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August 31, 2005

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» But the vagina is so stretchy! from Pandagon
Belle Waring was most unfairly picked on for her strong anger at the NY Times article that suggested that women have the responsibility in the middle of the pain of childbirth to consider that their more ungracious pain and humiliation... [Read More]

» But the vagina is so stretchy! from Pandagon
Belle Waring was most unfairly picked on for her strong anger at the NY Times article that suggested that women have the responsibility in the middle of the pain of childbirth to consider that their more ungracious pain and humiliation... [Read More]

Comments

dsquared

I have half a mind to set up a fake article in which a woman admits that after his vasectomy, she regards her husband as "basically half a man" and can no longer view him as a sexual creature.

dsquared

I mean seriously, when considering the virtues of vasectomy versus other forms of contraception, men ought to bear in mind that they will basically become fucking eunuchs and nobody will ever take them or their penises seriously again. It's a real shame that our culture labels women as "insensitive" or "old-fashioned" if they believe that nobody but a cornuto or girly-man would ever consent to having himself neutered like a puppy, because it means that there is no open discussion of this problem which might be common, or I might have just made it up, I find it hard to tell these days.

Really though, how is a woman meant to feel sexually attracted to an epsilon-minus "male" who can't give her a baby? It's probably got something to do with evolutionary psychology. God I wish adequacy.org was still going. I think I can work the Catholic Church into this one too.

djw

Well put, Belle.

I must say I'm more than a little troubled by the apparent popularity of the notion that it's just not done to draw any sort of conclusions about people's character from their emotional responses to events, as long as those responses are sincere and unintentional.

Carlos

I was going to do the flu analogy, somewhere around comment twenty, but was distracted (and I hate to say this, but also amused) by the flood of assholes and their apologists who would never get any, ever again -- never never never never never -- if they posted their opinions under their real names. (The fellow who did, I am sure, is a real hit with the ladies.)

God, why are these men so afraid of women? Does an enormous vagina dentata pursue Doc Slack in his dreams, like a Ms. Pac-Man out to consume his testicles? Next thing you know, these guys will be complaining that picking up a box of tampons at the bodega for the gf has wrecked their libido. 'Cause you know, women menstruate, and the chain of associations is just too horrid.

Cala

Or, alternately, you pee with that thing and you want to put it where?

Go Belle go! Well said.

bellatrys

in re food poisoning analogy: possible suggestion - there are a lot of people of both genders who think that food allergies, particularly to wheat or milk, are psychosomatic and try to "cure" their friends by tricking them into eating foods that contain these ingredients.

Because, see, wheat and milk are GOOD for you, they couldn't possibly be poisons, and so they're doing said friends a FAVOUR by helping them to get over their crazy fixation so they can enjoy tasty food like normal people.

So that would be a case of causing vomiting/diarrhea (even potentially-life-threatening) with no malice involved.

Harry B

Daniel -- I thought that all those worries were put to rest 30 years ago when Parky came out about his own vasectomy. (Michael, that is, not Cecil, who...didn't, as we know).

dsquared

yeh and he was never the same afterwards ...

J. Cornell

Belle, are you really surprised that the the comments thread and the follow-up posts became "a discussion of . . . male sexual desire" when the original article that everyone was commenting on and posting about was about . . . male sexual desire? Is this really something to be surprised by or to point to as evidence of the deep-rooted sexism of all the commenters?

J. Cornell

The NYT article did not, contrary to your suggestion in No. 3, tell women not to seek the help of their long-term partner. It said that some men who actually did help their long-term partner have suffered unanticipated effects from doing so, and that this is worth thinking about. I realize your politics -- as you make clear in this post -- militate against us even contemplating this situation as anything other than hateful, but there we disagree.

More important, to make your analogy in No. 3 actually accurate, it would have to be men who suffered not from a "gastrointestinal infection," but from an infection that, for whatever reason, involved the massive distention of the head of the penis, the expulsion of blood and myriad other fluids from it, and, often, the cutting open of the penis. Do you really think that an article that suggested that some women who watched this happen might see their libidos diminish would be dismissed as insane?

If you're going to set up a straw man, at least set up one that bears some resemblance to the argument on the other side.

nik

Based on the article: all of the men in the article went, they saw, they found they were having problems and talked to their doctor about it afterwards. None of them suggested not being there, they just spoke about their problem to a doctor. (As useful as Belle's advice regarding Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson is - I don't think we can begrudge them professional help). As far as we know they were perfectly dutiful, I don't think they deserve the vilification they have got.

Steve

Blah blah blah blah blah.

