Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Be a man?

Over at Divorce and Child Custody, Meg has many excellent opinions and posts. Here she discusses "Roe vs Wade for Men" and I agree with much of what she writes. However, she finishes with:

I hate to say it this way but be a man, make the adult decision and ALWAYS, ALWAYS PROTECT YOURSELF.

While she "hate[s] to say it this way", I am still bothered that she should feel the need to tell us "be a man". It wasn't so very long ago that many in the western world were fighting the notions that contraception is her responsibility and the consequences of failure hers to worry about. Hand in hand with that argument came the reality that should she get pregnant, her choices were limited and her physical, financial and social vulnerability high.

Now she and her choices are protected in a number of ways (morning after pill, legal abortion, adoption, family court, child support), but he and his choices are not. As Chris Rock put it (and I paraphrase), the choices a man has when she tells him she's pregnant amount to "Oh, Honey, that's wonderful, this is the happiest day of my life!" and "So, er, what'ya gonna do?". So now the tables are turned: his choices are limited and his vulnerability is high. Telling him to "be a man" amounts to the same thing, for him, as blaming an unwanted pregnancy on her. (Not only that, but it seeks the best of both worlds by appealing to a suspect idea of machismo.)

Taking this ad absurdum, I am given to wonder if we won't some day be in such an inverted society that men are kept indoors and those that have sex out of wedlock considered sluts who get what they deserve (18+ yrs of mother support) while women can have sex with whatever man they can seduce without fear for the consequences.

There has never been an easy solution to this question, on either side, and there never will be. The fact is that it is (still) impossible to guarantee protection against pregnancy resulting from sex between two suitably fertile people. The only acceptable attitude is to expect them both to shoulder responsibility equally. As far as choice goes, there is one which is absolutely equal on both sides - to abstain or not.

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