Aug 06 2005

My Unusual Afternoon

My sibling Tidy evicts the parasite, young Finn. Note the empyrean glow emanating from Dr. Dude.

Although it is not a requirement, a professional spinster aunt’s street cred is vastly enhanced if she has actual nieces and/or nephews to teach swear words to. I had occasion to ponder this notion yesterday afternoon when my sister surprised me by popping out another tot, thereby doubling my auntly qualifications without my having to lift a finger.

I’ll admit that it wasn’t a total surprise. Looking back, I see now that there were clues all along. Having perceived with my usual acuity that she was hauling a little extra mass, I had idly hypothesized that the sibling was either (a) el preggo, or (b) trying a new triathlon training technique requiring her to suspend a medicine ball from her bra. Although until yesterday I hadn’t given either contingency much thought, since not only am I self-absorbed, but the idea of triathlons fills me with ennui, and the idea of childbirth turns my stomach.

It turns out that the actuality of childbirth turns my stomach, too. Through an unexpected and cruel twist of fate, I accidentally observed the whole gory tableau of my young niece’s eviction from her warm, moist bungalow. Oh my fucking god.

I’ll just let the photo do the talking.

Finn’s previous residence

But I tell you what. That OB/GYN gig is great work if you can get it. This dude glided in, smelling of sports cars and clad in the gaudy raiment of the links whence he had just departed, made small talk for two minutes, and glided back out.

“Push, two-three-four,” suggested the nurse to my litter-mate.

15 minutes later, the OB, now enveloped in scrubs and emitting a kind of celestial aura, rematerialized just in time to palm the infant relative as it squirted out (the kid’s understandable reluctance proved no match for the considerable abdominal muscles of its elite-athlete host). Dr. Dude handed the kid off, reached back in, extracted a pulsating wad of gore the size of Guam, applied a couple of stitches, doffed his glowing shower cap to his stunned audience, and was gone in a puff of silver smoke.


Despite the fact that nieces can be, in small doses, quite the little lumps of fun, I am no fan of reproduction. So many factors recommend against it. Overpopulation. The uncertainty of the future. The horrors of patriarchy. The repellent hubris displayed by those who assume their genes are indispensable to the cosmos. The repellent hubris displayed by those who view it as a “right.” The repellent hubris displayed by those sanctimonious assholes whose delusions about supernatural deities compel them to control it.

Other people’s tedious children (present company excepted, of course.)

I particularly resent pregnancy itself, and not just because of the saccharine, sentimental disdain our species confers on it, or the untoward social consequences of possessing the organs necessary to do it. Consider the ickiness of the biology: the burdensome inequity of the male/female dichotomy, the depraved practical joke that is menstruation, the parasitic nature of the fetus, the strain on the physique, the bloody violence of labor and delivery, and the absolute tyranny suddenly imposed by the newly expelled mewling tyke. Which tyke, I remind you, resembles a lump of hamburger (see photo) whose purpose in life is to attempt suicide about 70,572 times a day.

Nature’s nonchalance is a pisser.


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  1. emjaybee

    Heh. And ew.

    On a related note, when watching an episode of Star Trek: Voyager because I had no cable nor social life at the time, I saw an episode in which a cast member gave birth. She was having trouble, so the doc finally decided they would simply *beam the baby out.* Zap, sparkly light, there it was, no muss no fuss.

    And I sat up straight, outraged, yelling, “Jesus Christ, if they could do *that*, why not just do it before she goes into labor?” And took it as irrefutable proof, if needed, that no women wrote for that show. Hell, I’m a believer in natural childbirth, but only for medical reasons; give me a chance to zap the kid out with no bad side-effects or surgery, and I am *there.*

  2. BlondebutBright

    Your unassumingly graphic photos leave me speechless and astonished (in a good way). I have honestly never seen anything like them. Incredible post. I’ll consult it daily until the maternal urge to reproduce myself has left my mind forever.

  3. Sophie

    “the depraved practical joke that is menstruation”

    I hope you know that women don’t have to endure that joke. There are types of contraception that often have the pleasant side effect of dispensing us with that, along with dispensing us of passing our priceless genes to the future generations.

  4. Sydney


    What happened to the delivery pictures where all the wittle babies just have a little goo and then they’re just beautiful? Damm the patriarchy and their evil lies! I am now traumatized for life.

    I’m going to go throw-up now, and when I’m finished I’m going to start looking up facts about adoption.

  5. Steph

    That has to be the most unsentimental birth-related post ever.

    I’ve been there twice and it wasn’t a picnic (damn my desire for midwives and a technology free birth). But it’s not all THAT bad (damn my desire to have children!). It is messy though–something that no one tells you about before.

    What I can’t figure out is how the baby is being held in the first picture. That actually screams the patriarchy to me because the birth attendant–who you so accurately describ–gets to hold the baby before the birthing woman does. I didn’t exactly catch, but the first place my kids went when they were born was in my arms. The midwife came to me and checked out my kid.

    I’m not a feminist who totally glorifies the biological woman, but I also don’t have full disdain for what my body is and does. My problems are with how the patriarchy treats my body when it does these things (birth, menstruates, breast feeds, stops menstruating).

    And I’m really ambivalent about using oral contraception to stop periods–I feel a whole lot of patriarchy from big-pharma having me on drugs to control something that the patriarchy views as bad (and no I don’t love having my period, I’m just leery about the motives of those who push this as liberation).

  6. yami

    Crikey, I’d just bitten into a nectarine when I saw that placenta; the resemblance to the yellow bit in the corneer has put me off my lunch… but congratulations to the iron-stomached spinster aunt!

  7. Mistress

    I swore years ago never to be a baby-maker. There just aren’t any reasons to. I love children, and that’s why I’m going to adopt one that already exists & could use some love . . . . not any time soon, of course, considering I’m an impoverished 21 year old college student.


    While it seems a little extreme & insane at first, I love these guys. Click on BIOLOGY & BREEDING and scroll down until you get to the big chart. It shoots down every excuse that people give to make babies. Fucking brilliant.

  8. Lauren

    Dude. Placentas are fucking NASTY! Our umbilical cord was the color of a raver’s glowstick.

  9. Mrs. Coulter

    Ugh. I have very little memory of the Birth of Lyra. With good reason–no one would ever have a second child if they could remember it clearly, and the entire human race would die out.

