Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Podcast, Theory & Essay

Ask A Very Smart Brotha: Should Men Have Any Reproductive Rights?

pregnant-black-woman

***I originally answered this question in my weekly Madame Noire column yesterday, but I thought the topic was so interesting that I decided to expand on the answer and post it here.***

Hey Damon,

The other day my friends and I were watching this show about adoption and in this particular episode, this couple, who’ve been dating for a year, accidentally get pregnant. The woman, who already has a child, wants to keep the baby, but also understands that her boyfriend has said explicitly over and over again, even before she got pregnant, that he never wanted children. And would inevitably resent a child if he were to ever have one. The woman ended up giving the child up for adoption, reluctantly at first and then in the follow up, she’d made peace with her decision.

The whole thing was upsetting to watch because it was clear that the woman wanted to keep the baby but only if the man wanted to keep the child as well. But it also made me consider the lack of rights most men have when it comes to parenthood. Are there so many absentee fathers because men who never wanted to be fathers just couldn’t and still can’t see themselves being responsible and present for their children? Conventionally, we’re told if a woman gets pregnant that it’s completely her choice whether she decides to have the child or not. Ultimately it is but, as a man, what role or say do you think men should have in all of this?

—Forced Fatherhood

Dear Forced Fatherhood,

Damn. This wasn’t exactly a soup question. I’m going to answer this the best I can. But, before I begin, I will also say that there are people much smarter than me who study, read, and write about this particular issue much more often than I do, and after reading this, I’d research their thoughts and opinions about this as well.

Questions like this bring to light how culturally unbalanced our concept of child-rearing tends to be. While men are socially expected to be active and loving fathers, we’re also socialized to believe that a tiny bit of sperm is our only meaningful contribution to this entire process. Think about it: If men and women are supposed to join forces to raise children together, why are little girls the only ones “allowed” to play with baby dolls? Why aren’t teen boys encouraged to consider babysitting as a source of practical experience (and extra income) the same way teen girls are? Why don’t we throw baby showers for men?

I know these questions seem silly, but they only seem silly because we’ve been taught it’s a silly idea for little boys to play with dolls and have any type of experience handling and taking care of babies…which is a silly thing to be taught.

Anyway, the question of pregnancy rights is one where the right, socially accepted answer—that women have complete say over whether a child will or will not be born—has some inherent “wrongness” to it. As mentioned earlier, both men and women have to collaborate to create a baby. So, logically—even considering the fact that women have to carry—a man should have equal say on whether to keep it.

But, in this case, that particular wrong of a man not having any say is better than any alternative solution.

Yes it’s “unfair” that men don’t have any legal say on the decision to keep a baby, especially since he will be legally obligated to provide for that child for the next 18 years. But this “unfairness” is for the greater good.

If you allow men to have legal say over whether a woman can keep a baby, you’re restricting her legal right to have complete dominion over her body.

And, if you don’t hold men responsible for children they helped create—basically, if you allow men to legally opt out before the child is born—it would ultimately hurt the baby. Also, think of how messy this could be legally. What’s to stop a man who “agreed” to care and provide for the baby when it was conceived to say “Um, nevermind.” three months into term? And, what’s to stop him from changing his mind again once the baby is born?

Basically, the “wrongness” of men having no say in that process is less wrong than what would happen if men did.

Also, I wouldn’t blame the prevalence of absentee fathers on this issue. Yes, people — men and women — need to make smarter sexual choices. There is no such thing as an “accidental” pregnancy, especially when their are multiple effective means of birth control—including the pull out method. (Yes. The pull out method works. It only doesn’t work when you…don’t pull out.)

But while I’m willingly to concede that some men do get “trapped,” most who selfishly skirt their responsibilities do it because…they’re selfish and irresponsible. The pregnancy rights laws and some “lying-ass woman” didn’t jam them up. Their own penises did.

The best solution to all of this is to be in a committed relationship where both parties are on the same page about children, and both parties respect and consider each other’s opinions. Even then, the woman still has the final say. Yes, its unfair, but there’s a small device that goes a very long way to prevent that unfairness from ever happening:

Condoms.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    I can’t really tell if men should have a say in it. Honestly, I think the best way for a man to have a say in the baby issue is to keep his d*ck in his pants. That speaks volumes more than any conversation you’re going to have with a woman.

    First, there’s no such thing as accidental pregnancies. Second, as a man at this point and time, I feel like no man should trust a woman who only relies on him wearing a condom. Its one thing that she should use birth control but she should also have female protection. I hear all these complaints about how uncomfortable they are, but last time I checked, a belt & harness for bungie jumping was uncomfortable too, but you’d make sure to high heaven that you had it on.

