Should Men Be Forced to Pay For Children They Didn’t Want?

I’m a man who helps women understand men. Not all men. Not in every situation. But, in general, if you want to hear how honest, loyal, sensitive, successful, confident, self-aware (and self-aggrandizing) men think, this blog is a pretty good place to start.

Which is why I’m excerpting what is sure to be a controversial post that recently ran in the New York Times. It was written by Laurie Shrage, a women’s studies professor in Florida and it’s like she took the words right out of my brain. In short, while no one in the world will defend deadbeat dads who don’t support their kids after a divorce, that’s a completely different scenario than men who are forced to support a child that they never wanted to have. In her opinion – and in mine – the law should reflect this obvious difference.

“If a man accidentally conceives a child with a woman, and does not want to raise the child with her, what are his choices? Surprisingly, he has few options in the United States. He can urge her to seek an abortion, but ultimately that decision is hers to make. Should she decide to continue the pregnancy and raise the child, and should she or our government attempt to establish him as the legal father, he can be stuck with years of child support payments.”

I’ve been around long enough to know that many women have the reflexive answer that if she accidentally got pregnant, he should be on the hook for it. But that doesn’t quite hold up logically. He can’t have a say over the birth of the fetus (because it’s her body), but she can have a say about whether he supports the accidentally conceived child for the next 18 years?

“The political philosopher Elizabeth Brake has argued that our policies should give men who accidentally impregnate a woman more options, and that feminists should oppose policies that make fatherhood compulsory. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Applied Philosophy she wrote, “if women’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a fetus, then men’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a resulting child.” At most, according to Brake, men should be responsible for helping with the medical expenses and other costs of a pregnancy for which they are partly responsible.”

Continues the author, “Feminists have long held that women should not be penalized for being sexually active by taking away their options when an accidental pregnancy occurs. Do our policies now aim to punish and shame men for their sexual promiscuity? Many of my male students (in Miami where I teach), who come from low-income immigrant communities, believe that our punitive paternity policies are aimed at controlling their sexual behavior. Moreover, the asymmetrical options that men and women now have when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy set up power imbalances in their sexual relationships that my male students find hugely unfair to them. Rather than punish men (or women) for their apparent reproductive irresponsibility by coercing legal paternity (or maternity), the government has other options, such as mandatory sex education, family planning counseling, or community service.”

Is any of this ideal? Of course not. But it’s reality. No matter what we legislate, men and women are going to get drunk, hook up, forget to wear a condom, and have to deal with the consequences of unplanned pregnancies. The question is: what’s fair? Shrage seems to suggest that the current laws are anything but.

“However, just as court-ordered child support does not make sense when a woman goes to a sperm bank and obtains sperm from a donor who has not agreed to father the resulting child, it does not make sense when a woman is impregnated (accidentally or possibly by her choice) from sex with a partner who has not agreed to father a child with her. In consenting to sex, neither a man nor a woman gives consent to become a parent, just as in consenting to any activity, one does not consent to yield to all the accidental outcomes that might flow from that activity.”

As the author proves, one can be a feminist, demand equal rights, and still believe that a system that penalizes men so harshly for an innocent mistake is unjust. While you are entitled to disagree with me, please understand that my whole business is about learning to put yourself in men’s shoes and find a measure of sympathy and understanding for them. By insisting that a man pay hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime for a one-night stand and a broken condom, you are not indicating that you’re considering his plight at all.

Concludes Shrage, “Policies that punish men for accidental pregnancies also punish those children who must manage a lifelong relationship with an absent but legal father. These “fathers” are not “dead-beat dads” failing to live up to responsibilities they once took on — they are men who never voluntarily took on the responsibilities of fatherhood with respect to a particular child.”

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Comments:

  1. 381
    RustyLH

    I often see women toss around the word, “entitled,” when referring to men.

    Men think they are entitled to sex.
    Men think they are entitled to a woman’s body.
    Men think they are entitled to a woman’s labor.
    Men think they are entitled to younger women.
    Men think they are entitled to respect.
    Men think they are entitled to etc…

    I have lived in several States, and another country.  I like talking about these issues, so I have talked to many many men.  I have literally never met a single man who felt he was entitled to anything of the sort.  They feel entitled to money they have labored for.  That’s really as far as the entitlement mentality for men goes, in my experience.

    Now however, if you substitute the word WANT in there, then yes, men want things.  That’s human nature.

    On the other hand, we can see right here in the comments, that women feel entitled to all or most of the rights, but few if any of the responsibilities.  These same would would be screaming things like PATRIARCHY, if the law were holding them accountable for the choices a man made.

