This week’s warblings


Just a quick fly-by to keep you interested amid solemn memorial of how the Easter Bunny died to bring us chocolate…. Your thoughts and feedback would be welcomed as ever.

On the Guardian this week I was writing about men and fertility.

It is well established that roughly equal numbers of men and women have fertility problems, and yet in the US there are five doctors specialising in female infertility for every one specialising in men. At a societal and cultural level, we have always considered reproduction and fertility to be women’s business, and infertility to be women’s problem. This is reflected in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. While IVF is notoriously expensive, unreliable and exceptionally invasive for women, alternative drug treatments are again almost exclusively offered to the female partner, if at all.

One shocking example of why this might be is explained by Barnes. In the 1960s, the drug clomifene citrate was developed and licensed to boost ovulation in women. When it became clear that the drug might also be effective in treating some forms of male infertility, researchers applied to conduct clinical trials. The drug company, unconvinced there was any market for male fertility treatments, refused. Now the drug is out of patent and there is no profit to be made in developing the treatment. Fifty years on, clomifene citrate remains unlicensed by the US Food and Drug Administration for use with male fertility and unauthorised by Nice for men in the UK.

I find it interesting and quite depressing how hostile the typical male internet commenter is to concerns about male fertility, as witnessed in the comments. There’s a failure to acknowledge that this is a really common (and neglected) men’s health issue which causes enormous amount of stress, unhappiness and relationship difficulties to many men (and women, of course) and yet the default reaction is “ugh, babies, families, horrible things that get in the way of my video games.”

It is also interesting, I think, that people who every other day are wailing about how the local or global population is being taken over by Chinese/ Pakistanis / Muslims / Africans suddenly start declaring that a collapsing birth rate in the Western world is no problem, because the rest of the world is breeding enough to make up for us.

Also this week, I wrote a thing for IB Times about men, boys and sex work,  including stuff about abuse and trafficking, off the back of the Student Sex Work Project’s findings that more male than female students have worked in the industry.

It may well be that you are now thinking it crass to focus on the gender of abused children, as if one gender mattered more. I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, too often this is exactly what happens.

As ECPAT noted in a recent report, the United Nations 2001 protocol on sex trafficking specified that there were particular focus on “women and children” and that in practice, international initiatives with ‘children’ almost invariably means ‘girls.’ To quote ECPAT: “many of the programmes initiated since 2001 that focus on adolescents trafficked for sexual purposes have assumed that the focus should be on girls.

“It seems that not enough effort has been made to collect data about boys who receive money for commercial sex after moving away from home to establish whether they have been trafficked or what measures would help protect them.”

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Comments

  1. says

    I never knew that as many men as women suffered from fertility problems; thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have heard, though, a lot of boo-hooing from the sorts of commenters you describe about “chemicals” and “estrogen in the water.” I’d imagine a lot of the people complaining about the “3rd world” outbreeding us might agree that male fertility is declining…due to evil schemes from the Illuminati or the feminists or whoever’s putting weird stuff in the water. 😛

  2. Marduk says

    I think you’ve stumbled onto a strange issue in male fertility. It isn’t taken at all seriously in terms of medicine, environmental protection (agree about the paranoid fringe Gunlord but there is something to this) or even (god help me) men’s rights (small ‘m’).

    Something very indicative of this is how contraception is viewed. When there was the possibility of male pill mooted, the Guardian covered it over about 18 months through six articles, all written by women and all in a rather jokey way about whether they would trust men to take it (they thought not). Half the articles were written by lesbians for whom this is presumably not a primary issue although this should be no bar to contributing journalism of course. The idea men might want to control their own fertility wasn’t considered worthy of a piece. I found this particularly irritating because the women writing the articles also decided that there was no point introducing it because no men would take it, mostly as they simply couldn’t imagine a reason why.

    Curiously some of the same authors are aware of and have written about paranoid MRAish bad advice about pouring bleach into used condoms in case evil women steal your seed for paternity payments but I guess the idea is that a “normal man” doesn’t care. You will also see in any stories about IVF, or even Agony Columns (Why won’t he get me pregnant), there is often a weird kind of ‘right to sperm’ vibe at work which is again out of place in an era where we are all aware that people don’t have rights or entitlements as regards other people’s bodies. There is something complicated going on here about how women’s control of their own bodies, fertility and abortion is conceptualised. The bigger issue is of course the right not to have children you don’t want to have but this seems to have leached into a right to have children regardless of what a dude thinks in the minds of many.

    Its a funny one though because all that said, men aren’t really that bothered in the end because mostly it doesn’t really hurt men, it mostly hurts women as they wind up being made responsible for it and poked, probed and given drugs in practice. This is a peculiar inversion of a common feminist argument; if feminists were more concerned with men’s rights in this area, they’d help themselves in the end.

  3. Marduk says

    Here we go:

    “The bigger issue behind the development of a contraceptive pill for men is that women risk losing control of conception.”
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2006/apr/28/malepillwomensloss
    Internalised patriarchy?

    This is interesting, I can’t find the debate article, it was 2004-5, multi-contributor thing, Bidisha et al.
    A later Graun piece attacks the Daily Mail for having just such a debate in its pages… very odd!

    I should slightly correct what I said above, more recent coverage has been a little more gender balanced and positive although Daisy Buchanan wrote an odd article on the premise the male pill is hormonal (it isn’t). It seems the editorial line changed a few years ago. But in the mid-2000s the first time it came up, my comments above are correct, I didn’t notice there had been a second wave a couple of years back.

