« "A Woman's Place Is....." | Main | Housewifery as a Luxury Good »

April 14, 2012

Another Day, Another Victim: Perverse Conservatism Edition

James Taranto is upset. Very upset. It seems that teenaged boys are in serious danger of behaving responsibly, and [I'll bet you never saw this one coming] feminists are to blame:

An odd recent New York Times op-ed by sociologist Amy Schalet touts the rise of, as the headline puts it, "Caring, Romantic American Boys." Schalet, who studied American high school sophomores (along with Dutch ones) for a forthcoming book, reports that "boys [are] behaving more 'like girls' in terms of when they lose their virginity," by which she means they "are becoming more careful and more romantic about their first sexual experiences."

Maybe her book will flesh out that claim, but in her op-ed the boys sound downright terrified: "American boys often said sex could end their life as they knew it. After a condom broke, one worried: 'I could be screwed for the rest of my life.' Another boy said he did not want to have sex yet for fear of becoming a father before his time."

If you're anything like this mother of two grown sons, you may well be confused. I know I am, because during the many talks I had with my sons during their teen years, the one point I tried to drive home to them is that sex isn't a game. It's an adult activity with adult consequences. If you fail to use birth control (or if, as happened to this author, you did use birth control but it fails) you will find yourself, as I did at the ripe old age of 19, sitting in a doctor's office as he tells you that you are now the proud carrier of a human life. "Life as you know it" will indeed end.

Taranto's disquiet is even more bizarre when you stop to realize that the boys he wants to free from the onerous responsibility of thinking about real world consequences are only 15-17 years old. Oh, the humanity! I'm not sure I care to live in a world where 15-17 year old boys can't have consequence free sex any more. Should this destructive trend catch on, we are in serious danger of living in a society where people actually think before acting. Or worse, take responsibility for their own behavior!

Question for the ages: didn't conservatives used to think personal responsibility was a good thing for everyone? Or is it only some people who should act responsibly? This seems to be a central theme in Taranto's writing of late. In an earlier column, he identifies a particularly nasty trend: females who want to be educated and productive members of society:

As Charles Murray shows in his new book, "Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010," marriage has declined much less sharply among the educated and affluent than among the so-called working class. But it has still declined, and it can be expected to decline more absent a reversal of the trend toward greater female education and accomplishment.

How can this disturbing trend of education and achievement be reversed before it destroys us all? Tellingly, Taranto doesn't say. Perhaps women could voluntarily limit themselves, so as not to unfairly outshine males who have chosen not to show up for the game? Implicit in Taranto's arguments is a refrain that underlies the Left's inequality narrative: people who work harder, achieve more, or outearn others have done something vaguely wrong and unfair. When inequality happens, the onus is not on low achievers to aim higher or work harder. Rather, it is the high achievers who must level the playing field by lowering their goals and sharing their ill gotten gains with the ambition-challenged.

Once you accept this perverse formulation, it seems only natural that the solution to the problem of "overachieving" females is for them to lower their sights and allow the disheartened men they are victimizing to catch up.

By conflating fear of consequences with fear of girls or sex itself (they're not the same thing) Taranto manages to make rational and responsible decision-making look like pathology. But just in case you still think the world would be a better place if teenagers considered the consequences of their actions and learned to control their sex drives (a technique called "abstinence"), Taranto has another shocker for you:

At the same time, there is good reason for males (men as well as boys) to be more fearful of sex than females. Contemporary reproductive technology and law place all the burden for unwanted pregnancy on them.

All the burden? In what universe do bearing, supporting, and raising a child, or having an abortion, (these are the consequences of unplanned pregnancy for females) constitute "none of the burden"? Let's take his arguments point by point:

Between the pill and abortion, women have complete control over the reproductive process. They can avoid or end any unwanted pregnancy, and the man involved has no say in the matter.

If we accept that 100% of the responsibility for preventing pregnancy rests with the woman, this might be true. But it takes two people to make a baby, and both can use birth control. Only by ignoring the ability to use condoms (which, in the case of unmarried men and women, happens to be the ONLY way to prevent transmission of STDs) can one say that men have "no control".

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court went so far as to hold that a married woman has the constitutional right to abort her husband's child without even telling him.

Is Taranto seriously suggesting that teenagers, who aren't known for thinking about even obvious consequences like pregnancy or STDs, are factoring the outcome of Planned Parenthood v. Casey into their decision making process? Our public schools must be in better shape than I thought.

A woman's "reproductive rights" also include the right to carry a pregnancy to term.

How can we fix this gender injustice? Perhaps teenaged boys who choose not to use birth control could sue to force their partners to have abortions... you know, to make things more "fair"? One expects to see this kind of consequence shifting rhetoric from the Obama administration. To see it in the Wall Street Journal is mind boggling.

The crucial point here is that while the decision belongs entirely to her, in the event that a child is born the law assigns financial responsibility to the male involved.

Actually, though one would never know it from his essay, the law assigns financial responsibility to BOTH parents.

That is what the boy in her study means when he worries about being "screwed for the rest of my life." Short of sterilization, the only way for a male to be sure of avoiding this fate is to abstain from sex.

It's hard to tell where Taranto is coming from here. A young woman who becomes pregnant and keeps the child is hardly getting off scot-free. Her life will be irrevocably changed. Not only will she bear financial responsibility (hopefully shared, though Taranto seems to think this terribly unfair) for a child, but she will have to raise the child.

The invisible character in this drama is the unborn child. Perhaps "it" would be better off just being aborted? It seems presumptuous of the unborn to expect both parents to share some belated responsibility for an act that changed not one, but three lives. The cheeky things.

One thing is certain in all of this: responsibility is dangerous. But worse, it may well be contagious:

Since most people agree that teenagers should abstain from sex anyway, isn't the trend Schalet notes a healthy one? Not necessarily. After all, if adults abstain from sex too, mankind is doomed:

Taranto has us there: a society of responsible adults strikes us as something greatly to be feared. If such a thing were to come to pass, who would need government bailouts and intrusive social engineering programs?

Update: Welcome, Michelle Malkin readers!

Posted by Cassandra at April 14, 2012 09:20 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.villainouscompany.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/4131

Comments

Given that some 40% of children these days are born out of wedlock I would think this is a good thing. Taranto seems a bit myopic.

You sound like a good mother, Cass. I'll bet your sons have made you proud.

Posted by: Bill Brandt at April 14, 2012 12:17 PM

I don't know that I was all that great a mother, Bill but fortunately my sons survived my amateur attempts at Extreme Parenting :p The truth is that when you have children that young, you have even less idea what you're doing than most parents. It helped tremendously that their father provided a sterling example of what a man should be, but he also showed them how important a man's role is in building a strong marriage. He was always a strong presence in their lives, even when he was deployed.

I am very proud of my sons, though. They married wisely and are loving, considerate husbands and have been self sufficient ever since graduating from college.

We were very lucky - I have known parents who did everything right and had a different outcome. As I've gotten older, I've grown to appreciate the fact that parenting is very much a team sport: parents, grandparents, and extended family and close friends are all tremendously important.

When you're young you tend to think it's all about you. Over time, I've finally realized how much of the credit for what we think are our accomplishments belongs to others.

Posted by: Cass at April 14, 2012 01:19 PM

"Given that some 40% of children these days are born out of wedlock I would think this is a good thing. Taranto seems a bit myopic."

Ummm, think this through: Why is the illegitimacy rate is so high? A big reason is because men are dropping out of the sexual and marital marketplaces. With a smaller supply of marriageable men, of course a greater percentage of women who bear children do so out of wedlock.

