Logically Irrefutable* Arguments Pertaining to Men’s Perceived Rights & Entitlements Regarding the “Fate” of their Genetic Material in Pregnancy
* Perhaps it is a bit too presumptuous and arrogant to use the term “logically irrefutable” to describe these arguments. It is more accurate to claim that believing in the truth and validity of the antithesis of the following arguments leads to a contradiction in logic due to the presence of devastating counter-objections, as well as awkward implications that would be pragmatically impossible to implement.
A few articles on morellaty.com, including “Earning the Sperm” and “Have Your Say and Eat It, Too” argue that upon the creation of an embryo resulting from consensual sex, men are not morally or legally entitled to force, barter, coerce, or beg the women who harbor those embryos (which are comprised of half of the male contributor’s genetic material) to comply with their wishes or preferences in regards to the embryos’ fate. Regardless of the fact that any developing in utero human life is, genetically speaking, a “50/50 split,” it is difficult to argue that men (possible or potential fathers, if you will) are not morally “permitted,” or that they lack the right, to verbally express their preferences regarding the fate they desire for the developing in utero life form to which they made a nearly instantaneous genetic contribution. (Given, of course, that these men are even made aware that they contributed to the genetic makeup of an embryo to begin with.) And this is mainly because the right to free speech and freedom of expression makes it difficult to mandate that one ought to shut up rather than express even an impotent opinion.
But it is quite easy, not to mention undeniably logical, to maintain that these same “opinion-entitled” men cannot and should not force their impregnated sexual partners to comply with their wishes or preferences, or ever reasonably expect that they should be permitted to do so. Utilizing manipulation, “trickery,” threats, and coercion to obtain their wish-fulfillment is out of the realm of moral permissibility, as well as unjustifiably beyond the scope of a defendable entitlement. In other words, even though an embryo or fetus harbored in a woman’s uterus is comprised of 50% of the male contributor’s genetic material, men cannot physically, legally, or otherwise prevent their “offspring’s host” from terminating pregnancy, nor can men cause, mandate, or coerce pregnancy termination against any women’s will, without also committing an egregiously immoral, impermissible action by doing so. It is even difficult to argue that men are morally endowed with any rights in pregnancy situations beyond simply and succinctly stating their preferences as to whether or not they wish to become fathers. As illustrated in many other articles on this topic, there is a myriad of reasons why forcing pregnant women to abide by or comply with the “father’s” wishes is unethical, and these reasons certainly may include the often recited mantra, “Woman’s body. Woman’s choice.” But even upon only briefly gleaning from the perspectives male college and high school students possess (those representing a large portion of the population who are ill-equipped and do not wish to become fathers, and yet still engage in frequent and often irresponsible sex), it is clear that the fact that human embryos and fetuses are harbored and cared for solely by women’s bodies uncomfortably too often carries little persuasive weight for the younger (rampantly sexually active but unwilling to shoulder the consequences) male sect.
As a college professor, I’ve often noticed many fascinating examples of different types of human behavior within the educational field. While attempting to argue persuasively and provide logical justification, many college students, and also those who are attempting to continue their undergraduate education, have a tendency to interpret that “arguing logically” means relying solely on scientific evidence for proof and validation that their opinions are correct. And this is perhaps due to the opposition and miscomprehension of what it means to perceive logic as akin to mathematics, where you take a person from “Point A to Point B” by utilizing syllogisms, other sorts of logical deductions, or by employing propositions, premises, or assertions that are impervious to counterexamples. And in many cases, utilizing science and empirical data as justification can be greatly beneficial. After all, providing empirical, scientific proof as a supportive reason that your moral judgments are correct is far better than appealing to authority or quoting religious mandates. But not if utilizing scientific fact requires you to ignore other scientific facts, or if doing so creates the existence of a “hierarchy of importance.”