    When we went over our birth plan with the doctor, she asked us questions like “do you want to see the baby crowning?” and “do you want to see the placenta?” and “do you [referring the implanter of the parasite] want to cut the cord?” In all cases, the answer was emphatically NO!

    And my doctor is a woman who drives a white, late-model Japanese hatchback (Nissan, I think), even though she’s listed as one of the top OBs in DC. I know this because she came to my house to do exams while I was on bedrest (yes, my doctor made housecalls). They’re not all evil.

  10. Twisty

    Steph, you correctly identify me as possibly the least sentimental spinster aunt in the world. I like to think that only The Universe has me beat in that quarter.

    The obstetrician is literally palming the kid with one hand, like a football, fingers on either side of the neck. Talk about unsentimental.

    I’m against big-pharma, too. I really think this reproduction thing needs to be totally reworked from the ground up. I envision a situation where there’s only one sex, for example, and possibly egg-laying.

  11. Twisty

    Mistress, that link is hi-larious!

  12. Sunya Harjis

    Re Sophie’s comment about contraception that halts menstruation:

    Fuck you, honey. I mean that in a heartfelt way. Every time I try to discuss a thesis at all resembling Twisty’s (Menstruation is evidence that god hates women) I get that ludicrous answer: that They make a magic pill/patch/insertion/device that stops menstruation….

    Then I start screaming: Yes, it does so by irretrievably dicking around with your hormonal balance. It has a wealth of side-effects, is not endured equally well by all women, and involves the contraindication of all kinds of other drugs which one might suddenly develop a need for. Drugs are a crap shoot! WHY DON’T ANY OF THESE GLAXO-SMITH-KLINE SHILLS UNDERSTAND THAT?!

    I’ve had hurricane-class arguments with men about the insurance subsidization of Viagra and other penis pills: why can’t, I argue, menstruation-related products also be subsidized?

    Mensutration isn’t a disease!!!! They squeal, clutching their balls. It’s natural!

    But so is erectile dysfunction, I reply.

    But erectile dysfunction means something is wrong with your works! It’s a malfunction! A dysfunction! Menstruation happens to all women!

    Right, I continue. So paying for its clean-up is like a tax on being female. How is that fair in the first place, much less when set against Viagra subsidies?


    Because men come out of pussies and spend the rest of their lives, so the saying goes, trying to get back in. Pussy is something that everyone in society benefits from but only women have to take care of. If your broken dick nets you a check from the company policy-holder and some magic pills to fix it at $10 a dose, why can I not have the menstruation-damming device of my choice (which inevitably costs less than $10 a month) paid for as well?

    They get sore and surly then and claim, with totaly sincerity, to not even begin to understand how I could arrive at such a conclusion. And then they tell me IT WOULD COST TOO MUCH! No exaggeration: it’s happened in almost exactly this way on nine different occasions, with many smaller (inevitably meaning “cut short” rather than “different discussion”) arguments on the side.

    For the next several decades – indeed, for the unforseeble future – I must spend one-quarter of my waking hours physically weakened, hygenically challenged, and exhaustively alert for symptoms of emotional imbalance. And those hours aren’t served together! Gently phased against each other they may, in total, comprise a third or even a half of my childbearing years. And these ridiculous men claim menstruation is natural! And these preposterous women claim that I should elect to suffer from a different, less predictable, and unrelieved series of ailments in place of this one!

    Not to mention how the legality of contraception is itself coming rapidly into question.

    How many millions and billions of dollars went into researching Viagra and its competitors? How many millions and billions have those penis pills made? To relieve a problem which is 9 times out of 10 purely psychological and 10 times out of 10 not threatening to one’s health! And here we girls are fighting amongst ourselves and stuffing our girlbits with cotton or sponges or whatever like it was still 1066.

    This is an utterly appalling situation and one which demonstrates the essential and unbreachable sexism built into our civilization better than most other examples: most telling of all is how fundamentally incomprehending men are when confronted with this inequity, how frequently and intensely even the most enlightened and liberal ones seem to think that menstruation is just… something women have to put up with.

  13. ae

    Congrats, Twisty. Welcome, Finn.

    In the throes of Aunt Flo at the moment, I am salivating at the thought of its utter and complete eradication. As soon as the (an?) “Intelligent Designer” can figure that shit out, I’ll be ready to believe in it/her/him. ‘Til then, oww and biological imperative and all that.

    And, erm, that placenta. Whoa. Twisty, you are a wonder of philosophical consistency.

  14. TimT

    Welcome, Finn, you concatenation of DNA strands, you!!!

  15. alice

    when i worked in the path lab, we had at least five placentas waiting for us to weigh every morning and then store in formalin. you should see the ones that house triplets. sleeping bags.

  16. Kyra

    Emjaybee, later on in that episode, the baby died because the beam-out weakened its cell membranes, or something like that. Luckily, Voyager had just been duplicated by some mysterious phenomenon, so that the baby’s duplicate from the second Voyager (who had been born normally) was conveniently one of two survivors from the second Voyager.

    The beam-out method was only a last resort due to the complications. Why else would B’Elanna Torres spend the entire series finale suffering through the Klingon version of labor when there were Borg to be fought and Main Engineering to take care of?

    As for female writers, I’m not sure whether any were working on this, but if you were thinking up a future semi-utopia, wouldn’t you come up with a way to make childbirth simple and pain-free?

  17. Mandos

    Well, Twisty already murdered a Lois McMaster Bujold book, or I’d have mentioned her in my answer to your question, Kyra. LMB’s Vorkosigan universe has a convenient uterine replicator: no need for labour! Cheap and efficient mass-produced technology, 100% effective unless someone sabotages it (LMB manages to work these things into the plot). Anyway, it’s main plot purpose is to gradually infiltrate a feudal society hitherto unexposed to galactic technology…causing (mostly positive) changes to this society that go unnoticed until it is too late.

  18. Mandos

    Eh, I ended up describing LMB anyway.

    But congrats (if she wants to be congratulated—not sure!) to Twisty on her new niece. Clearly her sister probably has a different perspective on the whole business :) After all, she’s the one who was voluntarily going through it, not Twisty. For the forseeable future, alas, reproduction will be generally that messy. I’ve got no kids myself and no imminent plans to have any, but I think (other people’s–no responsibility for me!) kids are pretty cute, usually, and am selfishly grateful for whatever annoying process brings them into the world.

