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Pregnancy, Sexual Congress and the (In)Visibility of Men
Wednesday, 04 April 2012 00:00
By Ellen Dannin, Truthout | Op-Ed

Now you see men. Now you don’t.

When it comes to being an expert on birth control and women’s sexuality, men are apparently the experts, the go-to guys. Men are twice as likely as women to be pundits on birth control on cable news, and men were the sole panelists when birth control was discussed in Congress.

However, except for commenting on women’s sexuality, and testifying, legislating, and deciding who can or cannot have birth control and who can or cannot terminate a pregnancy, men are invisible. I am reminded of the conversation my ten-year-old self had with my mother. She had already told me that sperm and eggs come together to make a baby, and that sperm come from men and eggs come from women. But something was obviously missing from this process. So, I asked my mother, using my sarcastic voice, “Well, do the sperm just walk over to the woman?” When she explained how it worked, I was so shocked I thought I would pass out. How could anyone allow a foreign object to be placed inside her body?
Yet that is the stage Congress and some state legislatures have reached. Women can be forced to have foreign objects placed inside their bodies, with no other reason articulated than to ensure that women know what it means to be pregnant.

What is missing from this picture, if you are really concerned about sexuality and babies, is the men. Congress, candidates and pundits seem unaware that men have a role to play here beyond punishing and shaming the pregnant and the potentially pregnant. They cannot admit that almost all babies come from sexual intercourse between men and women, and that sometimes women consent, but sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are forced – physically and psychologically – to have sex. Sometimes that force is physically or emotionally violent. However it occurs, men are in the picture for at least a few seconds. But you would never know that was the case from the way Congress and the media are addressing this issue.
Putting aside outright rape and other forms of coercion – which logically should place blame and responsibility squarely on the male – the creation of babies is otherwise shared by men and women. Yet the reaction of politicians, pundits and newscasters seems to be that of my ten-year-old self, trying to figure out how the sperm gets to the egg. If they know the answer, they seem to be too squeamish to take that fact into account. If they were really concerned about the well being of babies, they would address the circumstances that cause accidental and unwanted pregnancies.
Why is there no outrage, no effort to publicly humiliate and chastise these unchaste men? Why are men not told to put an aspirin between their knees? Why do pundits not excoriate and attempt to humiliate men for their sexual misconduct? Why does no abortion law require that the man who impregnated a woman have a probe stuck into his penis so he can understand how the process works?

Even worse, in the system advocated by some – including candidates for elected office – the ideal is that any woman who becomes pregnant must carry and give birth to that child – even if she was raped.

Stop and think about what that means.

Think about the woman who would like to put that event out of her mind. And then think about the woman who is not allowed to abort the fetus or even take the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy. Pregnancy is not a short-term condition with no physical effects. For people to feel comfortable advocating such spiteful punishment, what must our society think of women and our value as human beings to assume that such a response is appropriate or beneficial to anyone?

Meanwhile, the men are present only as the ones who get to sit in judgment of women, the ones who get to lay down the law. But otherwise, nothing involving a man happened here. There are no consequences for them. They were not involved. Move along.