When I talk about women’s choices regarding children, pregnancy, and childbirth, someone usually asks about the men. Last month, I interviewed half a dozen men of varying ages, backgrounds, and life experience about why they never want to have children. A number of them had considered getting (or had already gotten) a vasectomy. The number one reason? It’s easier (from a surgical/recovery standpoint) and cheaper than any option women have.
It goes without saying that these were men who didn’t (so far as they told me) have gendered hang-ups about masculinity and sexual potency. While conversations about women’s reproductive options can also be littered with essentialist assumptions about gender, it seems to happen to men more often. Case in point:
There are endless problems with this clip. Between the derogatory use of the word “lame” and treating sexual harassment and cheating on your partner as a joke, it’s not very redeeming, I know. (And yes, I know the point of shows like The Family Guy is to piss off everyone at one point or another.) My point is to illustrate how this relatively simple procedure is talked about in pop culture. In this case, it’s a joke—one made at men’s expense—that without being virile, you become “half” a man.
When I tell people I can’t have children, I’m usually met with pity—or outright disapproval and scorn if they feel somehow threatened by the fact that I had my tubes tied. But if my male partner had a vasectomy instead, do you think people would so openly feel sorry for him or say nasty things? One man that I interviewed for the article linked above noted that he often gets comments about his wife’s choice not to have children. Yet, he’s the one who actually got a vasectomy!
What does this say about the legitimacy of our choices, of how we value one person’s ability to make a lifelong choice over another’s? Why do men and women report such varying experiences talking about not having children?
11 Comments Have Been Posted
Brittany, I want to thank you
Sharon Tohline replied on
I want to thank you for doing this series, from the bottom of my uterus. A couple of months ago, I learned that I have a fairly complex medical condition that could potentially be resolved via hysterectomy. I'm 29 years old and - like you - certain that I don't want children. However, medical professionals, friends, and family are all doing their damndest to convince me that I absolutely CANNOT have the hysterectomy. But when they explain why, they don't cite the multiple hormonal and recovery issues that can accompany the procedure. Instead, they say "What if you want to have CHILDREN????!!!!"
Reading your series has helped me understand that, if I do in fact make the choice to undergo this procedure, there are at least a few women out there who understand and respect that some ladies just aren't in the baby-making business. When I'm feeling especially down about the whole thing, I flip through your posts and remember that I'm not totally alone.
EugeniaLP replied on
You would not believe the pressure to have children that as a 30-something woman I get from friends, family and the media here in Latin America. When I mention that I do not want to have children , and have in fact never at any point in my life wanted to, I get things like "but you'll never really experience being a woman if you don't", "how are going to find a husband if you don't want children?!" and "you'll love them once you have them, really, you will!" If you think the pressure on women in developed countries to have children is bad, you should try it in Latin America, where the unspoken message is that if you don't want children, there is something wrong with you...
Gosh, you're welcome!
Brittany Shoot replied on
Very late replying to your comment -- sorry about that! I'm so glad you're enjoying the series and really hope that you eventually feel great about whatever choice you make. You are most definitely not alone!! It sounds like you might have some unsupportive people in your life, and let me assure you, I've known a lot of people (and still know a few!) who are totally freaked by what I did. But you know, I just don't care. I'm so immensely relieved and happy, and I'm so much healthier since I tossed my birth control pills, that I just can't do anything but laugh at people who want to wring their hands over MY life choices. It isn't about me. That shit is about them, and their issues.
If you want one, and you can find or have the resources to pay for one, I believe you CAN have a hysterectomy. If doctors are trying to talk you out of an otherwise helpful procedure to solve or treat a medical condition, there's something wrong with THEM. If you dig through the comments, there are women who offer the names of their supportive doctors all throughout the series. Don't be afraid to get on local message boards or use sites like Yelp, if you have a local one, to find docs that might help you out. The fact that you have a complex medical issue on top of your desire to not have kids makes your story extra frustrating for me. WTF kind of doctor doesn't work to help you make the best choice for YOU?