Posted by: James Taranto at April 14, 2012 01:58 PM

Cass - I speak from the position of an old bachelor but it has always amazed me to see - over time - some children who "had everything" and become bums and some who had the worst backgrounds become good people.

I think parents tend to place to much responsibility on their own shoulders - the old genes vs environment argument - there is obviously a big influence parents have but ultimately it is the child who makes the decisions.

It sounds like you & your husband gave them every opportunity - through your actions - to become responsible people and they chose to become responsible people.

James - I thought the article was on responsibility.

Posted by: Bill Brandt at April 14, 2012 02:07 PM

I'm struggling hard with the idea that abstinence among children too young to take responsibility for a pregnancy is a bad sign for the continuation of the human race. As soon as they are grown-up enough to raise a baby, I think we probably can assume they'll respond to a normal sex drive and knock off the abstinence business. It's a vow that rarely lasts a lifetime. It rarely outlasts a beer.

I'm also really puzzled by the idea that the current generation of boys are the first every to grapple with the notion that sex can result in babies, which can place a burden on a reluctant father. Except for a brief period after the introduction of the Pill, before people figured out that it wasn't 100% reliable and its users were less, this has been a central dilemma in the lives of people old enough to have a sex drive but too young to settle down. Nor is this the first age in which young mothers and their families tried to force young fathers to face their responsibilities. If there's anything new here, it would be the availability of paternity testing.

In Mr. Taranto's mind, an important new development seems to be that young expectant mothers have the unfair advantage of being able to control the decision whether to abort the baby. I see how that chaps him, though I'm a little disgusted at the notion, but I don't see how it changes the fear that plagues boys who want sex without babies. If anything, it makes the picture slightly less frightening, if they think there's a reasonable chance that their girlfriends will quietly take care of the problem on their own, even if they can't completely count on their good luck in that respect. Would the picture really be rosier if abortion weren't available? Does he think unwed fathers should be able to force abortions on an unwilling mother? -- No, of course not. He just thinks that if the woman doesn't take advantage of the availability of legal abortion, the baby magically ceases being his responsibility. It's all about her fairness to him, in other words. From the baby's point of view, not a very convincing argument.

Ah, the knots people will tie themselves into in the eternal quest for consequence-free sex. It's always someone else's problem.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 14, 2012 02:35 PM

Ummm, think this through: Why is the illegitimacy rate is so high? A big reason is because men are dropping out of the sexual and marital marketplaces. With a smaller supply of marriageable men, of course a greater percentage of women who bear children do so out of wedlock.

All right, let's think it through:

If men are dropping out of the sexual marketplace, where are all these illegitimate babies coming from? This is a serious question - not a snarky retort.

If they are dropping out of the marriage market (a frequent theme in the pickup artist/MGTOW community), why are they doing so?

One possible reason: the decline of shame and personal responsibility as restraints on human behavior. When I got pregnant, my husband's family let him know in no uncertain terms that he was *going* to give his child a name. Whether or not our marriage lasted was up to us.

To their generation, illegitimacy was shameful and men who did not take responsibility for their actions were beneath contempt. Today, we call such "blaming and shaming" behavior by a fancy name: misandry (hatred of men)

This, we are told, is progress :p

Having raised two sons, I don't buy the popular notion that boys are walking penises without the capacity for moral reasoning, self control, or rational thought. I think any such notion defines masculinity down.

As I have not noted any great move in feminist circles to either praise or absolve men who refuse to take responsibility for children they father, I'm going to go out on a limb and ascribe this development to larger social forces :p

Viewed in tandem with the growing refusal of many young men to move our of their parents' basements (also not a notable feminist cause celebre), it begins to look as though the problem here is one of low expectations.

Three decades of watching the Marine Corps transform young men from a wide variety of backgrounds into hard working, respectful, and dependable men has only deepened this conviction. Expect more, and men will do more.

Let's look at where illegitimacy is worst. In the black community, it is up around 70%. I don't think we can seriously argue that feminism has disheartened black males. The absence of male role models who hold their feet to the fire is probably one factor. So is the knowledge that the women and children they abandon won't starve (welfare). So is the decline of religion as a shaper of morality.

I can think of lots more reasons, but these should do as a starting point.


Posted by: Cass at April 14, 2012 03:32 PM

One more point, because I'm concerned that my previous comment gives young women a pass: it takes two failures of responsibility to create a baby: the man's and the woman's.

Women absolutely should be held responsible for their choices. In most cases, nature takes care of that because the woman gets pregnant and cannot avoid that very real and visible consequence.

As my readers know, I'm conflicted about abortion.

I don't like the callous disregard for the value of human life it entails. But by the same token, arguments about how men/boys "have no choice" in whether a woman chooses to abort a child are problematic. If a significant number of men wish to prevent women in their lives from aborting children they've fathered, where are the lawsuits filed by men seeking to change the law or asserting their parental interest in court?

*crickets*

This is how feminists brought about many of the changes conservatives deplore - they stepped up and fought for their values. Sitting on the sidelines whining isn't a solution. If there is a case for changing the law (and I think there is), men should be making it. Taking your balls and going home (awful pun fully intended) doesn't change anything.

At some point, if men want these laws changed, they need to start fighting for their vision of how society should work. This should not be too hard, because men still control the majority of powerful positions in government.

It really bothers me to see this passive aggressive weirdness being advanced as something I should take seriously. "Do something, or I'll behave like a big baby!"

It reminds me of the Occupy crowd, who seem to believe the world will magically change if they just bang that spirit drum hard enough :p It also reminds me of some of the more hysterical tactics of the radical feminists, which is not a model I would recommend to anyone if one wishes to build public support for serious changes to the law.

Posted by: Cass at April 14, 2012 04:36 PM

"To their generation, illegitimacy was shameful and men who did not take responsibility for their actions were beneath contempt."

There it is...

Based on conversations I have with folks in such disparate locations from the feed store to the private school, it seems to me there might be some bleed-over of similar attitudes into more recent generations too. That being the subset of U.S. citizen frequently labeled as bitter-n-clingy, judgmental, flownover, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, etc.

Mr. Brant,

"I think parents tend to place to much responsibility on their own shoulders - the old genes vs environment argument - there is obviously a big influence parents have but ultimately it is the child who makes the decisions."
Astute observation and one that I can support.

Ahhh heck, what do I know? Some authority figure will simply slough off the responsibility for young adults gone bad on Bush, or Cheney, or Reagan, or Romney, or <insert ∞ number of possible excuses here>...

Posted by: bthun at April 14, 2012 04:43 PM

Perhaps causality runs in the opposite direction from the one Mr. Taranto posits. Perhaps more and more women are getting more and more education and expending more energy to get better and better jobs because men are dropping out. If a woman can count on an honorable man who will commit to her and their children, who will strive to better himself in order to contribute as much as possible to their family, then it may be perfectly reasonable for her to decide to postpone her own education and/or to take a lower-paid, less demanding job when her children are small. On the other hand, a woman who sees only men who will ditch her and the kids if he can, or who will stick around but refuse to take work seriously, or who will never make any commitment in the first place - well, that woman would be crazy to get less education or take a less demanding job in hopes that making herself less able to care for herself and her children will somehow coax the father of her children to step up.

Ah, well. If this trend continues the only people in the country who don't think they're part of a victim group will be conservative women. We'll be the only people left who cling to the antiquated notion of doing what's right (heh) because it's right - not because we're coaxed into it or rewarded for it or manipulated into it or flattered into it.

Posted by: Elise at April 14, 2012 04:57 PM

I don't think we can discount feminism in this. Man, fish, bike, all that.