How about this analogy:
The man has bumps on his dick. He has to get them removed. He expects his woman to not only still like him, and still love him, and support him, but watch the surgery removing the bumps, like watching the surgery removing the bumps, and declare to the world that she enjoyed watching the surgery removing the bumps. If anyone doesn't like bump-removing surgery, that person is a close minded neanderthal (because bump-removing surgery is beautiful, beaooootiful you goddamn fascist!).
I had always thought a nice compromise would be to be there during the birth, talking to my wife, comforting her, perhaps rubbing her temples, something like that, without actually staring at her crotch. Little did I know that such an attitude is close-minded, fascist and neanderthal. I guess I will have to ogle her crotch, clearly and publicly declaring to anyone else in the room that I find this mysterious, beautiful, and "I still find her sexy, everybody! Just so everybody knows! You! Nurse in the back! Did you hear me? I still find her sexy, ok? If you know any academic woman, tell her I said so, too."

What a bizarre situation. Thirty years ago, feminists didn't want women to be thought of as sex objects. Now, feminists are arguing that I'm sexist if I don't think of my wife as a sex object WHILE SHE'S GIVING BIRTH.

You've come a long way, baby.

Jeez

Harry B

I'm surprised you're old enough to remember, but point taken.

dsquared

Steve, does that straw man of yours have a straw wife? If so, what does her straw vagina look like?

dsquared

By the way, for the benefit of Slate readers arriving here from the "Intellectual Elite" column (god the advertisers must be chuffed that this is the intellectual elite of Slate), here's a little clue in italics:

this issue is not entirely about "how the men feel". some things aren't you know.

LizardBreath

The NYT article did not, contrary to your suggestion in No. 3, tell women not to seek the help of their long-term partner.

Actually, it does. Read the last paragraph.


I had always thought a nice compromise would be to be there during the birth, talking to my wife, comforting her, perhaps rubbing her temples, something like that, without actually staring at her crotch.

And such a compromise was suggested in Belle's original post. No one is requiring crotch-staring. Support, comforting, and if the man in question chooses to stare at the crotch in question, getting over the trauma of it all, are all that are suggested as a decent way to behave.

Tad Brennan

"Thirty years ago, feminists didn't want women to be thought of as sex objects. Now, feminists are arguing that I'm sexist if I don't think of my wife as a sex object WHILE SHE'S GIVING BIRTH."

You've got this exactly backwards and upside down, Steve.

The point is not that during birth you are supposed to find your wife affirmatively sexy as opposed to finding her sexually repellent.

The point is that there are some contexts in which you should have other things in mind than *any* assessments of your wife's sexual desirability.

If you protest and say that, as a matter of fact, in every possible context you are vividly aware of some rating of your wife's sexual desirability, positive or negative, then it seems to me you are giving a pretty good illustration of what it means to treat someone as a sex-object.

So your objection just seems to get the point exactly, well, *wrong*.

J. Cornell

What "Intellectual Elite" column?

And I read the last paragraph of the NYT piece. While the therapist was a dick for suggesting that the burden was on the women, the piece did not say "Don't seek the help of your long-term partner." It said: "Weigh the benefits of having your partner in the delivery room against the possible costs (that is, diminution of libido)." But I know: God forbid we actually consider whether some couples might end up with a better sex life if the father were not in the delivery room. Belle has handed down the rule, and we all must fall in line or else be dismissed as sexist pigs.

belle waring

steve: in my original post, I recommended standing at the head of the bed and holding your wife's hand, and noted in comments that no one said you had to be down there in the crotch area taking photos. that's because it seems quite reasonable to me that a man might not want to see all the gory action, just as a woman might nor. so, thanks for playing, but no.

dsquared

another straw man! with a straw wife?

dsquared

By the way, I do think it would be fairer if people were to argue against the claim actually made:

Belle has handed down the rule, and we all must fall in line or else be dismissed as sexist pigs.

The word actually used was "pussies".

belle waring

I love you dsquared, maybe someday I can have your babies.

Shah Usbek

Mr. Rightmann: The real problem with vasectomies, obviously, is when one of your wives becomes pregnant afterwards. Faced with the unmistakeable evidence of her treachery, should the outraged husband poison her before she gives birth, or afterwards, and if afterwards, what should he do with the infant?

Yours, Shah Usbek

nik

One of the "pussies" in the article also suggested standing at the head of the bed.

Regarding the controversial last paragraph: the woman is in a position of some authority here. The woman is the patient - so does actually gets to choose whether to invite someone in or not. Most men in this situation are (quite rightly) going to do exactly what they're told. The woman does get to choose how to response to this in a way that the man doesn't.

dsquared

Christ no, my feet have hardly recovered from the last time I went through all that. Purgatory it was and could I get a cup of tea?

pjs

Great post Belle.

I kind of understand why people want to say, hey, the dick wants what the dick wants. After all, it's at least a little bit true, and, plus, it's macho-sounding, and who can resist macho talk when it comes to sex? But, as you point out here, whatever truth there is in that sentiment doesn't preclude the following two truths: (1) even if people only minimally control their sexual desire, one's sexual desires are still proper objects of criticism, since they reflect one's underlying character, and (2) most of us are perfectly capable of indulging our partners sexually when we doing so seems like the proper thing to do.

