The XX Factor

Fine, Women Don’t Need Men. So What?

Just because we don’t need men doesn’t mean we don’t want them.

Photograph by Comstock Images/Thinkstock.

The New York Times must be trolling men. That can be the only explanation for why the paper thought it advisable to run this paranoid op-ed by Greg Hampikian about how scary it is to know that women, with a variety of reproductive avenues at our disposal, don’t “need” men anymore. This is not a new concern: It’s been raised in response to women’s growing independence in the past, and so far, has never made a lick of sense.

What do men imagine will happen if we don’t need them anymore? Will we magically stop having boy children? Go on mass murdering sprees to rid ourselves of the burden of men? Are all women just one equal paycheck away from killing all the men? And would the invariably male-controlled Congress and presidency really let such a thing happen? I’m skeptical.

Hampikian’s reasons for believing women don’t need men are presented as something new, greased with references to reproductive technologies that over 90 percent of the population never use. But really, his observation has been available for thousands of years: that women grow babies, and men contribute about 15 seconds worth of sperm.

If a woman wants to have a baby without a man, she just needs to secure sperm (fresh or frozen) from a donor (living or dead). The only technology the self-impregnating woman needs is a straw or turkey baster, and the basic technique hasn’t changed much since Talmudic scholars debated the religious implications of insemination without sex in the fifth century. If all the men on earth died tonight, the species could continue on frozen sperm. If the women disappear, it’s extinction.

My only question to all this is: So what? Declaring that women don’t “need” men is always a ready way to get a rise out of a select group of people, people I like to describe as “fools.” Just because a woman doesn’t need a man doesn’t mean she doesn’t want one. There are lots of things we don’t need but we still want: flat screen TVs, YouTube videos of cats, expensive microbrews, fathers. Doesn’t mean we don’t want them. And why would you rather be needed than wanted, anyway? Someone could need you but not like you very much. Sounds dreadful. The only thing that really changes for men if women want but don’t need them is that it means that an individual woman doesn’t have to commit to a man she doesn’t like because she can’t find one she wants. I guess for men who don’t want to become the kind of guy a woman might really like, this might be a terrible thing. But I fail to see why the rest of us should care.