Feminists wanted to give women the freedom to do what men can do. The Pill was supposedly the solution. But, as any of us grown-ups know, the Pill does not always prevent pregnancy and certainly doesn't prevent STDs. And baby women seem incapable of demanding that the man wear a condom. I posit that if a woman can't have that conversation, she shouldn't be having sex.

Women have always been the sexual gatekeepers because they have the most burden should she get pregnant. That women believed the lie that they could ever have "casual" sex is a tragedy. It has lead to little or no expectations of men, but women are facing the same earth shattering decisions and consequences.

Meanwhile, Cass, your point that men aren't suing to overturn Roe v. Wade is so important. Who has abortion helped most? MEN. It helps them evade the consequences.

Women pay the consequences no matter what. They have higher rates of STDs and with deadlier long term effects. They either get pregnant or have an abortion. But either way, they must live what they allow to happen to their bodies.

That is why women must be responsible. These facts make feminists really angry. It's not fair.

Tough bananas. It's biology. A woman can either take responsibility or she can whine.

Men, do not have to be animals. They can be responsible, thoughtful creatures.

I will note, though, they are highly motivated by sex in a way that women are not. So. Women should expect more.

The solution to the problem all the way around is to outlaw abortion and discontinue welfare. Problem solved. Everyone suffers. Therefore, everyone must change behavior. Suddenly, responsibility is back en vogue.

Posted by: Melissa at April 14, 2012 05:44 PM

meh he says feminism I say liberalism/socialism/Marxism/Alinsky - meaning lack of morals taught from the teacher to the media to Hollywood etc. bottom line conservatives teach their children in a sea of the immoral made moral to actually be moral and feminism is just an offshoot of the immoral.

I have two boys in their twenties, neither are married and neither have children, both have jobs and both are planning on marriage and children in the FUTURE when they can afford it, that btw is a direct result of mine and my husbands parenting (pats self on the back)......lets not worry about the 15-17 yr old boys lets worry about turning the country around to one that once again as a majority thinks morality is a GREAT THING!

Posted by: JadedByPolitics at April 14, 2012 06:50 PM

Women have always been the sexual gatekeepers because they have the most burden should she get pregnant. That women believed the lie that they could ever have "casual" sex is a tragedy. It has lead to little or no expectations of men, but women are facing the same earth shattering decisions and consequences.

Absolutely. If sexually active men can be forced by circumstances, persuasion, shaming, conscience, or law to feel some fraction of the same pressure of consequences, we'll all be ahead of the game even if boys can't feel 100% terrific about banging strangers behind the bleachers.

Every time a woman has sex, she's choosing a potential father of a helpless child. She needs to get in the habit of choosing a good one, just in case. Not just a guy with a nice car, but one with a heart and a backbone.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 14, 2012 06:56 PM

Why is the illegitimacy rate is so high? A big reason is because men are dropping out of the sexual and marital marketplaces.
writes "James Taranto."

Seriously? You believe that sex and marriage are a "marketplace"? Some economic model?

You have a very odd idea of the Human Condition, sir, if this is how the mechanism is viewed.

Long-term bonding and sexual reproduction predate any notion of a "market" and, if you accept the scientific theory of evolution, they predate the existence of human life. Seriously.

When primal issues of species survival are framed in exclusively economic terms, the framer has clearly gone off the rails in terms of logical discourse.

The notion that males are dropping out of the "sexual marketplace" conforms to no real world observation that I'm aware of. Doubt it? Head for your nearest singles bar.

Posted by: Hart Williams at April 14, 2012 09:48 PM

Ah, Cass, why are there no "lawsuits by men to keep their children alive"? There have been, as a moment of Googleing will show. Not a lot, it's true. It's built into the system. To have such a lawsuit, one must have "skin in the game", to wit, you can not sue a women to stop her from having an abortion until she is having your child. So, to have your "Sit down protest" moment, you first have to make a baby with a woman who you know is going to murder it. Alas, that would take a psychopath to go through with it, but a psychopath wouldn't care enough to bother. I am not surprised many men are walking away from Omelas....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 15, 2012 02:13 AM

Because "equal treatment under the laws" means that women should have more legal ways to refuse to become a mother than men should to become fathers (even if the child isn't his by DNA).

"equal treatment under the laws". You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Posted by: SDN at April 15, 2012 08:59 AM

The comments by Mr. Mitchell and SDN reinforce was I was saying: whether you're a man or a woman, every time you have sex, you're potentially choosing a parent for the unborn child that may result, and you're auditioning for that role yourself, as well. Your sexual partner is someone who might well have a huge role in an important part of your life for at least 20 years, if not your lifetime. Act like it! It's a good idea to know your sexual partner's character very well indeed, and to be checking on your own character at the same time. There's no such thing as consequence-free sex -- only a greater or lesser number of lucky escapes.

I'm as big a fan of equality under the law as anyone, but this is not primarily a question of whether the law is more unfair to the father or to the mother, or even whether it's possible to treat them alike, considering that only one of them gets pregnant. It's a question of how adults will regulate their own behavior so as to be fulfill their duties to people they have made dependent on them. If the law has to get involved at all, it's already a huge disgrace.

Nobody forces either sex or fertility on us, nor does anyone choose our sexual partners for us in this culture. Sure, it's more fun to have sex whenever we like, but if things don't work out well with someone we didn't know well enough to trust, that's on us. It's not going to be nice for either parent, but the primary issue now is how not to make the baby bear the consequences, not how to ensure that neither parent gets one up over the other parent.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 15, 2012 10:04 AM

I read that particular bit from Taranto yesterday, and, oddly, I find myself being Inigo Montoya: I don't think it means what you think it means. I saw that it wasn't boys becoming romantic or even really responsible, as the study writer contended, but fearful of child support in perpetuity(not saying right or wrong here). I caught it as more, 'This study author is dumb, and the way things are set up it's obvious why men/boys/manchildren/Peter Pans prefer to stay home with a bottle of baby oil and their laptops/smartphones' In a situation where one has zero say even if you are responsible, wearing a cap, but have a failure it's a better play to forgoe the human experience. Game theory and Ayn Rand(the misunderstaning of her, rather) win out. It's not responsibility rather, but selfishness, naked selfishness not virtue that's driving this; contra the study author.

Basically, I see this as a BlueForce on BlueForce moment. But then, I'm usually Red Teaming. (And, yes, I know I mixed metaphors. Shoot me, but only with Nerf darts.)

Oh, and Taranto tickled your fancy this one ought to make you dance in the streets: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2129456/Do-girls-want-career-attract-man-Provocative-study-casts-high-fliers-new-light.html Not sure what to make of this one. I will add anecdotally that RBBH felt this way until I came along: the PhD and Job were all she could really look forward to because she was nerdy and refused to dress like a whore(which in today's parlance is 'cute' in many 15-25 circles I know of, living in a college town). Still. This could've been poorly designed and executed. I don't know.

Posted by: ry at April 15, 2012 02:08 PM

"I'm struggling hard with the idea that abstinence among children too young to take responsibility for a pregnancy is a bad sign for the continuation of the human race."

"If men are dropping out of the sexual marketplace, where are all these illegitimate babies coming from?"

"To their generation, illegitimacy was shameful and men who did not take responsibility for their actions were beneath contempt."

"But either way, they must live what they allow to happen to their bodies." [emphasis mine]

"Seriously? You believe that sex and marriage are a "marketplace"?"

Ok, look, if y'all are gonna insist on residing in my head with the rest of the voices, I'm gonna haf'ta start charging rent.

