Why Men Should Have the Right to Not Be Parents

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Last week I had a spicy take. I mean, let’s be honest, I have a spicy take at least three times a day, but this is one that I Tweeted, and it got a very mixed reaction. I found a Reddit post on r/AmItheAsshole, a subreddit where people tell stories in order to be told whether or not they were the asshole in a particular situation. I’ll be honest, I was procrastinating and was going through the posts that were marked as “definite asshole” because I love when an asshole tells a story in which they don’t think they’re an asshole but they clearly are. It’s great.

But for one of them, I was confused. Reddit weighed in that this guy was a definite asshole, but in my view he definitely was not. “Ladegeo” wrote that as a young man he had sex with a girl who ended up pregnant. He wanted the girl to get an abortion but she didn’t, so they agreed that he would have nothing to do with either of them except to pay child support. He calls himself a sperm donor.

Seventeen years later, the girl called him and asked him to have a relationship with her son, who wanted to “know his dad.” He again insisted that he absolutely did not want a relationship with this child, over her objections. A short time later, the kid himself calls Lad asking if they could meet. Lad once again explained to the kid that he did not want a father-and-son relationship with the kid. The kid said “okay” and hung up. The mother called the next day angry with Lad because he “destroyed his son’s hope.”

Is Lad the asshole?

My perspective is absolutely not. For the most part, I do not think anyone should be forced to be a parent against their stated wishes. I was shocked to see that nearly every comment called him an asshole. The most upvoted comment read “YTA. Having a kid isn’t a problem you can just throw money at to make it go away. You helped bring this kid into the world, the very least you could do is give him a few hours of your time. I have no doubt that he won’t be interested in striking up a relationship with an asshole like you, but I can understand the curiosity of him wanting to meet his sperm donor.”

The second most popular comment was simply, “YTA. And a bad human being.” The top reply to that called Lad a sociopath.

Now, I know that Reddit can be wrong (or at least, disagree with me). But one of the reasons I was so surprised was because of a very similar post I read a few years ago. In this one, a man writes that he got a girl pregnant and she wanted an abortion but he did not. She agreed to have the baby but wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. She gave up full custody and pays more than her share of child support each month. But two years on, the poster wants her to be in his child’s life. He took her to court to force visitation, which the court denied. He complains that she calls herself an egg donor. 

The replies were the exact opposite of Lad’s. The posters absolutely destroy this man. The top comment points out that he made a selfish and cruel decision to bring the child to term and that “of course she wants nothing to do with the child” that she didn’t want in the first place.

I totally agree! And I don’t think it should be any different if the person who demanded the child be born is a woman.

When I tweeted about Lad, many comments disagreed with me and I want to talk about why those people are wrong. One common complaint was this one, that “if you have sex you accept all consequences.” Here’s the problem: the consequences of sex are determined by humans, and for the most part we have everything in our power today to make sure there are no negative consequences of sex. Let’s say you have sex and get gonnorhea. Gonnorhea is a rather common sexually transmitted disease that results in painful urination and can be cleared up with a simple course of antibiotics. But what if you go to your doctor and say, “I have gonnorhea” and your doctor replies, “I’m sorry but if you have sex you accept all consequences. Good luck.” Now that painful urination will escalate to the point that you may end up infertile. There was a solution, but someone decided that having sex is bad and people who do it deserve to be punished, so they ignored that solution.

I’ve seen that same thinking applied to women who accidentally get pregnant — even those who use birth control. Want to get an abortion? “Sorry, but if you have sex you accept all consequences.” Now you get to spend the next few decades raising a human being you never wanted. As a punishment.

I don’t buy it, and I repeat: no one should be forced to be a parent against their will. 

Another common complaint was that Lad’s disinterest in parenthood was hurtful to the child, who didn’t ask to be born to a single mother. Guess who else didn’t ask to be born to a single parent? Everyone. Literally everyone. Every day, single women go to fertility clinics to see about getting pregnant through artificial insemination to knowingly become single mothers. I have friends who have done it, because they wanted to be mothers and didn’t feel like worrying about finding a partner first, or at all. Should we prevent these women from doing that, because kids do better when raised in a two-parent household? Is it really always about the absolute best interest of the kid being born?