Here's the analogy I prefer in making the point that it's perfectly proper to be judgmental about people's sexual responses. Certain sex acts can sometimes result in an unflattering view of one’s partner, or leave unpleasant things on each other’s bodies. Surely, we’re entitled to pass moral judgment on people who pull back sexually from their partners on account of that? I thought it was generally accepted that you're an asshole for not wanting to kiss your partner after certain acts. Or did I not get the memo?

Hogan

There's good "get over it," and there's bad "get over it." This is good "get over it."

MQ

Does anyone else think Belle is cute when she's angry?

Doctor Slack

Well, I'm sure glad we've cleared up that there was no defensiveness or insecurity going on with the initial post, and that those of us who had the gall to point out that this was overreaction were misapprehending the comedy. (And yes, how utterly shocking and bone-crushingly insensitive that an article about male desire should beget threads about... male desire. Yeah.)

Belle: You see, I'm a feminist. Look, I came out and said it! And so, it follows that I have a long-standing (and true, my boys) belief that our society puts bone-crushing pressure on women to evaluate themslves, constantly, as objects of male sexual desire.

And there are any number of contexts where a linkage to sexual desire would seem unreasonable, and in which sexuality should ideally not come up in any way. I hate to break it to you, but that you in all seriousness expect childbirth of all things to be one of these contexts is not a necessary corollary of "feminism," it's evidence of a rather bizarre sort of naivete and is exactly the sort of thing that reinforces stereotypes of feminism as the absurd, unrealistic have-one's-cake-and-eat-it-too politicization of everyday life. I happen to think that stereotype is, in most cases and most of the time, untrue. And it annoys me to see people play into it when they should know better.

It also doesn't help, and is actually rather revealing, that you're still using a strawman version of the NYT article and of the reactions described in it to justify your "vehemence." If I had seen any evidence of men in that article who would "never find their wives sexy again" after childbirth, who were haring off out of their relationships because of a fairly minor problem, or of an article that counselled women never, ever to bring their husbands into the delivery room for fear that this might happen, I'd be a lot more sympathetic to you; frankly, I'd have nodded along in silent agreement with your post and maybe had a chuckle or two.

Since all of those things are largely irrelevant to the original target of your ire, however -- unless we start excavating it for "undertones" of these things that are supposed to have been said or implied, which is a dodgy endeavour in itself -- AFAICS my original point stands. Not only is this overreaction; it's precisely the sort of overreaction that actively poisons a climate that feminism has spent decades trying to build -- one where men are actually willing talk about this stuff, and about emotions more generally, instead of burying it under a layer of false machismo. I happen to think, because of quite direct experience, that that was and is a very worthy feminist goal; to watch feminists themselves actively undermining it while proclaiming their actions in the name of feminism is pretty damned absurd.

Doctor Slack

And stuff like this is getting pretty bizarre, tool; quote pjs: After all, [the dick wants what the dick wants is] at least a little bit true, and, plus, it's macho-sounding, and who can resist macho talk when it comes to sex?

It's "macho-sounding" to talk frankly about impotence? Reaching just a wee bit, aren't we?

Surely, we’re entitled to pass moral judgment on people who pull back sexually from their partners on account of that?

We're entitled to pass judgment on anything we like. This doesn't make the act of judgment helpful or even moral in itself. Some people like to cuddle and talk after sex, some fall asleep. Those who insist on passing moral judgment about either option are destined, IMHO, for pretty large amounts of frustration -- and it's hard to sympathize, especially if they prefer ranting about it to talking frankly or even, God forbid, seeing a therapist. (Which, let's not forget, was the original sin of the poor bastards who have since been portrayed by Belle as practically abandoning their wives after childbirth, which she imagines to be the functioning equivalent of intentionally poisoning them.)

bitchphd

Belle, I love you.

Slocum

Reading the latest version of the rant makes me think a reasoned argument would probably be a waste of time. So how about a joke instead? A guy I know, about 15 years ago, was trying to decide whether or not to be in the delivery room when his first child was born. Eventually, he told me, he'd decided to go ahead. His reasoning was, hey, "It couldn't be any worse than gutting a deer, could it?"

dsquared

I made that self same comment on the earlier thread; in order to sort out the men from the boys at an early stage, I suggested that pre-natal classes should include, where practical, a trip with a shepherd at lambing time.

Doctor Slack

pre-natal classes should include, where practical, a trip with a shepherd at lambing time.

Especially in Scotland or New Zealand.

Boom-boom, one in a row.