  19. Mandos

    Triple post! In response to Sunya, I also note that there are feminists who think that the desire to (technologically) eradicate menstruation are really part of a patriarchal plot to alienate women from the Awesome Power of their hated-by-patriarchy bodies…

    Almost any means to eradicate menstruation itself will involve fooling around with hormones. The ED pills are also fooling around with chemicals that perhaps shouldn’t be fooled around with, particularly ones that involve the heart and the eyes (blue vision for some men who take Viagra…). When/if the male contraceptive pill emerges, it will also be fooling around with hormones involved in complex processes. For the time being there’s a price to be paid for attemping to escape cruel Nature, worth it through the price may be.

  20. Mistress

    I &hearts menstruating. It’s all good by me– unless an opportunity to get laid arises, in which case I’m [not] fucked.

  21. TimT

    As for female writers, I’m not sure whether any were working on this, but if you were thinking up a future semi-utopia, wouldn’t you come up with a way to make childbirth simple and pain-free?

    Kyra, it’s already been done. Herland, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a fantasy about a female society completed isolated from any male influence. If I recall correctly, the babies are grown on trees!

  22. Sarah

    Menstrual suppression does come with it’s own set of side-effects and risks, definitely, but it can be literally a life-saver for some women with serious gynaelogical conditions, for others it can significantly improve their quality of life. Of course it’s definitely not for everyone, and it’s silly to say that all women who don’t like periods (who does??) should just stop having them, because it isn’t a magic pill, and sometimes the side effects can be worse than the periods themselves. And some women are at high risk and some just don’t want to take synthetic hormones. Which is perfectly reasonable.

    But for the women who do tolerate it well, and make an informed choice to use it, I don’t see a problem with that, and don’t agree that we’re all dupes of “big pharma”.

  23. Twisty

    A couple of remarks:

    1. I am not, for the record, anti-baby. I’m a big fan of the niece I’ve had for the past year and a half, and the new one is so funny-looking that we formed an instantaneous bond of mutual funny-lookingness.

    2. When I say that I find other people’s kids tiresome, what I am really saying is that I find other people’s parental acuity wanting. For example, across the street from me live two families with 2 little boys each. The boys on the left are unruly and troubled (they once famously spent a few horrific minutes sling-shotting pecans at my midlife-crisis sportscar), and it’s no surprise: the father is a rage-aholic MD and the mother is in la-la land and the kids are afraid to go home. The boys on the right, however, are charming, having been raised by mellow, drug-free, snow-boarding nudist hippies who have a rope swing suspended from their living room ceiling.

    3. I do not advocate in any way a chemical solution to menstruation. I merely point out, with my usual stunning grasp of the obvious, that it sucks beyond all reason to that this process evolved the way it did, particularly if one has no intention of reproducing. And I’m sure nobody’s suggesting that women who are irredeemably debilitated by the monthlies should be criticized for taking drugs of any kind!

    4. Voyager. Fooey. Janeway was totally cancelled out by Seven of Nine.

    5. I have always thought tampons should be free.

    6. I would never say “God hates women.” What I would say is “men hate women.” There is no God.

  24. jennifer

    Twisty, you’re brilliant. I would so make out with you!

  25. larkspur

    I can’t necessarily come down hard against menstrual suppression. I mean, getting periods at age 10 or 11, and continuing until 50 isn’t exactly the way it’s always been. Menarche used to occur later. Pregnancy was followed by longer times of nursing, usually suppressing periods. And certainly varying access to food, especially in nomadic societies, would often suppress periods due to low body fat. Then we died. So the reality of 40 years of rarely-interrupted menstruation is kind of recent.

    Not that I ever did anything about it. I took BCPs for maybe a year and a half, total, and am careening through perimenopause with no chemical backup whatsoever. So I can’t talk. But I always do. Hee.

  26. Ron Sullivan

    Pussy is something that everyone in society benefits from but only women have to take care of.

    Sunya, one reason I spend way too much time reading blogs is sentences like this, which — if I knew needlecraft at all — I’d cross-stitch into an elegant and text-enhancing wall hanging. I mean, it’s even a great example of externalized costs, which are much discussed in tree-hugger circles.

    And it gives me the occasion to cackle with elderly glee and say that, by Gum and Yate, it gives you something to look forward to in old age. My tits may have deflated and gone south, my neck may be an instant and shocking disaster area, my lips may have disappeared entirely, my eyes may squinch above bags that explain where the former mass of my tits went, my joints may be painfully freezing at useless angles, but I’M NOT BLEEDING ANYMORE! Take that, you juicy, firm, sleek and youthful creatures you!

    There are a pair of practically unknown sci-fi paperbacks, Take Back Plenty and Seasons of Plenty, whose writer was male, Colin something, I forget; he was either very observant or smart enough to enlist female help. The second book is about as formless as that placenta* but the tampons are great. And free.

    *Twisty, I guess you don’t want to hear that there are placenta recipes floating about… Well, maybe you already know. Notice how it looks like liver? Well, it feels like liver too, but IME a little on the loose side. No I’ve never cooked or eaten one. But I’ve been there for a few deliveries. Hey, you might ask your hippie neighbors if they or anyone they know has fried their pwecious bundle’s placenta with onions.

    And look forward to this: Being the wicked auntie just gets better, because as the little sidesprouts get older it gets to be more fun corrupting them. I corrupted one of mine good and proper, and now she’s bringing her kid around so I can repeat the process on her. Kid’s already a fiddle-playin’ writergeek. Bwahahah.

  27. Twisty

    Twisty, I guess you don’t want to hear that there are placenta recipes floating about

    I used to be a restaurant critic, which is not something you do unless your motto is “I’ll try anything once.”

  28. Mandos

    Ah, but would you try live octopus tentacle? PZ Myers had a link to a review of that somewhere.

  29. Kara

    The having of children is definitely not for everyone, but ponder: if only idiot religious fanatics reproduce, where will that leave the rest of us? Unless you can convince your equally intelligent sibling(s) to take on the chore, of course.