What about parents who want to get a divorce? Should we prevent that from happening, because children of divorced parents have worse outcomes in life? What about parents who fight all the time but don’t get divorced even though everyone would probably be happier if they did? Should they be court mandated to love each other more?

What about women who bear the children of their deceased partners? Should they be forced to get abortions because their child will be worse off than one with two parents AND they have no chance of ever meeting their father?

Or what about very poor people? Should they not be allowed to have kids at all, because those kids won’t necessarily have food security, leading to a whole host of problems they’re likely to encounter throughout their life? Should we tell people they’re assholes if they have kids without making, say, a combined $70,000 a year?

No, it’s absurd. When we really think about it, we know that. Not every kid gets to have two parents. And in this case, it’s the mother who did everything in her power to be a grade A asshole to this kid. It was her decision to have the kid, and it’s not immoral that she chose to do so, but she made that decision knowing that Lad absolutely would not be a dad. A non-asshole, in that situation, would raise a kid to know that he has no father, exactly how one might raise a kid who resulted from artificial insemination. 

Sure, once he’s a teen it’s natural for him to be curious about his sperm donor. I mean hell, I wasn’t adopted but I spent many years daydreaming about one day meeting my “real” parents. Kids are stupid and imaginative and curious. But a good, non-asshole mother would say “Your sperm donor wants nothing to do with us and so I will not give you his information until you are an adult. Once you’re an adult you’re free to contact him but I assure you that he will not appreciate it and he will not want a relationship with you, and that may hurt your feelings. Your family is here, and we have been here your entire life, and we will continue to be here forever.”

An asshole would try to make the sperm donor feel bad by calling him and getting upset when she learns that he hasn’t changed his mind. A top tier shit head would then give his number to her son, possibly in the hope of guilting him into being the parent he has repeatedly said he didn’t want to be, knowing that she’s raising her son’s hopes so that he will ultimately be heartbroken.

When I was a kid I wanted a big dog to go on adventures with but my parents said no because my mom had a stupid little smelly cocker spaniel and my dad didn’t even like dogs. My oldest brother was living with his girlfriend and they got a golden lab puppy. They broke up soon after and my brother dumped the puppy on my parents. My dad was furious, but they kept him. Sammy became my dad’s shadow. I’d never seen my dad bond so fully and completely with an animal before. My dad ended up loving Sammy like he loved me and his siblings. It’s a heartwarming story, but it’s rare, and it’s about a dog. A lot of people, and a lot of movies and TV shows, would have you believe that the same thing happens with children all the time, and so many of us think it should happen all the time, and if it doesn’t there’s something wrong with you. This isn’t Hollywood. Some people don’t want to be parents, and having a whole-ass human being foisted upon them because they had sex once when they were a teenager won’t suddenly turn them into loving parents. And that’s okay.

Abortion should be affordable and accessible and stigma-free for anyone who wants one. And the same way people with uteruses should be able to opt out of parenthood before a child is born, everyone else should be able to, as well. No child ever lived their best life with a parent who didn’t want them.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. Long time reader, first time commenter. Absolutely agree. Being forced or coerced into parenting is one of my worst nightmares. The guy in the AITA post made it absolutely clear what his boundaries were and he is not at fault for those boundaries being stomped all over.

    I’d have made a NTA post but I was banned from the increasingly toxic sub for using the word “incel”, which is apparently a “gendered slur”.

  2. I think he’s a little bit of an asshole, depending on how he talked to the kid. His contributing child support for a kid he didn’t even want is admirable, though. At the very least I hope he gave like a medical history and was as kind to the kid as possible while still saying he didn’t want him in his life.

    Probably the main reason I think he’s a little bit of an asshole is because I could never imagine doing anything like that to a kid. I also have kids, so that’s another reason. The mom is about a trillion times bigger asshole, though, if not more.

  3. Awesome points. No one should be forced to be an active parent.( unless you have decided to be the parent). If he never payed child support that probably would have been scummy. I do not see the issue, I understand the child may want him in his life. But, if the father doesn’t want to be in his biological son’s life I think it would be less harmful not to be in his life then having his father resent every minute with him. Have you ever witnessed some who has despised their children? If a person does not want children (I am included in this) they often get treated like they are an abomination .

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