Jedmunds

Where I come from, a guy that let's a little bit of blood get in the way of having a good time is in fact a squeamish little bitch, or if you prefer, a pussy. This discussion over the past week or so has really helped me to understand the meaning of the term "male entitlement" in a more concrete way. So I thank the whiners who so consistently demand that everyone accomodate their ability to attain an erection and demand it be considered of paramount importance for that. Feel free to work out your shit in therapy, that's a good place for it. But don't expect the rest of the world to bend over backwards to protect you from your pathologies.

Carlos

Is Doc Slack actually Kim Du Toit? Discuss.

MQ

I'm sure Kim du Toit thinks that therapy is for whiny little pussies. Especially therapy about sexual impotence caused by the sight of blood. This may be one of the very few areas where he and Belle could find common ground.

Doctor Slack

Kim du Toit wrote: We absolutely fucking loathe chick movies about feelings and relationships and all that feminine jive.

Yeah, Carlos, it's obvious we're the same person; the resemblance is positively uncanny. Aren't you a bright spark?

eudoxis

There's a flip side to this that I wonder if men consider equially repugnent in women. That is, after giving birth, what man can compete with the emotional intensity that an infant generates? How many women really care how sexually desirable their partners find them after giving birth? In this case it's not retinal, but hypothalamic and pituitarial.

Carlos

Well, Doc, both you and Kim are terminally confused about gender issues, and I feel the same urge to mock you both mercilessly. So yeah, you could be the same person. After all, you're posting anonymously, which shows the real courage of your convictions, eh?

gonzone

All this talk about sex is getting my little soldier all hot and bothered. Should I masturbate or seek intercourse? And what's impotence mean? :-)

Doctor Slack

Well, Doc, both you and Kim are terminally confused about gender issues

I can't help but notice this is formulaically almost identical to an old Wingnut Debating Trick: "Both you and [X] are [ideologically identical] about [such-and-such, at least in my fantasy world and despite the total lack of congruence between your actual statements], therefore it's obvious that you [hate America or have some other unsavory characteristic.]"

What's even better is that you proceed on to a classic Instapundit-ism:

After all, you're posting anonymously, which shows the real courage of your convictions, eh?

Man, I remember the halcyon days when Atrios' use of a 'nym was proof positive that he was a secret agent of Saddam who didn't have the courage to stand by his evil anti-American screeds. You remember those days, Carlos? They sure were something, weren't they?

Hey, have you ever posted anywhere under a 'nym, BTW? Say, on a blog that you link to from this very thread?

J. Cornell

Actually, Carlos, Doc Slack, at least from the evidence of his postings on this topic, lives in the real world. You and Kim du Toit both live in fantasy worlds of your own creation, where you can revel in the righteousness of your own politics and decry those who feel differently from you as scum. From the outside, I'd say there's a better chance that you're Kim du Toit parodying the other side than that Doc Slack is Kim.

Carlos

J., I can't take you seriously.

Doc, "COYu" is my name. You claim a doctorate, you figure it out. I'll set a timer for your apology. Tick tick tick tick...

nik

I think some of you are trivialising things and distorting what the article said by portraying the situation as one of squeamishness, dislike of the sight of blood, and impotence. Some of what was said goes beyond this - such as the guy who was upset to see people cut open his wife - the people involved did mention feelings beyond an inability to get it up. (Did any of them directly refer to impotence?)

I'll be honest, I have no experience of childbirth, but frankly I think I'd find it distressing to see someone I love go through some of the things which have been mentioned here. Saying that doesn't mean I wouldn't want to be there to try and support them, but calling people wusses and pussies for not liking it seems pretty heartless. You can make glib comments about lambing, but it's going to be different when it's someone you care about.

Mike

...our society puts bone-crushing pressure on women to evaluate themslves, constantly, as objects of male sexual desire.

This statement is, of course, true, and well put, but there seems to be a bit of confusion about the details of this mechanism. On one hand, we have a hypothetical asshole who is taking positive action by pressuring his partner and acting as a focal point of a wider social effect, which is of course a profoundly harmful thing to do to a person. On the other hand, we have another man who acts according to normal sexual impulses and isn't taking positive action as the asshole is, but since he's not acting to explicitly reverse the social pressure either, he's effectively neutral, his position is ambiguous and in the context of the social mechanisms at work, could easily be read as the asshole position. Since the general case is that men put pressure on women to be objects of sexual desire, the absence of proof that any particular man is opposed to it is sufficient to condemn him. Moreover, his apparent willingness to take a neutral position that will be read as an implicit affirmation of the dominant view condemns him even further.

But this puts a man in the position of having to prove a negative. Even if he is dismayed that his neutrality is taken that way and works to correct it, this is not proof, since he could just be responding to social pressure and the embarrassment of being accused of sexism, so no effort will make him beyond suspicion. In my opinion, if a man is not actively advancing the dominant view, nor endorsing that view by remaining silent in the presence of those who are nor acting in any other way that constitutes proof positive of his satisfaction with the status quo, he should be free of suspicion. Its simply unfair to hold someone responsible for the aggregate actions of the category that they happen to fall under just because their actions could be interpreted one way or another.