To connect this back to the issue at hand, I have found that when required to write on this topic, many of my male students (hardly ever female though, for whatever reason, if this observation can be deemed relevant) felt that the “50/50″ genetic composition of a fetus was “more important” than the fact that women, if they so choose, carry those fetuses to term, and that it is their bodies and minds that must deal with all of the symptoms and side-effects of pregnancy, as well as the risks and threats that harboring and birthing a human life form can cause. This scientific fact was all too often either ignored or deemed irrelevant, primarily due to the “scientific fact” that women’s genetic contribution to the newly conceived human life form comprises an equal amount to men’s. And thus, many men believe they are morally justified to infer and believe that their rights in making pregnancy-related decisions should be “just as equal” to the rights of women. In my past teaching experience, a select few male students even went as far as to claim that due to the equal genetic composition of conceived human embryos, there was absolutely NO distinguishing or “deciding factor” that could warrant women possessing more rights than men, when it came to deciding the future of the life two people create through consensual sex. But in utilizing the science of DNA percentages as justification for this view of equal rights, the blatantly obvious “deciding factor” pertaining to the question, “In which body does the fetus reside?” gets completely overlooked. For some reason, this was not seen as a distinguishing enough “scientific fact” that “tipped the scale of rights” in women’s favor. And thus, the acknowledgement of one scientific fact trumps the validity of another…. even though it will be shown that this overlooked fact carries more weight (both literally and figuratively) as a form of justification and as a persuasive reason to hold the view that men’s rights involving pregnancy are nil.**
Because of this (and to get back to the tangent-subjected point), due to the awesome power of logic (which seems to harbor the ability to “shut people up” so effectively that the first amendment is almost rendered useless under its implementation), there are only a few reasons deemed “good enough” to be logically irrefutable as to why men are, in reality, prohibited from holding the pregnancy-related rights that many of them (perhaps mainly young adults or those in college, since that seems to be a prevailing theme) believe they do.
The main reason why some people (again, mostly those of the “male persuasion,” for transparently obvious reasons) believe that men are entitled to persuade, cajole, compel, force, control, bribe, beg, lie to, or manipulate the women who are carrying the fertilized result of their sexual encounter into complying with the male contributor’s preferences, is because they perceive the division of ownership of the fetus or embryo inside the woman as “half the man’s.” However, the fact that a newly conceived dividing embryo is comprised of 50% of the father’s DNA is NOT a justifiable or accurate reason for the belief that the developing life is “half his,” nor does it lend credibility to this belief. The two propositions are mutually exclusive, and so one does not entail the other or cause the other to be assumed. Genetic composition DOES NOT indicate, imply, or cause a state of ownership. And this fact can be almost too easily illustrated and proven to account for the reason why so many men believe in its infallibility. But, as a matter of fact, from what I can gather, genetic composition may be only one of two popularly assumed reasons as to why some men believe they have the right to more than just a simple “say” when it comes to what women seek to do with their in utero offspring. As one of my students wrote, “A woman cannot own something that is not 100% hers.” (It is probably too trite to respond to this assertion by utilizing the phrase, “Well, duh,” so instead I will simply offer the retort that it is a good thing genetic composition has nothing to do with ownership.)
I have heard and read arguments that pertain to men, and their rights to equal dominion over the human life they contributed to, which concern notions such as “the location of the fetus is not important,” and “when a woman willingly gives her body to a man, she not only realizes that pregnancy is a possibility, but that her partner is equally responsible for this unwanted or unplanned result, which entitles him to equal consideration in the decision-making process.” But let’s face it. Bodies are not just mere “locations.” While it’s true that your integral, essential rights (as opposed to your privileges and understanding of cultural etiquette) should not change just because you transition from one room to another, or even from one country to another, pregnancy is unique due to the so-called “location” of the fetus. You see, the reason my right to live or my right to autonomy should not suddenly vanish the moment I step into a dangerous neighborhood, bar, or dance club is because, when it comes to rights, location doesn’t matter. It’s a thing. It’s scenery. It’s Decoration. It’s Decor. It’s a spacial designation. Four walls and a ceiling with various colors and lighting is a location. Designated borders under a sky with solid ground under foot is a location. And upon first glance, it seems as if a uterus should qualify as a location under these parameters and descriptions. But locations are also inanimate and unconscious. Leave a room to enter another, and the room couldn’t care less. In fact, it can’t care at all. The location is unaffected. It stays the same. And even if your arrival causes a riot that demolishes the location itself, again, the room doesn’t care. The room has no rights, because a room is an inanimate object- a “replaceable backdrop.” A city, state, or country has