And, T99? This, " It's a question of how adults will regulate their own behavior so as to be fulfill their duties to people they have made dependent on them. If the law has to get involved at all, it's already a huge disgrace." is prime.
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at April 15, 2012 02:23 PM

***
God bless the good women who find themselves with an unplanned / unwanted pregnancy and decide to do the right thing and give life and love to the baby.
***
Two wrongs don't make a right--ever. And the father should be forced to pay his fair share of the costs of bringing up baby.
***
John Bibb
***

Posted by: John Bibb at April 15, 2012 02:34 PM

Not sure what to make of this one. I will add anecdotally that RBBH felt this way until I came along: the PhD and Job were all she could really look forward to because she was nerdy and refused to dress like a whore(which in today's parlance is 'cute' in many 15-25 circles I know of, living in a college town). Still. This could've been poorly designed and executed. I don't know.

Thanks for your take, Ry.

I just saw the Daily Mail article. It will be entertaining to see what is made of it. There's already one guy who is claiming [brace yourselves - this one is a shocker] that it proves feminism is a failure :p

When I was reading the article, I thought of the stereotypes I grew up with: the bluestocking (usually plain) woman with a taste for too much book-larnin', the old maid/governess/spinster who never marries because (another shocker) she's plain.

So what are these women supposed to do? If they can't attract a husband, should they just go on the dole?

Sounds like rational thinking to me, though this is problematic because as we know, women are never rational. They've accurately assessed their prospects of getting married and taken steps to ensure they will be able to support themselves.

Dang those feminists again!

*rolling eyes*

Posted by: Cass at April 15, 2012 02:37 PM

@John Bibb:

You sound like a fine man.

I am so disgusted with a lot of the arguments I'm seeing on some conservative blogs these days. Everyone's a victim and there seems to be zero recognition that doing the right thing has never guaranteed a 'return on investment'. We're supposed to the do the right thing because it's the right thing, not in expectation of praise or reward.

I'm not sure when morality ceased to be a duty and became optional or conditional, but I don't think that's direction we want to go in.

Thanks for your comment.

Posted by: Cass at April 15, 2012 02:56 PM

In a situation where one has zero say even if you are responsible, wearing a cap, but have a failure it's a better play to forgoe the human experience. Game theory and Ayn Rand(the misunderstaning of her, rather) win out. It's not responsibility rather, but selfishness, naked selfishness not virtue that's driving this; contra the study author.

But you don't have zero say, Ry.

You have a say when you are selective about who you interact with (and especially sleep with).

You have a say when you use birth control (and hopefully some spermicidal substance as well).

You have a say when you don't have risky sex, in this case sex with people you don't know anything about.

You have a say when you live your life in such a fashion that if a false allegation is made about you, the first reaction of every person you know is, "No way. He would never do that."

You have a say when you don't have sex before marriage. As you mention, there are always other means. I've spent well over 4 years of my marriage without sex. It ain't fun but it certainly isn't impossible.

You have a say when you choose your wife for her character and integrity rather than just because she's hot.

You have a say when you refuse to live in a community property state.

Not all of these choices are easy ones, but they are all within an individual's control. Sensational cases where men are held financially responsible for children they didn't father are the exception rather than the norm. And they are distressing, and I think those laws should probably be changed.

The possible exception would be in the case of married couples where the father doesn't learn the child isn't his until the child is older. Those cases are tough and there's no easy answer.

Wrt the study Taranto linked to, I'd have to do more research before commenting on it. I just thought it was bizarre to attribute her conclusions to feminism (without much in the way of evidence) when there are so many other possible causes.

Posted by: Cass at April 15, 2012 03:07 PM

To me it's a lot like the guy who protests facing criminal charges for the people he ran over when he was drunk. He didn't mean to do it, but he did mean to get drunk.

The argument that it's unfair for a woman to have a veto power over the continuation of the pregnancy when a man does not is a non-starter for me. "She refused to kill my baby, so I should get a pass." Wait . . . what?

But I have to admit, I'd have to be in desperate straits indeed before I'd accept money from a man who resented not having the equal right or power to kill our baby. "Hit the road, Jack" would be about the politest response I could muster.

I'd love to see a cultural transformation that led young women to work and amass savings before they even thought about becoming sexually active, just so they never had to suffer that attitude. Mothers should be advising their daughters to have five years' living expenses in store before they expose themselves to pregnancy. In a pinch, they could decide to rely instead on the goodwill and responsible character of the young man in question, but better safe than sorry.

I'm really disappointed in Mr. Taranto, whom I'd always admired until recently.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 15, 2012 03:47 PM

But I have to admit, I'd have to be in desperate straits indeed before I'd accept money from a man who resented not having the equal right or power to kill our baby. "Hit the road, Jack" would be about the politest response I could muster.

You know, there are men who are more concerned about having "the equal right or power" not to kill their baby. Aside from that comment, I whole heartedly agree with you.

Posted by: Pogue at April 15, 2012 05:17 PM

Okay, let's refine the statement: in a situation where one has zero LEGAL say AFTER A SEXUAL ENCOUNTER...... .

Yes, one could make all those choices, even choose to wear blue constantly, and it doesn't change that one moment's impact.

I still stand by the game theory analysis. Given how many gamers there are and how nerd culture has leached that out into the general pop-culture you shouldn't be surprised to see it coming in large doses.

And I stand by the shift being selfishness, and not a return to virtue---which is what Taranto, and yourself, wants, Cass.

It's sad commentary that we have to use threat of economic ruin to ensure ethical behaviour, 50 years later.

I don't blame Feminism. I blame the over emphasis with the carnal in society, and it's a several hundred year journey.

Bluestocking'd/RBBH. I have no answer for this. I think the study went a different path than that, but I have no clue.

Posted by: ry at April 15, 2012 08:08 PM

Tex,

Mothers should be advising their daughters to have five years' living expenses in store before they expose themselves to pregnancy.

Weren't you just worrying the other day about the crashing fertility rates? You're not going to get to any sort of a stability of teenagers have to have five year's savings before they think about getting pregnant. If we assume you need around $20,000 a year to survive (that is, less than two grand a month for you and your child), you'd need a hundred grand in savings.

How many Americans have a hundred grand in savings even at age 40 or 50? If you are only earning $25,000 a year -- which is good wages, these days, for an unskilled teenager in a market starved of jobs -- you'd have $5,000 a year extra for the first few years, assuming you kept every penny and paid no Social Security or Medicare.

However, as Cass' tax calculator from a few posts ago points out, you'll be paying $3,188 a year of taxes and entitlement payments during those years. So, you'll be striving toward $100,000 at a rate of about a grand a year.

Ultimately, the ideal of independence -- for the woman or for the man -- is as unattainable and in fact as destructive as it is for the child. Put a child out on its own, and it will die. But put a man or a woman out and tell them to live free of all others, and if they don't die in their own generation, they won't reproduce either.

It's frith we need, not independence. You shouldn't be telling your sons and daughters how to live free of human attachments, but how to build a life in which they will be treated with honor, provided they do the same.

Posted by: Grim at April 15, 2012 09:27 PM

I said a young woman considering sex ought either to have a lot of savings, or a very good reason to trust the man. Getting her to think of how difficult it is to support oneself for quite a few years under the severe handicap of a small child would be an excellent way for her to take seriously how well she ought to know the man, and how trustworthy she should expect him to prove himself first.