The big fallacy here is that silence implies consent. It doesn't. In order to pressure women to think of themselves primarily as sexual objects, you need to make a real active effort, which there are abundant examples of. In my opinion, if you aren't contributing to this climate, then you get a pass. Its extremely easy to determine whether this is the case or not, but its easy to beat up on those guys precisely because they are empathetic, so it has an effect. There's a lot of proudly sexist men with little or no empathy, whose ears are deaf to feminist arguments and those people seem to be much more of a problem than the current fixation with men who may or may not be sexist, we can't really say for sure. Sexism still exists, and those men are simply available, so its assumed that they are the problem. Part of the problem is that a large source of sexist attitudes comes from poor and minority populations who maintain traditional social structures, groups that feminists are justifiably reluctant to criticize because of their historic and current marginalization. Nonetheless, little progress will be made on this front without creating a consensus that crosses racial and class divides.

Doctor Slack

Doc, "COYu" is my name.

As in, "COYu is derived from my full name"? Fair enough.

I "claim a doctorate"? I thought you had already figured out that "Doctor Slack" is a 'nym? Must have touched a nerve, I suppose. Let me know when you're ready to retract all the "is he Kim du Toit" and "how dare you post under a 'nym" nonsense, and we can call it a day.

Gary Farber

Marry me?

Surely John and you and I can work something out. And it's another set of eyes and hands for the kids.

Carlos

Tsk. That's not an apology; and you're following a well-trodden path of trolldom. You're down the "WTF is Coyu?" sub-tree.

So, no. It's not a day, and you're still a fool. Sorry.

Doctor Slack

So, no. It's not a day, and you're still a fool.

Glad to see you're being a good sport! I take you totally seriouslynow.

Carlos

[shrug] What do I care if a troll takes me seriously or not?

bryan

I had a friend, and please no comments as to my poor choice of friends because I am sure some of everybody's friends are somewhat dickheads in some aspect of their lives, anyway this friend shared his theory one time that women never derived sexual pleasure from penis' whatsoever given that the vagina was elastic enough to pass a baby. I believe I said something like 'uhhhh'.

Anyway... given the kind of guy I am (always willing to go for a cheap laugh) I could definitely foresee immediately after the baby being delivered announcing "gee that's great honey, by the way, didn't you say you didn't want to make love until after the baby was born? Hint, hint."

Doctor Slack

What do I care if a troll takes me seriously or not?

Or anyone at all, for that matter? Obviously you don't, and I can only admire your sangfroid. Cheers!

djw

Doctor Slack, the version of feminism you approve of is the one that helps men talk about their feelings and stuff. But feminism that challenges and perhaps even judges men is beyond the pale, and "counterproductive." You do, I hope, see the problem here.

Patrick

Hmm. So, if you love your wife, but really, really don't want to watch her give birth, or REALLY REALLY don't want to watch her undergo a caesarian, you are a pussy now?

In other news, if you love civil liberties, but are unwilling to personally defend a child molester in court, you are a pussy.

If you believe that the United States should do something about genocide in Darfur, but you are unwilling to personally shoot a member of the janjaweed, yup, you're a pussy.

Approve of physicial assisted suicide? Unwilling to personally inject a lethal dose of morphine into an old lady's arm? What a pussy.

You'd be amazed at the brain surgery that can be done while the patient is still awake. What? Your husband is undergoing it, but you don't want to watch and hold his hand? Its just an open braincase with a doctor poking at it with a sharp piece of metal. Quit being a pussy.

Approve of property rights? Please personally evict this old woman with cancer, she can't pay her rent. What? Geez! Pussy.

Autopsies! Pretty important. Need 'em around, we all agree. Don't want to help cut out this corpse's lungs to examine them? Pussy.

Approve of the death penalty, but don't want to personally notify the convicted's mother, and then throw the switch? What a pussy.

I think I could do the criminal defense, and the death sentence one. I don't think I could do the ones that involve human bodies.

I'm not prepared to condemn someone for having a different list of activities which they believe are morally good, but aren't willing to personally endure. I picked my career, chances are I may have to do a couple of the above. I'd like to get a free pass on being morally condemned for the ones I won't be doing.

Oh, right, this one involved sex, so that makes all the rules change. Honestly. If the article had just said, "some men really don't like the sight of blood, and may have nightmares afterwards, so couples should consider whether the benefits of having the husband present instead of sitting in the hall are really worth it," would we be having this discussion? I doubt it. One guy can't get it up, and suddenly its a crisis of gender relations.

Doctor Slack

The Mighty D-Dub saith: Doctor Slack, the version of feminism you approve of is the one that helps men talk about their feelings and stuff. But feminism that challenges and perhaps even judges men is beyond the pale, and "counterproductive."

