The XX Factor

The Conservatism of “The Switch”

Willa Paskin takes Bill O’Reilly to task over his complaints about sperm-donation comedies, pointing out the various ways that the movies are actually quite reactionary. He should love these comedies, she argues, because the plots usually resolve by asserting the primacy of the father, and because the female leads aren’t seeing a lot of sexytimes.  But she misses one more layer of extra-special reactionary politics in The Switch : the element of force.

If there’s one belief that drives social conservatism with regard to female sexuality, it’s that women can’t make good choices, and so their choices have to be made for them. That’s the argument underlying the panic over the hook-up culture (read: girls are too dumb to say no when they want to, so we have to say it for them), the hostility toward comprehensive sex education (if girls know their options, they may make choices we disapprove of), the move toward restricting abortion and contraception, the hostility toward single mothers , and all the knee-jerk anger- like Bill O’Reilly’s -over any hint that women might have choices. Overt calls for coercion are common. When social conservatives attack social spending that they believe allows women to get away with being single, the implication is one of coercion-starve ‘em out until they submit to a man. Then put on your concerned face and explain how it’s for their own good.

With that in mind, you’d think that O’Reilly would love the concept behind The Switch .  Spoiler alert (thanks, Paskin), but Bateman’s character, emboldened by drunkenness, overrules Aniston’s character’s life choices and is rewarded by taking his rightful place as her man.  Switching some other dude’s sperm out for your own to get a woman pregnant who has rejected you (and having this be the catalyst for changing her mind) is about the most potent symbol I can think of for the belief that women don’t know what they really want, so they have to be shown. With a little force, if necessary. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a way that you could get around this implication.

Photograph of Jennifer Aniston by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.