By J. DeVoy
Troubling news from Britain, America’s canary in the coalmine and a target of immense reverence from college students who lived there – in a nice part of town, with other Americans – while studying abroad. From a Spectator article arguing for the complete end of DNA paternity testing:
At a stroke, the one thing that women had going for them has been taken away, the one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers. DNA tests are an anti-feminist appliance of science, a change in the balance of power between the sexes that we’ve hardly come to terms with. And that holds true even though many women have the economic potential to provide for their children themselves. (source.)
First and foremost, let’s put the shoe on the other foot: Aren’t feminists constantly calling for tort consequences against men who make minor verbal misrepresentations to get laid? Certain women seek to denude men of their tools for getting what they want while keeping their own. Also, it seems imbalanced for feminists to deride men for using verbal and physical tactics to make themselves more appealing – “game,” writ large – while 1) they do the same thing with makeup and dating guides like The Rules, and 2) the “one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers” has consequences much farther reaching than waking up one morning, rolling over and realizing you were – by your own consent – pwned by some dude with a weak chin and guyliner.
The way McDonagh describes her venomous opposition to paternity testing in the article reveals much about those who would take it away: It’s not about equality, or even fairness, but about power. (I want to note now that this is not the majority or even a sizable number of women, but a vocal segment nonetheless; this is addressed at the end of the post.) Through science, men have empowered themselves to determine whether they are the parents of the children borne by their lovers, spouses, or complete strangers alleging paternity. A particularly shrill segment of society wants to end that for no reason than consolidating power for themselves – ultimately in the form of child support expropriated from men by the state – and by using shame to do so.
The next Bridget Jones movie may turn this under-discussed issue into a talking point. For those who didn’t follow the columns that took our heroine into the next stage of female angst — about being childless rather than single — the gist is that BJ becomes pregnant, but she is not entirely sure by whom, having been seeing the nice Colin Firth boyfriend, and the bad Hugh Grant one, in pretty short order. The matter could have been fruitfully ambiguous, with Bridget having a choice of fathers, but it was resolved in sordid contemporary fashion, one of the candidates being wrestled to the ground by Bridget’s girlfriends, so as to swab his inside cheek for a DNA sample. And so she found out the paternity of the baby and the most ancient game of humankind, Guess the Daddy, wasn’t played any more.
Bridget Jones never quite caught on like Sex and the City did, but the movies have always had a following. With this third movie, the die is cast and a seed is planted in the public psyche; people who never would have considered the implications of paternity fraud will have the opportunity to question whether it’s right for them, like some service touted on Oprah, and if they shouldn’t settle for less than the father they feel their child deserves. Paying the bill for this, of course, will be men, as detailed in a lengthy New York Times exposé from November 2009.
Now I can see that some men might rather welcome an end to the old-fashioned scenario whereby they find themselves held to account for the paternity of children born to girls with whom they just happen to have had sex.
You don’t say.
The actor Jude Law recently found himself in just this position, and unhesitatingly and ungallantly demanded a DNA test.
Reframed: Jude Law saw millions of dollars potentially flying out of his pocket to a child that possibly wasn’t his. True to the Reagan maxim, he verified what he had been told by the mother. He saved himself a life of financial hardship to support someone else’s offspring, as any rational person would do. Is the reasonableness of this decision noted? Is the fact that this is what any mother or father would counsel their son to do recognized? No, the reason Jude Law shouldn’t have tethered himself to a child that wasn’t his is shame. It was ungallant for Law to demand a paternity test. Surely he should have “manned up” and paid someone vast sums of money for being cunning enough to accuse him of being the father. Similarly, I have my own characterization for this argument: bullshit.
By contrast, the old situation, in which women presented men with a child, and the man either did the decent thing and offered support, or made a run for it, allowed women a certain leeway. The courtesan in Balzac who, on becoming pregnant, unhesitatingly sought, and got, maintenance from two of her men friends, can’t have been the only one. Uncertainty allows mothers to select for their children the father who would be best for them.
Finally, and with refreshing honesty, the article reaches why certain women fear DNA paternity testing. DNA testing requires mothers to go with the dads they have, rather than the ones they want. Admittedly, this doesn’t address step parents or adoptive parents who stand in to raise someone else’s children, but McDonagh’s article similarly does not address this point — as they are fully aware of the family situation they enter, rather than being deceived into raising a child as their own, step parents and adoptive parents seem outside the scope of this situation. When it comes to cuckoldry, though, there is no better asset in the resource-gathering war than ambiguity.
Banning DNA testing essentially would reduce paternity disputes to the dark ages. It does not seem unreasonable for a woman to want the most honorable and successful man to raise her child. He would be the most likely to accept, too, fearing the social repercussions of being accused of not taking responsibility for his child.
Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter?
Yes. Only in this sick, broken world, sliding into a new dark age with hollow politically correct platitudes serving as truth, could the author ask this question deadpan. Many parents lovingly adopt or raise children who are not their own, but this ignores McDonagh’s broader question of “does [paternity] matter?” Legally, and for the cuckold who believes the child is his, and raises it under those circumstances – rather than as an adoptive parent or step parent – it absolutely matters.
If DNA testing ever was to be banned in the United States, it would raise an interesting constitutional question. Matters of birth and abortion are generally covered by a broadly defined right of privacy that governs martial relationships and reproduction. First established in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), then expanded to cover abortion by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and sex in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). Under Roe‘s progeny, a woman has broad rights over her pregnancy and ability to take it to term, but states may require DNA tests after birth to confirm or deny paternity. If this practice is banned, it may create a question of whether child support payments would constitute an unconstitutional taking of property. When paying judgments or taxes, the government takes steps to ensure that the right person is paying the judgment. Even now, the government has stepped in to halt a foreclosure process that cannot produce the notes of delinquent mortgage holders — despite many of them rightly being subject to foreclosure. Whether the government can take property from a putative father based on a woman’s say-so, and without using testing that was previously available, would be an important but dangerously uncertain question.
There is an essential caveat to this position. This post does not apply to all women, or seek to imply it addresses all of them. In fact, the segment of society seeking to end DNA paternity testing is small and on the fringe of political activism. Similarly, these changes would affect only a small portion of the population. Historically, however, it is the squeaky wheel that receives the grease.
Among my age group, the ideas of marriage and children are met with a blend of derision and fear. Men, women and children didn’t change; the legal and social atmosphere did — and neither gender seems particularly happy about it. A couple’s higher earning spouse lives in fear of divorce, particularly in no-fault divorce states. The costs associated with divorce and child support contribute to men being unwilling to marry. Based on the concern over men’s hesitation to marry, it seems that women don’t envy the prospect of endlessly dating and potentially missing out on the brass ring of marriage, either.
Removing the protection of DNA paternity testing will only agitate existing tension and mistrust between the genders, which neither of them seems to have particularly wanted. Nobody wants to be divorced, or live constantly on guard to the prospect of his or her partner being constantly solicited – or soliciting others – in pursuit of the elusive “something better” that we’ve been told is waiting for us. Few men or women will ever need DNA paternity testing, but eliminating its existence likely will create paranoia and distrust between men and women that otherwise would not have existed. It will only serve to make degrading gender relations worse and, in the end, hurt everyone.