See, that's odd, I don't remember telling you anything specific about which version of feminism I do or don't approve of. I do remember saying that breaking the wall of macho silence has been a worthy feminist goal, and that overreaction that specifically undermines that goal is counterproductive. This apparently translates in your mind to saying that any feminism that challenges or even judges men is "beyond the pale." I'm sure you can spot the fallacy there, if you care to try.

Carlos

Like I said, Doc Slack is a troll. He's not here to reason. He's here to provoke (although he'll tell you otherwise). He gets off on the tension of the argument, and probably quite literally, given the subject matter.

Best way to get rid of him is not to give him an iota of respect. And really, why should you? Neither his conduct nor his opinions are worthy of it.

[yawn] Long day. Belle, if you want to send me the logs, I can track down this mofo down to how many zits are on his ass. 'Cause, you know, I live to out anonymous cowards and make them wish they never discovered the Internet.

Doctor Slack

Like I said, Doc Slack is a troll. . . He gets off on the tension of the argument, and probably quite literally . . . Best way to get rid of him is not to give him an iota of respect. And really, why should you? Neither his conduct nor his opinions are worthy of it.

My oh my, aren't you the ugly little piece of work. I think I'll leave it up to others to decide which one of us isn't earning an "iota of respect" in this particular instance.

In the meantime, anyone who really wants to know my actual identity can find it via Google and a couple of mouse-clicks. Or Belle can always feel free to e-mail and ask me.

Jim Treacher

I don't mean to butt in, but what makes Doctor Slack a troll? It's an emotional issue, obviously, and the sarcasm meter's in the red all around (like I'm one to talk), but it seems to me he's doing a good job of explaining his point of view. Also, it seems counterproductive to say "Yawn, he's boring, don't let him get to you," and then turn around and threaten to make him wish he'd never discovered the Internet. Seems like you'd want to take one approach or the other, once you thought it through. Just throwing that out there.

Okay, sorry to interrupt. I'm probably just a troll too.

Shah Uzbek

Carlos: Like I said, Doc Slack is a troll.

No doubt. This our wonderful Intarweb is a great big bridge, under which all we posters reside.

He gets off...

Thank heaven for that, at least!

Tom T.

I realize that this thread is probably already lost, but I'll mention one other aspect of the male reaction to childbirth: Guilt. A man watches the woman he loves spend several hours in terrible pain, all arising from a sex act nine months earlier. It doesn't seem that shocking that some men might react by thinking, "I did this to her; I put her in horrible pain. Me and my dirty sexual desires." Such men might then have a hard time recapturing sexual desire, not out of a loss of attraction, but out of sexual guilt and fear of putting a loved one through such distress again.

I'm not saying that it's a rational reaction, and I'm not submitting it as a reason for the woman to change her conduct or the man to stay out of the delivery room. I'm just suggesting that a man who has problems performing after witnessing childbirth may not necessarily be reacting in a wholly self-centered way.

Carlos

Doc, I give back ugly when I see it. And, boy howdy, you're ugly.

Patrick

What we need now are the anthropologists to show up and give an overview of exactly how many cultures have norms in which the man is expected to be at the woman's side during childbirth. I bet the answer is not very many.

mc

How many people writing in have actually been at a birth (of their own or another's child)? If you don't actually know the details of it, kindly keep quiet. If you don't know (and don't listen) to what happens to a man after the birth and the focus of attention shifting completely away within the family unit (happens a lot...), then kindly keep quiet. If you don't know (and don't care) about what happens to a woman as the "coffee can" passes through (uh, it's softer than that, but how can I explain that?) then kindly keep quiet.

The NYT article seemed to leave out a lot of information. Is this about sex? Or about marriage? To ignore the incredibly good work by Gottman and others, well, whatever. By your ignorance shall you be known. Using the wrong theoretical construct to interpret a situation is always a problem.

This and the previous post just totally ignore the social dynamic of a marriage in favor of a straw man argument, a knee jerk politics, and an annoying lack of desire to figure out what might be going on with the men. How about starting from a position of respect and THEN arguing a point? Listen to the men in the NYT article from a view of respect for their honesty and good intentions within their marriage. Otherwise, you just don't get it.

(quick! what gender am I? does your reaction to this post depend on knowing? why? sighing in advance at the reaction to what I write...)

blah

I witnessed my wife give birth to our two children.

I saw every gory detail of it. It was awesome! It's such a cliche, but I was really overwhelmed with joy at both experiences.

Every man I have talked to about witnessing childbirth has reported a similar response - joy at the birth of a new child and amazement at the experience of witnessing the event.

I guess some men can't handle it very well, but they are going to be at the bottom of most people's sympathy list.

blah

If you don't know (and don't listen) to what happens to a man after the birth and the focus of attention shifting completely away within the family unit (happens a lot...), then kindly keep quiet.