  4. Ally Fogg says

    I remember Cath Elliott writing a particularly snide one on those lines.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/may/08/male-contraceptive-pill-jab

    Its a funny one though because all that said, men aren’t really that bothered in the end because mostly it doesn’t really hurt men, it mostly hurts women as they wind up being made responsible for it and poked, probed and given drugs in practice. This is a peculiar inversion of a common feminist argument; if feminists were more concerned with men’s rights in this area, they’d help themselves in the end.

    broadly agree with this

  5. Marduk says

    That was mean spirited, I remember being disappointed with her at the time. Its a type of feminist writing (i.e., writing talking about what men think and want on their behalf without consulting any) that I never liked and I optimistically believe is slowly being phased out. The premise was always that it was OK because there isn’t a single man in the world who would be prpeared to comment themselves because men don’t “do” gender issues, babies, fertility or whatever it is. That would look even odder now than it did five years ago. Still happens but waning now, probably because we live in a more connected age and if MRAs have done anything good, they’ve shown that men have thoughts on things other than football even if I don’t like their actual thinking!

  6. proudmra says

    To be fair, I have as much concerns about male fertility issues as I do for female fertility issues–i.e., not much. The fact that there’s any substantial fertility-medicine industry at all is disappointing to me. Last time I checked, there were still unwanted kids in orphanages, and serious medical problems were threatening to END already existing lives. To me, those seem to warrant a much higher priority.

  7. maudell says

    I am quite puzzled by feminists against male contraceptives. I used to think it was a straw feminist argument made up by anti-feminists, but obviously I was wrong. One would think that changing the idea that women are necessarily the ones in charge of baby and homemaking stuff is kind of a feminist issue (ditto for male fertility).

  8. AJ says

    Fertility may be a specific area where there is a bias focusing on women and not supporting men but this is against the background of a society in which womens issues and problems are emphasised and support provided, while mens issues are downplayed and men are not supported. Trafficing is a classic example of this but there are many where all the evidence shows there is a serious bias against men and in favour of women yet government action favours women and yet the media and publicity give the impression that there is a gender bias against women in direct contradiction to the evidence.

    Some exampels are:
    Violence – men are much more subject to violence than women yet men and even more shockingly boys are excluded from gender specific action to address it – VAWG campaigns.
    Criminal justice – Whatever the exact numbers, and Ally has an article criticisng a ballpark calculation, there is a huge disparity in the sentences served by men compared to women convicted of the same crime and there is explicit pro-women statements in teh sentancing guidelines yet the only public debate on gender and sentancing is to suggestthe treatment fo women is too harsh and unfair!
    Education – constant discussion of the problem of women and STEM subjects yet very limitetd discussion abou the huge disparity between boys and girls educational attainment, the strong evidence of anti-boy gender bias in teacher’s assesments and a huge number of programs to assist girls academic achievement and next to none for boys.
    War – perhaps this is a subset of violence but media the focuses almost exclusively on female casualties to teh extent that gender is only mentioned if the casualties are female and statemenst that women and children are the biggest victims of war are directly contradcted by the evidence that male civilians are killed in much larger numbers and this is despite the widespread practice of counting any adult male as a ‘combatant’.

    The fact is that our culture is hugely misandric. The examples that Ally gives are just a small piece of this no-one complains very much that men die younger than women but more is spent on womens health than men’s. The cultural assumptions that men’s lifes are worth less than womens are so strong we do not notice the almost ubiquitous bias against men. If any suggestion of anti-male bias or discromination is raised then a charge of misogyny is made. Feminisim is a very diverse and inhomogeneous movement but femisinism in general actively promotes discromination against men by disputing, downplaying and denying male disadvantage and promoting female victimhood and male demonisation. It is commonplace to see denials that it is possible to be discriminated against or disadvantaged as a white male for example.

    I only woke up to this after reading an article in the New Statesman commenting on the latest life expectancy figures. Male and female life expectancy had gone up for men and women but for men slightly more than women which had therefore narrowed the gap slightly. The headline and body of the article was that this was that the health service had failed women becaus ethe gap had narrowed. I wrote a mild comment that the interpretation of the statistics was strange and that it shoudl be seen as a scucess that both life expectancies had increased but the disadvantaged (male) group had improved more to close the gap. What followed were comments accusing me of Misogyny. It was the comments attacking me that opened my eyes. The article was saying that the goal of a health service should be to ensure that women lived longer than men and I was being attacked for saying that a goal of equally (long) life expectancy was desireable. I was actually quite shaken for a period of weeks by the this. It was a mainstream opinion that my life is worth less than a womens. It opened my eyes and I soon realised that men are disadvantaged in many very significant ways but any debate about male disadvantage is taboo. I had been, and in a formal sense remain, a life long feminist. I believe in equality, if women or girls are disadvantaged that should be addressed, but if only female disadvantage and never male disadvantage is seen as a problem then that is not equality but sex dscrimination.

    I am generally sceptical about token ministers but I think a minister for men would in the long run make a huge difference. In that role the politician appointed would have to find issues to justify their position and by doing so would publicise and make acceptable to debate male issues and discrimination. Once it is accepted that discrimination and disadvantage can run both ways things will start to improve. The worry at the moment is that discrimination is rapdily getting worse not better.