    Lastly, I can’t ever have a proper opinion on men bailing out on women after they are pregnant. You can’t predict how you will feel. It is easy when to move on when it isn’t growing in your body. But that’s why I feel that with this information so easy to see on a daily basis, that I’m mad at both men and women for not taking it more seriously. Why is getting laid way more important than making sure you have the future you wanted? Why is the assumption that “its just sex” the best thing most people can say until they are 3 kids in the hole, 29 partners deep, and 1 future down in the drain?

    I’m just saying…at this point…you do it to yourself. Man or woman..it is just totally your fault.

    • http://www.twitter.com/IluminatiNYC Todd

      ” that’s why I feel that with this information so easy to see on a daily
      basis, that I’m mad at both men and women for not taking it more
      seriously. Why is getting laid way more important than making sure you
      have the future you wanted? Why is the assumption that “its just $ex”
      the best thing most people can say until they are 3 kids in the hole, 29
      partners deep, and 1 future down in the drain?”

      WORD. I find it amazing how one gender blames the other, when it takes both to tango. Reading some of the samples from the books “Promises I Can Keep” and “Doing The Best I Can” make me wonder how stupid people truly can be. Seriously, you hit it raw with some random person you met in the club, barely speak to except when it’s time to drink and/or hump, and you’re shocked, SHOCKED I say, that they aren’t the best of people and parents? I need folk to do better.

  • h.h.h.

    Fellas it’s a cole world. #noKendrick

    this part of culture will never be fair towards us, it is what it is.
    you lose all rights to any say in the pregnancy once the sp*** is released.
    even sp*** donors have been held liable for support.
    so if you don’t want kids, don’t have sex.
    problem solved.

    do i believe what i wrote is the right thing? nope. Obsidian had somewhat of a right idea.
    but ‘the right thing’ isn’t what’s acceptable.
    so complain if you must, but the rules won’t change.
    *shrugs*

  • Ani-Q

    No. Men dont have a say in the process. A man’s biological responsibility ends when he has ‘delivered’ viable sperm to a woman with a viable womb and ovum. After fertilization, all bets are off. The very existence of this child is link to my heartbeat and my next breath. I dont exist, the child wont existence. Men can drop dead the very next day and the process of growth and development of the child wont end with them.
    Women are most vulnerable when they are pregnant. Everything has changed for us; from our eating habits, to our mood, to doing very mundane tasks that can put us and the child at risk. Even then, women are still limited in our control over the process.We can do everything by the book; giving birth in sweat, tears, blood and pain and things can still end badly. Men can still do whatever, hell you can go a impregnate someone else in the meantime.

    Nevertheless, I am unsure what exactly men think their role is in choosing whether or not a pregnancy goes to full term because you still are not the one who has to lie on that table as a doctor remove what could have been. You are not the one who has to swallow those pills that induces a miscarriage and accept that you are bleeding but its not your period and you are certainly not the one who gives birth. Pregnancy is a woman’s cross to bear.

  • Raymond Paquette

    “The pull out method works” ????

    DON”T BELIEVE IT! Pulling out is better than nothing, but that’s all. Pre-cum has sperm in it, and can definitely cause a pregnancy.

    Basic Sex Ed 101.

    Condoms…

    I didn’t read all 118 comments, so maybe somebody already said this.

  • Dimka Mati Braswell

    I’ve read of few of the comments but what Negro Libre & TheOtherJerome posted stood out to me & changed my opinion on men’s reproductive right’s. I’ve always believed men should have some say in what happens to an unborn child since it’s their sperm that made the baby but ‘some say’ has been changed show your right’s through your actions.
    It’s so much easier for a man to practice his reproductive right’s when the man is responsible & understands the consquences of having a baby unplanned. So it would behoove him to ensure that his sperm isn’t used for babymaking. So in that, a man’s practicing his right not to have any children from his sperm. And if he wants to have a child, he’ll execrise his right by finding a suitable partner to share his sperm with that will ensure that both are emotionally & finanically secure in a loving relationship to nuture & raise a child. Yeah, if only it were that simple.

  • Medium Meech

    Can we please stop with the argument that men shouldn’t have any say because they could choose to abstain, use protection or get a vasectomy? I’m not saying that men should have a say over a woman’s body, that’s just stupid, but that argument is lazy. It is the very same argument used by people that want to say that women shouldn’t be able to abort a pregnancy. “She had the choice to keep her legs closed. If you don’t want a baby then don’t have sex, you have a choice.” It’s also the boilerplate argument used to blame victims. “Well if Y wasn’t [performing routine action X that people engage in everyday] then [action performed on party by another individual while engaging in action X] then it would have never happened.

    The real question here isn’t what say a man should have in reproductive rights, a man should have as much say about a woman’s womb as she should have over his balls. The real question is should a man be equally liable, financially or otherwise, for a decision that is out of his control. Not a black and white question because said yoking can and does influence the decision to have kids in ways that children shouldn’t be used, but it also isn’t a strict liability question between two individuals as children are human beings and become society’s burden if the parent(s) aren’t doing their part.

