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sex and the law
February 26, 2005 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Another reason to practice safe sex? Man meets woman. Man has oral sex with woman. Woman keeps the sperm, uses it to impregnate herself, then sues for child support. Man counter-sues for emotional distress and "sperm theft". Although the emotional distress claim is still active, the "sperm theft" claim was dismissed. On that point, the court decided: When plaintiff "delivered" his sperm, it was a gift -- an absolute and irrevocable transfer of title to property from a donor to a donee... There was no agreement that the original deposit would be returned upon request.
posted by halekon (87 comments total)

 
And the kid is the spitting image of his father.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:41 AM on February 26, 2005


Irons responded that her alleged actions weren't "truly extreme and outrageous" and that Phillips' pain wasn't bad enough to merit a lawsuit. The circuit court agreed and dismissed Phillips' suit in 2003.

But the higher court ruled that, if Phillips' story is true, Irons "deceitfully engaged in sexual acts, which no reasonable person would expect could result in pregnancy, to use plaintiff's sperm in an unorthodox, unanticipated manner yielding extreme consequences."

But the judges agreed with the lower court's decision to dismiss fraud and theft claims against Irons.


The oddest thing of all is that, assuming everyone is telling the truth, I agree with all of the courts' decisions. You can't hold the woman liable for "stealing" the sperm, because that makes no sense, but you certainly can't hold him responsible for child support since he took the reasonable precaution of not having vaginal intercourse, but you probably can hold her responsible for really freaking him out and making his life hell. Therapy and court costs, at the very least.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:42 AM on February 26, 2005


Well played, WGP.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:43 AM on February 26, 2005


First of all- WTF? I thought sperm had a "shelf-life," so to speak, of about a few minutes or so. I'm amazed at the idea you could have sperm deposited in your mouth, then be able to spit it out somewhere and have enough time to artificially inseminate someone. What, did they do the deed over a petri dish in a lab?

Depending on whether this story is true or not, I'm having a hard time trying to decide which of these two people crazier, and an even harder time figuring out how either of them became doctors.

As for the legal stuff, I kind of agree with the dismissal of the "stolen sperm" thing. Unless she robbed a fertility clinic, sperm seems to be one of the few things that is almost guaranteed to have been volunteered by the male. I even said once in another child support debate a few years ago "your sperm isn't one of the things you can ask for back when you break up."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:45 AM on February 26, 2005


I'm having a hard time trying to decide which of these two people crazier,

I can't see anything crazy about the guy. The "stolen sperm" argument was probably a desperate attempt to find a way out of the child support he should never have been paying in the first place.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 10:49 AM on February 26, 2005


One of those stories were you really want to know more about the protagonist. I guess there's something of an explanation for this bizarre behavior in the fact she's a doctor and able to take a dispassionate view of things biologically but wait a minute, they don't teach ethics in med school?
posted by scheptech at 10:51 AM on February 26, 2005


I can't believe the focus is so much on the stolen sperm, and not how whacked out the woman is. I'm surprised the mental state of the woman isn't under greater fire.

The woman's attorney states at the end of the article: "Imagine how a child feels when your father says he feels emotionally damaged by your birth." WTF?! How can that be turned around on him like that? How would the child feel knowing she was conceived in such a way?

*Head explodes*
posted by santiagogo at 11:10 AM on February 26, 2005


santiagogo makes a good point: this woman may be seriously mentally ill. Women who trick men into being fathers, presumably to get money or companionship, are fucked in the head. They shouldn't be raising children.

All the more reason for women, and society, to realize the other side of the coin of reproductive freedom, is, well, reproductive freedom! Often the more you truly understand freedom, the less free you are.

Women have the right to end a conception with abortion, or to not have kids at all. This right should be highly protected. But by the same token, if the genetic father doesn't have a choice to "opt-out", essentially to have a "male abortion", then the imbalance is unacceptable. The man in this case did nothing wrong- he made no choice to have even vaginal intercourse, and thus should have had absolute confidence he wasn't going to get her pregnant.

What's the end result of this? Man walks by woman, shedding skin cells and hair follicles, woman uses these to get man's DNA, woman makes sperm cells from skin cell scrapings, gets self pregnant, demands child support? "Hey, if he didn't want to be a father, he shouldn't have been running around shedding his DNA like some kind of man-slut!"

We need to end all involuntary child support, NOW. And don't waste my time with nonsense arguments about "the needs of the child". The woman should not have made the choice to have a child if she couldn't raise it herself. There are hardly clearer cut cases of a woman choosing to have a child- absolutely nothing was done here that wasn't 100% her choice to get pregnant.
posted by hincandenza at 11:57 AM on February 26, 2005


Yep. This woman is so "whacked" that she claims "...they had the baby through sexual intercourse." Also that he knew about her marital status and pregnancy, and that he had agreed to take care of the child. Clearly a case of female insanity.
posted by carmen at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2005


halekon - thank you for this link! You've made several law students very amused.
posted by falconred at 12:06 PM on February 26, 2005


This caught my eye:

Phillips alleges that he and Irons, who practices internal medicine, never had intercourse during their four-month affair, although they did have oral sex three times.


That hardly constitutes an affair in my eyes. Unless it was mutual oral sex (and what do you want to bet it wasn't) it sounds like he was just using her. And of course she was letting herself be used.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:06 PM on February 26, 2005


But by the same token, if the genetic father doesn't have a choice to "opt-out", essentially to have a "male abortion", then the imbalance is unacceptable

Men have a choice, in fact they have several.

No sex unless you are ready to become a father.
Use a condom.
Get a vasectomy.