  9. Lucy says

    Marduk
    “It isn’t taken at all seriously in terms of medicine, environmental protection”

    What makes you say that?
    From personal experience I would strongly disagree.

    —-

    Proudmra
    “The fact that there’s any substantial fertility-medicine industry at all is disappointing to me. Last time I checked, there were still unwanted kids in orphanages, and serious medical problems were threatening to END already existing lives. To me, those seem to warrant a much higher priority.”

    Does it concern you and your adopted mini MRAs that fertility problems ARE serious medical problems that can threaten to end already existing lives? Or are you too busy reading leaflets about hair plugs?

  10. Lucy says

    Maudell

    “I am quite puzzled by feminists against male contraceptives. I used to think it was a straw feminist argument made up by anti-feminists, but obviously I was wrong. One would think that changing the idea that women are necessarily the ones in charge of baby and homemaking stuff is kind of a feminist issue (ditto for male fertility).”

    Let me shed some light on it. Women don’t want to be used as sex toys by men.

    Women don’t want their hips, breasts, vaginas to be divorced from their procreative purpose and turned into purely sexual accessories – fun in bed, amusing out of bed. Not permanently at least.

    Nor do they want to be in sexual relationships where men hold the whip hand and string women along stealing their ten year fertile window and squandering it.

    Nor do they want all the disbenefits of having a female body, the three weeks out of every four affected by cyclical hormones that strip the calcium from their bones, engulf them in melancholy, predispose them to certain cancers, require a lifetime of medical supervision, expenditure and petty humiliations from others and for it all to come to nought. In the majority of cases.

    I expect men would feel the same if women had control over whether they could ejaculate ever.

  11. Lucy says

    “You will also see in any stories about IVF, or even Agony Columns (Why won’t he get me pregnant), there is often a weird kind of ‘right to sperm’ vibe at work which is again out of place in an era where we are all aware that people don’t have rights or entitlements as regards other people’s bodies. ”

    In nature, after sex, the male doesn’t always hang around long enough to find out if pregnancy has been achieved, his work is done. The female always does. I would suggest this means there is a biologically and psychologically fundamental difference in approach to sex between men and women. Pregnancy is something that is internal to a woman and external to a male.

    And we see that difference in perspective throughout human societies where men are much more likely to abandon offspring than woman are, much more likely to volunteer to donate sperm anonymously than as a named donor (when the law changed in the UK so that children could contact their donor father at age 18, sperm donations fell off a cliff).

    The instinctive climax of sex for men is to ejaculate.
    For (the vast majority of) women it is not orgasm – it is childbirth.

    A sex life with lots of orgasms is satisfying for a man in a way it will not be for most women eventually. Eventually it will become hollow and even a source of resentment.

    That’s not to say that fatherhood isn’t important to a majority/minority? of men, particularly once they actually have children and love them. But it’s not the same as motherhood and its absence isn’t the same.

    By men taking a pill to prevent themselves from being fertile, they are also preventing their female sexual partner from being fertile. That is a profound thing to do, though of course something that also happens in reverse when women take the pill. However, when you factor in the differences in perspectives and prospects for men and women in that situation, you realise that you are not talking about equal and opposite situations. On a purely practical level a man who’s being deprived of parenthood by a partner has many more decades and options to correct it than a woman does. On a physical level, a man will not face health risks that a woman will by never being pregnant. On a social level men are stigmatised less than women are for being childless. On a psychological level, men have lost something extremely important, but not something innate.

    The equivalent would be if women could take a pill to prevent their male partner from ejaculating, not only with themselves but with other women too.

    Of course, even so the only reasonable way forward is for men to control their own fertility the way women can. But don’t be surprised if women feel aggrieved at that, or that the social consequence will be a widening gulf between the sexes as women go the IVF route in greater and greater numbers and regard romantic relationships as non parental ones to be kept at arm’s length emotionally.

    It’s one of those areas like abortion where the unequal distribution of responsibilities by nature means that the most ethically sound approach doesnt lead to equal outcomes.

  12. says

    So:

    * Existence of male contraception will inevitably lead to men using women as sex toys.

    * The existence of male contraception will inevitably lead to women’s hips, breasts and vaginas to be divorced from their procreative purpose and purely into sexual accessories. Apparently in a way that femle contraceptions like the pill doesn’t.

    * A man using male contraception in a sexual relationship is basically a slave owner (holding the whip) and con-man forcing women to squander away their fertile years. Women using the pill apparently are not any of these.

    * And think of all the menses, all for naught due to the men using contraceptions!

    * The use of male contraception apparently is equal to women having control over whether men should ejaculate for ever.

    It actually is pretty sad that I am not at all surprised that these are real arguments against male contraception.

  13. says

    Ally: Liked your article on young male prostitutes although I didn’t like IBT’s choice of the word “gigolo” in the headline and lede as I don’t think the experience of many of those male prostitutes matches the public perception of the word gigolo.

    I also looked at the issue of young and underaged male prostitutes a couple of years back: https://tamenwrote.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/and-boys-too/

    Today a major Norwegian newspaper has a couple of articles about youth prostitution. One was about a 15 year old girl who sold sex. Another one had a title saying that in one large city in Norway there were 40-50 women advertising sex for sale and that the police doesn’t know how many of these are underaged. The police focus is on human traficking and there hasn’t been any cases involving underaged prostitutes. The article note that a survey among 8000 pupils in this city found that 5% of the boys and 1.6% of the girls had sold sex. The article mostly uses the gender neutral “persons” when talking about youth selling sex. Yet some of the police officers interviewed explicitly used the word girls. None mention male underaged prostitutes explicitly and except for the mentioning of the survey one wouldn’t be any wiser about their existence.

