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. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't.

  • Tx10inch

    If you don’t want no babies, get cut or completely STOP havin sexxy time. This has been a 10inch service announcement.
    Keepin it completely 100 tho, tha pull out has been tha bread and butter of any of my serious relationships. Good to finally see some facts on it. I was too lazy to google myself.
    That is all.

    *Does birthday bougie*

    • Oshun

      Happy Birthday?!

      • Tx10inch

        Preciate it!

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      Happy birthday, dude!

      • Tx10inch

        Thanx Val!

    • JayIzUrGod

      Happy Birthday man…but uh…you should be drunk right now.

      • Tx10inch

        Thanx homie. But it’s thursday..and I’m boring. Eh…

        • JayIzUrGod

          Uhhh clearly you’ve never hung with me.Thursday is the new Saturday if I can buy a drink.

        • Sahel

          Its friday somewhere in the world.

          • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

            Nope. It’s not. Go back to your corner.

            • Sahel

              Why am i being sent to the corner,i have done nothing wrong

              • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                It’s just time.

                • Sahel

                  This is why you wont get nominated for VSS of the year.

                  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                    As long as you’re on the nominating committee I’ll be nominated and you know it.

                    • Sahel

                      Your from New York right

                    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                      Yep. Why?

                    • Sahel

                      Ooh,sorry. Due to regional balance we cant nominate two VSS from NY and Todd nominated from there already. But if you are from staten island we can make an exception.

                    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                      If I were from Staten Island, which I am not, I would never admit to it.

                    • Sahel

                      .I will nominate you in avi of the year section

                    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

                      You’re a real mensch.

    • nillalatte

      Awww.. heck.. It’s yo’ birfday?! We gon’ partay tooooonight! *Swings from the rafters with red solo cup in hand.* You know what it do. ;) Happy Birthday Tx!

      • Tx10inch

        *Peeks up skirt while swinging from rafters* Thanx Nilla!

        • nillalatte

          Stop that. You know I don’t wear pannies after dark… buuuutttt, since it’s your birfday a peek is all you get! :P

          • Sahel

            P.A,pay up.I told you she liked the breeze

    • Kema

      Happy birthday! *does a warm up twerk while waiting for the rest of the team*

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Where’s Breezy? I need to see the two of you twerk

    • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

      happy birthday to youu ~*~ pull out and be true ~*~

    • Sandpaper

      Happy B’day.

    • Tentpole

      Happy Birthday

    • Sigma_Since 93

      Happy Birthday Brotha!

    • Rachmo

      Happy Birthday :)

    • Dimka Mati Braswell

      Blessed Birthday!!!

    • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

      happy birthday!

    • Shamira

      happy birthday! may you wield your 10 inches with pride (and discernment, cuz , yanno, babies and sh*t)

      • Tx10inch

        Thanx Shamira. With great power, comes great responsibility. No spider man.

    • Yoles

      Blessings on your Born Day Tx!!!! Enjoy your very special day

      • Tx10inch

        Thanx Sweetness!

    • Asiyah

      Happy happy birthday!

    • http://wildcougarconfessions.com Wild Cougar

      MY GOODNESS. Texas is a Leo. *slaps forehead* of course. Happy Birthday, sesyman

      • Tx10inch

        Preciate it much! #Leoseason

    • Medium Meech

      Happy Birthday my dude.

      • Tx10inch

        Thanx homie.

  • Oshun

    This is a beautiful post for Obsidian and Sweet Sass to book a hotel room after battling it out. YAZZ.

    • Sahel

      That hotel will end up burning down due to the after burners that will be in play

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      In which they would make sweet, passionate, fiery font wars. While the people in the next room are using handcuffs & a-nal beads.

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

      Actually I think SweetSass is in Paris. So, no fireworks.

      • Sahel

        Keeping tabs on your targets ey,kudos

      • Oshun

        Oh my darling Val, there’s gon’ be fireworks-literally!! :) *waving*

    • Todd

      Yeah, I think that would be an all-weekend affair, with room service sending up food, Gatorade and energy bars to keep the party going. LOL

    • SweetSass

      *scrubs out my brain*

      Never do that again please.

      • http://wildcougarconfessions.com Wild Cougar

        People’s sick fantasies…..smh.

        • Oshun

          whatever Ms. Cougar!!!!!!

      • Oshun

        HeYYYYyy! My ethio sis! Do what?! I ain’t do nuffin….

        • SweetSass

          Don’t make me bring out the bad juju.

  • Sahel

    These days fatherhood is only valued in the providing part. The part where we have say on if the woman can keep or abort has been declared part of the phantom zone. Look at what happened to Boris Becker and that woman who gave him a BJ

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      its more of less the status of the man, if you just someone who smashing you not getting the same floor a boyfriend or husband has.

      • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

        I’ve never heard it put that way, but I think I agree with you.

        • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

          Simply put: are u even going on birth control for some guy u just talking to

          • To’Mas Que Fuego

            Hmmm, but are chicks really going on birth control for one dude in particular? I thought chicks got on bc because they knew they’d be f*ckin…

            • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

              Yeah, it’s more this than “He the one I’ma take that Depo Provera shot for…right in the @zz!” You take BC in general, b/c by the time you know you want to get down, you have to wait a little bit for the BC to kick in anyway.

            • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

              Yeah, when I was on BC it was because I knew I was going to be s.exually active in general. I’ve bumped uglies with guys who I wasn’t in relationships with *shrug* I’d rather prevent pregnancy on my own terms than hope/pray that the pull out method would be sufficient.

  • Tia_Sunny

    They should because the baby is theirs’ as well. It does take two.

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      if the woman snatches off the condom, cuffs him to the bed and rides it out of him, maybe he has a case….otherwise nah.

      • Kema

        Sounds nice minus the condom snatching part…

      • Tia_Sunny

        That’s why men need to be with women they can trust to take birth control everyday.

    • http://brown-c6h12o6.tumblr.com/ AfroPetite

      I’m with Tristan. People push the whole “it takes two to tango” bit but women are putting in 90% of the work as the child in question must gestate inside them for 9-10 months. Let’s say the woman doesn’t want the baby but the man does. Does a man have the right to deny said woman any say as it concerns her body?

  • SoSncere

    Two things:

    1. having relations can lead to babies, if you don’t want to have a baby, if you’re not in a position to have a baby, if you’re not old enough or mature enough to take care of a baby then don’t have relations, it truly is the best way to not have a baby.

    2. if you don’t want to end up having a baby out-of-wedlock then get married before having relations…..that may sound extremely old but I’m 25 and honestly it doesn’t make sense to me why so many women continue to sleep around and have multiple children for multiple men and then complain about how hard it is to do *insert whatever said task is here* because of the kids.

    As women we have control over whether or not we get pregnant and raising a child is no small task, it is life-changing.
    As much as we can call men selfish for wanting relations but not wanting a baby or sticking around to really be a father, we have to admit that many of us are just as selfish to even lay down with a man (that we may not even know that well in the first place…ewwww) knowing good & well that we are not in a position to raise a child.
    Just because a man looks good, smells good, is saying the right things and we’re turned on & turned up does not mean we need to sleep with him.
    Because the relations might be mind blowing but is that one moment really worth the laundry list of potential issues that can and oftentimes do follow?
    In my opinion, I think as very good as relations feel, there are other things one can find to bring pleasure & satisfaction to their life. Having relations before marriage seems to bring more problems and issues imo.

    • JayIzUrGod

      That’s the problem though…sex over EVERYTHING.

      Until something bad happens…then its like “my heart is more important”. Bull sh*t.

      People deserve what they get when they can’t seperate fact & fiction.

      • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

        its the sad truth, dudes will be smashing looking at a picture of her from a pro life 5k and still not put 2 and 2 together

        • Todd

          The funny thing I can SO see that happening. *smh* That is why I hid a stash of condoms at one GF’s house and replenished them with every visit, lest she jump stupid

        • JayIzUrGod

          That’s why I have no sympathy for that crap, you get what you asked for.

    • Todd

      “As much as we can call men selfish for wanting relations but not wanting
      a baby or sticking around to really be a father, we have to admit that
      many of us are just as selfish to even lay down with a man (that we may
      not even know that well in the first place…ewwww) knowing good &
      well that we are not in a position to raise a child.”

      EXACTLY! Too many people are expecting the (heterosexual) people they deal with to suddenly jump Ward/June Cleaver because it fits our selfish needs for validation and freedom. Doesn’t your own flesh and blood matter to you?

    • Sigma_Since 93

      Too many folks think they’re grown until grown peoples problems hit ’em in the face.

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

    Well if the guy really didn’t want children he would have had a Vasectomy. Otherwise he wasn’t serious and just didn’t want to have kids with that particular woman. And, in general men who don’t want kids now or ever should use birth control 100% of the time. That is their way of controlling the situation.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      You can tell in this story, both parties are completely full of crap. He didn’t want kids, yet never inquired about her being on birth control, getting a vasectomy, taking hot baths every time before sex to kill his sperm count, etc…and she just went along with it, never doing anything about it either.

    • Todd

      For one, birth control does fail. Condoms do break. Assuming that the dude didn’t use birth control is arrogant, because all it takes is a bad condom on the wrong day, and the most militantly anti-kid dude can get someone pregnant. Also, there’s the fact that unlike tubal ligations, vasectomies are NOT reversible (though there is a lot of work going into making reversible ones that are effective). Therefore making that decision for the big snip is a bit more serious than similar decisions are for women.