When my mother tricked my father into having a second child, he did two things. He divorced her and he got a vasectomy. That was about 40 years ago when he was in his late twenties. No regrets from what I hear.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:14 PM on February 26, 2005


Hmmm, seems to be that if sperm is a gift a guy should be able to write it off on his taxes. Maybe even to the tune of the full cost of raising a child? I wonder how the IRS would value gifts of sperm? This really brings to light many unanswered questions.....
posted by JJ86 at 12:21 PM on February 26, 2005


Spit or swallow? Play it safe: Swim!
posted by adgnyc at 12:24 PM on February 26, 2005


To be fair, carmen, the reporting on this story in the FPP link site is awful, and does make it sound like she's not disputing any of the man's claims. So I can see why people might think she was crazy if they had only read that.

In fact, looking at the actual case, this is as likely to be a story about a guy who's hit upon a creative way of getting out of child support as it is to be about a woman who tricked someone into getting her pregnant.
posted by kyrademon at 12:24 PM on February 26, 2005


SLoG — I agree, if "no sex" means "no acts likely to cause pregnancy." If "no sex" means "no emitting semen," then you're missing the point.

He took reasonable precautions and she went out of her way to thwart those precautions. That makes her morally responsible for what happened, just as she'd be morally responsible if she tore holes in all his condoms. I'm not a lawyer, but I'd hope the law would see it the same way.

(Of course, if he's lying and they really did have intercourse, then he's equally responsible. There's no denying that.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:25 PM on February 26, 2005


No sex unless you are ready to become a father.
Use a condom.
Get a vasectomy.


Well, why not ban abortion then? Women have all of those choices without abortion, but abortion is allowed so that they have control of their reproductive systems after a child is concived. Why shouldn't men have the same right?
posted by delmoi at 12:31 PM on February 26, 2005


Carmen---I didn't see where it said she claims "they had the baby through sexual intercourse."
posted by mic stand at 12:33 PM on February 26, 2005


Yep. This woman is so "whacked" that she claims "...they had the baby through sexual intercourse." Also that he knew about her marital status and pregnancy, and that he had agreed to take care of the child. Clearly a case of female insanity.
posted by carmen at 12:01 PM PST on February 26 [!]


She later admited she lied when she said they had intercourse, so ya, she is pretty nuts.
posted by litghost at 12:35 PM on February 26, 2005


The guy is full of shit. They had an ongoing relationship. The guy is a Doctor and he is paying 800 a month in child support. I am not a doctor and make no where near doctors wages and I pay more than 800 a month. He is lying and just an idiot anyway, he has a child, plenty of people don't plan to have them. In the end he is a father and he is a weasel to try to get out of it!
posted by lee at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2005


SLoG — I agree, if "no sex" means "no acts likely to cause pregnancy." If "no sex" means "no emitting semen," then you're missing the point.
I'm missing the point? How? Sperm plus female reproductive organs nearby...possibility of pregnancy. Anal sex can lead to pregnancy. Oral sex can lead to pregnancy. Condoms break. People lie. So if you absolutely don't want any possibility of babies, don't have sex with a person of the opposite sex.

(Of course, if he's lying and they really did have intercourse, then he's equally responsible.

This is the problem in a nutshell..."If he is lying." A he said/she said has to come down to doing what is best for the child.

This is being hotly discussed in my house right this very minute.

Scenario: What if a man masturbates into a kleenex, the maid enters the trash and impregnates herself?

Scenario: What if (in the future) the man takes his contraceptive but the woman has switched pills on him?

Scenario: What if a woman gets a sperm donation and then tracks the donor down?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 1:08 PM on February 26, 2005


santiagogo makes a good point: this woman may be seriously mentally ill.

May be?
posted by angry modem at 1:26 PM on February 26, 2005


....Anal sex can lead to pregnancy. Oral sex can lead to pregnancy....
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:08 PM EST on February 26

The chances of this happening are so remote as to be absurd.

Except when someone deliberately reroutes the baby-batter.
posted by exlotuseater at 1:31 PM on February 26, 2005


Metafilter: Women who trick men
posted by The Jesse Helms at 1:31 PM on February 26, 2005


Well, why not ban abortion then? Women have all of those choices without abortion, but abortion is allowed so that they have control of their reproductive systems after a child is concived. Why shouldn't men have the same right?

I've written about this in other threads around here, but what it comes down to, abortion actually is about what the catchwords say, ie, a woman's right to control her body - not a woman's right to control her reproductive destiny or her DNA. It's about not being sigourney weaver.

Control of one's DNA is an issue that has yet to be explicitly and directly addressed. At the moment there is no reason to assume that you have control over your DNA, especially when it's been combined with someone else's who may feel differently.

You do have control over your body, though, and if your body is invaded by a parasite that uses your lungs to get air, your heart to get blood, your mouth to get food, forcing you to carry it with you wherever you go, often undergoing severe nausea and discomfort for extended periods, then you have the right to remove it.
posted by mdn at 1:37 PM on February 26, 2005


SLG, anal sex may indeed lead to pregnancy, but only after leading to severe sepsis from ruptured colon and uterus.
posted by c13 at 1:37 PM on February 26, 2005


shoulda been "causing" not undergoing -
posted by mdn at 1:38 PM on February 26, 2005


SLG, anal sex may indeed lead to pregnancy, but only after leading to severe sepsis from ruptured colon and uterus.
posted by c13


Sperm travel. Impregnation can arise from heavy petting. It can happen. I'm not saying often but it can happen.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:09 PM on February 26, 2005


She is a doctor and clearly doesn't need the $800 per month. So why the hell would she go ahead with the paternity suit?! And, she didn't tell him about the child until it was almost 2 years old - WTF! There must be lots more to the story... if there isn't, then her mental state should be examined and taken into consideration in any further litigation proceedings, because she is clearly fucked in the head.
posted by weezy at 2:18 PM on February 26, 2005


because she is clearly fucked in the head.