  14. Stilljenganger says

    @Lucy 11
    I agree (as you might guess) that there are biological differences. But if a couple has children, that has to be a shared decision, and a shared responsibility. You cannot demand a regime where women decide in sovereign isolation whether to produce children or not – and then men have shared responsibility for bringing them up.

  15. proudmra says

    Tamen @12: Yeah, that’s a whole lotta crazy right there. Sometimes the ravings are so obviously deranged that there’s no point in trying to include them in a rational discussion.

  16. Lucy says

    Stilljenganger

    I’m not demanding any regime. I said that the only tenable ethical position was that men could control their own fertility as women can. I’m just saying that if it happens, it will inevitably lead to an even greater rift between men and women and their perspective on sex. Mark my words.

  17. Lucy says

    Tamen

    “So:”

    So

    “* Existence of male contraception will inevitably lead to men using women as sex toys.”

    Of course.


    “* The existence of male contraception will inevitably lead to women’s hips, breasts and vaginas to be divorced from their procreative purpose and purely into sexual accessories. ”

    Of course.


    “Apparently in a way that femle contraceptions like the pill doesn’t.”

    Yes. Men are not known for wielding their power lightly.

    —-
    “* A man using male contraception in a sexual relationship is basically a slave owner (holding the whip)”

    Well maybe just domineering.


    ” and con-man forcing women to squander away their fertile years. ”

    No, con-man suggests forethought. The squandering is the result of thoughtlessness and self-absorption rather than a plan.


    “Women using the pill apparently are not any of these.”

    A woman using the pill can only prevent a man from having children with HER, not anyone else. He has an extra 4 or 5 decades and much more sexual freedom to find an alternative and men are wired differently so are more inclined to do so. By the time a woman considers having childen with a man she’s in a relationship with, she’s already used up half of her adult fertile years on him and finds it incredibly difficult to extricate herself and then to find an alternative in time.

    —-
    “* And think of all the menses, all for naught due to the men using contraceptions!”

    Yes. I’m not surprised you don’t get it.

    —-
    “* The use of male contraception apparently is equal to women having control over whether men should ejaculate for ever.”

    Yes.


    “It actually is pretty sad that I am not at all surprised that these are real arguments against male contraception.”

    Why?

    And it’s only secretive, easy male contraception. Condoms are fine because they’re usually quite colourful and these days even glow in the dark.

  18. Lucy says

    Proudmra

    “Tamen @12: Yeah, that’s a whole lotta crazy right there. Sometimes the ravings are so obviously deranged that there’s no point in trying to include them in a rational discussion.”

    You see, this (very common) complete lack of empathy is why it will cause untold damage to women.

  19. Lucy says

    “I agree (as you might guess) that there are biological differences. ”

    I don’t think it’s a matter or agreeing or disagreeing – there are biological differences.

    And biochemical ones.

    And psychological ones, if those are different to biochemical ones.

    And spiritual ones, if you’re into that kind of thing.

    And there are environmental differences. By the time a woman has grown to adulthood her experiences will have been fundamentally different to men’s. All of us are are melding of mind, body and environment.


    “But if a couple has children, that has to be a shared decision”

    To make that argument stand you have to believe childlessness is the default position for a couple in a sexual relationship.

    But if instead you believe reproduction is the default position, then it has to be a shared decision for a couple NOT to have children.

    —–
    “and a shared responsibility.”

    It’s not an equal responsibility though. Women carry more of the burden and the father has a responsibility to both supporting the child as well as her while she’s pregnant and weaning it. An unfashionable view now that abandoning pregnant girlfriends and wives is a lifestyle choice and a child maintenance cheque is all that’s required to fulfill ones duty.


    ” You cannot demand a regime where women decide in sovereign isolation whether to produce children or not – and then men have shared responsibility for bringing them up.”

    Well then you cannot demand a regime where men decide in sovereign isolation whether to have children or not either.
    And then expecting women to still let him have a regular go on all her baby making equipment.

    And you’ve got to wonder why women will bother with all the hassle of female puberty in the first place, they’ll need to be compensated.

  20. Lucy says

    Still Gjenganger

    “You cannot demand a regime where women decide in sovereign isolation whether to produce children or not ”

    So let’s pretend that male contraceptive pills don’t and will never exist and the only forms of contraception that do are female ones. Should a man have a right to demand a woman uses them when they have sex or pain of withdrawing his support should a pregnancy result? How about demanding abortion? So much for bodily integrity.

  21. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucy 19

    I don’t think it’s a matter or agreeing or disagreeing – there are biological differences.

    Yes, I put that stupidly. Of course there are biological differences. But a lot of people seem to think they do not matter for the way people behave and live. Whereas I agree with you that they do.

    For the rest, I would say that the default position is that the couple should find a consensus on what they, together, would want to do. Which does give us the rather messy situation of a couple being a democracy with an even number of voters and no tie-breaking mechanism. But I would think (and hope) that most couples manage to settle into something that takes into account the wishes of everybody, be it his wish to have sex, or her wish to have children (or, indeed, vice versa).

