Writer Elizabeth Day is in her late thirties, divorced without children, and fears that she may never have a family. Having suffered a miscarriage after two cycles of unsuccessful IVF, she has had eggs frozen, though without great hopes of using them. She blames the fact that the men with whom she had been in relationships either haven’t been ready or willing to become fathers, and have been able to concentrate on their careers without worrying about waning fertility. In her school sex education lessons, it ‘was repeatedly drummed into us that contraception was absolutely necessary in order to avoid ruining our lives by allowing a feckless man to impregnate us before we were ready’; consequently she spent most of her 20s ‘fervently avoiding pregnancy as if it were a communicable disease’ and took the Pill for 14 years, unaware of its negative effects. She concludes: ‘Falling birth rates should be a man’s problem too,’ and feels that sex education should focus on the uncertainty of fertility as well as pregnancy prevention. ‘Most importantly, boys should be taught this, too,’ she says.

And yet we cannot blame boys for absorbing the lesson that it is feckless to become a father. Having taken on board the message that if a woman is prepared to sleep with them, no strings attached, they see it as a breach of faith to introduce retrospectively those strings when fatherhood was never ‘part of the deal’. Boys and girls are given the same message in sex education – freedom – and thus they infer that freedom from commitment means happiness.

Far better to tell them to respect the opposite sex by not treating them as disposable objects, thus avoiding the belated realisation that they themselves have been treated as disposable objects. They could be taught to save sex for marriage, and expect babies to be part of the deal – and if they don’t arrive, don’t succumb to the blandishments of the reproductive technology industry and imagine that, having spent your most fertile years suppressing your fertility, you can buy the children you want.

However, sex education is merely an outreach service of the population control movement, which saw the early introduction of birth control and getting women into paid work as essential to reducing the birth rate. To warn about uncertain fertility – or indeed teach anything about it – might introduce authentic choice, which is anathema to the movement.

Teaching children that babies are an obstacle to happiness lowers their self-esteem and also lowers the birth rate. This the movement counts as a success, but as individuals and as a society we are all paying the price, economically as well as emotionally.

45 COMMENTS

    • Have you ever thought that your failure to form relationships might actually be your own fault? Pretty radical notion I know, but I’m just putting it out there.

      • Well stop putting it out there until you educate yourself – especially in the extreme legal bias for women. Marriage is a rotten deal for men.

  1. Most environmentalists concede that the planet needs far fewer children. Nor can genies be pushed back into bottles.
    So why not license them, (health, intelligence, ability to support etc would be obvious criteria) and accept – graciously – that between 20-30% of intelligent people will choose NOT to apply for a license?
    And that children must be kept within the home and not encroach on adult only environments, particularly as a licensable activity means that some applications for licenses will be turned down

  2. We live in a street with lots of children. Virtually all our friends have had children and most aren’t married. We decided not to have any and, blimey, wouldn’t you know it, we have been happily married for thirty years.

    The fact is, in civilised societies births fall. Child mortality falls. Children aren’t required to work the farms, beg on the street, or fetch water. Life isn’t for popping out babies like a rabbit, it’s for achieving our happiness in whatever way we wish. Childless couples who are desperate to have children aren’t affected by contraception-ridiculous notion.

  3. I think the thing that Ann Farmer doesn’t get is that lots of people really like non reproductive sex. And will go on doing it whether she likes it or not. Also they’re generally bright enough to make informed decisions about their own fertility.

    • That is the bottom line.
      Sex is fun, the science and technology are not going to go away and as Lucy Worsley got lambasted for saying, a lot of educated women do not want to look after young children.
      Bluntly, they are both demanding and boring.
      Fostering/wet nursing as professions are as ancient as prostitution. Viking chiefs honoured their foster parents and Mediaeval kings paid pensions to their nurses.
      We are starting to see the rich paying someone to do the pregnancy as well and I cannot see that not continuing; a wealthy couple might well choose to pay a less educated woman with a strong maternal instinct to “do” the pregnancy and early years, and it should be at a proper wage.
      Women who outsourced young children as soon as they could – at birth, basically – used to be called ladies. These days they would be architects, barristers, surgeons, etc as well as witless celebrities.

      • The world has changed immeasurably and you can’t change it back. There is a hankering for a mythical past, but people were always pretty keen on sex. Without reliable contraception it led to unwanted pregnancies and often a lot of misery. There are occasional amusing consequences. My friend went to his parents anniversary party – a big ‘do’. His jaw dropped when his father announced they were celebrating 40 wonderful years. My friend was 41 at the time and he really didn’t know!

        • Plus the horrors of the Magdalene Laundries and the abuse perpetrated by the Christian Brothers only happened because of the need to take care of large numbers of unwanted children. And as the children abused in those institutions grew up and joined the orders themselves they sometimes became abusers too.

          • My mother grew up in rural Ireland. She told me stories about what happened to girls who got pregnant, some barely 16. The priests were energetic in their persecution and often they were completely abandoned and disowned by their families.

        • I hanker for the past but it isn’t mythical because I was alive to actually experience it and you were not. So don’t have the impertinence to describe my lived past as “mythical” just because some ghastly lefty lecturer or teacher told you so.

      • Indeed a great deal of the “modern” world is not so modern after all. As you say the well off still exploit their “servants” its just that its a bit differently organised.

  4. I understand the aversion to unwanted pregnancy and the measures taken to reduce it are completely understandable but – excuse the pun – there’s a danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater here.

    Because it looks as if we may be going too far in this regard perhaps it is time for a more balanced approach to sex education. So yes, emphasise the dangers of unwanted pregnancy but also extol the joys of having babies too.