Actually, it goes both ways. Many new fathers shift their primary focus away from their wives and onto their children. This can lead to some other sorts of tension - the new fathers may lavish more attention on the newborn than on the wife who just survived a major physical ordeal.

mc

A quick followup:

if we're going to talk about sex, at least put it in the context of marriage for a moment. I love what Belle says: just go ahead and get started having sex. Many marriages (mine!) have been saved by lying there for a moment and letting things happen. It's gender equal, too. (What, you want the gory details? It's fun to try getting someone who isn't interested to actually BE interested! 'nuff said.)

(oh, and "blah," I totally agree about men's shifts.)

dsquared

an annoying lack of desire to figure out what might be going on with the men

oh god please make it stop.

Look, people, this is the whole point. May I whisper?

childbirth ... it's not about the men

The discovery that not everything in the world revolves around you is one of the most painful things to learn as a child, which is apparently why so many people unlearn it in later life.

Doctor Slack

Carlos: Shine on, you crazy diamond. When you're able to contribute something beyond the functional equivalent of "U Suxxorz!" I'll be all ears.

One final kick at the can: . . . do any of my male readers have any idea how often women are advised to have sex sometimes even when they don't particularly feel like it, for the health of a long term relationship?

No denying that women are often advised to have sex for the sake of the relationship. So too, as you're probably aware, are men -- albeit traditionally in the more-than-slightly insulting "better learn to see to your woman if you don't want her running around" sort of vein. (Though that was changing as early as the much-maligned Fifties, oddly enough.) And yes, it's perfectly good advice. There are, of course, always those unfortunates who can't follow that advice via the usual means of fantasizing and other familiar strategies, which is why there are therapists -- and that's a good thing, as most seem to agree when pressed. (I'm assuming, of course, that you don't literally believe that haranguing in the blogosphere is a functioning substitute for the psychiatric profession. And I don't think you do.)

Unfortunately, I still can't see who it was you felt you were disagreeing with in the initial instance:

1. Your follow-up article seem to be tracing parallels to an original template of monstrous, wife-abandoning men too callow to be bothered about their wife's need to feel sexy after childbirth. As hard as I looked for those men in the article you originally objected to, I just couldn't find them, and the mere fact that they're actually seeking help for their (rather unusual) complaint cuts rather against the grain of your caricature.

2. Likewise, the hypothetical NYT article you posit bears little or no actual resemblance to the original Ablow article itself that I can see. Ablow has been accused ad nauseam to this point of advising women not to bring their husbands into the delivery room, but the stubborn fact that he actually said no such thing presents a slight problem for this characterization.

3. Now, in the update, we're being favoured with the insight that sometimes people have sex when they're not in the mood, and that these guys should make the effort to do so. But then, I have to look back at the original article and say, "No shit, Sherlock. They were making the effort... unless we're actually saying that they're bad, evil people for needing to make the effort via therapy."

Now, if you had said that this all put you in mind of a much more easily-identifiable sort of asshole, and that you're wary of Ablow's "concerns" being picked up as an excuse by that brand of asshole, that would be fine. But you have not said this. Ergo, I'm afraid you're still not looking all that hot at the moment in comparison with your chosen targets. Sorry, but there it is. And whether or not you choose to believe it, I'm not pointing this out because of any great enjoyment of taunting or belittling you -- it's genuinely meant as constructive criticism from someone who would normally be in sympathy with you.

That's about the last I'll say on that, I think, since I'm starting to feel like a broken record and I'd rather do something other than just criticize the host of this blog at this point. So, enough.

(The cite of Cosmo brings up some interesting issues, actually, but I've gone on way too long as it is.)

Doug M.

Carlos is Carlos O. Yu. The link brings you to the blog that he shares with me and my wife.

He's incredibly well-read, used to write for The Onion, has six-pack abs, and lives in Brooklyn. His mutant power is that trolls reflexively hate and fear him.

"Doctor Slack" just passed 7,500 words on this topic and is still going strong. So much to tell us all!

I don't have much to add here otherwise. I was present at the births of both my boys, yadda yadda. The NYT article was pretty silly, but then they've had a string of silly articles that seem to deal with the overstretched nerves of a particular thin slice of affluent New Yorkers. For some reason I'm putting this in the same box as the godawful "my nanny had a blog, so I fired her" article a few weeks back.


Doug M.

Doctor Slack

Oh, okay:

Carlos is Carlos O. Yu. The link brings you to the blog that he shares with me and my wife.

Ah. So, "COYu" is derived from his full name. Or rather, is a contraction of it. Cool. (Oh, and Carlos: speaking on behalf of Kim du Toit as his alter ego, I officially apologize for implying "COYu" was a 'nym.)

He's incredibly well-read, used to write for The Onion, has six-pack abs, and lives in Brooklyn.