Yes, I worry about replacement birth rates, but frankly a culture that can't reproduce itself without resorting to casual sex and irresponsible fathers probably needs to die out and be replaced with another. Survival isn't everything.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 15, 2012 10:20 PM

Pogue -- there's clearly a big difference between the man who thinks it's unfair he can't kill his baby, and the man who thinks it's unfair he can't prevent his sexual partner from doing so. The first is just a cad. The second is in a pitiable dilemma. His heart is in the right place, but my pity is somewhat diluted by the fact that his dilemma was forced on him by his decision to have sex with a woman he didn't know very well, or who doesn't trust him, or both.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 15, 2012 10:39 PM

Ah, but Texan99, how do you know you can trust the woman to have your child, before she has had the child? Many a man has talked smack about the gas mask test at boot, only to find the reality was more then they could bear. We have live fire exercises for the same reason, yes? Holding a gun and going "Bang!" is far different then shooting one. Women are people too. The "Hymn of Breaking Strain" applies to all of us, and people do change. Between that and the risk of Debtor's Prison if she does have the child, only to bail on you (As many, many military men have found out), it would seem the responsible man should avoid women. If that is your plan, it does seem to be working.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 15, 2012 11:05 PM

Texan99, how do you know you can trust the woman to have your child, before she has had the child? Many a man has talked smack about the gas mask test at boot, only to find the reality was more then they could bear. We have live fire exercises for the same reason, yes? Holding a gun and going "Bang!" is far different then shooting one. Women are people too. The "Hymn of Breaking Strain" applies to all of us, and people do change. Between that and the risk of Debtor's Prison if she does have the child, only to bail on you (As many, many military men have found out), it would seem the responsible man should avoid women.

Well, you could actually get to know her before having sex and impregnating her. I was only 19 when I married, but I knew my husband's beliefs about all sorts of things because we actually discussed them before making such a big commitment to each other.

If being able to trust her to bear the child is important, then it would seem that you shouldn't sleep with pro-lifers, for one. You should probably choose a woman whose parents had a strong marriage, and whose bonds to her family are strong.

Religious faith is a huge indicator.

We can never trust anyone absolutely. When a woman marries (but especially when she gets pregnant) she renders herself extremely vulnerable. If the man she's with flakes out, her earning power will be very much diminished until the children are in school full time.

Child support is not guaranteed - in 3 decades as a Marine officer's wife I've seen too many cases where a court order was repeatedly ignored. I've seen guys get out and get paid in cash or hide assets, or move from job to job to avoid garnishment. I worked in a family law office and some of the things I've seen would blow your mind.

Why do women marry despite the considerable risks?

The one thing that always seems to be missing from these discussions is statistical evidence. Sure there are sensational stories in the news about guys ordered to pay child support for children they didn't father, and that's wrong.

Just as wrong as the woman in San Diego ordered to pay alimony to her rapist husband.

But how often do these things happen? That's the real question when assessing risk.

I married at 19. The overwhelming likelihood was that my husband would change, and he has. But it's not as though I had no influence over the direction of that change. Marriages don't run well on autopilot - you have to stay engaged and involved. If we don't maintain our cars, they break down. Marriages are the same way.

Are there risks? Sure, but what in life that's worth having *isn't* risky?

Posted by: Cassandra at April 16, 2012 07:16 AM

"...it would seem the responsible man should avoid women."

"the responsible man should avoid getting a woman pregnant."
FIFY.
0>:~}

Posted by: DL Sly at April 16, 2012 07:24 AM

What they said.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 16, 2012 08:34 AM

Cassandra, I have seen a young lady lie with the voice of an angel to get an extension on a paper. I would have had no idea she was lying, save that I was just an observer. I have no doubt that if it's my ability to see through lies vs. her ability to lie, I'm going to lose. So good luck "getting to know her" if she doesn't want to be known.

But, really, the whole concept is a red herring. Let me be stark. My postulate is: Abortion is Murder, in the first degree. The life of a child for a need? maybe. Depends on the risk and the need. I will not risk the Murder of my children for a want. The idea of playing Russian Roulette with their lives is abhorrent to me. It seems to me that the "Responsible" man would not pick up the gun, yes? Telling me that there are a lot of guns out there and I just need to find one with a lot of chambers, and further, what's life without some risk? Really? I know it's easy to be flippant when you don't have anything on the line. How much money would it take before you would play Russian Roulette with your children? Or to bring up that sad joke, would you sleep with a man for a million dollars only to be shocked by his haggling, now that you have proven to be a prostitute? Some choices are binary.

Ah, DL Sly, tell that to Sarah. "Safe Sex" isn't, and Life finds a way at the oddest times and places. And neither you or I have the drive, ambition, charisma, skill, and monomania to be President of the United States. Certainly no man with such skill and drive would throw the office away because of a flipped skirt! No, these are very powerful forces we are dealing with, and we have many, many examples of powerful and wise men making fools of themselves because they were alone with a willing woman for a moment. No, the responsible man will avoid woman, as an responsible alcoholic will avoid booze. Sure, in theory, an alcoholic could drink moderately......

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 16, 2012 11:43 AM

Mr. Mitchell, I wasn't aware of the fact that the act of having sex has been classified as a disease ala alcoholism. Could you please specify the journals where they have produced the peer reviewed results that show these findings?

As to your analogy re: alcoholism -- while it is true, however unlikely in most circumstances, that an alcoholic could drink in moderation that does not alternatively mean that alcoholics must avoid being in the presence of a bottle of alcohol for fear that they may drink again.
Are you seriously implying that men are absolutely incapable of using the brains God gave them to rein in their sexual urges? That just by being in the mere presence of a woman invariably and always means that the man must have sex with her? Seems to be a pretty pathetic view of men, IMNSHO.
These may be, as you say, powerful forces we are dealing with, but an even more powerful force is that of free will. When coupled with contemplative forethought of potential consequences, it is almost impregnable. (pun fully intended)
0>;~}

Posted by: DL Sly at April 16, 2012 12:09 PM

Mr. Mitchell,

It occurs to me that you're in danger of the same consequence as T99 -- you're seeking safety to such a degree that the children themselves become impossible. She is saying that it would be better to avoid having children if you cannot guaranteed safety against the danger of losing one's independence. To avoid the danger of them being killed, you're choosing not to have them at all.

The truth is that there is no safety. Having children is a dangerous proposition. It cannot be made otherwise. It isn't merely the woman you love who can kill them; it's a berry, a prick from a sharp wire with some invisible germs upon it, a cough, or a moment's looking away.

It is a man's business to run hazards and face dangers. We suffer, and risk suffering, in the cause of that which we love. That is what men are for.

Posted by: Grim at April 16, 2012 12:27 PM

A man without confidence in his ability to pick a trustworthy mother for his children absolutely would do well to abstain from sex. Ditto for a woman without confidence in her ability to pick a trustworthy father for her children.

Abortion isn't the only issue, you know. You have only to scan the news to find that people have been known to pick a husband or wife who was capable of abusing or outright killing their children. No one here is trying to argue that there's a risk-free way to go about this. To the contrary, we're arguing that it's extremely risky, so don't do it with strangers. Or, as you say, if you can't tolerate any risk, don't do it at all.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 16, 2012 01:03 PM

And Grim, I advocate a woman's knowing her partner well enough to trust him to relieve her of the duty of saving up enough to live on for five years, not becoming 100% guaranteed-for-dang-sure he'll do it. There is no such certainty. But she should think about what she's risking, and imagining coming up with food for several years is a way to focus her attention.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 16, 2012 01:18 PM

