The XX Factor

Deliberately Childless Men

Ted Cox, writing for the Good Men Project, addresses an underdiscussed topic : men who are deliberately childless and the pressure they face to have children.  Women who reject motherhood are objects of national fascination (and, on the right, often viewed as miscreants who need to be brought in line by heavy restrictions on reproductive rights), but the role men play in all this is usually ignored.  But, as Cox notes, men do face similar pressures from family and friends to change their minds when they decide against fatherhood.

Cox addresses research that I also wrote about for Slate , and he adds that the reasons for rejecting parenthood are basically the same between men and women.  There’s no reason to think they wouldn’t be in a rational world, but in our world, it’s a point worth repeating.  Still, there’s a rich arena of gender analysis that Cox basically skips over, except taking the time to quote researcher Laura S. Scott on the issue of why women who are childless get more attention for it than men.

It’s too bad, because a couple of things Cox says in this piece are ripe for deeper analysis.  For instance, he puts women who won’t date him in the same list of negative reactions to his choice as parental and religious pressure.  But I’d say that someone standing up for the right to make his own reproductive decisions should extend it to women, too–which means that women who want children have every right not to waste their time on men who don’t.  The casual entitlement is something worth examining.

Same story with the way he puts this question in with a series of more mundane ones: “Did you get snipped without your significant other knowing?”  If the discussion on the table is social pressures, surely the issue of coercion through trickery isn’t something you just gloss over like that.  Not that a woman is entitled to have children with any one man, but she is entitled to full knowledge so she can make the best choices for herself, which may include choosing not to partner with a man who is sterilized. Of course, that points to a larger quarrel I’ve had with the Good Men Project. To be “good,” men should have to resist this kind of casual entitlement, but all too often I see it glossed over in precisely this manner.