    It’s entirely possible that the Y chromosome is disappearing, though, so as soon as we get cloning down, we can just help those males the rest of the way to extinction. ;)

  30. Amanda Marcotte

    Congrats, Twisty! As one person who refuses to host a parasite in her body to another, I totally get where you’re coming from. And while I’m the first to jump to the defense of women’s body functions when they are being held against us by the patriarchy, I’m not enamored of romanticizing menstruation. That’s like getting dewy-eyed over taking a shit. They are in fact a lot alike, which is that both are gross but by the time they come, they are a huge relief compared to the previous discomfort. One can defend our right not to be treated like we are disgusting for menstruation by the sex that knows from 20 minute crap sessions while not being particularly fond of menstruation.

  31. Chris Clarke

    The having of children is definitely not for everyone, but ponder: if only idiot religious fanatics reproduce, where will that leave the rest of us?

    Worst case scenario: extinct, leaving the rest of the planet to sigh in deep relief and get on with the healing and the closure and the slow processing of rats and pigeons and carp into the next epoch’s megafauna.

    In any event, some of the most progressive people I know are the offspring of religious fanatics.

  32. Mrs. Coulter

    Kara, LOL. I have on more than one occasion remarked to my life partner that as educated lefties, we have a demographic duty to have more than one child…

    And, if you hate menstruation, the bonus of having a baby is that you go at 15-16 months without a period (if you breastfeed) from last pre-pregnancy period to first post-pregnancy cycle. Of course, to get there you have do the whole pregnant part, which is like having the worst imaginable PMS for 9 months and, as Twisty so succinctly put it, a bowling ball hanging from your bra.

  33. Tony Patti

    To Sunya: You are brilliant and I would so make out with you if I weren’t married and a father.

    To Twisty: You know how I feel about you!

    As for Viagra, there is absolutely no truth to the flimsy fiction that it was intended to treat a fucking “disease”.

    Men (including myself, to a small extent) lie routinely to themselves and others in order to deny facts that contradict their personal ideas about being right about this thing or the other. So any man who wastes his breath defending Viagra because it is the cure – I really can’t bear to even type out such a patent, astounding, self-evident lie!- for a disease! A disease! For crying out loud! – is lieing like a rug.

    Erectile disfunction is what happens to rapists who suddenly get a fucking clue, not to men who really love and understand women!

    Viagra is nothing but an old man’s party drug, and rock solid proof, as Sunya has duly noted, that the Patriarchy is as alive and well as ever, even in the hearts of men who think they know better. And god, they are legion.

    I have taken this drug, and I must admit it helped me act like a normal guy when called upon, and admit that it takes me – under the best circumstances, when young and bursting with energy, misguided ideas about what women want and hormones – an unusually long time (weeks) to feel intimate enough with a woman I like to perform sexually. So I’m glad it worked for me when it did, and have to admit, as a central part of my reasoning that it is first and foremost a party drug, that I really really enjoyed the feelings of potency it gave me.

    But these feelings, and the whole super-potent thing, are something selfish and not particularly appropriate for the kind of love I feel for women and the kind of empathy I try so hard to develop and maintain, in the face of a culture constantly tempting me with adolescent fantasies of hyper-masculine youthfulness.

  34. ae

    Tony, I don’t think weeks getting to know a person is the least bit “unusually long.” A real connection is supremely important, the collapsed timeframe of “adolescent fantasies of hyper-masculine youthfulness” be damned.

    Re: privileging the penis, in response to Sunya’s and others’ queries:
    Women in the United States waited more than a decade for access to medical abortion, while the Food and Drug Administration approved Viagra in less than six months. Congruently, the Ministry of Health in Japan legalized Viagra in 18 months, while oral contraception was approved 35 years after the ministry received initial applications.

    More here.

    How anyone could disclaim patriarchal privilege, I cannot fathom. The facts cannot be more plain. F*ck the gynophobic godbags!

  35. Ron Sullivan

    At your service, since you’re a genius and I would so make out with you.

    And, if placenta pizza, spaghetti, or cocktail isn’t your um bag, you can roast it OR dehydrate it!

    I’m musing about the logistics of making a restaurant specialty.

  36. Ron Sullivan

    Oh — it this where I pick the nit that that second picture is not so much Finn’s previous residence as it is Finn’s previous restaurant?

  37. bitchphd

    Pregnancy sucks ass, frankly. Not a fan.

    But I will go on record saying that I am confused by this idea that childbirth is a “right”–or not. I don’t know who I’d be aligning myself with by saying it is a right, but surely the fact that *having* kids is the biological default, and *not having kids* is the thing one must take drugs to prevent (unless one is, of course, a lesbian, and has the good fortune never to be raped). Whether or not the discourse of “rights” needs to enter into it, surely this fact needs to be respected.

    I’ll also go on record saying I see nothing wrong with menstrual suppression. Menstruating is a mess and an inconvenience, and without birth control we’d all menstruate a *lot* less in our life times (being as we’d be pregnant and/or breastfeeding a lot more), and the only reason people menstruate with the pill is as a sop to the Catholic church anyway, and the hormones, though synthetically constructed, are hormones that are not abnormal to have in one’s body. I’m pro-menstrual suppression.

  38. Twisty

    I’m no biologist, but I won’t let that stop me from guessing that human reproduction is the biological default only among (a) heterosexuals, and even then, only among those who go a-porkin’ when the female is ovulating, and (b) rape victims. In other words, it is the result, as are all human enterprises with dire consequences, of deliberate action.

    As to whether reproduction should be considered a “right,” I should probably leave it to professional philosophers, disasterologists, statisticians, and others trained in the science of interpreting reality to determine the ethical status of the act of contributing to an already unsustainable population. I must say, though, that it appears as though unchecked reproduction is going to have some pretty spectacularly untoward effects on the future of the species. Do people have the right to do that? It doesn’t seem like it, but then, how the hell should I know?

  39. Finn

    Congrats on becoming an Auntie twice over!

    I guess I’m going to have to change my signature line or people might start to think I was somehow involved.


  40. TeenageCatgirl

    “Erectile disfunction is what happens to rapists who suddenly get a fucking clue, not to men who really love and understand women! ”
    Erectile ‘disfunction’ is a variation of normal function, all men experience it at some point, and perhaps if they didn’t regard their blood-filled penises as given them ‘potency’ they wouldn’t be so obsessed with it.
    And, of course, if you really love and understand women you’re ALWAYS ready to shove your dick in them.
    I don’t know how we women cope, not having an engorged piece of skin to make us powerful.