I finally got around to reading Taranto's column, and I'm in the Inigo Montoya camp too: "I do not think it means what you think it means".
IF I get it, Taranto's point is that avoidance becomes habit: YOUNG men should NOT risk fathering children, OK? I think everyone here would agree with that, no sense fathering children before you can support them. FURTHER, once they get their education and CAN support themselves, they may still NOT want to risk fathering children EVER: the system is rigged against them, they have no say if they ACCIDENTALLY father a child in whether it lives or dies, but they WILL be held financially accountable (in some cases, even if DNA shows they are NOT the father! How is that even possible, let alone fair?)
I THINK Taranto's point is that both the law and feminism have denigrated men's rights to the point that it makes no sense for men to RISK fathering children; from a societal point of view, the fewer unwanted children the better, but this society prizes sex above all else (see any advertising, recent popular literature or street corner to observe). Now that divorce law (in practice) awards custody to the mother 90%+ of the time, and may award exclusive custody without visitation (but with wage garnishment) if "proven" necessary by the mother, the deal only gets worse: MARRY a woman, get her pregnant, have HER divorce you, get exclusive custody with alimony and child support garnishment, and you have played by the rules and totally lost. You are paying to support a woman who has dropped you and you can't even SEE your children. Given this set of "rules" as a background, who in their right mind would even get married, let alone have children?
Tell me I'm wrong; then read the comments below his column. Some of us know people who have gone through this, and been left bitter, broken shells of men without dignity, family or finances. It only takes one or two cases to poison a whole community, and there always seem to be several going around.
"Man up!" is legalese for "You're a chump, now and forever". I am so lucky to have married the one I have, I appreciate her more and more as we grow old together.

Posted by: Jim at April 16, 2012 07:17 PM

Ack. I didn't want company in the Inigo Montoya camp. It's mine! And, no, you can't have the Cheetos. I pilfered those fair and square from The Donovan's place. They're mine!

Seriously, though, I get the gist of what Jim's saying, but I also know that the system is so rigged now because of how it was detrimentally rigged *AGAINST* women in the past. I was the youngest son of a single mother in the late 70s and early 80s. 5&it was not fair then, by any stretch. BS legal manuevers required a response to end them(much like the drunk/innebriated women cannot give consent law had a cause that brought it into being). I'm not being contrarian.

It's just the financial threat has made The Bunny Ranch and internet pr0n far more useful to a postmodernist male/manchild/boy-who-never-grew-up rather than being an ethical adult commited to anything beyond himself, imo. The same can be said for young women too, boy howdy can I talk about college girls who are like that, but we're talking about males so I'm sticking to that.

My point is that the situation hasn't made people chaste, moral, ethical or anything like that. We like the end result, fewer children born out of wedlock or committed-long-term-relationships with finances sufficient to support them, but not the why. The why is almost as important, maybe more important, than the decline itself.

A child raised in a 'do the best for yourself' arrangement, which seems the soup of the day since we have DNA tests to get into pre-schools that'll ensure your getting into Ivy League schools, is more likely to approachlife from a game theory approach than say something like Grim's philosophy. He will likely seek to avoid responsibility while not denying himself pleasure. So he will likely remain a bachelor, or retain bachelor like manners even when married(hello divorce! Doesn't have as nice a ring as hello nurse, but I know I'm not funny.) All very bad outcomes for someone who is raised in the middleclass millue(I can't spell, nerf dart me).

We want a better caliber of male that's churned out by the machine known as society. Hence, it's rules have to be geared to that, somewhat. The reasons for why we have rules that went overboard simply don't disappear, but we need more appropriate and conducive to making real adults rules than we currently have to get there. Not legislating morality as much as generating a positive feedback loop for moral behaviour.

"If the man she's with flakes out, her earning power will be very much diminished until the children are in school full time. " And more likely longer than that, Cass. Much longer. Taking little Billy or Susie to the doctor when they get sick, and missing part of a shift, makes employers real cross. I know when I managed people it drove me flippin' nuts, leading me giving more hours to those I could count on to be there greater than 85% of the time. My being a touch frail as a baby, toddler, and young child didn't help Mom's reliability quotient---nor did my certifiable older sister.

I can see why these rules and laws exist, the necessity for them. They just went TOO FAR. Better to give nobody the shaft.

Posted by: ry at April 16, 2012 08:14 PM

So, we need to set up positive feedback loops for moral behavior. Sort of like the "shame and blame" stuff society used to lay down in the past.
Wait, we can't JUDGE people's behavior - that would be JUDGEMENTAL!
On the other hand ... say, $100,000 for getting married. Get divorced in less than ten years, you EACH owe the $100,000 back, legally enforceable. Another $100,000 PER CHILD, after marriage; discharged by a high school diploma or GED, paid back DOUBLE if they don't get one. Too harsh? The first might ensure they at least TRY to work out the kinks, instead of giving up at first problems - and knowing you would owe it might make casual, short-notice Vegas marriages rare. Knowing you'd owe back twice for each kid might make you a little more invested in how that kid turned out.
Not financially practical? We invested a whole lot more in Solyndra - and see how that turned out? At least this way, you'd get it back - and maybe build tougher, stabler marriages and families as well.
Couldn't do much worse than what we do now.
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 16, 2012 09:21 PM

It might suck less than Solyndra. Well, I'm in.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 16, 2012 11:31 PM

There's a 'blood from a turnip' problem with that suggestion: say you get married in Vegas. You get a hundred grand. "Hey, honey," you say, "seeing as how we're honeymooning in Vegas, what do you say we take a turn by the roulette wheel?"

Divorce three weeks later, and it may be that you legally owe $200,000... but assuming you're our young kids who are putting together a grand a year after taxes and living expenses, we're not going to get it out of you quickly. We can cut into your living expenses a bit, but if we do that too much you aren't living (and that pretty much puts an end to our hopes of recovering the money!).

On the other hand, the basic idea -- reward family formation, punish failures -- strikes me as valuable. We just might need to space out rather than block-grant the cash.

Posted by: Grim at April 16, 2012 11:51 PM

I'm uncomfortable with the notion that if we do something for ourselves or our own family, and it happens to benefit society as a whole, then society should subsidize us for doing it.

Let's say I educate myself by reading up on a lot of useful information. Society's probably going to benefit, right? Well, if the benefit is that obvious, then I ought to be able to hire out my new expertise to people who have become convinced it's valuable to them. If not, we should chalk up my self-education to something I did because I got a personal charge out of it. Similarly, if someone raises up a passel of great kids, someday they'll get jobs and get paid for their contribution by people voluntarily parting with their own money.

If the people around us think we're delivering value, they can reward us voluntarily somehow out of their own resources. We don't need the government to pass the heart and then redistribute the rewards. We already have a good mechanism for rewarding valuable contributions.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 17, 2012 09:34 AM

Some of us know people who have gone through this, and been left bitter, broken shells of men without dignity, family or finances. It only takes one or two cases to poison a whole community, and there always seem to be several going around.

I don't even know where to start with this. If it only takes one or two cases to poison a whole community, then the community of women should have been poisoned against marriage hundreds of years ago. Are men more fragile or risk averse than women?

What I never see in these discussions are statistics. You cannot accurately assess risk without some knowledge of the likelihood of the outcome you seek to mitigate.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 17, 2012 09:47 AM

The problem with government incentives for marrying and having children is that if they're large enough to be a significant inducement, people will marry or have children for the wrong reasons.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 17, 2012 09:49 AM

Yes, I'd be interested in knowing what percentage of divorces fits this pattern:

MARRY a woman, get her pregnant, have HER divorce you, get exclusive custody with alimony and child support garnishment, and you have played by the rules and totally lost. You are paying to support a woman who has dropped you and you can't even SEE your children.
In my experience it's wildly rare for a judge to prohibit a father from seeing his children at all. If it happens, I'd want to know what evidence the judge considered. And of all the cases where that happened, I'd want to know how many constituted egregious miscarriages of justice in which the judge was crooked or someone perpetrated a fraud on the court with manufactured evidence. By the time you get that far out on the statistical tail, you're in the same territory as marriages in which some blameless mother loses her children because she's divorced by a rich, well-connected psychopath. I'm not convinced of a pattern that is inherently unfair to men in this respect.