  22. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucy 20

    Should a man have a right to demand a woman uses them when they have sex or pain of withdrawing his support should a pregnancy result?

    Short answer: No. But I cannot imagine how that would arise.

    In real life, there are always condoms. If the contraception is the issue, there is always non-vaginal sex. And if you are with a woman who will only have sex for the purpose of making children (and says so openly), you either accept the deal, or leave her – just like a woman being told to ‘use contraception or else’ would either accept or leave. The only time you would get a problem is with a woman who says she is using contraception but deliberately lies about it. In which case she would deserve (morally) to be left dealing with the consequences alone – but you still cannot do it, because the child has a right to support however badly the mother may have behaved.

  23. Lucy says

    “But if a couple has children, that has to be a shared decision. As well as a shared responsibility”

    Which would be all well and good if nature had shared sexual reproduction out equally between the two required halves. But it hasn’t.

    If nature started with two neutral stick figures:

    On figure A one it put a penis, a tendency towards high bossiness, low empathy, a desire to stop what it’s doing for 3 minutes and stick it into any orifice that stays still for the duration. An inclination towards young sexual partners. For 7 decades.

    On figure B it put a breasts, a uterus that sheds its lining painfully every 28 days then regrows it for several weeks, for 2.5 decades. It whacks on a wide pelvis, a weak pelvic floor, a craving for and addiction to oxytocin, physical vulnerability, a tendency towards acquiescence and high empathy, to osteoporosis and a number of other illnesses.

    Then using their natural advantage, stick figure A sets up a social system whereby stick figures may only reproduce legally after age 16, are encouraged to continue in education upto age 21, work full time until age 35, just in time for stick figure A to start looking for a stick figure B that is 13 years younger than him. Just for good measure stick figure B must achieve the remarkable reprodutive feat whilst pretending not to be that into it in case stick figure A goes loco or awol.

    Ultimately stick figure B is going to bypass stick figure B and go to petridish C. Survival of the fittest and all that.

  24. Jacob Schmidt says

    I am quite puzzled by feminists against male contraceptives. I used to think it was a straw feminist argument made up by anti-feminists, but obviously I was wrong. One would think that changing the idea that women are necessarily the ones in charge of baby and homemaking stuff is kind of a feminist issue (ditto for male fertility).

    As far as I can tell, it’s based on the notion that the responsibility for contraception will switch entirely and immediately, and seems to ignore that women’s contraception will still be available.

    I’m with you: I don’t get it.

  25. Lucy says

    Stillgjenganger

    “Short answer: No. But I cannot imagine how that would arise.”

    I can very easily imagine men telling women that a pregnancy is her responsibility if she doesn’t agree to take the pill or have an abortion. I don’t need to imagine it, it’s been said to me on quite a few occasions. A lot of women get coerced into abortions on this basis. A number of people seem to think that the connections between sex and pregnancy and between pregnancy and birth are a matter of active choice. Rather than the active choice being to break those connections.

    —-
    “In real life, there are always condoms. If the contraception is the issue, there is always non-vaginal sex. ”

    There are several interpretations of that sentence. At least one of them, not good.

    —-
    “And if you are with a woman who will only have sex for the purpose of making children (and says so openly), you either accept the deal, or leave her – just like a woman being told to ‘use contraception or else’ would either accept or leave. ”

    Barring a very small minority, most women want to eventually have a child and find childlessness deeply traumatic. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to have recreational sex too in the meantime and afterwards, but it does mean they don’t want that exclusively. So men would have to be leaving an awful lot of women to find one who didn’t feel this way. The chances are they wouldn’t be finding one who didn’t, they would be finding one who’s willing to put up with that to keep him, or thinks she can change his mind, or doesn’t have many options having been through the same thing several times before.

    And once pharmaceutical contraception is in male hands, that will be an awful lot of women having to leave an awful lot of men to find one who’s already up for family life at all, or when she is. Which isn’t how most negotiations in relationships work.

    I can’t speak for men, but leaving people is traumatic for many women. People love the people they have considered having a family with. They May have been together for years before it becomes clear they there is an unbridgeable gulf. And as we know, many simply don’t even when they should – this tends to be a greater problem when people are feeling powerless and depressed.

    The reality will be, just as it is with girls feeling pressured to behave like porn actresses, and women hanging on for years in cohabiting relationships when they actually want commitment, or waiting for men to be ready for a family only for him to decide in his late thirties that he finally is and then finding somebody else to do it with, that there will be a lot of women getting messed about and strung along withheld what little control they have in relationships and in wider life, taken away.


    “The only time you would get a problem is with a woman who says she is using contraception but deliberately lies about it. In which case she would deserve (morally) to be left dealing with the consequences alone – but you still cannot do it, because the child has a right to support however badly the mother may have behaved.”

    That’s one way of looking at it. Another is that nobody has a duty to tell one another whether they’re using contraception or taking medications or has a disease, that it’s up to each individual to protect themselves. Or not having sex in the first place.

    For every responsible couple sharing contraceptive responsibility to achieve family planning, there will be a dozen women banging away hopelessly.

  26. JT says

    @Lucy

    Are there any men in your life that you dont judge in the same way the majority? As in, are all men in your life like the way you describe them here?

  27. Lucy says

    No clearly not all. Decent guys won’t behave that way, not deliberately at least. But even decent guys can be passive and not give too much thought to squandering their girlfriend’s fertile years or to the heartbreak they cause when they bed hop. It will work best for young randy folk and people who are planning their families together.

