"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Monday, May 20, 2013

Male Power–Denying Women’s Desire For Children

There is an advertising campaign in Great Britain called Get Britain Fertile which has added fuel to the gender wars.  The campaign was designed innocently enough, for the sponsor - First Response, a pregnancy test company – simply wanted to promote their product by appealing to women in their 20’s and early 30s who, in reproductive terms, should be a receptive market.

According to research sponsored by the company, young women in their most fertile period (20s and early 30s) want to have children, but do not because “they haven’t found the right man”.  Anecdotal evidence provided by many female commentators, however, indicates that this response is merely a thinly-veiled expression of their frustration at men who refuse to have children at all.  In other words, men have a power over women that would make a feminist cringe.

Men, of course, have known this for a long time.  They have been back on their heels since the dawn of time because they can never really know who their children are.  They have always felt that Nature dealt them a bad hand, and they have had to spend time, energy, and otherwise useful resources in assuring paternity.  Shakespeare was obsessed with cuckoldry, and in Othello, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and Troilus and Cressida he describes the madness that jealousy can provoke.

Strindberg’s The Father is all about a man driven to madness by his manipulative wife who insinuates that he is not the father of their children.   All the kings in Shakespeare’s Histories are concerned with paternity, for succession, inheritance, and lineage are entirely dependent on it.  Their wives and the wives of royal pretenders fought like she-bears to promote their children and to exploit any weakness in the royal family tree.  Peasants were just as concerned about wifely fidelity, for they were not about to work their fingers to the bone for a bastard child, let alone pass on their meager holdings to him.

Men today still resort to female genital mutilation, infibulation (sewing the vagina shut), or simply locking women in when they leave the house in an attempt to assure fidelity and paternity.  Less authoritarian men are not immune and are always on guard for the casual but telling glance, the hand placed lightly on a shoulder, the overly fond remark, the unexplained gaps in routine.  It is exhausting. 

In the old days, children were necessary, so the vigilance was worth it.  Sons and daughters of peasants labored in the fields, tended the goats, carried the water; and the male offspring of the nobility assured the integrity and protection of their vast holdings.  Nowadays, children are more of a drain than anything.  A family certainly pays out thousands more than they get in return. Dutiful children who look after their aged parents are as scarce as hens’ teeth.

The sense of lineage is residual, not of any real, practical value.  We are happy when our children are successful, especially when they follow the path we have charted out for them; but other than a few pictures on the mantelpiece and some overblown stories about Harvard, children are a bad deal.
So it is quite logical that men choose not to be burdened with children; and now, in an ironic twist of fate, it is the women who want them not they.  The same Nature that gave women power over men when children were valuable, has given them a maternal urge to have children at a time when men could care less.

Here is where the concept of sunken costs of Economics 101 comes in.  A woman gets happily married to the man of her dreams.  They gambol and frolic in their 20s, both happily childless and able to enjoy life to the fullest.  Then the woman hits 30, and the biological clock starts ticking – not loudly, but definitely perceptibly.  By the time she is in her late 30s and her husband still refuses to have children, she has an economic choice to make. “I have invested so much in this marriage (sunken costs) that it pays to wait a few more years before jettisoning my husband”.  On the other hand, she opines, if I go solo now, finding a new mate will be difficult, and finding one who wants children almost impossible.

Men are gleeful at this situation and are happy that Fortune’s wheel has finally turned in their favor.  If their older wives leave them to find fertility, no problem.  They can always troll for younger, less demanding brides.  Nature has been generous in yet another way.  Men retain their physical allure far longer than women and have always been able to capture the attention of women many years their junior; and, in a still more interesting twist of Nature, men can reproduce well into their 80s…just in case they have a change of heart on the children thing.
Women have responded to this crisis by having children well into their 40s.  The NHS in Britain has revealed that births to women over 40 have risen by 15 percent in the last five years.  The NHS does not say with whom these women are having their babies, especially since their men have refused them for twenty years, so either they have finally convinced their mates (unlikely), have married a younger man (even more unlikely), or have opted for single motherhood (sperm bank donors since casual sex at 40 is iffy).
Those older women in their 40s who have had babies in the last five years are probably now realizing what a mistake they have made.  Although 40 is by no means old these days, it sure feels old when you are changing diapers all day, chasing a two-year old around, endlessly pushing playground swings, dealing with intemperate, volcanic tantrums not to mention the loss of yoga, bar time, and long walks on the beach.  Even worse, older mothers quickly find that their offspring are just hitting their teenage years when they are pushing 60.  Most parents barely survive the adolescence of their children, let alone those who should be thinking of retirement.
So, men are having their day. Having given a good comeuppance to feminism and gleeful at the turn of the screw, men are finally having their day.  After years of women this, women that, it is their turn to gloat.

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