no rights, either. It’s just a mass of land. The people who occupy these places do have rights though, and they are affected by certain actions and decisions. So if a man believes he is entitled to certain rights, because “the location of the fetus shouldn’t give the woman any special rights that override his,” nor should a fetus’ location negate or eliminate any of his rights, this argument, once again, appears logical on its surface. But upon reflection, one should notice how insulting it is to compare a woman to an inanimate object by claiming she is a “location” in which the fetus resides. Unlike a room, or house, or restaurant, or meadow, or city, women are affected by whether or not entities leave or stay where they are within them. And women have rights. Women are not inanimate, and they are not unconscious or unaffected. A woman and her uterus resembles a location as much as death resembles a nap. Sure there are similarities between the two, because a fetus, inside a uterus, inside a woman resembles a person who is inside a room that is inside a building. And comparatively, in both napping and in death, your eyes are closed and you’re not having conscious experiences of which you are aware. But any actions or choices we make could or should never be be based on the belief that these two states of being are equivalent or identical. And any perceived rights or entitlements shouldn’t be based on the perception that a woman’s body is a location, and locations don’t matter as far as rights are concerned. Remember, locations are inanimate and consciously unaffected by actions, and women are neither of these. Therefore, it is a mistake to claim that the fetus’ “location” should not limit men’s rights. Perhaps it would be easier to refer to developing fetuses as in a certain state of being as opposed to claiming they reside in a certain location. Or, we can still use the term “location” when referring to an in utero fetus, but we should also be fully aware that we are not using this term in the traditional sense.
Going back to the idea that genetic makeup denotes ownership, logically speaking and going off the obvious truism asserted by one of my students, ownership itself cannot take place at all, unless the object is “100% owned.” Otherwise, it’s merely partial ownership. But remember, ownership and genetic composition are mutually exclusive. So the fact that a woman’s DNA only comprises half of a fetus’ genetic makeup is rather inconsequential. It truly does not matter as far as the division of rights between the genetic contributors is concerned. Point of fact, as illustrated in the “donation examples” below, a person certainly can possess objects and entities that are comprised of NONE of the “owner’s” DNA. I own my car, and it contains none of my DNA. I contributed no genetic material to it while it was being built. Furthermore, the “ownership” of a living being who contains none of the owner’s, or parents’ in this case, DNA is exactly what occurs with adoption. A couple becomes the parents (or “owners,” if you will) of the children they adopt, even though these children are not comprised of ANY of their DNA.
As an interesting point of contention, reflection, and controversial discussion material, the same student who asserted this idea about “100% ownership” also confessed that, a few years ago, in order to prevent his sixteen-year-old pregnant girlfriend from obtaining an abortion, he “made it clear to her” that he’d “take her to court” if she did so. Unfortunately, both the student and his girlfriend were naive, ignorant, and far from “fully” educated, as often is the case during youth, and therefore they were both unaware that he, in fact, could not have “taken her to court,” sued her for having an abortion, and legally prevented her from terminating her pregnancy. Nor was he even legally entitled to be informed that she was pregnant before she obtained an abortion of her own volition. However, this student (and his girlfriend) didn’t bother, nor did they think it relevant or necessary, to research whether his threat was legally possible or enforceable in this country. And so he was unaware of the fact that his desire to enforce legal ramifications upon his girlfriend was (and is) unconstitutional, before he used his belief in his ability to implement this false and unobtainable notion as a means to compel her to do what he wanted. But the point is that this student was so fully convinced of the legal and moral “power of his genetic material” that he just assumed the law logically HAD to back him up. (Consequently, the young couple put the baby they conceived up for adoption…. So his threat was not based on any desire to be a father, just the desire to not be complicit in the death of an embryo. And the student who utilized this fabricated threat was then able to avoid parenthood, child support, a guilty conscience for impregnating a young girl and, since I assume the girl made it through pregnancy without any major complications, he will most likely never realize how close he came to being at least partially complicit in the death, health impairment, or massive regret of a girl who remained pregnant against her initial judgement based on his impotent threat.) As a mother myself, I simply cannot imagine what I’d do if my daughter got pregnant, and remained that way because of an asserted falsehood made by her boyfriend. God forbid, if that pregnancy killed her, or caused her to be unable to have future children, or she endured any one of the multitude of complications pregnancy can bring. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t make sure that the ignorant whelp who inadvertently lied, instead of making sure his knowledge was accurate, about his legal recourse in order to keep her pregnant to alleviate his own guilt (yet took no responsibility for his actions or endured any punishment himself), suffered the same fate she did.