Well.... allegedly..
posted by c13 at 2:38 PM on February 26, 2005


The woman was acting like a sperm bank. She collected the sperm then used it to impregnate herself. Men who donate to a sperm bank get paid they don't have to pay.
posted by Suparnova at 2:42 PM on February 26, 2005


and if he had used a condom ... she could have just scooped it out and ... ick
posted by pyramid termite at 3:26 PM on February 26, 2005


You do have control over your body, though, and if your body is invaded by a parasite that uses your lungs to get air, your heart to get blood, your mouth to get food, forcing you to carry it with you wherever you go, often (causing) severe nausea and discomfort for extended periods, then you have the right to remove it.
posted by mdn at 4:37 PM EST on February 26

mdn: that was an extremely evocative, albeit distressing, description of pregnancy. All I can think of now is "OUT! GET IT OUT! GET THIS THING OUT OF ME!"

(sorry for the derail)
posted by exlotuseater at 3:28 PM on February 26, 2005


And the kid is the spitting image of his father.

Boy, you sure said a mouthful.
posted by y2karl at 3:46 PM on February 26, 2005


I count two instances above where the woman is described, apparently without intended irony, as "fucked in the head. To which one can reply "Yes. She was."
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:53 PM on February 26, 2005


One would think that if he'd just made sure she'd swallowed that this wouldn't have happened.
posted by zarq at 4:22 PM on February 26, 2005


God, I don't even know on which horn of this dilemma I should impale myself.

I'm glad I'm not the judge in this case.
posted by orange swan at 4:25 PM on February 26, 2005


Men have a choice.....

Use a condom.


Ahhh, but SLoG, what if a woman puts holes in the condom? What if, after sex, she takes the used condom and inserts the sperm into her vagina? The man in this hypothetical situation clearly took the precautions you subscribe to, yet he finds himself forced into fatherhood.

Scenario: What if a man masturbates into a kleenex, the maid enters the trash and impregnates herself?

I would think that if the maid told the truth about how she became pregnant, she'd be taken to the nearest mental institution.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 4:52 PM on February 26, 2005


Got a link for that, litghost?
posted by kyrademon at 5:03 PM on February 26, 2005


IMO it comes down to (a) whether the man's allegations about the woman deliberately impregnating herself are true; and (b) what you hold to be the intended purpose of child support payments to be. Setting aside (a) for the moment, IMO child support payments are to keep men accountable for their potential negligence during sex. This does not exempt men from having to pay for child support in the case of contraceptive failures, IMO, because improper use of the contraceptive method (#1 cause for contraceptive failure) and mechanical failure of contraception are risks that one has assumed when ones uses contraception. (Deliberate sabotage of contraception though is another story.)

I disagree with the view that proving paternity alone should be sufficient to force a man to pay child support payments. In addition to situations such as The Secret Life of Gravy has mentioned where the man is clearly not culpable (sperm donation, the "recycled jizz rag by maid" scenario), technology may reach the point where producing genetic offspring is no long even tied to sex at all. For example, it may one day be possible for medical science to synthetize an embryo using DNA from, say, two lesbians who both want a genetic investment in their offspring. If a man were to be made an unwitting "father" in this way, should he be held responsible for child support payments? Not in my view. We have to make a distinction between sexual negligence and genetic contributions.

All this could be irrelevant though for this case if the courts decide that the man's allegations, part (a) above, were falsified. If his allegations about the woman deliberately impregnating herself without his knowledge and against his consent are held true though, then he should not have to pay for child support, IMO. But that's for the courts to decide.

FieldingGoodney: Actually, it'd be an easy way to ensure that a child is well-supported by a rich celebrity father, for example. I don't think deliberately impregnating oneself is always a sign of irrational behavior. Disturbing and, depending on the circumstances, unethical, perhaps, but not necessarily irrational.
posted by DaShiv at 5:06 PM on February 26, 2005


And the kid is the spitting image of his father.

Boy, you sure said a mouthful.


Oh, come now.
posted by ChrisTN at 5:08 PM on February 26, 2005


So here is a question that came up today at lunch: Do prostitutes ever sue their Johns for child support? This must happen but I can't recall ever hearing about it.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2005


So here is a question that came up today at lunch: Do prostitutes ever sue their Johns for child support? This must happen but I can't recall ever hearing about it.
Back in high school, my health teacher told us an allegedly true story combining exactly these two elements: that is, a prostitute saving the semen after oral sex, impregnating herself, and then suing, successfully, for child support.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:48 PM on February 26, 2005


I think the bottom line is consent.

Physically women have more control over their reproductive choices as they have the power to make a decision on abortion or not. Obviously a man does not. However, a man may have not consented to a pregnancy in the exact same way that a woman goes for the morning-after pill / choose abortion at a later date - basically she made the decision AFTER being made pregnant that she does not want to have the child. If a woman becomes pregnant through carelessness, she can still have the choice to end the pregnancy.

The same should go for any father-to-be - I believe that a father has also a choice of wanting to support the child or not - especially when he has been duped into fatherhood.

Ultimately (normally?), the best scenario is for both mother and father to be happy that they are parents-to-be and this issue doesn't arise.....
posted by FieldingGoodney at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2005


Oh, come now.

Naw, once was enough.
posted by jonmc at 6:22 PM on February 26, 2005


Simple as this: If you have a shaft, you will get the shaft.