    But for serial monogamist couples it will become a trap.

    And for MRAs, it will be a revenge fantasy come true, or would be if MRAs had sex.

  28. LouLevov says

    Apologies in advance for going off topic but I was in the process of responding to a response of yours on the Jessica Valenti thread on CIF in which she was trying to exert some damage limitation following the Columbia report into Rolling Stone’s report on the UVA ‘rape’ story. It was a long reply and I didn’t want to just ditch it. You had just said.

    #”That’s not from a culture of disbelief. That’s an investigator doing his or her job properly.”

    My fault for not being clear, but I wasn’t referring to investigators there, I was talking about the rest of us, including commentariat.

    “Next, I wonder whether you regard Ms Valenti as a) a feminist activist b) a journalist or c) both.”

    You’d have to ask her that.

    I’d guess is that she does think of herself as both. And for what my opinions are worth (ie pretty much nothing) the article above doesn’t concern me in any way, but the one in December was, IMO, irresponsible and inappropriate for someone with a journalist’s hat on.#

    And I tried to reply…

    #Oh, fair enough but in virtually every other case which doesn’t attract 9000 words in Rolling Stone, how do we have access to every detail of a victim’s testimony? And even in this one, a fairly unique case, we lacked any details that didn’t later emerge as total fantasy. Obviously, there’s the court case but other than the defence lawyers, nobody gets to pick at anything. The media including the commentariat are precluded from commenting and since the case has come to court, it doesn’t matter what we think as there’s a jury there in our stead.

    Surely, it’s only the investigators and lawyers who are the relevant parties. Nor are the investigators required to accept the truth of all allegations. It’s only required that they make all efforts to establish the truth or otherwise of the victim’s claims without fear or favour. The rest of us don’t actually matter at all. I don’t see why we’re important or why we count in this regard.

    As far as I can see the demand that ‘we’ accept the word of any victim is as a proxy for us acknowledging the reality of the ‘rape culture’ I hear so much about. I refuse to do this. I’m happy to accept that 95%+ of rape accusations genuinely describe coerced sexual activity. I’ll accept that maybe 1 in 15 or 20 women will be raped in their lifetimes. But I will never accept that I should unconditionally accept anybody’s word on anything ever and I regard anyone who makes this commitment to be an irrational and potentially dangerous idiot.

    As for Ms Valenti, I see no grounds to regard her as a journalist. Clearly the notion of fact checking is beyond her. Furthermore, to write in an informed manner on these topics would require a degree of expertise in statistical analysis and probability which she, and many like her clearly lack. Although, considering the material she produces, if it turned out she does in fact possess yet disguises such skills, that would be even worse. She’s no more than a fairly crass PR stunt-organiser. And if she had any real concern for the quality of women’s lives she’d stop creating a climate of fear based on her own wishful thinking, which is the greatest irony of all. It would actually suit her if the number of rapes increased dramatically to provide at least a scrap of credibility to her groundless assertions.

    Now there are hysterical idiots everywhere in all walks of life. The real question is why the Guardian allows her to continue in this way. For many people, fear is genuinely debilitating. Bogus, inflated rate figures directly affect the quality of people’s lives. It’s shameful.#

  29. Bugmaster says

    @JT #26:
    I personally always enjoy Lucy’s posts. It’s always exhilarating to watch a true craftsman at work, regardless of whether his/her/etc. craft is carpentry, or coding, or (in this case) trolling.

    That said though, I’ve recently read Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent, and I found it pretty interesting. The author is a woman, and also a lesbian, so she never had any romantic interest in men — and did not interact much with men on anything more than a superficial level. She decides to cross-dress and go undercover, integrating herself into various male subcultures.

    As the result, the author is surprised to find out that men do, in fact, possess emotions (beyound raw animal lust or rage), and that men do participate in complex social interactions; and that they do in fact encounter serious hardships on occasion. She expected to meet subhuman caricatures, but, at every turn — even in a strip club ! — she kept running into people.

    So, Lucy’s attitude, though exaggerated in this case, is not unprecedented (though, IMO, Norah Vincent is a better writer).

  30. D506 says

    @Lucy,

    “That’s one way of looking at it. Another is that nobody has a duty to tell one another whether they’re using contraception or taking medications or has a disease, that it’s up to each individual to protect themselves. Or not having sex in the first place.”

    If a woman agrees to sex with a man on the condition that he wear a condom, but he takes it off in the dark and continues to have sex with her, would you not call that rape? I, and many feminists, certainly would. I don’t see why the same doesn’t hold true for other contraceptives.

    “And once pharmaceutical contraception is in male hands, that will be an awful lot of women having to leave an awful lot of men to find one who’s already up for family life at all, or when she is. Which isn’t how most negotiations in relationships work.”

    You posit that if men gain control of their own fertility there will suddenly turn huge numbers of women who want to have children but can’t find a willing man. Where are they finding those men now? Or do you honestly believe that huge numbers (the majority?) of women only become pregnant by tricking their partners?

    Honestly, your posts seem more insulting to women than men in my opinion – despite the MRAs leaping to men’s defense.

    “And once pharmaceutical contraception is in male hands, that will be an awful lot of women having to leave an awful lot of men to find one who’s already up for family life at all, or when she is. Which isn’t how most negotiations in relationships work.”