I do think the alimony laws were unfair to men for a good while, once women began earning good livings on their own, especially in childless marriages. I'm not sure whether they're still unfair; my experience is limited by the fact that we don't have alimony in my state. Here, the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. Where there's joint custody and equal earning power, there may be negligible child support paid either way. If there are no children, there are no payments at all, although the community property is divided, of course, but it would be hard to argue that the community property rules came as some kind of unwelcome surprise. They're pretty clear and well-known. They're also easily avoided by a pre-nup, if someone just insists on being married but hates the idea of community property.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 17, 2012 11:05 AM


>>I don't even know where to start with this. If it only takes one or two cases to poison a whole community, then the community of women should have been poisoned against marriage hundreds of years ago. Are men more fragile or risk averse than women?

No; there are still plenty of fools, male and female, who go to Vegas and gamble, or play the lottery. But if you were sure you would lose, would you still play? If you thought the game was solidly rigged against you, would you still play?

>>What I never see in these discussions are statistics. You cannot accurately assess risk without some knowledge of the likelihood of the outcome you seek to mitigate.

This is another whole discussion by itself; if the answer is likely to embarrass you, will you still ask? If there is no bias in family law, then why bother looking for it (default position of law establishment: cleaning up fraud and abuse reduces our business, so don't look for it!) And if there IS bias in family law, the establishment looks bad, so don't look.
Case in point: the latest Census data on child custody, showing how many men/women got custody, is from 2007! Funny, that; there is data for the last 10 years on "Child Support Enforcement Program—Caseload and Collections: 1990 to 2010", showing TOTAL cases, but not M/F. If they have caseload data, why not publish the custody statistics?
Notice that the 2007 data shows that of 13 million cases, women got custody 11.3 million, or 82%; it looks like I'm off by at least 8%. Still, when over three-quarters of the time women win, is that a demonstration of bias? Or just the "presumption" that women's work is to raise children, and men can't be bothered?
I have a hard time with all of this; equity in the law doesn't much exist ANYWHERE; why isn't Jon Corzine in prison? But I digress.
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2012 02:08 PM

I might want to save time for others and post the URL for that Census data:

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0568.pdf

There, now you can see it too.
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2012 02:11 PM

Now that I reflect (and have eaten and rested), forget the pay-for-strong-marriages-and-families proposal: the government would find some way to screw that up too, and the smaller the government, the better. NEVER MIND!
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2012 02:13 PM

The other, enormous discussion: whose statistics do you use / believe / base action on?

Try this URL: http://kingworldnews.com/kingworldnews/KWN_DailyWeb/Entries/2012/4/16_John_Williams_-_Real_Earnings_Collapse,_Nearly_50_Below_1973.html

John Williams used to make economic models, which he fine-tuned to predict economic trends. He got good at it; then one day, his models simply quit working. He found out that certain statistics were revised [changed the way they were calculated] so that his inputs no longer matched his models. He changed them back [calculated them the way they originally were] and his models worked again.
Now he publishes ShadowStats (shadow government statistics) to reflect long-term trends accurately; to compare activity X from [baseline year] to the present, you have to have each year based on the same values for dollar purchasing power, cost of oil in baseline year dollars, and so forth. Looking at that bottom chart gives me chills.
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2012 02:24 PM

the 2007 data shows that of 13 million cases, women got custody 11.3 million, or 82%; it looks like I'm off by at least 8%. Still, when over three-quarters of the time women win, is that a demonstration of bias? Or just the "presumption" that women's work is to raise children, and men can't be bothered?

Exactly. Without knowing how many men actually sought custody, the number is worthless. A further problem is teasing out the total % of all single parent households (Mom and Dad may never have been married in the first place) vs. % of child custody cases with awards to the mother/father.

I've done some of this research, but it's very time consuming. Would like to write about it, but it requires a lot of work.

re: whose stats, I tend to discount anyone who cites household earnings. You have to control for the number of wage earners per HH and also for their status (PT vs. FT).

May have some stats later this week for you all.

Posted by: Cass at April 17, 2012 02:55 PM

No; there are still plenty of fools, male and female, who go to Vegas and gamble, or play the lottery. But if you were sure you would lose, would you still play? If you thought the game was solidly rigged against you, would you still play?

Wait... given the fact that you're more likely to be struck by lightning twice than you are to win the lottery, are you saying it's NOT solidly stacked against you? In fact... I will lay a massive wager with you right now, if you like, that fewer people have won the lottery than have not gotten screwed by "the system" even though it was "stacked against them". And that your odds of having a successful marriage and happy life are VASTLY superior to your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot. And yet, people play the lottery all the time. And if you don't think the odds are stacked against you in Vegas, I've got oceanfront property there I'd like to sell you. Casinos don't stay in business by giving the gambler a "fair shake".

Admittedly, I've only made it through 16 years of marriage so far, but my eldest brother's up at 21 years and counting, and my middle brother is at 18 or so I believe (again, still counting). My parents just had their 50th Anniversary, and my in-laws are approaching theirs. And trust me, I know the plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'. My wife had a sub 4 year marriage before ours, and her brother is going through a fairly ugly one right now with his wife (and with a child involved in fact). But as ugly as his divorce is, they still managed to come to a reasonable arrangement with regards to visitation because (oddly enough) both parents want what's best for the child. Odd, I know.

Posted by: MikeD at April 17, 2012 03:45 PM

The scary picture painted for us was not that custody is much more often awarded to women than to men. That's not even surprising (let alone shockingly unjust), considering that women are far more often the primary caregivers. The scary picture was that the man whose wife dumped him would never be able to see his own children again, though he'd still have to pay for their upkeep. That scenario is vanishingly rare, and when it happens there usually is some extremely ugly child abuse involved. I can't accept it as the scenario that most men have in mind when they consider the potential risks of marriage.

How often do judges award primary (let alone exclusive!) custody to the wife when the husband has been the primary caretaker up to then? I've never even heard of such a case.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 17, 2012 04:10 PM

The vast majority of custody cases never end up in court.

Of those that do, when the father actively seeks sole custody, he gets it between 50 and 70% of the time. That's so far out from the stereotype (mostly because most fathers *don't* seek custody and thus what gets cited is the # of mothers who have custody... which includes cases where Mom and Dad were never even married!) that it's not even funny.

I am going to try to put together a post about this, because the sensational and fact free nature of most discussions about this issue are really criminal.

I have always had my suspicions about this, and what I've found so far is just stunning.

Posted by: Cass at April 17, 2012 04:26 PM

I'll be interested to see what statistics you can find on these as well, give the difficulties I pointed out above (let's not look, let's not publicize shortcomings in the system, etc.)
But I'll read it with as open a mind as I can, given that I know two cases of this personally, and I don't know that many divorced fathers. Maybe I attract the wrong kind of people!
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2012 05:48 PM

Jim, when you refer to a man never seeing his children again, are you talking about really never seeing them, or just "never" in the sense of not seeing them as often as he used to, because mom has them most of the time and he gets them on weekends and holidays? (Or perhaps because mom moved a long way away?) In the cases you're familiar with, were the fathers the primary caretakers of the kids before the divorce?

If you really mean "never see the kids again," did mom allege abuse or something equally extraordinary?

Posted by: Texan99 at April 17, 2012 05:58 PM

"The scary picture painted for us was not that custody is much more often awarded to women than to men. That's not even surprising (let alone shockingly unjust), considering that women are far more often the primary caregivers. The scary picture was that the man whose wife dumped him would never be able to see his own children again, though he'd still have to pay for their upkeep. That scenario is vanishingly rare, and when it happens there usually is some extremely ugly child abuse involved."

