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August 1st, 2007

Feminism And Being Childfree

Birth Control Pills in Plastic Wheel

From Feministing:
Careful, or you’ll regret not reproducing.

“For once, I’m not talking about the anti-choice movement. American Sexuality magazine has a piece describing one young woman’s travails in finding a doctor willing to perform a tubal ligation on her. She’s in her early 20s, and absolutely, positively, 100% certain she never wants children. Never.

Seems perfectly logical to me that she’d want her tubes tied. After all, birth control is expensive. And can be a nuisance. If you know you won’t want kids, why wait another 10 years to have this surgery? Maybe because doctors are refusing to perform it on her”

I can relate to this story. I’ve always known I never wanted children. And I also had difficulty making a doctor believe it.

As far back as I can remember I knew I’d never have children. I didn’t like playing with baby dolls because it was pretending I had a baby and that was “icky”. I preferred my stuffed animals because to me animals were better than babies. No one believed that I wouldn’t have children when I grew up. My parents stopped mentioning it because I got so fired up when they suggested otherwise. The other adults around me told me over and over again that I’d change my mind. I was too young to know if I wanted children. They knew better than I.

But I knew they were wrong. I learned to keep quiet about it as a girl because children weren’t supposed to talk back to grown ups. As a teenager I was told I’d change my mind when I fell in love and got married. After marrying I was told I’d change my mind after a few years. I was consistently told when I turned 30 I would start wanting children. Since I’ve passed 30 I’m told I’ll start wanting children any day now.

Before we got married I made sure Mr. Radical knew I never wanted children. It didn’t seem fair to marry someone without disclosing this up front. He didn’t want kids either so we’re well matched. After being married a few years we had grown tired of birth control and condoms and decided to find a more permanent solution. Mr. Radical suggested he get a vasectomy since it was less invasive than getting my tubes tied. I’m still touched that he volunteered to do this because not all men would.

Mr. Radical called a vasectomy clinic. When the receptionist found out his age and his wife’s age she asked that I come with him to the appointment. This was the first warning sign. We both had a feeling we were going to face opposition. And we were right. The doctor sat us both down and told us we were awfully young to be making such an important decision. (I was 24, Mr. Radical was 28 at the time.) Surely, we would change our minds when we got older. We should wait until we were in our 40s before deciding to do the vasectomy. Better yet, wait until we were in our 50s because his clients were normally in their 50s to 60s when they got the procedure done. We should have some kids first and then come back for a vasectomy when we were sure we didn’t want any more.

I wanted to scream. Here it was all over again-the lecture I had been getting my entire life. You’ll change your mind. Everyone has children. Of course you’ll want children someday. When you turn 30 you’ll want children. If you don’t have children you’ll regret it when you’re older. Who will take care of you when you’re old? Don’t you want a family? What’s wrong with you that you don’t like children? Everyone loves babies, why don’t you?

I remember grinding my teeth and gripping the sides of the plastic chair to control my temper which was close to boiling over. This man had something I wanted. He had the power to take away procreation. I didn’t want to go back on birth control-it made me cry for no reason.

As the doctor kept lecturing us it become apparent that he didn’t want to give Mr. Radical the vasectomy. I tried telling him I didn’t want children, that I never wanted children, that I was absolutely, 100% sure I would never, ever want children. He ignored me. My protestations made him lecture more.

Mr. Radical saved the day. In a very calm, cold voice he said, “Look. You know that woman Susan Smith? I think if I had children I’d put them in a car and drown them in a lake just like she did.”

The doctor’s face paled considerably. He stared at my husband. There was a resolute look in my hubby’s eyes as he stared back. The doctor cleared his throat and said he’d do the procedure but I’d have to wait in the lobby.

Part of my was still pissed. Why was all my protestations ignored while my husband’s wasn’t? But mostly I was so happy I could cry. Finally, no more worries about birth control! When it was over the doctor called me back into his office. He wanted me to know that many vasectomies were reversible. My anger flared up again but Mr. Radical was feeling pretty tender so I didn’t stay to argue.