  • http://uphereoncloud9.com/ Wu Young, A.O.M

    *hums along with the violin concerto accompanying dude’s letter to Champ.*
    If you don’t want to have kids then simply take steps to prevent having kids. Like Sigma said, go get yourself fixed in lieu of whining about having an accident. If this cat was old enough to be in a committed relationship WITH AN ACTUAL GIRL then I’m sure he was old enough to understand both biology and the fact that he should never take his guns to town. Dude and his lady friend should’ve just been smarter. Snatch should never be a deterent to being smart.
    *hums again to the violins*

  • NomadaNare

    I meant to get this in earlier. This topic is the perfect expression of how race, class, and sex all interact to form some pretty crazy situations that hurt even those that are ‘privileged’. A small but vocal minority of men (of all colors, and for different reasons) complain about their lack of choice when it comes to reproduction after initial pregnancy and are unsatisfied with their choices because they feel that they are somehow being exploited. However, if patriarchal privilege didn’t exist, the law would not have been crafted in such a way to protect women from its consequences. Just for one example, the reason the law expects men to support their kids (besides the fact that they should want to anyway) is based on the idea that the average woman makes less money than the average man solely because of her sex.

    Let’s go a little further though. Basic ideas of masculinity/femininity force men into leadership positions and women into submissive ones (which each come with their own advantages and disadvantages) further forcing men to be unreasonably responsible for actions undertaken by both parties (ie if the condom breaks, it’s the man’s fault because he’s the man and should accept responsibility for the actions of both, because he’s the leader, regardless of the idea that neither could reasonably know the condom broke).

    Let’s add in class now. This is more likely to be applied to poorer people (not least of which because they overwhelm the rich people in numbers by at least two orders of magnitude) that even when controlling for the overwhelming differences in population happen to get pregnant more often, happen to disagree in what should be done with the child, and also happen to have less money to support it. The addition of children further reinforces their positions as poor people because they now have to give time and money they don’t have to support children they don’t want.

    Finally, race. Black couples are more likely to be poor (because history) and therefore more likely to be affected by these types of issues overall. So, on top of every disadvantage mentioned above, this circumstance further contributes to the idea that black men are irresponsible, further reinforcing the black buck persona and contributing to the less than stellar childhood of a significant number of black children which in both real and imagined way contribute to a priori black criminality.

    Working it back up. This eventually rots away at society and the most privileged find ways to exploit this dynamic for profit, promoting greed and callousness at the expense of the less fortunate (ie the Go-Go 80’s). Eventually they turn their tools upon themselves, crater their whole economy and/or significantly weaken the social fabric of the nation. This is why we should work to eliminate such dynamics.

  • Alejandro Mulatto

    My mom always told me that if I’m not ready for children, I shouldn’t be having sex. There is no 100% pregnancy prevention method. Once I started having sex I decided that no matter what if my partner got pregnant I had a new job: to take care of the life that I helped create. Abortion is not contraception (though I’m not against Plan B) and everyone who creates life has a responsibility to take care of that life (or AT LEAST give it up for adoption). Period.

    • Alejandro Mulatto

      Furthermore, I feel the woman is the authority on the final decision for what happens to the child she has to carry and birth. If a man has sway, he can say whatever the hell he wants, but ultimately it’s the woman’s decision as typically it’s the woman that ends up with the majority of the responsibility for that child.

    • h.h.h.

      pretty much how i feel on the subject.
      i don’t have a say in the matter once i fail to take steps to prevention.
      best way to prevent pregnancy is not have sex.
      if miss got pregnant, i gotta man up and take care of ‘em.
      (personal opinion- -if that means marriage, so be it.)

  • Yoles

    the wages of coitus is pregnancy… once realized that every person you engage with can result in such take heed… i am all for the kids and don’t really give a h3ll about the parents not wanting or one wanting and the other not… since i didn’t bust nuts for your crumb snatcher YOU take care of it, i don’t care what happened, if yall don’t like each other, if she’s a bum basic b!tch, if he’s a unemployed crack fiend, yall better hit the track and fellate for cash because it is NOT MY kid… people are always talking about reproductive rights? what about my rights as a mature responsible adult that has made sure not to bring unwanted children up in here…

    men crying about oh i didn’t want the kid i shouldn’t have to pay, chicks whining about oh i don’t believe in abortion.. yall need to get it together… have that are you personally pro choice or pro life? what would you do if it happened this week? conversation!!!! if yall are not on the same page, zip it up and find another lay. everyone wants to bang and happy ending and leave others to deal with their madness…

    YOUR KID, YOUR DIME… that goes for mother and father…

    if abortion is totally taken off the market like some are trying to do, what are men going to do about it? will the question of reproductive rights be the same?

    always think that abortion is not an option (there are some women that medically can not get one for various health reasons, which would turn the procedure in to a full fledged operation with emergency death standby) and proceed from there…

    i may revisit this post…

    *leaves in a huff*

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