A boy's gotta be careful out there. Really careful. Ridiculously careful - in order to avoid double standards.
posted by C.Batt at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2005


One swallow doesn't make offspring.
posted by Tarn at 6:48 PM on February 26, 2005


This is reminiscent of the bizarre story of former tennis star Boris Becker (claim to fame: youngest player to ever win Wimbledon), who at first denied paternity of a child fathered with Russian model Angela Ermikova, because, well, because ... the intercourse was ... ahem ... oral, you see?
At the time there was much talk of the Russian Mafia, putting the sperm on ice immediately, and the most expensive five minutes in tennis history. (Technical details here.).

Becker later turned down the offer to become spokesman for a condom manufacturer (I am not making this up.)

Note to self: Avoid sex in cupboards and/or with Russian quote models unquote.
posted by sour cream at 8:15 PM on February 26, 2005


I guess I don't get the cries of unfairness over the fact that women have a longer veto-period over pregnancy than men do. This difference was caused by Nature, so why the anger?

Look, the deal is up front and on the table from the beginning: keep control of your sperm or face unwilling child support payments later on. As long as males are informed of this ahead of time, I don't see much of a reason for complaining later on.

Certainly the current situation is much better than in previous generations, when bastard children got nothing from their fathers. Why punish the poor kid?
posted by beth at 8:17 PM on February 26, 2005


I think one reason why courts go after bio-fathers so aggressively for child support for the mother is because if they bio-father pays to support the child, then the state doesn't.

The state of Georgia came after my brother to pay what they were paying out to the mother of his child.

I am glad that children are being supported better, yet I hear so many horror stories about men being screwed by semi-crazy women. It seems that there should be a better option.

Oooh, I just thought of one scenario that may happen once we can clone people. Say I clone myself and carry that baby to term. Can I sue my father for child support?
posted by Monday at 8:51 PM on February 26, 2005


This kid's life is going to suck.
posted by drezdn at 9:03 PM on February 26, 2005


Look, the deal is up front and on the table from the beginning: keep control of your sperm or face unwilling child support payments later on. As long as males are informed of this ahead of time, I don't see much of a reason for complaining later on.

What would you say to The Secret Life of Gravy's maid scenario earlier in the thread? Did the man "lose control" of his sperm irresponsibly? What about the sperm donor case?

I think the "you ejaculated, your fault" view w.r.t. child support that you're proposing here is just as unwarranted as the "you got pregnant, your fault" scenario presented to many women in some non-Western countries. Why is it that we are kosher with the notion of female consent but not that of male consent?
posted by DaShiv at 12:10 AM on February 27, 2005


What would you say to The Secret Life of Gravy's maid scenario earlier in the thread?

I would say that the guy had a reasonable supposition that his sperm would not be retrieved from the trash, and I would let him off the hook.

Sperm donors are protected by specific legal agreements and they never have to pay child support.

I think the "you ejaculated, your fault" view w.r.t. child support that you're proposing here is just as unwarranted as the "you got pregnant, your fault" scenario presented to many women in some non-Western countries. Why is it that we are kosher with the notion of female consent but not that of male consent?

First of all, the "you got pregnant, your fault" was the norm in Western countries as well until quite recently.

What do you propose? That men never be held responsible for the children they create? Then we'd be back where we were, which was quite unfair to the poor children involved (and they were by and large quite poor indeed).

Keep in mind that without some guarantee of support from the father, more women are (and were) driven to desperate extremes to try to avoid having to raise a child they simply can't afford - abortion (quite unsafe until recent decades), suicide, infanticide.

Men simply have to get used to the idea that controlling their ejaculate is controlling their parenthood, and act accordingly. As long as everyone is educated about this beforehand, I don't see why it's so troublesome. The man doesn't lack consent at all. His period of time to definitively decide he doesn't want a child and act accordingly occurs well before the woman's, but like I said, it's Nature that controls this, so don't get angry at women and try to take away their freedom to compensate for it.

Hell, I'd be in favor of publically funded vasectomies, and publically funded sperm-extraction procedures later on (when the vasectomized decide that they are ready and willing to have a child). Abortions would go way down, that's for certain, and I think everyone can cheer about that.
posted by beth at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2005


Simple as this: If you have a shaft, you will get the shaft.

A boy's gotta be careful out there. Really careful. Ridiculously careful - in order to avoid double standards.


This is ridiculous. As above, no one has control over their DNA at this point. That is still an open question. What women have control over is their bodies. Men have control over their bodies, but are not endowed by nature with the capacity to be a pod for a new life form, so do not have to deal with the question. It is not a double standard; it is just a standard that by nature does not apply to men.

If a maid stole a guy's dna to create a life, I cannot see how one could argue that the man was responsible for the resulting child. It seems to me something of an open question whether the man could claim that the maid had no right to use the sperm to start with, but I cannot see a good argument for the man being responsible for child care etc.

However, engaging in sex, even with protection, seems to me to naturally be assuming a certain level of risk, and it seems to me right that responsibility should be taken for that risk. If you're certain you don't want children, get a vasectomy, or don't have sex with people you don't trust to be reasonable about taking your preferences into account.
posted by mdn at 9:18 AM on February 27, 2005


A google search on "Sharon Irons child support" provides about 3 pages of relevant links, which all seem to be variations on one of the two articles linked in this thread. I couldn't find any articles which:

1) said that he lied or she lied
2) investigated claims made by Irons (that they'd dated on and off since college, that he'd known about the pregnancy)
3) investigated claims made by Phillips
4) described any of the evidence that either side might be submitting to the courts to substantiate their claims
5) said that she admitted she lied

Google searches on "Sharon Irons lied" "Sharon Irons admits lie" "Sharon Irons capitualtes" and "Sharon Irons admits wrong doing" resulted in no new results.

