accusations, etc, and scare the wood out of the little pricks. A course should include phrases like 'imputed income', and 'ex-parte protective order'.

I used to think people were idiots for taking up smoking, and deserved what they got. Nowadays, I think any man who doesn't get a vasectomy is better off playing russian roulette with an automatic pistol.

And it's anyone surprise that there's porn on the internet? Make up your mind - you want a total monopoly on sex? Guys are only allowed an orgasm when its convienient to a woman's bottom line?

I'm not trying to be a troll here, but I'm just trying to relay my experience after 7 years and a few tens of thousand dollars in legal 'experience'. Suffice to say, our case could occupy the Jerry Springer show for a week.

Posted by: Gun Shy at June 12, 2007 10:23 PM

It's amazing how many guys figure out that the woman they are having sex with is a 'witch', but only after months and months of spending all kinds of time with her. Does she suddenly turn into another person at some point? Wasn't she always a horrible person, but you chose to ignore all the red flags because you were so desperate to get laid?


Chrissy -- I am living this now, and yes, you basically nailed it on the head. The red flags were going off, I ignored them because I wanted to get laid, and I now have an 11-year old daughter who I pay big child support bucks for.

However, I gave up long ago blaming my ex for trapping me into unplanned parenthood (said she was on the pill).


My beef now is with the family court system that makes it very easy -- even encourages her -- to push me out of our child's life. The more effort she puts into minimizing my time with our girl, the more child support she can demand. It is twisted, and men and teens boys out there need to know how this "birthing for dollars" system works. If you expect fairness in the courts, if you expect that they will protect your rights as a father, you are wrong. If Mom doesn't want you there, it will cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars, and years and years of effort and heartbreak, to stay involved in your child's life. It's really sick.

HEED THE RED FLAGS -- No Sex With Psychos!

Posted by: JJR at June 13, 2007 10:44 AM

JJR is right -- and I like your sense of personal responsibility. There's too little attention on men who are desperate to parent their children but are walled off from it by the courts.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at June 13, 2007 11:01 AM

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