    Twisty, welcome to the world of double aunt-hood. What it really means is another birthday and christmas present to buy, but you get to torment them, which is some consolation.

  41. Finn

    It occurs to me that there are reasons to have children and there are reasons not to have children. These reasons surely seem, to the reasoner at least, to have the credential of a universal truth and are usually applied with argument-ending sureity. In such cases, however, when there are clearly strong reasons on either side, I tend to presume that the matter cannot and should not be determined by reason.

    These things are clearly matters of the heart and soul, and as such, should be decided within that realm. And, if you think you have a hard time understanding someone else’s reasoning, wouldn’t you have to imagine that the variations of heart and soul would be beyond infinite?

    Welcome, young Finn. I, for one, am damn glad to meet ya.

  42. bitchphd

    Well Twisty, it’s *kind* of the result of deliberate action, but really, not so much. It’s more just part of what the species (any species) *does*. We are living creatures because we reproduce (and vice-versa). I’ve written about this before, but given that most people aren’t gay; that sex is a pretty difficult instinct to overcome on an individual level, and impossible to overcome at the level of the species (which is why abstinence-only education doesn’t work); that pregnancy is, sooner or later, the inevitable result of sex for all but the infertile; and that yes, one can choose to *avoid* pregnancy, but achieving it isn’t something one “chooses”–it’s what happens if you stop choosing *not* to get pregnant. Given all those things, I think that any argument that people *don’t * have the right to reproduce is tatamount to saying that people don’t have the right to eat, or shit, or exercise, or grow hair, or any other bodily act that isn’t even a *question* of “rights.” Our bodies breed. It’s great to be able to prevent that, and more power to those of you who do, and yes we are the most successful animal on the planet and that’s a problem. And I will go to the wall defending those who decide not to have kids as having the absolute right to do so, and as making a smart and responsible decision. But I am adamantly against the argument that *not* breeding is the default action–and, con respecto Twisty, I think that it’s kind of a patriarchal and gynophobic argument.

  43. Twisty

    I dunno, Dr.B. If humans are just prisoners of the compulsion to fuck, well, yuck!

    I don’t disagree that people are built for it, of course. And from the male perspective at least, historically the benefits of indulging that compulsion outweighed the drawbacks. Carefree reproduction meant more people to dig the family holes and fight off the roving maurauders, Young Motherhood’s beatific glow, the joyous pitter-patter of little feet, etc. I’m suggesting here that this experience has perhaps made the transition from a “right” to “death knell for the species.”

    So I disagree that it’s patriarchal and gynophobic to argue that humans might oughta think with something other than their dicks lest their progeny, or their progeny’s progeny, meet with a pretty cruel fate. I view it as the opposite, in fact. I think there’s a whole lotta godbag stuff inextricably entwined in the issue of reproduction. I also see a qualitative difference between fucking and growing hair, I think a pretty profound one.

    If you were to say that mine is a fairly pointless argument, though, I wouldn’t disagree with that. Almost everyone–especially people with with kids–vehemently disagrees with me, understandably so, and few, as you point out, are ever gonna suddenly decide to go against God and Country and their primal urges to voluntarily abstain from reproduction. Thus I predict that a massive die-off of our species is not only a certainty, it is wholly imminent.

  44. bitchphd

    It’s not a question of being “prisoners of the compulsion to fuck”–it’s a question of the fact that, in the end, we are animals. Very intelligent animals, but animals nonetheless. And all animals (all living creatures, actually, including trees and slime molds) reproduce, y’know?

    I’m not saying it’s gynophobic to think that we should be thoughtful about sex and reproduction. I’m saying it’s gynophobic to argue that not getting pregnant is the default mode, and that getting pregnant is a “choice” in the strict sense. That’s true for guys; it’s not true for women. Unless we (lesbians excepted) actively choose to try to *avoid* pregnancy–either through using b/c or through avoiding sex, which is a pretty basic activity for living creatures (not the slime molds, though, in this case)–we will sooner or later find ourselves pregnant. My argument is that any kind of public policy or cultural argument about what we “should” do that fails to take into account this basic fact is gynophobic, because it takes the male model (sex without getting pregnant) as the norm.

  45. suezboo

    Have you ever noticed that there is a readymade word for uncle-like feelings i.e. avuncular, but not for aunt-like feelings. Odd, that.

  46. Twisty

    Ah, I finally grasp your meaning, clod that I am, about the gynophobia. Thank you.

  47. Twisty

    Suezboo, I have long rued the lack of an auntesque synonym for avuncular; you remind me of an old campaign of mine, which I abandoned for no good reason, to claim the word for the ladies.

  48. bitchphd

    You are the least clodlike person I know, I think. There aren’t too many places where one can have discussions like this without them turning into foolish flame wars.

    In other words, Twisty, you rock, and I would totally make out with you. Hell, I’d even have the baby.

  49. Mandos

    I didn’t even know that avuncular had something to do with uncles! I thought it was a word with *negative* connotations anyway. Thank you for educating me!

  50. alphabitch

    I don’t imagine anyone would stop a person who used the word ‘avauntular,’ for example, but I agree that it’s a problem. I hadn’t thought about it because ‘avuncular’ has always creeped me out, & I’ve never really wanted to be avuncular at all. Sort of the same way as ‘jocular’ — not in the ‘funny uncle’ kind of creep me out, but it just always sounds to me like it means something icky. Sort of like ‘refulgent’ sounds icky but it actually means something nice.

  51. piny

    >>My argument is that any kind of public policy or cultural argument about what we “should” do that fails to take into account this basic fact is gynophobic, because it takes the male model (sex without getting pregnant) as the norm.>>

    It also places the blame for an entire life’s ecological impact on one woman–or, since this iteration is Twisty’s rather than all the others I’ve encountered, two parents–rather than on all the other pressures and institutions that will make that kid’s life wasteful rather than responsible.

    I don’t agree that having children is the issue; rather, it’s the amount of resources that our children consume because they’re our children, living lives just like ours. Focusing on the act of producing children equates our use of resources with rates of consumption in the poorest countries. It’s like complaining about the ecologically burdensome human demand for shelter rather than focusing on the subgroup of human beings who insist on air-conditioned houses the size of airplane hangars.