But this is the power that egotistical assumptions and youthful ignorance can have when they get together to party in a naive, arrogant brain. So this is why it is necessary to not only advocate for comprehensive sex education, but also definitively establish why genetic contribution does not automatically entail exclusive or resulting rights. This inane assumption promotes sexist constructions, mindsets, policies and actions, as you can plainly infer from the example above. Assuming that “DNA = Equal Say” causes ignorant people to do and say dangerously stupid things. So what is needed is to simply “get rid of the assumption” through education, by illustrating simple, no-nonsense, logical arguments and comparisons that prove why “just contributing DNA” to a life form means little to nothing in regards to certain rights in pregnancy-related decisions.
And, in no particular order, here they are. Imagine you have leukemia, and you need a bone marrow transplant. I happen to be a match. So I willingly donate some of my marrow, encoded with my own DNA, to you. Now that I have done this, can I “change my mind” and take it back (if this were possible)? Can I determine what course of treatment you should pursue from here on out, in order to make sure that you are using my donated genetic material to the best of its ability? Of course not!
Just as I hypothetically donated my marrow to you, in almost all cases of unprotected consensual sex, a man “willing donates” (deposits) sperm inside a woman. (At least the man got an orgasm in exchange for his donation. All I would receive in exchange for my marrow is a really sore injection point.) I have no right to “have a say” in what happens to your body, even though it contains my DNA-encoded bone marrow. And likewise, a man has no right to determine what happens to a pregnant woman’s body, even if it contains some of his DNA. See how that works? Cool, huh? You gotta love logic.
Once you willingly give something to someone, you cannot determine what he or she does with it. That is how gifts work. (If the sperm is stolen, then that is a different story.) I mean, it is not as if the sperm men squirt inside women are “on loan,” or that men give sperm to women with the intention that they only “borrow them.”
Actually, it is perhaps more accurate to describe sex as a “willing exchange.” The man exchanges his sperm for an orgasm. (And if a woman is really lucky, she gets one too.) So not only is the sperm willingly donated, it can even be viewed as “bought and paid for” with a “non-return” policy attached….. Especially if the man is the sole recipient of an orgasm. (Haha. Wait- that’s not funny.)
Another simple example to hammer home the point would be if I donated one of my kidneys to you. Giving you a kidney, either out of the goodness of my heart, or because I don’t want you to die (the reason hardly matters), means that something that is 100% “mine” (comprised solely of my DNA) is now inside your body. And yet, I still have no right to determine what you do with “my” kidney. Although, calling it mine is inaccurate. After all, if I gave you a sweater for Christmas, I could hardly call that sweater mine after I gave it to you. (Again, that’s how gifts work.) I cannot force you to treat the kidney well, nor can I “take you to court” or mandate in any other way that you “treat my donation with the respect that it deserves.” It’s yours now. You may pickle it in alcohol if you wish. (But you probably shouldn’t, if you want to keep it.) The Supreme Court would claim that the kidney is yours because it is inside your body, just as they have claimed that men cannot compel or force women to comply with their wishes in regards to fetuses, because fetuses reside in women’s bodies. So even if an object is comprised of half or all of the donor’s DNA, the donor has “no say” in what happens to the object, either due to its “location,” or because it was willingly given.
And yes, as weird as it sounds, willingly discarding sperm inside women is the same as a gift. Relinquishing ownership of an object in any way negates any rights you have to the object. If you wish to retain ownership of an object, it is essentially and logically necessary that you keep the object within your possession. This can be attained by keeping your owned objects within your own property limits. So in other words, sperm only belongs to men when it is inside their bodies. Just like the fact that your furniture only belongs to you when it is inside a house you own or pay rent for or if it is inside a storage facility that you rent or own. If you abandon the house by defaulting on your rent or mortgage, the bank “owner” or landlord of the house has every right to retain the furniture inside. Once you are evicted, if you do not bring your stuff with you, it no longer belongs to you.