    Imagine this…imagine if a married couple agreed to have an open marriage, with no restrictions at all.  They BOTH agreed to this because both will get pleasure from this choice.  But the man decides to have unprotected sex, and gets a woman pregnant.  Imagine if the woman was the primary bread winner in the relationship, and the woman he had a child with now comes after both of you for child support, and since you the woman, are the primary bread winner, you, not your husband, is primarilly responsible for the child support.  You both agreed to this lifestyle that led to a child being born.   Never mind that the man could have made other choices along the way that could have prevented a pregnany, and the other woman could have chosen to make choices to keep a child from being born.   Nope, you and your husband are legally tied together, and financially tied together, and you both made the choice that end in somebody getting pregnant.   Oh, we both know that there would be howls from feminists claiming that it is wrong to punish the woman for the man’s choices.  They would rightly complain that HE, and the other woman, had the power to prevent the pregnancy, and thus his wife should not be responsible.  I would agree with them.

    How many here are aware how laws work in traffic accidents?  Are you aware that YOU can be found guilty for a crash, when in fact YOU did nothing wrong, while the other person was technically responsible for the accident?  Real easy to explain.   Somebody turns into your lane and stops.  Maybe some law was technically violated in the process.  You see this, and realize a crash is coming, but you do absolutely nothing to stop it.  You plow into the other car, even though you had plenty of time to stop, or pull into another lane.   YOU will be found guilty.  Why?  Because YOU had the last, best chance, to prevent the accident.   Two people’s choices may have contributed to the accident, but the one who has the last best chance to prevent it, but does not, will be found guilty, and responsible for the accident happening.

     

  2. 382
    Jenna

    My husband had a neighbor girl that became obsessed with him, because her roommate was dating his roommate and she thought they should be together. One night she came to his apartment and kept feeding him alcohol to the point that she convinced him to have sex with her and to not wear protection because she couldn’t get pregnant. Then when he tried to pull out, she pulled him back in and became pregnant. She tried to convince all of his family to be in the child’s life, his Mom hates him so she thought that was a great idea. She also to threw a giant party and invited all his friends to let them know they were having a child and were so happy… He wasn’t… And they had never dated. She went to his boss and had his boss try to convince him to marry her, her..  he let him know he wanted nothing to do with the baby. He asked her to abort it and he would pay for it, she said no, he told her to put it up for adoption, she said no. She told him that he should move in with her and that her parents were rich and woukd pay for everything, he told her no… He wanted nothing to do with her. She told him that she wouldn’t come after him and she was going to raise the baby on her own. Then my husband and i started dating and I found out about this a couple of months into our relationship. He wasn’t even sure if the kid was his and he had found out that she done this to another guy before him, but he lucked out because she lost that baby.  Weeks after my husband and i got married, she came after him for child support. We have now had to pay for this kid for over 13 year. This chick… Jackie just had her third child with a third different man. They take all of our taxes and when my husband was out of work, they took his unemployment… Leaving my children with nothing. She even stole his social security number and ran his credit four times trying to find him. It’s just disgusting that a person can get away with this crap.

  3. 383
    Sharon

    Accidental father? I don’t want this child? She purposely got pregnant? Let’s all remember that whenever two people of the opposite sex get together and have sex — a pregnancy could result. That is a risk everyone who has sex is facing. We can come up with all types of arguments, and try to justify, but having sex can result in pregnancy. There’s no man or woman who can say, “Well I didn’t know that this could happen!” So let’s keep hearing of reasons and justifications.

  4. 384
    Susan

    Did the man take reasonable precautions? If he used a condom he might have some defence but a lot of men these days don’t want to. They leave birth control entirely up the woman and demand it’s not something that interferes with their pleasure and sensation like the pill, which might not work for everyone or have side effects. If the man knew he was not himself taking precautions to prevent a pregnancy then no, he should pay, without question. Wrap it up or the choice is out of your hands. If some men take that as sexist, let it be then. The world isn’t fair. Stop being so money grubbing and selfish or be responsible before you create a life. Reduced sensation during sex is a small price to pay if you don’t want to financially support a child for years.

    1. 384.1
      Maxwell Alexander Lauer

      Your logical is absolutely ridiculous. Is a woman not in power to decide whether she has sex with a man unprotected? Either she didn’t allow it and was raped or allowed it which means she agrees to the potential risks and thus is is just as much at fault as the man.

  5. 385
    Greg

    There shouldn’t be any third party involved such as a court if they weren’t a part of the relationship from the start. In a divorce, I can see holding a man to a certain standard if he made children under the umbrella of a marriage. Outside of that, if a woman has the right to say my body my choice when it comes to an unintended pregnancy then a man should be able to have the ability to opt out since the ramifications over the course of the next eighteen years will have a significant impact on his body and mind due to a choice that is not his.