      • Dignan

        Wait, what? When I had my vasectomy, I was told that reversal was possible, and about 70% effective. And for decades, I’ve seen billboards up and down the interstate advertising for a vasectomy reversal clinic in Houston.

        I mean, I always knew that I wouldn’t want to get mine reversed, but I was under the impression that the option was available to other people. Jokers been lying to me all these years?

      • SweetSass

        The average condom fits an elephant penis. When used properly they work 98% of the time. Stop it.

        They aren’t breaking left and right… people stop wearing them. That is why pregnancies happen.

        And some vasectomies are reversible if there aren’t complications.

        http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vasectomy-reversal/MY00326

        • Todd

          Glad to see you’ve shown up. To be fair, there are dudes lying through their teeth with condom breakage. Heck, I had the “pleasure” of cursing out a distant male relation on this front. Still, condoms can and do have issues because nothing is perfect. Stuff happens. 98% is less than 100%.

          Also, you just said “some vasectomies are reversible if there aren’t complications”. I will walk back the NOT part because it was incomplete information, and I will thank you for posting the link. However, pretending that they all are reversible, at least to the extent of tubal ligations, is wrong. There’s also the real fact that the reversible ones do have complications of not completely stopping sperm from getting through. This is a problem that has researchers working on this, and coming up with a number of unique solutions that are currently in clinical trials.

        • http://wildcougarconfessions.com Wild Cougar

          well…..as someone who uses them regularly, they do break. it depends on the brand and the amount of lubrication involved.

          • Yoles

            condoms usually break during coitus BUT the odds of said condoms breaking and dude not knowing are miniscule… add to that condom breaking just as happy ending is about to commence or during said happy ending… even more miniscule..

    • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

      “And, in general men who don’t want kids now or ever should use birth control 100% of the time. That is their way of controlling the situation.”

      I don’t understand why this is misunderstood.

  • 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*

  • nillalatte

    You’re right, tough question. While I instinctively thought “h*ll no” I think I still instinctively think “h*ll no.” What chu gonna do with a woman that does not want a baby? Put her in a room, tie her to a bed, and make her wait 9mos to give birth? Even if dude did want the child, whose to say that the woman should use her body as a incubator for his convenience? I donno. Just seems a little criminal in my opinion.

    To be fair, if dude wanted a child he should make sure the girl he’s ducking wants a child too. If she doesn’t, then SHE needs to take responsibility for her own reproductive organs. You can’t force a woman to get pregnant AND carry the child if she doesn’t want it (no Todd Akin). Sorry men. It’s my body, it’s my call.

  • Msdebbs

    If he didn’t want kids why not get a vasectomy??? As adults we all know the risk we take when having sex so there’s no such thing as a “accidental pregnancy” GTFOH with that lie. Truth be told I think he just didn’t wanna have any babies with her…

    • http://stanoffewwords.wordpress.com/ Tristan

      its the sad reality, most men want kids, most men want long term relationships….with you, eh not so much. but theyll date and smash in the interim.

      • http://missrosen.wordpress.com/ esa

        everything cuts two ways.

    • Todd

      I guess condoms never break in your world, huh?

      • Msdebbs

        They do and they have but I believe in personal responsibility and if he was soooo dead set against having kids he should have taken the proper steps to prevent it from happening.

        • Dignan

          Even if the condom breaks, there’s still the morning after pill, provided that the lady is willing to take it. If both people practice personal responsibility, a broken condom doesn’t have to mean that there will be a baby.

          • Todd

            ” If both people practice personal responsibility…”

            Sadly, this is not always the case. *smh*

            • Sahel

              Its never the case

    • JayIzUrGod

      That was her responsibility too though and she didn’t force the issue.

      • http://daratmathis.wordpress.com/ dtafakari

        Yeah, that doesn’t compute to me. The man is the stroke and the woman is the follow-through…

        • JayIzUrGod

          Exactly, there’s no solo actor in this picture unless there’s a gun to her head.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      The problem is./was that men don’t want to handicap their chances of scratching that itch. Since women don’t want to play games and want to have chex in committed relationships, a man saying “Hi I’m Bob. I like you, I want you, and by the way I’ve had a vasectomy because I don’t want kids.” is probably a deal breaker.

      Women, on the other hand, can say “Hi I’m Sally. I like you, I want you, and by the way I’ve had a tubes tied because I don’t want kids.” will not have the same challenges as men because we’ve been brainwashed to think men will scratch anything.

      • SweetSass

        If it is a dealbreaker… then that is probably what is supposed to happen. It should be a dealbreaker. So what? Why is it bad that it is a dealbreaker. Clearly the two people have vastly different life goals. If you didn’t want a child and got a V-cut and you’re dating a woman who wants kids… that is a problem.

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