Now, you may be thinking something along the lines of that just because you leave a Tupperware dish at a friend’s house, after bringing her a meal, that does not mean that the Tupperware dish now belongs to your friend. However, in this case, it is clear that the person wants the dish returned, if the person stipulates as much at some point. Dinner parties are often ended with the phrase, “I’ll get this dish back to you as soon as possible.” But this is because only the food was a gift, and not the container, much like a women can perceive sperm as a gift, but not the man himself. (Although some men do consider themselves “God’s gift to women.”) Think of it even more simply by conceiving that in sex, the sperm is the gift, but you must release the penis from its vaginal clutches… at some point. And likewise, since the food in the dinner party example now resides in someone else’s body, it is logically impossible to consider or ask for it back, or to believe that you have any rights to the food at this point. Just imagine if sex operated like this! Before the sex commences, the man tells the woman that once his sperm is deposited into her, he would like to “get it back as soon as possible.” Chances are, sex would not be “in the cards” for such a man.
All of this is supposed to sound ridiculous, because it really is. And after understanding these arguments, it would take a massive, infallibly logical counterargument to be devastating enough to cause someone not to agree with the notion that men have no rights regarding the decisions another person makes regarding her body, regardless of any nudity and penetrative actions shared between them, and any genetic material she may harbor.
Perhaps it can be argued that a kidney or bone marrow does not have the kind of potential that fetuses do. And for this reason, men should have some rights in regards to the fate of a fetus that is “genetically half theirs.” Sweeping aside the truth that the potentiality argument is inherently faulty, for the sake of argument (see “The Abortion Debate: Terms, Definitions, and Arguments”), since kidneys and bone marrow donated for life-saving reasons allow the recipient to continue living as opposed to dying, donated organs also hold great potential, because they allow for the recipient (who is an actual person as opposed to a theoretical one) to continue living and fulfill his or her “potential” as much as any fetus might fill theirs. Retaining a fetus and allowing it to continue to develop may grant life, but donating life-saving organs grants life, too. So if I do not have any rights regarding the continued existence of a person to whom I donated an organ that is “100% mine,” men also therefore do not have any rights regarding the continued existence, or lack thereof, in regards to a fetus or embryo they helped create that is only “50% theirs.”
But, with all that said, and just in case this transition is relevant, personally, I do not believe that men should be forced to be financially responsible for children they did not want to be born to begin with. Since women have the legal option to choose not to be mothers through abortion, men should have the legal option to choose not to be fathers financially, but arguably only if they made their desires to remain fatherless clear before the sex took place. After all, it is empirically evident that the promise to financially support a woman and her child can bear enormous weight on the decision a woman makes to remain pregnant.
I have heard of cases in which “gold-digging” women “go dumpster diving” for sperm. They sleep with wealthy or famous men, and then extract the used condom from the trash, and insert the sperm within it into their bodies. (I know, yuck!) But it has happened. In these cases, the genetic material was not “willingly given.” It was stolen. The man clearly did not want children, because he used a condom, and he was so conscientious about its application, that it actually did its job, thus forcing the woman to retrieve its contents. But even in these cases, in which a legal ruling was necessary, the court has never mandated (nor should it) that the “gold-digging dumpster-diver” should be forced to have an abortion. Remember, doing so, and advocating for the ruling of a forced unwanted abortion, would be unconstitutional. These cases usually lead (and very well should) to the man being legally allowed to “opt out” of child support for the resulting pregnancy.
But still, the ruling of these rare cases is curiously contradictory. If the condom had failed and broken, and the “gold-digging” woman got pregnant because of this, the wealthy man would not be legally allowed to “opt out” of paying child support, because the court would probably stipulate that he knew condoms were not 100% effective, and so he risked future child-related financial obligations upon sleeping with a fertile woman.
