The Inequality of the Sexes
I heard a guy on a radio call-in show pose this question:
"Now that we are allowing the government to control people's bodies" (stick a pin here, I'll come back to it) "will we now allow the government to force males to undergo vasectomy, which is reversible, until they commit to a woman and agree to have children with her?"
Now, I'll get to the question in a moment, but let's quickly take a closer look at that premise.
Commonly, when this sort of language is used, pro-lifers will respond that, "It's not your/her/the woman's body." Well, see, the thing is, it is. Or, rather, if I can be permitted use of a double negative (and I don't dislike a judicious use of the double negative), it isn't NOT her body. It's just not only her body. Her body is the one undergoing pregnancy. Her body will be the one that undergoes delivery. But her body will not be the only one that undergoes abortion, or even the one that primarily undergoes it. In that case, the body she's carrying in her womb will be the one primarily at issue. The pro-life position is that you cannot inflict direct and deliberate violence on that other body as a means to the end of treating the woman's body. This is distinguished from, say, the removal of an ectopic pregnancy, where the treatment is primarily directed toward a part of the woman's body that has become diseased, as a result of which procedure, the embryonic body suffers death. But the main point is, we shouldn't be so determined to dismiss the glaringly obvious point that a woman's body is changed by pregnancy. We can call attention to the question of her child's body without denying this other fact, because doing so makes us seem either mendacious, stupid, or callous—or all three at once.
Proceeding from there, then, we can attack the question posed. And here the first thing to point out is that the question fails in analogy. The analogy to forcing a man to get a vasectomy would be forcing a woman to get an abortion, or a hysterectomy. And to that, yes, we would indeed be opposed. To that, we are opposed. But rather, the analogous situation to not permitting a woman to get an abortion would be not allowing a man to escape his paternal responsibilities. Again, here, we find that most of us do not oppose this sort of thing, and in fact we have laws that enforce this, through the awarding of child support and so forth.
It may be objected that forcing a man to pay child support doesn't infringe upon his bodily autonomy. But this isn't strictly true, either. The man may be a manual laborer. He may work a desk job. In any case, he will be compelled to work in one way or another, in order to pay the ordered support, and at least as long as the Metaverse is not yet fully functioning, he will therefore at least to some extend be required to use his body in a compulsory manner. If he fails in paying, the authorities may seize him bodily and throw him bodily in jail.
Now, I only point out that, if we are making analogies, the thrust of the analogies needs to align as it does above. I don't make a hard claim that the two situations are really very similar. This leads to a final observation, about which I imagine I could say more, and so might write more later sometime. For now, I'll only briefly touch upon the issue. That issue is equality and fairness.
If we reach for a metaphor to use to attempt to show how there is a similar burden for men as what pregnancy and childbirth are for women… well, then we reach in vain. And this is because the sexes really are not equal in this regard. This may be a shocking thing for modern ears to hear, but it is nonetheless a fact. The reproductive burden simply is not distributed equally among the sexes in the human species, or any other mammalian species. This is true in terms both of opportunity and, if you will, cost.
The difference begins, well, right at the beginning, in the matter of gametes. Whether or not it is true that the female is born with all of the oocytes she'll ever have (recent science has questioned this long-held assertion) it is in any case certainly true that the availability of female reproductive germ cells is vastly disparate compared with the male's supply, regularly produced through spermatogenesis. Note, too, that I say the difference is in availability, because it isn't just a question of a difference in "stock" as it were. As we've come to know painfully over the past two years, the question of supply has to do with more than just production. Thus, timing is important too. Female fertility follows a reproductive cycle, more or less regular, in contrast to male potential which is, under normal circumstances, comparatively free from any such vicissitudes. (Again, recent science has somewhat challenged this, and indicated that there can be factors affecting male fertility previously unaccounted for, and thus the old idea of the male's reproductive potential being "always on" may not be as straightforward as had been assumed. But here, too, even if there is more to the story here, the general contrast still holds, that the male has a wider window.) All this having been observed, I needn't really even note what is much more remarked and really much more obvious regarding everything that actually stems from reproduction, from the length of pregnancy, the changes to the female body, breastfeeding, and so forth. If we see imbalance in the area of reproductive potential, the same holds a fortiori in the area of the actual reproductive process. About the compensations for the observed inequalities—the glories of motherhood and the miracle of childbearing—I will leave it to others more qualified than I to speak.
The main point here is that speaking of "equality" in this realm can only hold true in a very conditional and modified sense of the word. If aliens really did abduct humans and coldly investigate these matters the way they are always shown to be doing on TV, they'd think that there are striking differences between the sexes as vast as the difference in size between a single egg and a single sperm. They'd also probably have the general impression that, biologically speaking—that is, prescinding from matters of actual mating, let alone culture—the female is the controlling side in reproduction. In any case, they wouldn't come away from their experiments with an awed sense of the "equality" of it all.
The reason I lay all this out is two-fold, but nevertheless quite simple. The first point is that pro-lifers need to avoid a knee-jerk, facile responses about the differences in reproductive burden just as much as they need to avoid such answers in the question of "whose body," as discussed above. The second point, critically, is that these observations help us to see a fundamental flaw in the logic, or rather sentiments, coming out of the sexual revolution, that really there is an attempt at trying to sqaure a circle. Because despite all we've seen about the plain biological facts of inequality that attend here, the goal of the sexual revolutionaries has always been directed toward some sort of equality. And the upshot is that the sought equality must always involve denying the unique potentials of women and trying to throw them over in favor of something that looks more like the potentials of men. Female reproduction is treated like a disease, from fertility to childbirth. I don't need to go deeply into observing all the ways this is true. We can simply think of the expectations and norms of modern career work. The rules are all very much male-centric, and always have been. And the cost of entry for women, while it might have been a changing of the rules, really in the actual event ended up being a demand for the changing of the woman. Witness the parable-in-action of the corporations scurrying to promise women they'll fly them to another state to get an abortion, when they won't be compelled to promise them anything like a generous pregnancy and maternity leave. As much as feminists shout that pro-lifers with their restrictive laws are reenforcing the "patriarchy," the fact is that there is no mechanism in the modern world more pointedly patriarchal than the abortion industry.
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