    Relationship negotiations work like this: You say what is essential to you. I say what is essential to me. If we can match those up and compromise on the rest, we stay together. Negotiation does not mean I get to force you to compromise on your essentials.

  31. Jebedee says

    I recall a Cif piece on the male pill a few years back which, when acknowledging that there were a wide array of forms of contraception available to women, while men were pretty much restricted to condoms, referred to this as a male “privilege”. It wasn’t clear whether they actually thought men somehow benefited from this or it was just a reflex to refer to any difference in men’s and women’s circumstances that way.

  32. StillGjenganger says

    @Bugmaster 29
    I never understood why people react so violently to Lucy. I mean, she reads what you write before disagreeing with it, she does not play word games, she is fairly polite (for this forum), she often says things you could not have predicted beforehand. What’s not to like? Sure, she has extreme, female supremacist(?) views and she seems a bit messed up. But how different is that from the rest of us? How many truly normal people would spend so much time on endless, heated arguments with strangers on the internet?

  33. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucy
    Pairing up is really hard, for both sexes. You put so many of your hopes into this, and it goes so badly when it goes wrong. You always have that problem of breaking a good thing (yes, it is hard for men too) or to compromise away more than you can accept, in order to keep it. It is the nature of the beast. I would not deny that many women have problems with having children in a way that men do not (some women might feel differently). But men have other problems. This is not easy for anyone. Personally I would never have married my wife if I had known how that marriage would end up being organised – whether I would really have been better off if I had stayed unmarried is a much more difficult question.

    But be that as it may, you cannot have an arrangement where having sex automatically means that the woman can decide without telling you whether she wants to have children or not. Certainly not if you want the man to hang around and be responsible afterwards. Whether or not women are getting raw deal, this is not a fair and reasonable way of organising society. And anyway it would take an explicit matriarchy to get there, you could never get it through a democracy as long as men had the vote.

  34. Ally Fogg says

    How many truly normal people would spend so much time on endless, heated arguments with strangers on the internet?

    This is why, despite our endless disagreements, you will always be much cherished around here 😉

  35. sonofrojblake says

    @Lucy, 25:

    once pharmaceutical contraception is in male hands, that will be an awful lot of women having to leave an awful lot of men to find one who’s already up for family life at all, or when she is

    Wow.

    You can perfectly logically rephrase the above thus: since pharmaceutical contraception is NOT (yet) in male hands, women don’t have to leave men in order to find one who’s up for family life. They can simply, at will, “start a family” using any fertile man who is prepared to fuck them. No consent or even consultation is necessary.

    THAT is an MRA fantasy… isn’t it?

    Once pharmaceutical contraception is in male as well as female hands, there will be fewer unplanned pregnancies. You have to be pretty fucked up to spin that as a bad thing.

  36. JT says

    I would love to know what “normal” is. Reminds of this joke.

    “They had a meeting for functional families and only two showed up. They were both in denial” 😉

  37. Marduk says

    Lucy, you are looking for fairness where it cannot exist. Its as simple as that.
    Trying to create it will just lead to active unfairness.

    The law and society can give people options but it can’t be changed to protect people from their own choices, especially when we’re just talking about hurt feelings.

  38. Bugmaster says

    @StillGjenganger #32:
    I don’t hate Lucy at all; sorry if I gave that impression. I was sincere when I said I enjoy her writing.

  39. StillGjenganger says

    @Bugmaster 39
    No accusation was intended. You did call her a troll, though, whereas I think she is sincere, so we do disagree about something. I guess you were a bit the occasion rather than the sole cause of my mail. Others have got rather heated about her over time, and someone (not you) recently used her as an example of the horrible feminist people who hug around here (or something).

    Maybe I like her better because she and I agree that the difference between men and women is more than just skin deep.

  40. That Guy says

    This thread is interesting, and I can *kind of* see where Lucy is coming from, but I find her arguments about the male and female motivated desire for sex uncomfortably retrograde.

  41. StillGjenganger says

    @That Guy 41
    What as strange way of putting it. It sounds almost like ‘it might be true to some extent, but I could never agree with anything so unfashionable‘. Presumably that was not how you meant t?

  42. Marduk says

    Lucy is not a troll (noun) but she does troll sometimes (verb).

    If I have one problem with her it is that she sometimes demands evidence without actually making clear what she is up to.
    On another thread I complied with her request and provided a range of stuff, there was some effort involved, she didn’t even acknowledge it but continued discussing with others. I realised after this was actually just a rhetorical thing, she had no interest in sharing information, which I thought was a bit rude tbh.

  43. That Guy says

    @StillGjenganger 42

    that was an awkward way of putting it, though fashion wasn’t my concern, rather the harking back to the 1950’s attitude that sex is something men do for fun, and women do to make babies, and that a woman remaining childless is a great trauma.

    The reason I have misgivings about this is that I had the feeling that the attitudes above were borne of strict gender policing (less severe today but still rears its head with slut vs stud issues) and that recent more enlightened way of thinking accepts that women can have sex for pleasure and their biology does not indicate their destiny (being able to bear children should not make that their prime goal and purpose by default).

    That being said, I can readily agree that women’s fertility declining much more quickly than men’s can potentially cause issues in this odd scenario that Lucy proposes where a man in a heterosexual relationship covertly uses contraceptives to dupe the woman in a relationship into continuing the relationship on the pretext of having a child.