But didn’t he also risk being financially obligated for any resulting pregnancy even if the condom worked and DIDN’T break? Because as every man knows, and wealthy and famous men know especially well, manipulative women do exist. And if you choose to sleep with one, how surprised can you actually be if she uses thievery and trickery to impregnate herself with a discarded condom? However, knowledge about possible unwanted outcomes does not mean that you must be held responsible for the existence of these unwanted outcomes, nor does it mean that you consented to the outcome upon choosing to engage in the risky action. Once again, imagine if the world operated via belief in the truth of the premise that “Consent to engage in Action A means consent to accept Possible Consequence B?” This would mean that by choosing to drive a car, you consent to a car crash. By choosing to skydive, you consent to falling to your death. And by accepting an invitation to a dinner date, you consent to date rape.
Perhaps because of this line of logical reasoning, even if a condom breaks, the fact that the man chose to use one should be considered as an unspoken indication that he did not want children. And therefore, since women can legally extricate themselves from motherhood via abortion, men should be allowed to financially extricate themselves from fatherhood if they wear a condom…. regardless of whether the condom works, breaks, or if its contents are stollen.
I hope this article’s contents have proved enlightening. And I hope that the selected men who read it are not too offended. Look, it’s not that we women, who want a “hands off policy” in regards to our pregnancies (and decisions about our bodies in general), don’t respect you or think you’re important. Obviously, we think you are important enough to allow for your hands to be on us, which often lead to our pregnancies in the first place. You guys rule the world. Literally. And, for the most part the world over, women are treated like second class citizens. But if we “can’t” control even half of Congress, the Supreme Court, Wall Street, technology, medicine, or the majority of wealth, and if we are prohibited from choosing certain careers due to our sex, or of making more than just 75 cents to the dollar that men make for doing the same jobs, at least let us rule over our own bodies without male interference and complaints about “your DNA” and the integrity of “genetic ownership”… especially when logic dictates we should have that right.
Trust us, we feel just as helpless and sans control when it comes to pregnancy as you do. Pregnancy feels like your body has turned into a funhouse…. except it’s not fun. We even look like the reflected image of a funhouse distortion mirror while pregnant. If we had it our way, men would be the ones who got pregnant, and then they could have the “joy” of making all of the decisions in regards to it. And they could relish in all of their decision-making power while their partners massage their swollen, elephant-sized feet, trying to distribute the retained fluid back up into their legs. And pregnant men would be welcome to revel in their important roles as givers of life between reflexive gags into the toilet and painful bouts of hemorrhoids, UTIs, migraines, decongestion, exhaustion, nausea, heartburn, back pain, anal fissures (yes, anal -freaking- fissures), aching and swollen joints, constipation, “false labor,” and waiting for the searing pain of their episiotomy or C-section incisions to heal as they pass the time by poking their protruding spleens back into place after birth. (Yes, many women endure the joy of palpating their spleens back into their rightful homes after birth. So much fun.) That would be a fair trade in my book.
Then, if their world was truly fair, and a woman could trade pregnancy for a “man’s role,” it would just be a matter of finding someone she trusts who would honor her wishes regarding children. But wait. Isn’t that exactly what men who value their perceived right to “have a say” should be doing before they have sex? Wouldn’t possessing the right to weigh in on the decision making process be preserved if all men simply had sex with women who truly valued their opinions? But hey, it’s not like I’m advocating for exclusively reserving sex for your “soul mate.” I’m not that romantically idealistic or naive. However, let’s be realistic for a moment. If you don’t wish to wait for “kismet,” and instead decide to have sex with any woman who consents to the idea, then you lose your right to complain about your “appalling” lack of rights in regards to pregnancy-related decisions. And the plain truth is, you don’t really have any rights in this regard with your soul mate, either. But chances are, your soul mate will recognize your privilege to espouse your views, and she’ll probably respect them too, because she trusts and loves you. So this would render any rights you theoretically believe you should have as unnecessary to advocate for. You simply wouldn’t have to put up a fight about them, and you wouldn’t have to realize that “you’ve logically lost the battle before you’ve begun.”
In the meantime however, it’s curious that men only seem to care about the fate of their genetic material when women “do something cool with it,” but not when they let it loose several times a week and then callously discard it into a sock that gets shoved to the bottom of the hamper. It reminds me of toddler-aged children who don’t want to play with an old, forgotten toy until they see another kid having fun with it. Then, all of a sudden, the toy has value. If sperm were so important, they wouldn’t be so carelessly, happily, and frequently discarded. This brings to mind the image of a man who throws away a block of wood. If an artist digs through the dumpster to find it, then includes it as a part of a sculpture that sells for a million dollars, the man who threw it away isn’t entitled to half of the sale, despite the fact that part of the sculpture “used to be his.”