  52. Erin

    That’s it! I am forsaking librarianship for a career in disasterology! Twisty, you have helped me find my calling!

    I am anti-marriage and child-ambivalent. I think I could be a good time-share parent, but I don’t know about the constant parenting for decades thing. I spent a good portion of my early childbearing years working on research projects with children at risk for antisocial and aggressive behaviors, which might have something to do with it. I like individual kids a lot, and they like me, but I rarely have the urge to bring them home with me. Not like, say, other people’s dogs. I often do think about kidnapping those, and I’m much more likely to remember the name of a new dog-acquaintance than a new child-acquaintance. Really, my biological clock just wants puppies.

  53. TimT

    Welll …. historically speaking … The amount of humans on this earth have continued to increase over the past couple of millenium, and our lifestyle, overall, has continued to get better.

    If technology continues to develop, then we should be able to sustain further population growth – provided, of course, we align technological progress with increased ecological awareness.

    And who knows what could happen if we continue along the curent path of space travel/exploration?

  54. Twisty

    “The amount of humans on this earth have continued to increase over the past couple of millenium, and our lifestyle, overall, has continued to get better.”

    Tell that to the billion or so people who subsist on less than a dollar a day. No, wait, you know who would really enjoy hearing this remarkable statement? The 40,000 people who die of starvation every goddam day.

  55. TimT

    The 40,000 people who die of starvation every goddam day.

    It’s a matter of proportion. Some hundred/one hundred and fifty years ago, the collective wealth of western nations was low. We suffered from mass starvation, too (remember the potato famine??), as well as many successive economic depressions.
    It’s just that, over the past 150 years, the wealth of western nations has risen, in comparison to that of non-western nations.

    40,000 people dying of starvation every day is 40,000 too many. But if we want to end this, then I think it’s best to be realistic about broad historical, economic, and technological trends.

  56. WookieMonster

    Twisty, Sunya, et al. you ROCK!

    I would also like to point out that the BC that MAY stop you period, also can cause you to HAVE it for months at a time instead of stopping it. Let me tell you, it’s horribly unpleasant to have it for months at a time, with maybe a week’s reprieve every few months.

    Being the extreme lefty daughter of republican parents, I don’t see how who has the kids matters all that much, it’s how they grow up that matters. I’d say that MOST fundie kids wake up and smell the cool-aid at some point in time.

  57. piny

    >>It’s just that, over the past 150 years, the wealth of western nations has risen, in comparison to that of non-western nations. >>

    Well, that’s quite all right, then. As long as the collective “we” really just refers to a subset of the world’s population. If you aren’t trying to make a general statement, no quibbling here.

    Seriously, dude? “Oh, no, you misunderstand! When I said we weren’t starving anymore, I meant ‘…except for all the people who totally still are,'” is a pretty weak defense.

  58. TimT

    Thank you for selectively quoting my arguments, Piny, in order to justify your own.

  59. piny

    I understand your arguments perfectly. I have a problem with the belief that the present wealth of the western world can be evaluated as a phenomenon independent of third-world destitution, or that the western world’s amazing ability to deal with overpopulation has nothing to do with the western world controlling a disproportionate share of resources. That’s what you’re saying: we were poor, and now we’re not so poor, and I don’t see what all those poor people over there have to do with anything.

  60. TimT

    Western wealth, I would say, is largely a result of continuing technological advances, well-established democratic systems, and a flexible free-market economy. But in the last 50 years, this wealth has been spreading to other countries, too: most notably Japan. So western ‘dominance’ of the markets is not inevitable, and the fact that the west has maintained its standard of life, while the standard of life in Asia has risen, is surely indicative of the fact that our domination of global resources is not the primary cause of our current wealth.

  61. Mandos

    Actually, the overpopulation itself is due to the fact that life is, in a few respects, less bad in the developing world. That is, it’s improved enough that most people’s children don’t die, and fewer women die in childbirth (though they still do). However, it hasn’t improved enough to remove the immediate incentives of having many children.

  62. res publica

    I see that there has been a long, complicated arguement on this thread, but I (surprise!) have nothing substantial to add. Just wanted to say that this post has the dubious distinction of having made me laugh AND puke AT THE SAME TIME. You are a woman of many gifts, Twisty.

  63. Veronica

    I really enjoyed the comments from the person who called breeding the “default” option for us as a species.

    I wasn’t born having sex. I can go for years at a time without having sex – hell, if I really had to, I could probably get to the end of my still-long life on nothing but masturbation to relieve pressure. Getting pregnant involves *action*, whereas not getting pregnant simply means not having sex, at its most fundamental, basic level.

    Thus, without offpsring is the default option, because it’s what we’re born with and what we can choose to maintain. Too many bad parents these days just *think* breeding is the default – hence their urge to reproduce thoughtlessly without putting in effort to actually *parent* the little monsters they’re unleashing on the world.

    A new human being should not a default option. It should be a choice that involves work and effort.

  64. BritGirlSF

    It looks like OBGYN dude is torturing that poor baby. No wonder she’s crying.
    I share your horror at the thought of spawning, by the way. If the need to mother something ever strikes me I can always adopt (or get a puppy). They must give women in labour some killer drugs for any of them to be willing to go through that more than once. One word – stitches.

  65. pervy_blakeney

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The concept of pregnancy and childbirth repulses and disturbs me, and I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one and not a traitor to my species for thinking that the whole process is like something out of *Alien.* He put his ARM up into her? Sorry, I don’t do fisting. And nothing is going to be living in me if its mother/child interface has to TEAR ITSELF AWAY from the walls of my uterus. Oh my God.

    Addressed to Sophie, who was commenter number 3 or so: Unfortunately, the Pill doesn’t work for everyone, and some of us, even some of us who went on it BECAUSE of the depraved joke that is our menstrual cycle, turn out to be unable to take it because of the serious side effects. I LOVED not having periods for the year I took the Pill; but regardless of what brand/dose I tried, I got daily force 9 (vomiting) migraines and astronomically high blood pressure (it rose from 118/68 to 130/108) for my trouble. So some of us are still stuck with something that is not quite all we’d hoped for.