Neither of these articles provide enough evidence to decide which side is lying. Using this story as "evidence" that women dupe men into child support is beyond stupid: it does a grave harm to the children who genuinely need their fathers' support.
posted by carmen at 9:42 AM on February 27, 2005


Say what you want about the relative security of ejaculating into a kleenex at the Motel 6 as compared to ejaculating into a woman's mouth, but what this argument is ultimately going to come down to is that intent or willingness on the part of either parent is legally irrelevant. There is no way to prove intent to produce offspring in a court of law, and even if you could, it wouldn't matter because the man can be held responsible even if he didn't intend to produce offspring.

How about this: an option to put your child-producing status on your driver's liscence, much like your organ donor status is now. A person who didn't want children would be legally responsible for knowing their partner's status before engaging in sex acts (and could be held legally accountable if they didn't).

That is to say, unless your partner indicates his or her non-child-producing status on his or her liscence, you are responsible for the welfare of any children produced from your sex acts. But, if two people who choose to identify on their liscence a non-child-producing engage in sex, neither one can be held legally accountable to the other partner or any children produced from that relationship at any time.

Of course, a regulation like that would probably never get passed, but it would give legal merit to any claims of intent.
posted by rockabilly_pete at 10:08 AM on February 27, 2005


One swallow doesn't make offspring.

I nominate this to go into the one-liner hall of fame.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 10:19 AM on February 27, 2005


yet I hear so many horror stories about men being screwed by semi-crazy women.

That is because the semi-crazy women got screwed by the men first.

If I had a son, this would be drilled into his head: Don't have sex unless you know and love your partner. If you hook-up with a semi-crazy woman, don't be surprised if she does something crazy.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:34 AM on February 27, 2005


Yeah SLoG, never have sex with anyone crazier than yourself!

But, if two people who choose to identify on their liscence a non-child-producing engage in sex, neither one can be held legally accountable to the other partner or any children produced from that relationship at any time.

Wait, who takes care of the child produced in such a match?

Agreeing a lot with Beth by the way. Even though vasectomies seem pretty extreme, pray for male pill guys. They keep telling us that it's on it's way... Meanwhile, condoms rule. Carry your own if you don't trust "her" to not make holes in it.
posted by dabitch at 10:51 AM on February 27, 2005


Condoms fail. Not often, but they do. Everyone who uses them does so knowing the risks involved. When one has oral sex with a woman it is assumed for very, very obvious reasons that the sperm will be in her stomach, where - as everyone who engages in oral sex knows - they will die without impregnating the woman.

These are reasonable expectations. If a condom fails and you find yourself a father - you understood that there was that .1% risk of pregnancy. When you engage in oral sex there is and always has been an implied 0% chance of pregnancy. This is one of the major reasons men ever engage in oral sex.

I think the key phrase here is "bad faith." Women who take extreme measures to knowingly circumvent the intentions and reasonable expectations of the man are acting in bad faith. An accident arising from oral sex, anal sex, or heavy petting is a completely different scenario from a woman acting in bad faith to intentionally circumvent the contract implied by oral sex.
posted by Ryvar at 11:01 AM on February 27, 2005


Well, while the courts have sorted out that it wasn't theft of sperm, could they sort out how she got the sperm? It's still standing at:"Phillips alleges that he and Irons, never had intercourse during their four-month affair."

So sure, if you wanna belive Philips, she saved sperm in her mouth, zipped up his pants and walked off with her mouthful and spat it out in a disinfected petri-dish of some sort, so that she could use it later. Uh-huh. That's real likely to happen and succeed.
posted by dabitch at 11:18 AM on February 27, 2005


This issue hits way close to home. I once tackled a girl who'd nabbed my rubber and tied a knot in the end after we'd finished the deed.
"That's mine!" she yelled.
"Like hell it is," was my reply.
This is scary, scary shit. Some women are purely interested in getting pregnant. Drove me right off of sex. Anyway, this is how I see it.

If my sister gets pregnant, she can go to a clinic and get an abortion. We all support her right to chose maternity. She can choose whether or not she wants to be a mother. However, if I get pregnant via inseminating my partner, society dictates that I do not have the right to chose fatherhood.
I have an 18 year financial commitment.
She can choose motherhood or not,
I do not have the same choice.

And as for the whole, "Keep it in your pants," argument: That is no different than the "keep your panties on, don't wear short skirts," mindset of the 1950s. In short, bullshit. If we're going to claim to be pro-choice, than we should step up to the plate and be pro-choice.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:42 PM on February 27, 2005


I don't get the cries of unfairness over the fact that women have a longer veto-period over pregnancy than men do.

This is faulty on several levels.

First of all, it's not pregnancy that is the concern, it's parenthod, specifically parental responsibilities, and the "veto-period" is a legal construct, not a natural one, so arguments based "nature" are irredeemably flawed.

Secondly, a single woman can legally avoid parental responsibilities well AFTER birth. It's not just abortion that affords her the opportunity to escape parental responsibilities, but also adoption.

Thridly, for those making the "think of the children/burden on the state" arguments, consider that those arguments apply equally strongly to those children put up for adoption, yet adoption is still legally available to the single mother.

No complement exists for the man at any of the decision points afforded to the woman.
posted by NortonDC at 4:08 PM on February 27, 2005


And as for the whole, "Keep it in your pants," argument: That is no different than the "keep your panties on, don't wear short skirts," mindset of the 1950s. In short, bullshit. If we're going to claim to be pro-choice, than we should step up to the plate and be pro-choice.

What Baby_Balrog said. Abso-flippin'-lutely.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 4:57 PM on February 27, 2005


Interesting point regarding adoption Norton - I never thought about that- a woman can decide to give away her child yet a man cannot escape his parental responsibilities even though he didn't consent to them. Certainly all this thinking adds up to "zip it up, don't do it whatever she says and however much you love her" but you would think the man deserves a choice after all of that, especially when he makes practical contraceptive choices, yet she dupes him.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 5:46 PM on February 27, 2005


I never thought about that- a woman can decide to give away her child yet a man cannot escape his parental responsibilities even though he didn't consent to them.

