Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, February 25, 2005

This year, give the gift that keeps on giving!

I finally have a good excuse to make use of one of the most profane expressions I have ever heard. Everyone ready? Okay, good.

*ahem*

Jesus titty-fucking Christ!

According to a CNN.com article, a man in Chicago has landed in a rather unusual predicament. To elaborate, he has been compelled by the courts to pay child support to a woman who salvaged sperm after an episode of oral sex, and used them to impregnate herself. Moreover, she apparently did so without his knowledge.

Yeah, you read that right.

Apparently the man in the case, Dr. Richard Phillips, only became aware of the child when he was sued for child support, which was granted. Since then he has filed suit against the mother of "his" child, Dr. Sharon Irons, claiming damages from emotional distress resulting from this entire affair.

The way the article reads there initially seems to be some question as to whether or not this actually happened, but later on in the article we find this: Irons responded that her alleged actions weren't "truly extreme and outrageous" and that Phillips' pain wasn't bad enough to merit a lawsuit.

Okay, show of hands, who thinks that saving sperm after an episode of oral sex and then using it to impregnate yourself, without the knowledge of the donor, and then suing for child support, isn't extreme or outrageous?

Right, okay, there you go.

Apparently the court has ruled that while Phillips CAN indeed sue for emotional distress, the sperm should be considered a gift to Irons and, thus, she cannot be sued for theft or fraud. Okay, I can see that, but if that legal logic holds, then why the hell is he paying child support? Stay with me here: the idea behind child support is that a male and female jointly decide to have a child and that, following the dissolution of their relationship, they retain joint responsibility for that child. Thus, the non-caregiving parent must contribute. Makes sense to me, and I thoroughly support the practice.

In this case, however, the non-caregiver parent was not aware that a conception was even possible, nor that it had taken place. His responsibility here is extremely limited. If the sperm was a gift, then the recipient's use of that gift, and the consequences thereof, are not the responsibility of the giver. By way of comparison, if it is legal for me to give you a handgun in your state, and you may legally possess a handgun, and I give you a handgun I lawfully owned, and then you use said weapon to commit a murder, I am not legally responsible. Please note that this argument does not insulate all fathers from responsibility for their offspring. If I give you a handgun with the intent that you will use it to commit murder (much as many men "give" a woman sperm with the express intent that it be used for conception) then I am an accessory to murder, and therefore share legal responsibility for the action. Within the legal framework, as I understand it, the ruling compelling Phillips to pay child support is utterly nonsensical.

You might argue that by engaging in sexual activity at all Phillips was giving tacit consent for conception, but that has to be the most absurd argument I've ever heard. Such a claim would more or less mirror the argument that a woman who engages in foreplay with a man, and is then raped by him, should have no legal recourse. Consent to engage in some activities does not then automatically entail consent to additional, later activities.

If we accept such a retarded argument, however, we're still faced with a rather nasty problem: what kind of precedent does this set for sperm left at fertility clinics, or for laboratory tests? If a woman uses that to impregnate herself, does the man have responsibility for the offspring? Granted, the "gift" logic doesn't hold here, but I'm really forced to wonder how strongly that will effect the outcome. What about other biological materials donated for a variety of purposes? If someone is transfused with platelets I donated at the Red Cross, and then suffers a heart attack, am I somehow culpable because my platelets contributed to the event?

This may seem like an overreaction, and I doubt this will ever become a widespread problem, but I never expected it to be a narrowspread problem! This is really and truly bizarre- and I'm referring to the legal situation; the things people do interpersonally really don't surprise me much anymore. Man, I can't wait until the Masculists get ahold of this one. Hell, you know what? If I have any masculist readers, I'd love a perspective on this. E-mail me an essay on this subject and I'll post it, with the caveat that I can and will edit as needed to make it look right in the blog, and reserve the right to correct egregious grammatical issues.

Thanks to Julia Kanago over at Everyday Sociology for bringing this to my attention.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Julia said...

I'd certainly call this a widespread problem, actually-- I can't expect that the woman got into that situation with her legs clamped firmly together...
I blame it all on Capitalism, actually. Set up a system with full notions of balanced reciprocity tied to personal prestige and respect, and it probably wouldn't be such a big issue. Silly Capitalism.

Friday, February 25, 2005 2:57:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Julia: Maybe it's just because I've been reading Imre Lakatos all day, but I have absolutely no idea what the hell you're talking about.

Friday, February 25, 2005 4:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Julia said...

>blinkblink< Wow, what was I smoking? (Besides old anthro textbooks, that is.) Sorry 'bout that, I haven't the foggiest what I was saying, either, though it probably made sense to my Dayquil-addled mind at the time.

Friday, February 25, 2005 8:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that I smile as such shenanigans? Why can't I take this more seriously? Sexual exploitation harms people--doesn't matter which sex is being exploited. Do you think this will bring men and women to the table and encourage them to take the problem of sexual exploitation seriously? One would hope so, but probably not, because as you can see, the reality of either men's or women's experience enforces a division between the sexes. When will we ever learn?

Sunday, February 27, 2005 10:32:00 AM  

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