When I called in to schedule a vasectomy a few months ago, my health insurance company said I’d have to first attend a one-hour class at a Point Loma medical office.
I showed up to the class along with 9 other guys, and the woman running the class kicked things off by asking each guy in the room how many kids he had.
I was the last guy she called on. I was the only one who said this: “I don’t have any kids.”
Apparently it was unusual for the class to include someone who wasn’t a dad already, because the woman seemed like she didn’t know what to say. Eventually, she decided to crowd-source her response: “Do the rest of you guys have anything to say about that?”
For a few seconds, no one said anything. Then one guy finally piped up: “Want one of mine?”
A few weeks later, I was on an operating table at my insurance company’s facility in the South Bay, and the vasectomy was under way. Throughout the 10-minute procedure, the surgeon made conversation.
“So tell me about your kids,” he said at one point.
I couldn’t help but smile, despite the fact that my scrotum was under the knife. There was that assumption again.
My wife and I are in our mid 30s, and we aren’t interested in being parents for a variety of reasons. Neither of us has ever felt the urge. Neither of us feels we have the temperament. And due to some genetic drama, our offspring would face high odds of one or more difficult outcomes.
While I expect the preceding paragraph might have some readers headed towards the comment section, today I tend to be more interested in why it would be unusual for child-free men to get vasectomies. There are many men who don’t want to be dads, right?
Take my buddy “Zeke.” He’s in his 30s and says he is 100% sure he’s not interested in fatherhood. But Zeke hasn’t had a vasectomy yet — though he is in a long-term, sexually active relationship with a woman in her 20s.
I don’t know what birth control measures they’re using, but only abstinence works every time, so Zeke could end up causing a pregnancy, even though he doesn’t want to.
Plenty of unplanned pregnancies result in healthy kids and happy parents. But sometimes unplanned pregnancies turn out to be painful for everyone involved. So what’s Zeke waiting for? Why would a man who doesn’t want to get anyone pregnant delay vasectomy until it’s too late?
Maybe some part of Zeke does want to be a dad. That wouldn’t be surprising. NYMag.com featured an article a few years ago, The Hazards of Revealing You Don’t Want Kids, in which a young single woman says most men she meets do want kids:
“A lot of men have this idealized notion of their own childhood and family lives, even if their families are really messed up… Or they think they have these amazing genes that they should pass on. I dated a guy who claimed to be distantly related to Daniel Boone, and he thought it was incumbent upon him to spread those genes.”
Or maybe Zeke is concerned about other people’s perceptions. That same NYMag article also describes a young man who isn’t interested in children:
Rich, 32, a wildlife biologist, does not want to spread his genes; he checked “does not want kids” in his online profile. When he first went online, he did a search for women based on age and geography and got about 2,000 hits. When he narrowed it to women who didn’t want children, he got 19 [a decrease of more than 99%].
The article’s opening sentence declares “it is no longer taboo to be gay or unmarried, but if you don’t want kids, everyone looks down on you.” Here’s another anecdote about Rich:
Some women contacted him, and after exchanging a few e-mails, “they’d write and say, ‘I noticed that you don’t want kids. Did you mean it?’ I’d say yes, and they’d say, ‘I don’t want to date you.’ ”
Of course, women on dating sites are not representative of women in general. “I have more girlfriends who don’t have kids than those that do,” said the actress Cameron Diaz in a 2009 article about whether women who don’t want kids should mention it.
That may fly in Hollywood, but according to 2008 census results, less than 1 in 5 women across America reach age 44 without having at least one child. Of course, these results indicate how many women have children, not how many wanted to have them.
When it comes to Zeke, part of him might be harboring an urge for kids. Or maybe he’s worried about what women will think. Or maybe he’s apprehensive about the procedure, or maybe he’s just being lazy about getting it done.
Maybe I should pass him this story from Dr. Stephen Johnson, author of an article about dangerous relationships:
One man said he met a woman in a bar and had sex with her in the bathroom after she lured him in and locked the door. On their next date they had sex on his boat. He had used protection. When he withdrew after coitus, he was shocked to see that the condom was not where it should have been. He remembered her hand working its way down toward his penis during intercourse. He realized that she had rolled the condom off during the act. Surprise: she wound up pregnant, and after she won the paternity suit and full custody of the child, he wound up with a ruling to pay a lump sum per month each year until the child was no longer of minor age.
That anecdote is extreme, no doubt. A more standard case might resemble that of Homer Simpson, who had lined up the perfect lifestyle for himself — and then had to change to a job he hated when he unexpectedly knocked up Marge.
“Everything in our lives is finally perfectly balanced,” Homer says, lying in bed after that fateful coital session. “I hope things stay exactly like this forever.”
Gents, don’t miss the moral of Homer’s story. Sex can pack some serious surprises, with pregancy at the top of the list.
So if you’re a guy who doesn’t want kids, do everybody a favor: get your testes taken care of before they take care of you.
Sex in San Diego, a column appearing every Friday here at The OB Rag, explores topics related to sex in America’s Finest City. To encourage openness while still respecting privacy, most authors will use pseudonyms.