It would work the other way, you know. The man could refuse to sign the adoption papers, keep the child himself, and force the woman to pay child support. It would have to be a mutual surrender of parental rights and responsibilities, or neither.
posted by orange swan at 6:54 PM on February 27, 2005


Is it just me, or is the one case in a thousand not necessarily a good basis on which we should define laws and ethics regarding human sexuality and reproduction?

Just because man bites dog once in a blue moon, does that mean we should jump and redefine all of the laws dealing with dog bites man?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:09 PM on February 27, 2005


In most Americans personal experience, slavery is pretty exceptional, but we still deem it worth covering in our laws.
posted by NortonDC at 9:39 PM on February 27, 2005


orange swan -- The man could refuse to sign the adoption papers, keep the child himself, and force the woman to pay child support.

Do you have any concrete indication that this has ever happened? That an unmarried mother with sole custody of a child that the baby's father was paying child support for tried to give up the baby for adoption, and upon doing so, saw custody pass to the father and was forced to make onging child-support payments to the father?

Or did I misunderstand and that's your proposal for how it should work?
posted by NortonDC at 10:34 PM on February 27, 2005


It is perfectly clear to me that all these problems played a role in my early acceptance of my attraction to fellow males.
posted by Goofyy at 2:10 AM on February 28, 2005


NortonDC: In most Americans personal experience, slavery is pretty exceptional, but we still deem it worth covering in our laws.

Let me put it another way. Is it reasonable to redefine custody and child support arangements for the 99/100 cases in which is is reasonable for the man to pay support, because of the rare cases in which a woman behaved with malice in getting pregnant?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:33 AM on February 28, 2005


Men have a choice, in fact they have several.

No sex unless you are ready to become a father.
Use a condom.
Get a vasectomy.


all these choices must be made before the act so they are not male abortion equivalents. no man has a legal option to end an unwanted pregnancy, or to stop an abortion if he does want to take responsibility for the child.

all the pressure is on the man to take "responsibility" either before or after the fact regardless of the circumstances, but the woman has all the "rights"

somethings not right in this picture
posted by acclivus at 7:38 PM on February 28, 2005


orange swan -- The man could refuse to sign the adoption papers, keep the child himself, and force the woman to pay child support.

Do you have any concrete indication that this has ever happened?


My point was more that it's possible, though I'm sure it's not at all common. Of course it would be more commonly the case that the father refuses to agree to an adoption and the mother is forced to keep the baby rather than let the father have it, which is if anything more horrible.

I know of an accidental pregnancy case (i.e., I know the people) where the mother couldn't bring herself to have an abortion and wanted to give the baby up for adoption. The father (who had pressured the woman to have an abortion) told the mother that if she tried to go through with the adoption he'd take the baby himself and make sure the mother never saw it again. She was forced to keep her daughter herself rather than let the sociopathic and abusive father have her.

all the pressure is on the man to take "responsibility" either before or after the fact regardless of the circumstances, but the woman has all the "rights"

somethings not right in this picture


I can't say that it's fair, no, but it's more a matter of biology than unfair societal dictates. Do you really want women to be forced to have abortions because the father doesn't want the child? I suppose a possible answer is to give people the unilateral right to relinquish parental responsibilities - as with adoption, only without the mutual agreement of both parents - but I see that as a whole other can of worms. What in that case is to stop a man from declining to take responsibility for a child he deliberately conceived? And how will that protect one parent from being forced to keep the child so the other, incompetent parent doesn't get it?
posted by orange swan at 5:56 AM on March 1, 2005


I can't say that it's fair, no, but it's more a matter of biology than unfair societal dictates.

That's false. Adoption alleviates the mother's financial burden, and there's nothing biological about that at all.

>>Do you have any concrete indication that this has ever happened?
>
>My point was more that it's possible, though I'm sure it's not
>at all common.

So, no, you do not have any indication that it has ever happened. Then what is your evidence that it is even legally possible? You've presented none.

She was forced to keep her daughter herself rather than let the sociopathic and abusive father have her.

This is a complaint that, after completely disavowing all her parental responsibilities, the birth mother was unable to control the custody of the child. Hello, that's exactly as it should be. No responsibilities means no control, either. Your objection to that indicates you want the mother maintain control over the child she has no responsibilites to. That's a poor way to pursue fairness.

What in that case is to stop a man from declining to take responsibility for a child he deliberately conceived?

Exactly the same thing that prevents a woman from declining to take responsibility for a child she deliberately conceived: nothing.

Do you really want women to be forced to have abortions because the father doesn't want the child?

As I already said, "it's not pregnancy that is the concern, it's parenthod, specifically parental responsibilities."
posted by NortonDC at 8:12 AM on March 1, 2005


The father (who had pressured the woman to have an abortion) told the mother that if she tried to go through with the adoption he'd take the baby himself and make sure the mother never saw it again. She was forced to keep her daughter herself rather than let the sociopathic and abusive father have her.

orange swan, you obviously think single mothers who choose to shut fathers out of their childrens lives are also "sociopathic and abusive"? Or is that a different scenario altogether?

A good sign that fairness is taking place is the absence of double-standards.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 10:23 AM on March 1, 2005


There are certainly some sociopathic and abusive women who also happen to be single mothers, yes. I'm not sure what your point is here, FieldingGoodney, or how it relates to what I said. Just to clarify, the mother in this case did NOT shut the father out of their daughter's life. He gets visiting rights to his daughter. To give you but one example of what a shitty father he is, I'll just say that if the little girl cries or misbehaves in any way, he tells her she'd better stop or she'll never see him again.