  6. 386
    Jenna

    I’m a feminist but I think an old skool one, I disgree with entrapping unwilling men by getting pregnant or if a pregnancy results from a hook up. I met the man of my dreams late in life, when he was a young man he was “set up” on a date, had a one night stand with a seemingly OK young woman on welfare with a baby rejected by its father. So, surprise surprise, she gets pregnant and my guy doesn’t want to be a parent with her, asks her to terminate, she won’t, he showed up foe the birth and was hooked by the little gaffer (who grew up to have mental problems big time) anyway, he stayed on as father to both kids, gave up his whole life, had 2 more with her that she refused to terminate, and what a train wreck. They were absolutely miserable, she refused to work although promised she would and is one of those entitled people, a sociopath too, but I won’t go into detail, it has given all the kids mental issues, one with quite serious problems.. sad… my guy is just beginning to heal now with my love and his freedom from this woman. The adult kids will hopefully get the help they need. Why did he stay? It’s hard to understand. I feel he should not have stayed in the first place, just given her some money for the one kid and co-parented the on kid from a distance. Then he could have gone on to be a parent with someone he truly loved and who loved him in return. I don’t get people sometimes, not everyone thinks about consequences. I myself never had kids by choice as the earth is already over populated, so it turned out that I cared of other children and was a loving step mom for 8 years to 2 wonderful girls that were 6 & 8 when I came to their lives. I still keep in touch with them, now they are in their 30’s. Life is strange and wonderful, make good choices as much as possible. I’ve made my share of not so good choices and train wrecks too, luckily no kids were involved. My one biggest take aways as I am hitting 60 years on the planet- Learn what a sociopath is and steer waaaay clear. Thanks for your giving people a chance to share and for writing about men’s perspective in a forthright way.

  7. 387
    Catherine

    Just… wow. I know a man who cheated on his girlfriend and had a one night stand with an old flame without using any protection. He never does. Even when women ask him to pull out or otherwise practice safe sex he refuses. (Which is technically sexual assault, but that’s a whole other issue.) Of course she got pregnant, wanted to keep the baby, and he bitches about having to pay child support. Are you telling me he shouldn’t be required to pay? Lol. Plz. Ejaculating inside a woman without using protection is not an “accidental” pregnancy. That’s how reproduction works. Be responsible for your actions and deal with the consequences.

    1. 387.1
      Maxwell Alexander Lauer

      If he had sex with them despite them saying that they didn’t want to have sex without protection then yeah that would be rape. But anything beyond that is the fault of both parties. Simply ejaculating in someone isn’t enough to force responsibility.

  8. 388
    Teclis

    This article needs to definitely be embodied in our laws. It doesn’t matter the circumstances consenting to sexual intercourse is NOT consenting to have a child. The child does NOT have the right to be supported by someone who did not consent to have the child.

    Even after the child is born the women can still put the child up for adoption and not be responsible for it. In developed countries there is no shortage of socially orthodox families desperate to adopt infants and toddlers and assume the full financial and ethical responsibility of parenthood (in fact infants can be legally abandon at hospitals in a lot of developed countries). In almost all cases of unplanned pregnancy when the women is single it would be demonstratively in the infants best interests to be adopted by one of the previously mentioned families so in these cases it is simply the female doing what she wants and not what is in the best interest of the child so any philosophical argument for child support can not be made.

    If the male does not consent to be the father when the child his born then its not his child and the law should not make him responsible for it. Until the law reflects this article there is no gender equality as  the female has the option to terminate the pregnancy before birth or put the child up for adoption after birth.

    Under the current laws pertaining to child support a male would have to be insane to have anything to do with a female.

  9. 389
    Susan

    Yes simply having sex with a woman is enough to force responsibility.  If she’s just as responsible as he is, he is responsible for 1/2 of that child.  Just because he doesn’t have a womb doesn’t mean he doesn’t have responsibility for the child.  The woman shouldn’t need to ask him to wear a condom.  If he doesn’t want to create a child he should refuse sex without one.  Yes this means men will have diminished pleasure during intercourse.  Too bad.  It’s not all about men.  Stop being so selfish.

  10. 390
    Susan

    The money is for the child, not the mother.  If you don’t want a child think of a child as a drunk driving accident you caused.  You didn’t sign a contract to go to prison when you decided to drink before driving, but your actions caused that, so you have to pay the price.  Part of being an adult is having to face consequences that are unpleasant.  If you don’t use a condom and don’t want a child, just begrudgingly hand over some of your pay every month and be resentful then.  The child didn’t ask to be born, and as soon as your sperm hits an egg the decision is out of your hands.  Accept that in life there are times you are powerless.  The world isn’t going to change for you.

    1. 390.1
      Aroarrrrrrra!

      Very mature and inarguable response.  Anyone who attempts to challenge this is a complete utter moron.

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