I’m 31 now and am still being told I will want children one day. It’s still infuriating and disrespectful. Is this a feminist issue? Definitely. When women’s feelings and beliefs are habitually discounted or outright ignored it becomes a feminist issue. Sure, compared to abortion, equal pay and sexual harassment disregarding women’s childfree choice may not seem as pressing. But reproductive freedom is a huge issue and sadly still unattainable for many women. How can women expect to gain reproductive rights when their beliefs on reproducing are so continually ignored?

What to do then? How can we change the situation? First by fighting for our reproductive rights-for the freedom to have children, to not have children, to have access to birth control, abortion and sex education. Feministing chronicles this fight well. But I think it’s also important to voice our feelings on these subjects. Make your voice heard. It gets tiring repeating to countless people that “No, I’m not having children.” But I do it over and over again. Why? Because as a feminist I believe a woman’s body is her own and she should be free to do with it as she pleases.

To lighten the mood I’ll stick in this postscript. After a vasectomy a man has to bring in an ejaculate sample so they can test it to make sure the procedure was done properly. We were told the testing was done at the nearby hospital. After cumming the man has an hour to bring his sample to the hospital. For most men who live in cities this isn’t a problem. They can jerk off at home and bring in the cum sample with plenty of time to spare. Mr. Radical and I were living in the country at the time and were two hours away from the doctor’s office. You already know where this is going don’t you? We borrowed a van with no windows in the back. In the hospital visitor’s lot we parked, went to the back of the van and got that cum cup filled. We sat in the van for about 10 minutes to make sure the cum had cooled down a little before walking inside to save ourselves any embarrassment.

Posted by Vixen in Political Rants

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 1st, 2007 at 8:18 pm and is filed under Political Rants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to “Feminism And Being Childfree”

  1. Curvaceous Dee says:

    This is one of those issues that drives me nuts as well - I don’t want kids, have never wanted them, and my whole life people have been telling me that I’ll change my mind.

    Apollo is in the same boat as me (and boy, did I ever made sure of that before we got living-together serious) - we like our books, our computers, and our animals, and will only hear the pitter-patter of tiny little feet if we put shoes on the cats :)

    Neither of us have discussed permanent options though, as I’ve had an IUD in place since shortly after meeting him. It does the job for now. Might be worth discussing with my gynaecologist next time I visit, though …

    xx Dee

  2. Vixen says:

    CD-I totally like cats more than babies. :)

    Since you’re sure about being childfree I recommend permant options. It’s so nice not to worry about birth control.

  3. Mandel says:

    Life is change. Although now you cannot imagine yourself with children, people and circumstances change wildly over time. I’m not saying that you will necessarily want to have children. I’m not saying even that you will probably want to. But, is it possible? Everything is, and closing one door irreversibly just because you are confident in your ability to predict the future is plainly an error.

    Of course I don’t deny your right to do whatever with your body, but I can understand a doctor not wanting to be responsible of a future disgrace it you change your mind.

  4. Margie says:

    I am also the child-free by choice. I am lucky because I have a great gyno. He gave me a tubal upon request at age 35.

  5. Heather says:

    This is the story of my life too. No one believes me about not wanting to reproduce. No, I don’t like babies. I’ve had babies thrust into my face and have been told to kiss them in order to get my maternal instincts going.

    I was also really clear about this with my husband-to-be before the wedding. But he was of the “she’ll want a baby someday” camp too. Now 10 years later he is seeing that I truly don’t want to reproduce and it is causing problems.

  6. Vixen says:

    Mandel-Though I do not agree with you I would like to extend a thank you for reading my blog.