    I’d go further, this should be done, as far as possible, by people who have had children themselves because I’m sorry, if you haven’t had children there is simply no way you can possibly understand, or empathise in any way, with the deep joy that having your own children brings to your life.

    Controversial I know but I don’t care. How can you possibly relay the positives of that experience reliably if you haven’t done it yourself? It’s as impossible as trying to describe what an LSD trip is like when you haven’t actually experienced it.

    In fact, it’s very similar in a way, given the undeniable chemical changes which happen to your brain when you have children. Even as a father, I look back on those heady, early years and think that I was a bit bonkers in retrospect.

    • Yes I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t had an unexpected change on becoming a father or mother (even those unhappy about the occurrence). Whatever way expressed it is a game changer. Of course the problem is that what you’re perilously close to is encouraging “responsibility” which appears to be what current policy hopes will just spontaneously happen so long as people know all about the relevant plumbing..

  5. “…And yet we cannot blame boys for absorbing the lesson that it is feckless to become a father…”

    It’s not feckless, is dangerous.
    There are now too many disadvantages to having children, and these outweigh any benefits that children bring. Not least the risk of having them pulled out of your life without good cause – a devastating event that is not at all uncommon.
    Until the many issues of fatherhood are resolved, children and/or marriage are not things to be entered into lightly. Vows and responsibilities are very one sided.

  6. This type of statement often crops up often (and no, Ann I don’t’ intend to pick on you) “She blames the fact that the men with whom she had been in relationships either haven’t been ready or willing to become fathers,[…]”. Somehow I always think it needs to be more specific, such as, “with her”. I don’t know anything about Elizabeth Day except that she has been published in the Guardian. But I do know that over the years there have been many women whom I would not have chosen to be the mother of my kids, actually most of the women I have known (not just physically) fit into that category.

    Far too many women think the only criteria men use is physical beauty. Perhaps for some men, it is so, but for me, and I suspect many others, it is a far more complex issue. If the only requirement is physical attractiveness, women are essentially obsolescent and the sexbot will replace them. I do not believe that is the case, because few men value looks over everything.

    • You know I really can’t recall there ever having been any research, not even magazine survey, that asked men what they’re looking for in partnering and what their ideas are about children and family. I’ve seen lots where women are asked what they think men think. surveys about attractive qualities in dating but nothing for instance on the “commitment” issue that fills column inches.
      Perhaps TCW could do a survey monkey poll.”Conservative Women as men what makes them want o “commit” to family forming” perhaps.

  7. Perhaps if she’d concentrated less on having a career and more on being the kind of woman that men want to marry, she’d have the children she so obviously desires, instead of being another washed up feminist staring down the barrel of middle age and realizing that life has no do overs. Why is it that women find it so hard to take personal responsibility for the choices that “freedom” ™ gives them?

    No one is holding a gun to their heads and telling them they have to waste their most fertile years chasing a degree and a clerical job. And another thing: no man has every gone “a degree from a top university AND a white collar job that takes her out of the house – phwoar, hold me back”. Women are going to have to learn (again) that what they value in a partner is not what a man values in them (Source: a Reddit AMA where men discussed the first moment they realized they were going to marry their partners).

  8. “Teaching children that babies are an obstacle to happiness lowers their self-esteem and also lowers the birth rate.”
    Yes we’d like it to be more complex, but it is that simple.

    • The alternative is that they get knocked up when they’re teenagers and wholly unsuited to the task of parenting and their children cause vast social problems in the school they left behind. This idea that motherhood is some sacred, special thing seems to be at odds with the reality for teenage mothers.

      • Yes indeed the pragmatic approach would appear to be to form a partnership first, then there’s two to look after the little ones. Of course in the real world there are also other relatives and generations. A friend of mine worked for some years in the preventing teenage pregnancy programme of Public Health England. The intriguing thing was that though other countries had teenage pregnancy issues those of the English speaking “west” were exponentially larger. Quite different countries such as the Netherlands or Italy did much better. His view was that the Dutch spent a great deal of effort teaching responsible behaviour so they took a dim view indeed of young people who didn’t act on their education. While the Italians left it almost entirely to the family, and once again they’d take a dim view of irresponsibility, because no one but the family will be there to help.
        His conclusion was the particular problem of the Anglosphere was to do with an absence of an expectation of responsibility. As you say presuming becoming a mother, however unprepared, would be just fine because……… well because its a woman’s “right”.
        For all our self belief as pragmatic, we are remarkably “romantic” expecting all sorts of things to be just fine. Our continental friends, so apt to appear romantic fools are pretty hard headed when it comes to procreation. A paradox.

  9. I think that horse has bolted.
    Unfortunately we have been socially engineered into extinction with a smile and the promise of eternal hedonistic happiness.
    Short of major civil strife that resets the welfare state and our debt problems we are doomed to slow demographic death and should come to terms with our new African and Middle Eastern overlords.

  10. The pill will probably end up being banned sooner or later because of its environmental effects: too many female newts and salamanders because of all that oestrogen finding its way into our waterways.

    This being the case, women will have to fall back on tried and tested methods of preventing unwanted pregnancy. Like abortion.

    Following the above post, be prepared to do extra shifts on the picket lines harassing a lot more women outside abortion clinics. A bit of a chore, I’m sure. But on a more positive note, your victims will be much less crochety and argumentative with you. Having abandoned contraception, they’ll no longer be miserable, you see. You might even get a smile from them as they walk past you on the way to murder their unborn children.

    Won’t that be nice?

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