If one desires rights, entitlements, inclusion, or to “have a say,” then one should take great care before one gives away one’s things, because they might become precious later….. But by then, it’s too late. You can’t get them back. If men think they’re entitled to determine what happens to their sperm, I suggest they hoard it. Either genetic material is precious or it’s not. But as explained above, “location” doesn’t seem to matter. So interest in one’s genetic reproductive cells should be the same, regardless of whether those cells reside in a crumpled tissue in the garbage can or inside a woman’s reproductive cell. If rights are not dependent upon location, then value shouldn’t be either. After all, the Mona Lisa is just as priceless hanging on a wall in The Louvre as it is covered by a sheet in a dusty rural attic.
If something remarkably special occurs to a spermatozoa the moment it penetrates an egg, something so phenomenal that all laws of logic can be ignored and all contradictory perceptions and ethical beliefs are inconsequential, then one has to wonder why embryos are only viewed as having such power when inside a uterus. The same men who fight and profess arguments in favor of their rights regarding the fate of their own willingly discarded genetic material curiously do not advocate for the “liberation” of the thousands of discarded, payment-lapsed, expired, or forgotten embryos that sit unused in IVF clinics, waiting to be discarded, even though they have the “potential to become persons” just as much as embryos conceived the “old fashioned way” do. Their only distinguishable characteristic is their “location” after all.
But perhaps it isn’t a question of the sublime, yet humble, majesty of the sacred embryo and its awe-inspiring power to turn men into sperm-possessive, self-perceived victims of rights-violations. Perhaps this debate has more to do with how uncomfortable men can feel when women exclude them from a decision that only came to be as a result of their participation and contribution. Maybe it’s akin the way athletes feel when they take the football and run 90 yards downfield with it. But then in the next play, the coach calls for a short pass to another player who then gets a touchdown to win the game. People don’t often remember the play that led up to the win or who contributed to the win. They remember the touchdown that won the game. And maybe when it comes to the “final decision,” or who has “final say” in pregnancy decisions, much like the final play, men just don’t want to be forgotten in the face of their essential contribution. The difference of course is that, contribution-wise, men don’t contribute to pregnancy anywhere close to what is described in the football example. Releasing sperm into a woman takes three seconds… maybe less. After that, the man’s contribution to pregnancy is over. The sperm does some more work, but not too much more. (Plus, giving credit to sperm is silly.) And then the woman, if she carries the fetus to term, contributes 23,328,000 seconds of work. (If she obtains a standard abortion at eight weeks into gestation, she puts in approximately 5,814,000 seconds worth of “work.” And perhaps that should be the bottom line. Since 23,328,000 divided by 3 is 7,776,000, a woman’s preferences regarding whether or not she wishes to remain pregnant should be worth 7,776,000 times more than a man’s, because she must put in up to 7,776,000 times more work than him if she carries the fetus to term. It’s hard to argue with math….. or logic. But then, logic, after all, is merely a different kind of math.
** Intriguingly and yet frustratingly enough, the location of the fetus during development is aught- it simply “does not matter” to the young men (and even some women)who were (or still are) unwilling to let go of this “perceived male power” and the fervent belief of men’s God-given possession of rights, even though the human male’s conscious physical contribution to any hypothetical or actual pregnancy reaches its completion and finality the moment they release their sperm…. which takes only a few measly seconds. Perhaps this view is more telling of the mindset of some human males and offers a humorously simple way to distinguish the difference between men who possess an over-inflated sense of self-importance from those who are humble, gracious, and respectful of female rights, autonomy, and the arduous endeavor women must undergo during pregnancy. In other words, ladies, if you wish to tell the difference between a slightly to majorly self-centered, and perhaps sexist, man and one who reveres the sacred dominion all humans (including women) possess over their own bodies, the appropriate question to ask may very well be, “What rights do male contributors to pregnancy have, if any?” However, a response that consists of more than the succinct answer of “none,” doesn’t necessarily belie a narcissistic chauvinist. Other answers could stem from a lack of deep contemplation, an automatic dogmatic retort (either religiously or culturally motivated), or even just plain ignorance. After all, men who were raised in a male-dominated culture in which women are perceived as property, or even men who cling on to a romantic, utopian version of pregnancy in which the women undoubtedly carefully and lovingly factor in their lover’s wishes before making any drastic pregnancy-related decision, may see nothing wrong with believing that men’s rights are strictly on par with, or even supersede, their pregnant sexual partner’s desires. And these men are not monstrous… just a tad blind, unworldly, or logically stunted.