    Why is it acceptable for people to tell women-Isn’t it possible you’ll change your mind? Would a person say to a pregnant woman-Isn’t it possible you’ll change your mind and abort the baby? Would a person say to a mother-Isn’t it possible you’ll decide you don’t want your baby and give it up for adoption? Why can’t a woman’s choice to be childfree be respected instead of constantly questioned?

    As for the doctor-that could apply to many doctors. What of the plastic surgeon who modifies breasts only to have their female patients hate their bodies? A doctor is doing a job-if done correctly then he or she should not feel responsible if the woman changes her mind.

  7. Vixen says:

    Margie & Heather-I’m glad to hear this post struck a chord with you.

    Margie-Good for you. It really helps to find an understanding doctor.

    Heather-I’ve never liked babies either. Even as a girl I couldn’t stand them. And so many people just don’t seem to get it and insist that I must like them. Annoying isn’t it? I hope your situation turns out alright.

  8. Mandel says:


    Of course, a woman should be equally questioned for the decision of having a baby as it is as irreversible as yours. It is a pity that having children is so easy; all kinds of irresponsible people are permitted to have a family and you are questioned about your decision of bounding yourself to a childless life.

    But there is an important difference. For you to have children or a bigger breast, you have to take an irreversible step. For you to have no children, it is not necessary at all. That can also make a difference for the doctors, which are told to do an intervention (always at a risk) that does not solve any problem (except for avoiding the not that bothersome birthcontrol) and that can make you unhappy in the (I know, very improbable) chance that you change your mind.

    Your choice about being childfree should be respected. But, although you must not put up with any lecture about this issue, you should understand that there are some facts that explain that lack of understanding.

    Your choice is not natural (I am not saying it is bad). Children have been designed through million years of evolution to please people and especially women. People’s minds have been carefully modified by natural selection to be pleased by children, especially women’s ones. It is understandable that people find your choice difficult to believe. But I believe that it is more lack of understanding than lack of respect.

    Summing up my thoughts:

    I think that you have the right to be childfree. Although finding children disgusting is an abnormal behavior (that means not frequent), that probably you could psychologically “cure”, I definitely think that you are not hurting anybody with that. The most interesting aspects of the personality are these little, inoffensive, “madnesses”, and I believe it is an error to “cure” them, as it only makes you more mediocre.

    I think that a doctor should not be forced to tie your tubes, as she should not be forced to do any unnecessary operation (like, say, breast implants).

    I think that you are wrong by wanting to close doors without having to, but you should be totally free to do so (you must first find an agreeing doctor, of course).

    Many people can’t believe that some rarities exist. They are not being as unrespectful with you as incredulous that a woman wanting to be childfree can exist. Probably they have found lots of happiness with their own children and think that you are losing something. Or they simply have not heard about any woman wanting to be childfree. If your doctor thinks that way, you obviously have to go to another doctor; but don’t get raged, that causes ulcers :). I am very happy that you two managed to find a “relaxing” activity in that van!

  9. Vixen says:

    Mandel-While not wanting children is certainly less common I don’t think it’s “abnormal”. Certainly evolution makes humans want to reproduce but I think there is overwhelming societal pressure that says humans, especially women, want to reproduce.

  10. Aspasia says:

    I hear ya, Vixen. I don’t think people like Mandel understand how condescending it is to have others treat you as though you cannot possibly make this decision by yourself. “You silly woman” seems to be the general undertone.

    Personally, I haven’t decided whether I want children or not. I’m going on 27 and certain I will not be reproducing until I finish college as I have taken six years off taking care of a chronically ill parent. That has given me a lot of experience in taking care of a dependent. I don’t want to have children out of a selfish compulsion of having a “mini-me” like too many others do. If anything I may adopt. There are a lot of children out there that need a good home and a loving environment.

    Best of luck to you!

  11. Vixen says:

    Aspasia-Yes, yes, yes! That “you silly woman” undertone totally grates my nerves.

    It seems to me that the people that really think about having children beforehand, that decide that they do want them, seem to be happier parents.

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