I'm not sure, Texan99, that I can agree with you here; as I suggest above, I don't know that many divorced fathers, and I've run into it twice. And before you call me mistaken, consider that what is routinely done elsewhere may not happen where you live; I've lived (so far) in
Texas, Tennessee, Texas (again), California, Alabama, West Virginia, and now Utah (with a tiny stint in Montana).
I'm perhaps handicapped by my experience, but then so is everyone else; and with the government distorting statistics routinely to make them look better (See KWN link above), where do we get reliable data for examination?
Just sayin' ; what goes for reasonable and moral behavior in Texas might be differently viewed up north, or west, or whatever. As a native Texan myself, I have my own opinions on what reasonable and moral are; but not everyone shares them with me, and they tend to act on their opinions, not mine.
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2012 06:09 PM

"Jim, when you refer to a man never seeing his children again, are you talking about really never seeing them, or just "never" in the sense of not seeing them as often as he used to, because mom has them most of the time and he gets them on weekends and holidays? (Or perhaps because mom moved a long way away?) In the cases you're familiar with, were the fathers the primary caretakers of the kids before the divorce?"

Back when I knew him well, Tom was basically supporting her and the kids despite her boyfriend, who was smart enough not to move in. Tom lived in another state, but that didn't really matter, as she had gotten a restraining order to keep him away from their kids. He did not get any weekends or holidays either; she hated him, used her custody of the kids as a weapon against him, and refused to give them any letters, gifts or allow phone calls from him. The older daughter finally rebelled and eventually moved to live with him, and he got a little peace from that, after some years. The court apparently believed that he would harm the kids, on what "evidence" I never knew; having done the "six weeks on the road" travel thing with him, watched him provoked by stupid co-workers and superiors past MY boiling point, and never seen him get angry at anyone, I can't believe he would hurt anyone, especially his kids. How she convinced a court he might I could never figure out. He was not primary caretaker before the divorce, possibly because of a lack of mammary glands on his part; but then, after the divorce, he never got much of a chance to be one.

Jeremy was more messed up when I knew him than Tom was, but even Jeremy on his worst days was not an abuser; he was more of a con-man type, always with a great scheme that never seemed to work out too well. But he loved those kids with all his heart, and tried his best. She grew tired of his failures and excuses, and cut him out; her stories of his worthlessness were all she needed to convince the court to change the terms of the divorce and give her full custody, and she went the restraining order route too. (This seems to be fairly common in bitter divorces; one spouse makes up drug abuse, alcoholism or sex abuse, and real proof is rarely needed; it's just so horrible, it must be true, no one would make something like that up, keep the monster away from those kids!) Jeremy broke into chaos, lost his job, lost his kids, took advantage of anyone who would still deal with him (including me), and finally disappeared. I really suspect he's dead now, probably like those people who commented below Taranto's column described, although I never heard of his body being found. Jeremy wasn't "primary caretaker" either, and I doubt he'd be suitable full-time; but when I saw him playing with, feeding and caring for his kids, I didn't see the pathological evil I think is necessary for someone to abuse the helpless.

"If you really mean "never see the kids again," did mom allege abuse or something equally extraordinary?"

What would that matter? If mommy tells Johnny to say Daddy hurt him or she won't let him stay with her, what's Johnny going to say? He's already lost his Daddy to the court system, he surely doesn't want to lose Mommy too....
(No one's that mean, cruel and vicious? I think both Tom and Jeremy might disagree...)
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2012 07:03 PM

This seems to be fairly common in bitter divorces; one spouse makes up drug abuse, alcoholism or sex abuse, and real proof is rarely needed; it's just so horrible, it must be true, no one would make something like that up, keep the monster away from those kids!

I think that's another one of those myths, Jim.

I don't think anyone should lose visitation based on nothing more than an unsubstantiated allegation. And in fact, what I observed more often than not during the two times I worked in a family law practice was that such accusations, even when supported by evidence, were ignored by the court unless there was a conviction.

You would hope, when dealing with a defenseless child, that courts would err on the side of keeping the child safe. That wasn't what I saw, though.

It left a bad taste in my mouth.

Posted by: Cass at April 17, 2012 07:58 PM

Ah, Cassandra. If the courts erred on the side of keeping the defenseless child safe, Abortion would not be legal. Are you really surprised they followed through on the cut?

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 17, 2012 08:59 PM

"So, we need to set up positive feedback loops for moral behavior. Sort of like the "shame and blame" stuff society used to lay down in the past."
No. This is what a behavoiralist would call setting up a NEGATIGVE loop. YOu make people do something because they are afraid of the outcome. It's like people who are devout out of fear of hell rather than Love of God. Bass ackwards. Reward those who behave in the proscribed manner. Not sure how, yet, but that's the better approach to building better people: make the benefits of being 'good' obvious and real.

Judgement is fine and dandy by me. I'm a quant by nature, well, kinda, I'm into O-chem. That's a mish-mash of quant and qual. BUt I make harsh and unflattering assesments all the time. I just don't always share them with the offending party in a full throated roar at the time.

Posted by: ry at April 17, 2012 09:41 PM

From Cassandra: "You would hope, when dealing with a defenseless child, that courts would err on the side of keeping the child safe. That wasn't what I saw, though.

It left a bad taste in my mouth."

As did watching good, decent men punished for acts they (almost certainly; I wasn't there, but knew them) did not commit.

Law, on its good days, seems to be at best a way to keep us from settling matters with knives, fists and teeth. On law's bad days, however, knives, fists and teeth might be superior.

From Ry: "No. This is what a behavoiralist would call setting up a NEGATIGVE loop. "

I do realize the difference, but was actually arguing (then) for a positive loop; pay people to behave. I've abandoned that position already, though, since the government could surely find numerous ways to mess that up. Thanks for pointing out a poorly framed statement, though, I'll try to make fewer of them.

What is O-chem?
Jim

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2012 10:46 PM

We had a local scandal here about a judge who refused ever to alter visitation orders or grant TROs no matter how much evidence the mother produced about his violence to his children. Then the judge's daughter posted a video to YouTube showing him beating her with a belt for about ten minutes while screaming at her. He's off the bench now.

We've got human judges. Some of them are biased against absent fathers and will grant a punitive decree on what reasonable people would consider flimsy evidence. Others assume all mothers are hysterical and making up vindictive stories, and seem blithely indifferent to whatever danger the kids might be in. Just about all divorce judges, I believe, get pretty jaundiced about the stories divorced parents are willing to tell about each other: dragging the whole world into their ugly, shattered intimacy. But I will await Cassandra's investigative work before I conclude that there's a strong pattern of judges believing testimony against men before they believe it against women.

Divorce court is a horrible place to be. I shudder when I think how little I really knew about my husband's principles when we married. I was lucky: we both turned out to be the hell-or-high-water type when it came to staying married.

Robert Mitchell, I wish we could conclude that anyone, on benches or otherwise, adopted the same protective attitude toward fetuses that they do towards older children. But many if not most people simply don't consider fetuses people yet, and don't apply anything like the same standard to their treatment. Luckily, however, that does mean that a judge who won't bat an eye at abortion will nevertheless come down hard on a non-custodial parent who endangers his or her children.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 18, 2012 08:58 AM

Post a comment

To reduce comment spam, comments on older posts are put into moderation 5 days after the last activity. Comments with more than one link also go into moderation. If you don't see your comment after posting it, try refreshing the screen. If you still don't see it, your comment is probably in the moderation queue.




Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)