The fact of the matter is that for those who have all of the power and “rule the world” (read: men), it may be very difficult to be willing to let go of even a little of it. Psychologically speaking, it seems as if it is paradigm-shifting and world-shattering to some men, to even ask or suggest that men the world over should relinquish control in one area of life in favor of fairness and equality, or even when logic rationally dictates and demands it. This leads me to metaphorically wonder whether or not, in a relationship in which the husband habitually drives the family car, if he feels the same motivation to instinctually clutch on tight to his pre-established role if his wife suddenly dares to ask if she may shift from the passenger seat over to the driver’s side for a grocery trip. Probably not. After all, constantly driving may be more of a habit in this sense than a perceived right.
Still, I think it is pertinent to point out that when my male students read articles that attempt to correct the behavior of only a few described “ethically misbehaved,” or immoral men, or articles that purport to demonstrate that men do not have rights over women’s bodies as much as they think or hope they do, the responses I receive are often filled with animosity and tender frustration, as well as the odd announcement that they are simply sick of reading about “more feminist rhetoric.” And even despite the fact that the only controversial issues in the curriculum that deal with female inequality are sexism and abortion, which become subsequently lost in a sea of controversial issues like euthanasia, capital punishment, charity giving, pornography, gay rights, animal rights, etc., the memory of this misperception that “men are being scolded for being men,” stays with them, and causes them to truly believe and emotionally convey that “everything they are taught was feministic.” In other words, men seem to be particularly defensive and sensitive to the presence of male-driven sexism and immoral behavior towards women far more than Caucasians are defensive about their ancestors treatment of non-white people or even native Germans are about the mid-century treatment of the Jews. I wonder if this focused, but mistaken, generalization that perceives the description of male-driven contemporary sexist actions and policies as indicative of all male behavior is born out of guilt, shame, or if it is simply an attempt to project massive disapproval and discontent in the hopes that their own preferences will be heard….. Sort of like a child who dislikes green vegetables whining to his mother in order to convey his point, “Uhg! But we ALWAYS eat vegetables for dinner!” even though the night before, he ate pizza. Or perhaps it is more difficult for members of an “offending group” to learn about the present misbehavior of certain members of their group towards a subjugated sect as opposed to learning about prior atrocities committed by members of their sex, race, or religion that are now designated to the pages of history and the whims of archaic reflection. After all, time heals all wounds. Oddly enough though, no amount of disclaimers protects overly-sensitive men. Even if a reading assignment emphatically states, “The actions described below are not indicative of all male behavior,” that doesn’t seem to be enough. For some students, and readers continuing their education, it is far better to simply not discuss modern sexism as that action too is perceived as sexist and a prejudiced generalization of all men.
However, as long as assigned articles pertain to controversial issues that make no claims, or have any qualms, about men forfeiting a bit of freedom in order to preserve equality, the reading assignments of my passed teaching experiences were not met with with nearly as much hostility, even if it had a strong “female empowerment-resembling” sort of theme. So it perhaps isn’t the “vegetables” my male students dislike; it is just the way the vegetables are “served.” In other words, when requiring students to read articles and texts about sexism or female equality, one should take care that they only advocate for the fair treatment of women, but that they do not disparage the immoral behavior of a select few men in any way… as if this is possible. For some reason, a significant amount of men, male college students in particular, are unable to avoid feeling insulted, even if the qualities of the particular men discussed does not represent or describe the insulted men personally. But I suppose I am familiar with this feeling, since every time Sarah Palin opens her mouth, I am ashamed to be a woman.
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