July 30, 1995 in Features

We Don’t Really Retire Until We Die

Jennifer James Staff writer

Some seniors tell me they are entitled to retire from societal concerns, including the fortunes of children. I might agree that seniors are entitled to relax, set their own pace and take a sabbatical now and then but all of us, by our presence, are deeply enmeshed in society and what is going on in the world. That means taking responsibility for more than yourself and your pleasures. The only way to retire from society is to die.

Dear Jennifer: Would you please respond to the question of who is responsible for a pregnancy? A men’s-rights group wants to sue (using Roe vs. Wade) for reproductive choice for men, in this case the legal right to opt out of fatherhood. If the government cannot force women to be mothers, they claim, then it should not be able to force men to be fathers.

In my 60 years I have seen a lot more men disappear, leaving the woman to take care of the baby. Doesn’t this position reduce men to mere sperm? - The Woman With A Hole in Her Heart

Dear Woman: What is nature and what is nurture? What do we instinctively do and what is taught? It depends on the mammal. Many species share both the creation and the rearing of their young and many do not. The cats and bears tend to leave the pregnant females to fend for themselves. The elephants and primates stay in family groupings.

Homo sapiens get to decide. If men are not to be allowed control over a woman’s body, then women cannot control a man’s body. The issue is whether society can exert some control over the mind and assets of either sex. Taxes and prisons tell us that society has decided it has that right.

What you are asking is a question about trust, deception and contraception. If our consciousness doesn’t increase (men and women must both use contraception if they don’t want to be parents) then technology or the law will eventually step in to fill the gap.

I prefer technology, a small alarm implanted in the forehead of all humans of reproductive age. Five minutes before a probable conception (some automatic measuring of the physiology, fertility and preparation of each) an alarm will sound. It will repeat, for 30 seconds, BABY! BABY! BABY! The couple will leap apart and decide whether that was what they had in mind. If they go ahead then they are equally liable for the potential child. The woman cannot seek an abortion (except in cases of force, coercion, etc.). The man cannot abandon the child (except in cases of force, coercion, etc.).

Any disconnecting of this alarm would be construed as a desire to conceive. Only one alarm needs to go off so both parties would have to disconnect to silence the alarm. Since most male alarms would sound every time, it might be a sensitizing experience. It would take a lot more effort to talk each other into a baby than to just have sex.

Meanwhile, without consciousness or technology, we are left with trust. Men need to protect themselves by knowing their partners well; women must do the same. Society cannot afford to allow either men or women to walk away from the next generation.

Some of you may be thinking this is government coercion, “1984” or “Brave New World” so, OK, substitute an ethereal glow for the alarm but give me the five-minute review time. Men are not just sperm and children need to be raised by someone who cares.

If men obtain the legal right to deposit sperm anonymously and women don’t raise their level of consciousness about pregnancy then men, in this new technological world, are becoming obsolete. Technology has eliminated the strength difference; women can fight wars, dig ditches and lift heavy objects. All they need is a lifetime supply of frozen sperm.

Ah, but what about love and companionship and sexual intimacy? Yes! Yes! But that takes us back to trust and the willingness to share responsibility for life. Men need women to provide children far more than women need men, that is until we can provide men with uterine implants and help them to get pregnant. When men can bypass women in the ways that women can now bypass men … I’ll stop here, it’s too much to think about. - Jennifer


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