So, no, you do not have any indication that it has ever happened. Then what is your evidence that it is even legally possible? You've presented none.

Are you really telling me that men never get custody of children and women are never required to pay support and that the onus is on me to prove otherwise? Because I have seen it happen (just not in the specific accidental-baby-fresh-out-of-the-womb scenario) and I can't believe you haven't.

This is a complaint that, after completely disavowing all her parental responsibilities, the birth mother was unable to control the custody of the child. Hello, that's exactly as it should be.

In the case of these people of my acquaintance, the mother's choice was "keep the child in my custody most of the time or have her sole custody go to this man who has beaten and raped me". And no, this is not how it should be. The fact that you can morally and responsibly abdicate from parental responsibility does not mean that it's responsible and moral to knowingly leave the child in a destructive situation.

What in that case is to stop a man from declining to take responsibility for a child he deliberately conceived?

Exactly the same thing that prevents a woman from declining to take responsibility for a child she deliberately conceived: nothing.


The minimal responsibilty of every person is to make sure that his or her biological child is left in the care of a competent person who can be reasonably supposed to have the means and ability to provide decently for the child and who will henceforth be legally responsible for the child's welfare, as in the case of adoptions.
posted by orange swan at 11:38 AM on March 1, 2005


Are you really telling me that men never get custody of children and women are never required to pay support and that the onus is on me to prove otherwise? Because I have seen it happen (just not in the specific accidental-baby-fresh-out-of-the-womb scenario) and I can't believe you haven't.

This isn't a black and white issue - it's a mostly/rarely issue. Mostly women do automatically get custody of children (despite many willing and able fathers) - see any number of fathers' rights websites out there - I'm sure you've heard of Fathers4Justice for example - I wonder why there are so few mothers' rights support groups, when it comes to child custody? Divorce is initiated anywhere between 60-80% of the time (depending on source) by women - my guess is that men don't initiate divorce because they don't also wish to divorce their children. Women know the odds are stacked in their favour. If you support fairness (obviously without double standards), you will be shocked at how unfair the system is stacked against men.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 4:28 PM on March 1, 2005


Are you really telling me that men never get custody of children and women are never required to pay support and that the onus is on me to prove otherwise?

You're changing the scenario under discussion, without acknowledging it.

You asserted, without qualification, that "The man could refuse to sign the adoption papers, keep the child himself, and force the woman to pay child support."

Doubting the applicability of that to the situation we're discussing, namely fathers trying to have as little to do with their children as possible, I specifically asked about something that would be covered by your blanket statement, and is closer to the spirit of the topic at hand:
Do you have any concrete indication that this has ever happened? That an unmarried mother with sole custody of a child that the baby's father was paying child support for tried to give up the baby for adoption, and upon doing so, saw custody pass to the father and was forced to make ongoing child-support payments to the father?
You quoted from that (so I'm pretty sure you read it), and then replied that it was "possible." Really? What evidence or precedent do you have showing that, for an unmarried mother with sole custody of a child that the baby's father was paying child support for, mother-initiated adoption proceedings would result in custody passing to the father with the mother being forced to make ongoing child-support payments to the father?

That's the question.
posted by NortonDC at 11:46 PM on March 1, 2005


FieldingGoodney, it's certainly very true that the law is biased in favour of women getting custody, and yes, I think it very unfair. I know several men who wanted custody of their children and are very bitter about the fact that they hadn't a chance of getting it - their lawyers told them not to bother because "the next thing you know it'll be 20K later and you'll have traumatized your kids and you still won't have them".

Although I will add that it's my understanding that it's the custodial parent (who usually happens to be the mother) who has the upper hand legally. Basically, the only way the other parent can get custody is by proving the custodial parent unfit, and that is practically impossible. If the custodial parent is giving the child even minimal care the court will not remove the child(ren) from the custodial parent's care. I can understand that the reason behind this is to cause as little disruption for the children as possible, but the question of who would be the better parent never gets asked - and that's very problematic.

NortonDC, I have emailed a friend who is a lawyer asking him if it's legally possible for a father to get custody of and child support for a baby that the mother had wanted to give up for adoption. We'll see what he says.

I do remember a case I read of in the paper about ten years back in which a unmarried mother tried to give her baby up for adoption. The baby had actually been placed with adoptive parents when the father said that he wanted the child himself. The mother then had to choose between of a) letting the father have the baby or b) keeping the child herself. She chose to keep the child herself, because although she had not wanted the child she said she would rather keep him than let the father have him, as she said he was too irresponsible to be a good parent. If she had said fine, the father can have the baby, then he would indeed have gotten the little boy. The only unknown here is whether she could then be forced to pay child support to the father.
posted by orange swan at 5:44 AM on March 3, 2005


All right, my lawyer friend has gotten back to me. One caveat - he is a criminal lawyer, not a family lawyer, but here's what he says:

Him: In most jurisdictions (including Ontario), no one birth or adoptive parent may place a child for adoption in the first place without the stated consent of the other birth or adoptive parent or at least without a court order barring the need for that consent. Anything less would be terribly immoral, particularly in a jurisdiction where in some circumstances certain sums of money may pass to a parent placing a child. Sales, anyone? I do not know this to be the case, but I suspect that obtaining such an order in lieu of consent would have the effect of barring the other parent's "parental rights" (not a useful or legal term in Ontario) in toto

Me: Okay, so the adoption can't happen without the consent of both parents, but if the father should get custody could he also force the mother to pay child support?

Him: That's correct. Of course, it's not a matter of "forcing": the only issue in child law is "the best interests of the child". Obviously that means in general that the custodial parent is entitled to child support from the other parent, regardless of the sex of either.