    I look at it as the price of being female, and try to get my money’s worth by having frequent multiple orgasms.

  66. piny

    >>I wasn’t born having sex. I can go for years at a time without having sex – hell, if I really had to, I could probably get to the end of my still-long life on nothing but masturbation to relieve pressure. Getting pregnant involves *action*, whereas not getting pregnant simply means not having sex, at its most fundamental, basic level.>>

    It sounds like you didn’t read the responses to those comments.

    What planet do you live on? I mean that sincerely: I’d love to emigrate to a place where there’s no such thing as rape, and where all women always have the right and the ability to make reproductive choices within relationships.

    Although, come to think of it, I already live in a country where people can complain about injurious parenting while refusing to acknowledge the anti-child effect of policies that treat childbearing as either frivolity or pathological waste.

    And that’s been pretty nasty so far.

  67. Moony

    Everyone keeps assuming that “a way to stop menstruation” means “take your BC without break.”

    I assumed the poster meant an endometrial ablation. That’s what I intend to have, as soon as I’m financially able.

    Menstruation is a waste of my time and blood. I see no reason to continue coping with it for the next 25 years if I don’t have to.

    Telling me I should “revel in my Goddess power” or whatever is just the same patriarchal garbage I hear every day, repacked in a box with more pink flowers on the label; what it all comes down to is the idea that my womb is the supreme and only defining part of me. I call BS, and I don’t mean Bachelor of Science.

    (Come to think of it, can my degree be a Spinster of Science? Why is it a “bachelor’s” degree?)

  68. BritGirlSF

    “Telling me I should “revel in my Goddess power” or whatever is just the same patriarchal garbage I hear every day, repacked in a box with more pink flowers on the label; what it all comes down to is the idea that my womb is the supreme and only defining part of me. I call BS, and I don’t mean Bachelor of Science. ”

    Yup. This is why, after a short flirtation with Wicca, I read one too many Starhawk books and ran like hell. It is forever a mystery to me how people can spout essentialist garbage about Woman’s Goddessy Mothering Nature (TM) without causing themselves to vomit at the sheer patriarchy-reinforcing stench of it all. Yep, just one big “nurturing” ambulatory womb, that’s me. Blech.

  69. piny

    >>I read one too many Starhawk books and ran like hell.>>

    Heh. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    I understand what these kinds of reversal-reversals are trying to accomplish: they’re seeking to re-connect people, in this case women, with the parts of their bodies that they’ve been taught to denigrate. There’s a similar thing going on with referring to transpeople as “two-spirit” or “shamanic.” It works very well for some people, and affords them access to themselves that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    But it’s impossible to make this kind of mystification immune to dogma. Imposing the judgment of a higher power on the body means imposing objective rules on the most subjective realm there is. When you designate a certain way of relating to one’s body as holy, you relegate everything else to the profane. When you define a certain way of relating to one’s body as healing, you imply that everything else is inimical.

    And in the end, people like Twisty “No Fuckin’ Way” Faster are portrayed as damaged and damaging, just as they are under patriarchy.

  70. AdamB

    Not on my home computer, no idea if I’ll ever see this site again, though I hope I do, looks like this could be interesting.

    Being a guy certainly does not prevent me from being empathetic here, pregnancy is harsh.. my GF and I have been talking about it, and she says she’s pretty certain she wants to go for adoption. Can’t say as how I blame her. But I would like to note something:

    There is a certain amount of biological bias towards having children built into almost all of us. This bias/urge is far from insurmountable, but it literally has to be there, or we wouldn’t exist in the first place. Those who don’t want children, will not have children, thus their genetic combinations will not pass down to future generations. Mm, I am something of a speciest, which reflects in the above commentary.

    By speciest, I mean the human race is the most important species in all of existance because it is my species. Living creatures which interact with my species in a positive manner as other than sutenance are second teir in importance, whether as pets or work animals, or some combination there of.

    Then come sustenance species, including food (whter as animal or plant) and oxygen produces. Now, this third teir is conditional upon their being alternatives (other third teir species). WIth out this third teir, neither us nor our pets could currently survive, but if we had reliable alternates, this teir of species should be maintained, but not at the expense of my species or my species symbiotic relationships.

    then come the non-hostile species which are probably supportive to the ecological system as a whole, then species whose only direct relationship to humans are as pests (it’d be very hard to feel sorry for the cold virus or mosquitoes), but which shouldn’t be deliberatly exterminated if we can’t balance out the ecological factor.

    And the only reason the ecological factor is very important to me, is that it supports the first htree teirs, plus I personally enjoy forest and jungles and other wilderness.

    anyway, off track a bit, but it relates. The species imperative along with the reproductive imperative *MUST* exist to a certain extent or the species simply will no longer exist. It is not nessecary that every member should reproduce, though I have prefference for that over adoption personally, but enough members of a species must reproduce in order to continue the existance of that species. And in a way, I’m very hopeful about the spread of technology.

    Most of us here are probably americans or europeans. The population growth in our countries would actually be negative if not for immigration (which actually is one of my big reasons for being very strict on immigration control). It’s the poor countries that have the larget population growth, and from a purly selfish point of view, I want to make them wealthier to improve the quality of life for me and my potential descendants. If ‘western’ technology/wealth spreads through the rest of the world, and I mean real wealth, not money, over the next several generations population growth rates should begin to rapidly decline, then eventually stabalise.

    The people with the strongest biological urges to have children will still have them, and many others will make it as a postive choice, and there will be enough of that to keep us existing. and imagine the massive shifts that would happen once there was no longer a massive immigration fo poor people into the rich countries.. it’s the richest people who have the fewest kids. as people become more fully integrated into the wealthier society, the percentage of poverty level people inside America should decline.

    Sorry, getting off topic again. Anyway, my point is, I fully respect a woman’s right to choose to not get pregnant not matter how much she has sex or with whom. I also fully beleive that people who want to have children should not be denied that right, with in reasonable limits (China’s extreme overpopulation is an example of why to limit reproductive rights). If feelings are strong enough in opposite directions, I beleive this is reason to get a peaceful divorce (to bad these seem so rare), though in my case, that prefference isn’t any where near strong enough to make it a divorce worthy issue.

    and I followed links to here about man getting all freaked out about watchign their wives give birth. I can’t say for sure about that, I jsut know I find being around a pregnant woman to generally be stimulating. Some primative response to known fertility maybe. I also know that I find the idea of my girl being pregnant with my baby to be very, very arousing, again no doubt a cascade of hormones, partly genetic, partly society implanted reinforcement of fertility = potency = manliness thing. Fine, what ever, it’s the way my sexulaity works, but it’s not something strong enough to screw up a relationship because I use my other head more.