    I’m of the personal feeling that, in the shared responsibility of creating a human life, one of the parties is unsure enough to take that action, that they probably shouldn’t be having a child together anyway. I’d also be surprised to find out that in the majority of the heterosexual relationships where one party wants a child and the other doesn’t, that rather than having a frank and adult discussion about their relationship and differing priorities, that the unwilling party would resort to this deceptive and covert use of contraceptives. In the above scenario, it is already possible for a woman to be in the ‘unwilling deceptive’ role, but I have not heard that much in the way of analogy or otherwise of a woman ‘cheating’ a man out of children for reasons of fertility or gender policing (because what man wants to have kids, and what kind of woman doesn’t want a baby, right?).

    tl; dr, I agree in part and disagree with Lucy that the fertility game is high stakes for women and low stakes for men as
    a) A woman’s fertility declines more rapidly than men’s (agree)
    b)A woman without a child is a soulless unfulfilled wreck who has failed to manifest her full potential, whereas men aren’t all that fussed by kids and would rather deceive their partners to get more sex than have an honest talk with their other half (strong disagree)

    of course, maybe my understanding of male vs female fertility is wrong (I’m not a doctor), and maybe my understanding of the influence of gender roles on relationships concerning reproduction is also cack-handed (I am not well informed on gender issues), so that’s why I disagree. Rather than it being a matter of going with the attitude of the times, it’s more a matter of seeing the ghosts of sexism past resurrected to add weight to a point- I hope that clears up my line of thought.

  44. Marduk says

    I wish I could find it now but there was a 120+ page thread on Mumsnet about whether, if a man tells his wife he doesn’t want (more) children, he should lose his ability to reproduce, by law if need be. The Bollock Police ladies and gentleman, going around the pliars and rubber bands combating hold-out husbands and the cause of hold-out husbands.

    You’d imagine a thread of that magnitude would be a lively debate, but it was just people earnestly agreeing. I think I saw maybe one or two posts suggesting it might send the wrong message re: a woman’s right to choose/bodily autonomy but it wasn’t like they were against the idea, just the potential for pro-choice ramifications.

    So far it hasn’t shown up in the Labour election policy slate, but I’m not going to feel relaxed until I’ve checked the Green’s manifesto but you know what they are like with MN.

    This is what I mean by not trying to enforce fairness where it cannot exist, it always winds up in the most ridiculously repressive and illiberal policies imaginable. Equal rights are fair game and certain sorts of equal outcomes can also be enforced by the key there is that in things that are socially constructed, we as a society can choose to construct them differently and no harm is done. But beyond that, it gets scary fast trying to use society to govern things it shouldn’t have dominion over (e.g., other people’s bodies).

  45. StillGjenganger says

    @That Guy
    Thanks for the detailed reply. Nothing to disagree with there. I would put it as “She has a point but she exaggerates a lot” without caring what they thought in the 1950’s, but then I am conservative by nature.

  46. Pink Jenkin says

    Of course all women are monomaniacal baby-machines who desire nothing more than to harvest man-fluids. I mean, why else would they have wombs?

  47. Bugmaster says

    By the way, from the strict reproductive autonomy point of view, using multiple layers of contraception greatly decreases the chances of unwanted pregnancy (*).

    Imagine that a woman is using the pill, which is 99% effective. If the woman is having sex with a male partner once a week, without using any other form of protection, then she can expect to get pregnant about once every two years. However, if her male partner is also using the (hypothetical) male version of the pill, which is likewise 99% effective, then she can expect to get pregnant about once every 200 years, which is to say, basically never.

    (*) For the purposes of this post, I am assuming that there exist at least some women who do not desire to become pregnant.

  48. D506 says

    @Bugmaster 49

    Just to clarify something, when they say a form of birth control is 99% effective they don’t mean it works 99% of the time. What they mean is that you have a 99% chance of not getting pregnant while having sex regularly for a year. In other words, you shouldn’t expect a pregnancy every two years, but rather every 100 years.

  49. Holms says

    #18 Lucy (replying to #15)
    You see, this (very common) complete lack of empathy is why it will cause untold damage to women.

    Empathy, like that time you said female rapists had ‘benign intentions’?

    #19 Lucy
    To make that argument stand you have to believe childlessness is the default position for a couple in a sexual relationship.

    But if instead you believe reproduction is the default position, then it has to be a shared decision for a couple NOT to have children.

    What a strange approach. A couple can desire kids, or not, and both will be involved in that decision. A new couple discovering that they have strongly different goals here may be best served by splitting up and finding more suitable partners. Note that this is not changed if a male ‘the pill’ is invented.

    Bah, there is not enough time in the day to fritter away obsessing over the ridiculousness contained within nearly every Lucy sentence.

  50. Marduk says

    I saw it and was expecting a raft of articles this morning but just one, in the Mirror. 100 men dying a week, a problem worse than its been in 15 years (unlike many other allegedly ‘epidemic’ social phenomena that are measurably on the decline) and a deafening silence. Even on its own merits as a piece of television it has to be the stand-out broadcast of the week outside things to do with the election.

    The BBC’s own story about it is called “fatal silence”, how right they are. “The answer is men speaking about it”. Its ironic really, this is one of the few social issues that talking-shop clickbait can actually aid in and of itself and they aren’t interested.

    There is still a huge gap for male centred journalism. I know a certain sort of feminist would say every story is a male centred story but that is a different thing even if its true.

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