Cool. Shame none of that was evident in his posts. (Well, come to think of it, I'm glad he didn't find an excuse to bring his six-pack abs into it.)

"Doctor Slack" just passed 7,500 words on this topic and is still going strong. So much to tell us all!

Mostly the same thing over and over again, actually. Even I can get tired of that...

Carlos

Be sure and wipe yourself off when your done! After all, we wouldn't want your opinions to chafe your manhood.

Carlos

Be sure and wipe yourself off when you're done! After all, we wouldn't want your opinions to chafe your manhood.

Carlos

Sigh. the joys of DSL and the pains of English language homonyms. Still, at least I'm not Doc Slack!

belle waring

yeah, I sort of feel like I might have heard enough from Dr. Slack for a while.

Doctor Slack

Guess I'm not too surprised.

Carlos: classy as ever, baby. Quote: at least I'm not Doc Slack! I'm as pleased about that as you are, believe me.

Kathleen

Patrick. read this again: "the suggestion that women should consider whether or not they look (potentially) sexy at the moment when their infant's head is crowning as the finale of labor is positively grotesque." Now tell me that your rant makes any sense whatsosever.

Patrick

Sorry, I don't see how that undercuts my rant in the least. Adding sex to the equation really doesn't change anything more than the level of self righteousness. Isn't the larger issue, "knowing that your husband doesn't like blood and gore, and will be seriously grossed out by it, is his holding your hand really all that necessary?"

Again, I think this discussion really needs the anthropologists. I suspect that this conversation needs a good dose of, "umm, your normative views are rooted in your culture, and are actually relatively rare in the larger world, so maybe you should take them a wee bit less seriously?"

Not to mention the fact that I'm really creeped out that the feminist position is, at least in the blogworld, that men who don't like blood and gore are "pussies." Way to insult men by comparing them to women.

bob bobson

Your analogies are not quite accurate. Yes, I would expect my wife to take care of me and clean up my feces if I was sick in the bathroom. And I would definitely do everything in my power to help her give birth if it was just the two of us. But there is a team of much more qualified persons there doing all the work. If I had a team of doctors who were hired to help me deal with my sickness in the bathroom then I would ask my wife to wait in the other room. I would not want her to see me in this very unappealing moment. I would want to shelter her and spare her this discomfort because I care for her and there are already doctors there helping me I love my wife and want only the best for her. I work hard to deserve her love. I am aware of how fragile relationships are in this day and age and I don't take anything for granted.

Helen

What we need now are the anthropologists to show up and give an overview of exactly how many cultures have norms in which the man is expected to be at the woman's side during childbirth. I bet the answer is not very many.

Have you heard of the "husband in the next grass hut with string tied around his testicles, the other end of which is held by woman in labour" one? Oh the poor Western men.

For the record, my husband was present at the birth of both his children and it didn't affect his sex drive in the slightest.

someone

Is this really a webpage for 'mature adults'? If so, I hope you realise that the vast majority of the comments in this thread reek of grade-school "U SUK ME RULE" psychology. Honestly, if teenagers discussing Harry Potter can control themselves with more decorum and etiquette than the elders from whom they are supposed to learn, toward where precisely is this society heading?

Carlos

"Someone", etiquette is a privilege, not a right. For instance, Doc Slack disrespects women. I disrespect him. He doesn't like it. Maybe, just maybe, this crude empathic strategy will turn the clue light on in his head.

And even if it doesn't -- probably not, since his sex-based animus comes out in several other ways -- it still annoys him, and so is worthwhile.

Doctor Slack

Honestly, if teenagers discussing Harry Potter can control themselves with more decorum and etiquette than the elders from whom they are supposed to learn, toward where precisely is this society heading?

I notice Carlos realized instantly that he was being referred to, here, and jumped to defend himself. Yet no clue lights will ensue, I'm sure. :)

Mandos

First of all, I would like to say that I cannot believe this thread is still alive. Even I---who simply cannot let anything die---would not have had this level of fortitude. Bravo.

Incidentally speaking of which,

"Have you heard of the "husband in the next grass hut with string tied around his testicles, the other end of which is held by woman in labour" one? Oh the poor Western men."

I'm very curious as to which culture this is.

Mandos

Ah, here's an interesting link. I don't know how true any of it is:

http://www.paternityangel.com/Articles_zone/Couvade/Couvade1.htm

Carlos

Some people think that as long as they are "polite", they can say any vile thing that comes into their head, like how Belle is being defensive and insecure and overreacting and not a real feminist -- isn't that right, Doc Slack? -- and not be cock-punched for it.

Me, I'd rather be mean and rude.

Doctor Slack

Interesting link, Mandos, thanks for posting it. At least some good came of this thread being unearthed...

Carlos: Yes, it's worked out well for you. Keep it up, kiddo.

Rachael

Thanks for the information...I bookmarked your site, and I appreciate your time and effort to make your blog a success!

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