    Hmm, do I really have a point here? Not sure.. I guess I sort fo want to say I empathise as best I can, tot he point of being very grateful I don’t have to deal with it. I think the men who cry about viagra being supplemented are wusses, and worse for complaining about the idea of BC pills being covered. ED is mostly phycological, and should only be covered by insurance when the doctor knows it’s physically based, and otherwise, the insurance & doctor should send the guy to a shrink.

    At the same time, I’m kind of resentful of the few women here who have lumped all men into one, rather negative, category. Sure, I have a high libido, and even though I love my girlfriend I enjoy looking at other women too. Fortunatly, we have some of the same taste in women, so we can share some pictures.. heh. Though she generally chooses to not show off the pictures of other men she finds atractive, as I’m not bi sexual. Eh, wandering off topic again.

    Just because I ahve a high libido doesn’t mean I’m going to cheat, nor does it mean I was always looking for the next lay when I was single. Hell, I turned down all offers from woman who were a) hitting on because they were drunk and wouldn’t have paid me much attention sober b) assuming that I must love them because I was being nice to them or c) had emotional issues dealing with having sex with every guy that were emotionally close to at all, whcih I think stemmed from some incest problems when she was even younger. ( C only happened once…)

    B happened simply because I’m generally a nice guy, and some women have had bad enough lives that a guy simply being nice to them ment a lot.. ment more to them than it did to me, which made it hard to try and disengage fromt heir interest with out hurting them. And yes, I’m ranging really far afield from the topic of the original blog post, but this bit is in response to some commentary from a few of the women above.

    Assuming that all men don’t want to know or don’t care or some other issue with regards to a woman’s biology is as prejudicial and blind as the men who do view women from such a narrow point of view. When I’ve been single, it’s just simply nopt been something I had to know, so I didn’t bother learning. Now that I am not single, I’m learning, because her life is part of my life, so I should know as much abotu her as I can. Which isn’t to say societal imprint hasn’t made something feel akward which shouldn’t, the difference between men like me and the ignorant men who don’t want to know is that I use my concious mind to deliberatly over come those conditioned reflexes and talk and learn and think rationally.

    So please, don’t assume all men are part of the patriearchal (damn it, I know I’m misspelling, but low on time) social structure, which admittedly does exist… and anything that encoruages divisionism between men and women, only lengthens the time that social structure will linger. Get technology & education to all the poor countries. Societies take time to evolve and change. With luck, we can eliminate all but a lingering trace of that sort of thought through out the world about 100-200 years. Pushing for it to hard just puts some men to much on the defensive, and they are even more sure to engrain their memes on followinggenerations. Not pushing hard enough let’s peopel get brainwashed to easily too though.. a hard balance. anyway, gotta go.. some random thoughts.

  71. TimT

    Hmmmph. Seems I was wrong about that:

    As the youngest girls from the original group grew older, it seemed certain that the group would become instinct, but then one woman miraculously gave birth – first to one child, and later to four more. All were girls, and all later produced their own virgin offspring.

  72. Ron Sullivan

    … “death knell for the species.”

    If it were only our species I might be less annoyed by it. One could analogize that it’s a person’s inalienable right to drink herself comatose, but not to grab the keys and go for a drive down the freeway when she’s about halfway to comatose.

    Oh — when you were talking about speculative fiction, I forgot to mention Octavia Butler. This topic reminded me: Twisty, have you read The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents?

  73. Pinko Punko

    Has this comment thread had an open tag all this time????

    Also, why the hell does WP not recognize an apostrophe? Also, gross.

  74. Agasaya


    The biggest tool of the wealthy patriarchy today is ignorance about how it uses its money and technology to control how the patriarchy around the world will operate. It can now export death from the much vaunted ‘west’ simply by exporting food sold well below the cost of its production, thanks to government subsidies. Then, when third world countries cease to grow their own food, finding it cheaper to buy ours, we shift to growing non-food crops like corn for fuel and sweeteners, cotton for textiles etc. Result? Increased hunger. Then, you may say, just stimulate local agriculture abroad! How? There’s always Monsanto GM seeds which are proprietary and can’t be re-used – a fascinating exercise in the annexation of farmland without requiring an actual deed. Those seeds also require expensive chemicals the farmers can’t afford, which poison them and destroy local water tables and soil fertility. Do you know the suicide rates among farmers in India?

    Do you know what conventional mono-culture is doing to our country? The hazards our food industry poses to women and children? Thank heavens we can look to reduced sperm counts to get science to at least examine effects of environmental damage. If women can’t conceive, males still get sex out of it without the embarrassment quotient.

    Please. Pick up a book, newspaper or magazine and learn about major reasons why the west is increasing starvation around the world. As resources diminish, you see too many people going after too few resources and presto – more genocide and starvation, often with religious justifications given to mollify the populace which has no control over economics by, by gosh, can control the manner in which their women and children relate to the deity and magically return them to the favor of the universe. Technology is a feeble argument which draws attention from the reality of how economics guides culture (and even trumps sex). Progress is something that moves you, you know, forward. Just throwing technology into the mix doesn’t miraculously constitute success if it leaves you farther away from a worthwhile endpoint. Modernity is a state of mind which requires cerebral circuitry more than electronic circuitry.

    Here are some simple references to get you started. There are better ones but I usually find that the WSJ and Business Week are required to attract interest in a subject before getting to better sources about the science of an issue:



    Back in 2001: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C01E6DE143CF93AA35751C1A9679C8B63&scp=1&sq=threatened+species+of+mexican+corn&st=nyt

    to 2007 – http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/world/asia/04water.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=genetic+mutations+from+pollution&st=nyt

    As for the West ‘maintaining’ its standard of living via technology? I refer you back to the newspapers – or just look out your window.

  1. gcoupe

    Twisty’s Unusual Afternoon

    Twisty’s Unusual Afternoon

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