One other thing: People give me "you'll regret it" line all the time. You know what? If I ever do, there are so many other options available. Adoption can be prohibitively expensive, but it's an awesome, intentional way to build a family. It's also not like because I'm childfree I'm unable to spend time with kids. It's just that my life doesn't revolve around my own, and I don't foresee a time in which that will make me anything less than blissfully happy.
Best to you, and good luck finding medical professionals who will respectfully work with and advocate for you,
Jacob replied on
As a 25 year old male, for a couple years now, I've contemplated having a vasectomy, especially because at this point in my life, I'd like a healthy sex life, but I wouldn't like to have kids at any point in the near future except for adoption (because i'm an adopted child and I feel like there's quite a few kids lost in the system who could use a nurturing home.)
I was wondering if I could get any input from someone who's had the operation done on themselves, the cost and whatnot. I'm quite interested in getting it myself, however being a college student, money is quite an issue for me.
I tried to google for the cost of this, but the only links pulled up are phone numbers to doctor's offices and the like.
check your local Planned Parenthood
Laura Bouma replied on
Jacob, I don't know the average cost of vasectomies, but I would suggest calling your local Planned Parenthood to see if they do them. Which procedures they do & have funding for varies from state-to-state, but here (in Portland, OR) they covered my husband's vasectomy 100%. (I'm sure vasectomies aren't free for everyone, but we have almost no income.) Even in locations without funding to cover the whole cost, they have a sliding payment scale which helps make their care affordable.
If you have insurance, most
Monica Flynn replied on
If you have insurance, most companies cover sterilization procedures under preventative care-- as in, they'd rather pay for a relatively cheap vasectomy than an expensive and potentially complicated birthing procedure, or two or three, etc.
My partner had it done and it was entirely covered by insurance (except for a $10 copay for the office visit).
If you do not have insurance, Planned Parenthood may do it, or be able to provide resources for those who can.
From the title, I thought
Michelle Manes replied on
From the title, I thought this post would be about the "What about your husband? Doesn't he want kids? You must be some kind of emasculating shrew / not really love him / ruining his life!" remarks that I get all the time. (No, most people don't come out and say exactly that last one, but they do say "What about your husband? Doesn't he want kids?" blah blah blah. Passive aggressive versions of the same.)
I was really bothered by the recent "Grey's Anatomy," when Owen's "I get a say in whether we have have kids, and you'll totally grow out of this" was given as much if not more weight than Christina's "You knew who you were marrying" argument.
Women who don't want kids are seen as denying the men in their lives a fundamental piece of their masculinity, as if we haven't had the conversations ahead of time, didn't think it might be an issue, etc. And I know a few men (my brother included) who married staunchly child free women, certain that they would "grow out of it" or "change their minds". Yeah, that doesn't work so well. It's not a case of if you find the right guy you'll just suddenly want his babies.
Maybe this will be part 2? Here's hoping...
Nimue replied on
I think that is what my husband assumed when we got married--that since I love him, I would eventually change my mind and want kids. I don't want kids, I have never wanted kids, and like others, I don't see that being likely to change any time soon (seeing as I have been married a couple years now). The "compromise" is that we'll have one biological kid, and if he wants more, he can adopt them. But this compromise doesn't sit well with me.
Tati replied on
That wouldn't sit well with me either. At all. Best of luck...maybe he should read this blog series! :)
thanatogenous replied on
If you were clear about not wanting children, there doesn't need to be compromise on this issue. Adoption is still a huge compromise, just because you are not actually bearing the kids physically, you are still given kids to raise Does he think that he will just adopt them and magically your life will not have to change at all?
I agree, THANK YOU for this
Monica Flynn replied on
I agree, THANK YOU for this series.
When I was considering sterilization a few years ago, I got the usual, "But you'll want kids later" argument, and my favorite, "But what if your husband wants kids?" Simple-- I will not marry anyone who wants kids. Voila! Problem solved!
I was so adamant about it that it became my qualification for marriage-- I will not get married unless a vasectomy has been performed and confirmed successful.
My family, previously so vocal about my choices, have now become silent-- almost to the point of a "great family shame and secrets we never speak of!" attitude, despite both of us being very open and happy with our childfree choices.
SEE!? I AM a woman, and I can make my choices and mean them! What an idea!
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