To redirect here - my original point was in response to this:

I never thought about that- a woman can decide to give away her child yet a man cannot escape his parental responsibilities even though he didn't consent to them.

No one can unilaterally give up a child for adoption. If one parent wants to keep the child, then adoption is not an option and the other, unwilling parent will have to choose between getting custody of the child or giving the other parent custody (either through mutual agreement or according to court order after a legal fight for custody), and the custodial parent gets child support regardless of gender.

The only extra legal option a woman has when it comes to reproduction and parental responsibilities is the right to terminate the pregnancy or proceed with it, and that right is and must remain solely hers.
posted by orange swan at 7:12 AM on March 3, 2005


Good follow through, orange swan, but you seem to have misinterpreted what you found.

Me: Okay, so the adoption can't happen without the consent of both parents

No, that's not what the lawyer said. He explicitly described the means by which a mother may pursue adoption without the father's consent: a court order. And it also sounds like the lawyer believes that in such cases the father would not get the child (loss of "parental rights") and would therefore also not get child support payments from the mother.
posted by NortonDC at 7:55 AM on March 3, 2005


I'd taken that into consideration, NortonDC, but I'd assumed that a person's parental rights would only be set aside under extreme cases i.e., the parent has proven himself to be completely unfit to be a parent through extreme abuse of the child. In which case the abusive parent wouldn't have a chance of getting custody anyway, so it seemed irrelevant to our discussion of whether a father could get custody and child support from a mother who had wanted to put the child up for adoption.

However, in case I assumed too much I have again emailed my friend to ask him under what circumstances one parent (not necessarily the mother, as you have phrased it) could get a court order against the other and be allowed to give a child up for adoption against the other parent's will. If/when he gets back to me I'll post again.
posted by orange swan at 10:11 AM on March 3, 2005


Ah, here his opinion on this, straight out of a nice fresh email and served onto the blue:

I don't know what the circumstances would require. I suspect that you are close to right, that it would require some significant reason why the "resisting" parent should not be entitled to maintain her or his rights (and, presumably, obtain custody: obviously if I say "I didn't want this kid", then it's going to ring very false when I later say "now I want the kid but only because X, a parent who does want the kid, will have him/her instead"). That's close to the behaviour often seen of custodial parents, regrettably to say almost always mothers, who make sudden and serious criminal child abuse allegations as soon as things appear to be less open-and-shut then the custodial parent might like.
posted by orange swan at 10:21 AM on March 3, 2005


Although I will add that it's my understanding that it's the custodial parent (who usually happens to be the mother) who has the upper hand legally.

orange swan - yes, that is true. Decisions favour the status quo.

/slight tangent:-

Personally I am against sole custody as it is rarely in the interests of a child to shut out one of its parents forever. That is often the net result of sole custody. When you offer sole custody, it opens up a can of worms: the non-custodial can be denied visitation rights, either by force (custodial parent/child are never there at the agreed time) or through accusations of child abuse/domestic violence. Accusations, whether true or false, cause a "lingering doubt" in the courts and often the non-custodial is denied access altogether. In any case, visitation is never enforced effectively.

I know I've gone off on a tangent here, but I do feel that men still suffer from negative stereotypes when it comes to family courts (accusations of DV/child abuse are more likely to stick than if a women is accused) - and also the "men can't bring up kids" and the "dads aren't that important" stereotypes that prevail. Remember also that men don't have a huge movement/ideology like feminism to speak up for them.

Anyway, good follow-up orange swan.
posted by FieldingGoodney at 10:29 AM on March 3, 2005


(I would like to add that my last post wasn't in response to orange swan's last two posts to avoid confusion!)
posted by FieldingGoodney at 10:35 AM on March 3, 2005


I quite agree with you, FG. In this discussion I'm mostly speaking as to what rights one has legally, and I'm fully aware that the reality can bear no resemblance to what is ordered by the court. Plenty of custodial parents don't get the child support they're entitled to, or conversely they blow the money on anything but what would benefit the kids. Custodial parents can prevent visitation - or the visiting parent can just not bother. And the kids are the ones who suffer the most from all of this.

A man I know was married to a mentally unstable woman. Their marriage was ending, and one night she started screaming at him to leave and take their two children because she never wanted to see any of them again. He didn't have any place to take the kids and they had school the next day, so he thought it would be best for him to leave alone, that his wife would soon calm down if he did.

A few days later he went to see a divorce lawyer, and the lawyer said, "That was the biggest mistake you'll ever make. You should have taken her at her word and left with the kids. Then you would have custody and she would have to fight you for it. And she never would have gotten it." But as things were, he was told it was useless for him to fight for custody.

I just can't believe we've set up these rules so that all that matters is who has custody, that the fact that this particular parent was batshit crazy and an unfit mother didn't matter.
posted by orange swan at 10:58 AM on March 3, 2005


I just can't believe we've set up these rules so that all that matters is who has custody, that the fact that this particular parent was batshit crazy and an unfit mother didn't matter.

Absolutely - the focus should be taken away from "winner takes all" and back to equal responsibility in upbringing the kids regardless of the health of the spousal relationship. The common desire (it seems) from many fathers' groups (such as F4J) is to use this equal responsibility as a starting point to negotioate practical living arrangements. I honestly think if people realised responsibility of raising their kids went on regardless of separation, and that their partner also had this responsibility, divorce would no longer make one spouse a winner, and one a loser. In that way, the motivation to divorce (for the potential "winner") would lessen (my assumption) and also it's not the end of the world to one parent, and the children when divorce occurs.

It's nice to be idealistic.............
posted by FieldingGoodney at 2:02 PM on March 3, 2005


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