Want to Regulate Women’s Bodies? Then Let’s Regulate Men’s, Too
It’s time for men to be “more personally responsible” when it comes to sex and reproduction
It’s been quite a few weeks since Inaugural Day, from the pink pussy-hats seen atop men, women and children at women’s marches across the globe — 3 million-plus in the U.S. alone — to the swift crackdown on our reproductive rights. The image of a handful of white men surrounding President Trump’s desk as he revived — and expanded — the so-called global gag rule was sickening. Even if you are anti-choice — as those who marched on Washington this past week are — this should still be disturbing as the rule will impact organizations fighting such things as AIDS and malaria — maybe even human trafficking — while also providing for maternal and child health across the globe. This will cripple their efforts.
Then there was Republican Texas State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, who proposed a bill that would criminalize abortion, saying it would force women to be “more personally responsible” for their sexual behavior.
As if that wasn’t enough, House Republicans introduced HR 586 — a personhood bill that declares that life begins at fertilization, and thus zygotes and embryos have the same “right to life” as human beings.
I’ve written about personhood before and it’s really dangerous; not only would it make getting an abortion akin to murder, but it could also criminalize women for their actions — even innocent — while pregnant.
Men matter, too
What’s most disturbing is that all of this presumes that women and women alone are somehow responsible if something goes wrong in a pregnancy, or even if she gets pregnant. In truth, reproductive health depends on more than one individual; as some academics involved in developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) warn:
There is a long history of society blaming mothers for the ill health of their children. … fathers and grandparents also affect descendants’ health. Studies suggest that diet and stress modify sperm epigenetically and increase an offspring’s risk of heart disease, autism and schizophrenia. In humans, the influence of fathers over mothers’ psychological and physical state is increasingly recognized. So are effects of racial discrimination, lack of access to nutritious foods and exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment.
In fact, one bioethicist/political scientist says, “men have a moral duty to use contraception if their behavior — past, current, or future — could harm the potential fetuses and children who result from their unprotected sexual behavior.”
Hello, personhood people?
As research indicates, “birth defects are more often associated with paternal rather than maternal DNA damage.”
Still, the emphasis is always on women. Why? Well, we women have historically been the property of men, which is why society still believes it has “a greater right to regulate and control the female reproductive body than the male reproductive body.”
Sorry, guys, but not any more.
Making men ‘personally responsible’
I know I am not the only woman who says, enough. I am so tired of men telling me what I can and can’t do with my own body — especially since no one is requiring anything even remotely similar for men. Don’t they need to be “more personally responsible” for their sexual behavior, Rep. Tinderholt? (Who has been married five times, had one wife get a restraining order against and who admitted marrying once for “insurance reasons”; yeah, he sure can tell us how to be “responsible”)
Yes, they do. If men are going to continue to believe that they have rights over women’s bodies, especially when it comes to sex and reproduction, then we women must reciprocate. Guys, it’s time for you to be “more personally responsible” when it comes to sex and reproduction.
An article about a “male ejaculation bill” proposed by female legislators — isn’t sperm intended for “procreation only” and shouldn’t be “wasted” on pleasure? — and published in the Burrard Street Journal scared some people who didn’t realize it’s a Canadian satire magazine. But, that got me thinking.
Why not? Why not regulate and control men’s reproductive bodies?
Here’s what I propose:
- Every man 15 and older would be required to take out a $1 million (or more depending on history, genetics, etc.) potential-pregnancy insurance plan, which would cover the cost of raising a child as well as all pregnancy-and birth-related costs as well as IPV and other unforeseen problems (see below).
- Every man 15 and older must go through DNA testing and agree to have his DNA on file, in case paternity is ever questioned.
- Every man 15 and older must pay for his own condoms and wear them each and every time he has sex, unless he and his partner are both attempting to get pregnant. If he refuses to wear a condom — ever — even if his partner uses her own birth control, he will be subject to a fine and/or prison.
- Every man 15 and older must pay for his partner’s birth control, of her choice, or be subject to a fine and/or prison.
- Every man 15 and older must undergo monthly drug tests. If he impregnates a woman and had drugs in his system — which damages sperm and can potentially lead to birth defects — at the time, he would be subject to a fine and/or prison. Same with booze and cigarettes.
- Every man 15 and older would be screened for a personal and family history of IPV, STDs, mental illness, addiction, developmental disabilities, diabetes, cancer and other health issues, and undergo counseling. He would not be able to impregnate a woman unless she signed a waiver indicating she is aware of the dangers of having a baby with him, and agrees to waive her rights, or he would face a fine and/or prison.
- If a man is employed in a workplace that is known to have carcinogens or other risks, he must find other employment and wait until health testing clears him before he can impregnate a woman. If he does not, he will face a fine and/or prison. If there’s an unplanned pregnancy, he may still face a fine and/or prison, and/or his insurance will kick in (see above) as he could have chosen to have a vasectomy and continue working in his risky workplace.
- If a man is engaged in risky sports/activities, he must stop doing them before he can impregnate a woman and continue to avoid them until the child is 18. If he does not, he will face a fine and/or prison. If there’s an unplanned pregnancy and he continues to engage in risky sports/activities that would interfere with his ability to care/provide for his child(ren), he may still face a fine and prison, and/or his insurance will kick in (see above).
- It would be illegal for men over age 45 to impregnate a woman, naturally or artificially, as the baby would likely at a much greater risk of having autism and/or ADHD as well as Down’s syndrome and schizophrenia; men between 30 and 45 would have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis after genetic testing, and may be rejected unless his partner signs a waiver.
- Any man who impregnates a woman through rape would be responsible for paying for all her pregnancy-and birth-related costs, from medical bills to lost time at work to postpartum depression treatment, and then be responsible for raising the child by himself, even if he is incarcerated, unless the woman wants full- or part-time physical custody, or face a fine (that covers all expenses for her and the child, through college) and/or prison.
- Any man who impregnates a woman — whether his wife, girlfriend, lover or a one-night stand — must pay half of all her pregnancy-and birth-related costs, what’s known as preglimony, or face a fine equal to the amount plus damages.
- Any man who engages in Intimate Partner Violence against a pregnant partner would be imprisoned on the first offense; compensation to her would be provided by his mandatory insurance plan (see above), which may also require more insurance if there’s a personal/family history of IPV.
- Viagra would be an out-of-pocket expense no longer covered by insurance: any man who asked for a prescription would be required to prove he actually needs it. A Viagra prescription may be denied for reasons other than for pregnancy.
- If a man’s porn viewing is interfering with his partner’s sexual life (based on her testimony), he would be subject to a fine and/or prison (for repeat offenders).
I don’t expect any of this to happen anytime soon — if ever. But at least we can change the way we talk about sex and reproduction; clearly we must stop seeing sex and reproduction through a gendered lens. If hetero people are going to have sex, which may lead to pregnancy, intended or not, we must hold both men and women accountable. (Here’s yet another area in which same-sex couples have busted through our heteronormatively narrow-minded thinking about having and raising children).
That’s what I came up with, but there must be more ways society can, and should, regulate and control men’s reproductive body. Please — feel free to submit your suggestions. And then let’s make it happen!