This is the second post in a three part series I'm writing on men's lack of paternity options. As I clarified in Part 1, Planning Paternity: Restricted Birth Control Choices for Men, males are drastically limited to the choices they can make to prevent parenthood. Some of their best choices outside of abstinence and sterilization still leave them vulnerable to accidental pregnancies. Despite their reasonable attempts to prevent a pregnancy, they can find themselves stuck with a legally enforceable financial obligation for the child and occasionally the mother.
Men in these cases may still not receive sympathy. Because they consented to intercourse, our legal system holds them responsible for the outcome. This is a clear lack of rights when compared to a woman’s rights. Women can completely sever the choices between sex and motherhood but men’s choice about fatherhood is made when they choose to have sex. However, this issue becomes even worse for the men who fall through the cracks.
What happens to the men who father a child without consenting to sex or having sexual intercourse at all? In this post I'll explore cases of stolen sperm, forced envelopment, statutory rape, and paternity fraud. I’ll even throw in an added bonus about sperm donors.
Stolen Sperm and Sabotaged Condoms
Stealing sperm may seem impossible or completely out of this world. It’s actually quite a simple idea. Let’s get specific. Sperm collected in a condom can be retrieved for “standard” fertilization or even for in vitro fertilization treatments. In fact, this was the case for a Joe Pressil in Texas in 2007 (1, 2). The woman brought Joe’s sperm to a fertility clinic, claiming to be Joe’s common law wife, a lie. The clinic assisted in in vitro fertilization and she successfully became pregnant with twins. Joe had given no consent for her to use his sperm and had no knowledge of this process until three months after they broke up, when the woman informed him of his twin children on the way. The woman later sued Joe for child support and won $800 a month, apparently winning his house as well.
Joe reveals how violated he felt and understandably so. He became a father against his will. Then the courts determined he would be financially responsible for the wellbeing of the children. It’s unclear if the man was ruled by the courts to pay child support before discovering the backstory of deceit in 2011 but either way, he had no established protection from the law. Along with all of this anguish, feeling violated and financially burdened by being tricked into parenthood, he was slapped with the unfortunate stereotype of “lying to avoid child support” when in fact, he chose to sue for full custody of the twin boys.
While Pressil’s story seems radical, we must remember that the results are due to the structure of the legal system today. It’s only because of the government’s involvement that he was required to pay $800 a month for children that he did not plan for or expect. Despite using his best, reasonable form of birth control and having the contents stolen he was legally responsible with monthly fees and the threat of jail if he couldn’t pay. This infringement on his ability to gather wealth and improve his standards of living seem to me a violation of our unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness yet men still fall victim to this scenario.
There are cases in which a woman is unsure which man is the father of their child. Occasionally the woman believes it’s the wrong man. This is false paternity and understandably not punishable by law. Paternity Fraud, however, is when a woman claims a man is the father when she knows he isn’t the father. Both have negative consequences yet fraud can be encouraged by the state.
Paternity Fraud occurs for a number of reasons: she’s lying to her husband to maintain the marriage, she is embarrassed about who the real father is, or she might be trying to get welfare.
It’s unclear how often paternity fraud and false paternity claims occur but advocacy sites claim as many as 30% of fathers who order DNA tests end up not being the father (3). The American Association of Blood Banks claims around 100,000 to 300,000 paternity tests come back false every year (4). This is equivalent to 5 million children who falsely believe they know their biological father (3). This number has increased over the years. Systems set up by state governments might be encouraging these cases.
Certain states don’t provide welfare to single mothers unless she’s receiving child support (5). The welfare system can even take charge of the legal process when gaining child support. They typically get the fathers name from the birth certificate but when it’s not available, they can ask for a simple signature from the father on a form acknowledging his paternity for that child. The mother may think all she needs is a signature to receive welfare and the man who signs may just think he’s being helpful. Unfortunately, the welfare system uses that signature in the process of getting child support from that man and he may never know until it’s too late. This was the case for Carnell Alexander.
This infamous case involves Carnell Alexander in Michigan who’s ex-girlfriend listed him as the father on her baby’s birth certificate to get welfare payments although she knew he was not the father (6). She didn’t realize but the act of listing Carnell as the father made him liable to child support payments that were organized by social services. Carnell also did not know about his legal obligation to child support until a few years later when he learned about the warrant out for his arrest for not paying child support. Carnell and the woman agreed to a DNA test to successfully prove he was not the father however, the DNA proof was not enough for the judge of his back payment case to free him from the financial obligation. He was past the statute of limitations when proof that he wasn’t the parent would have freed him.
The legal system set him up to fail with no way out. Although, at the behest of the woman, the court freed him from his obligation to pay her $70,000 in child support however he was still required to pay the $30,000 that he owed the government for backpay and court fees (6).
As reported in the New York Times, a man named Mike in Pennsylvania had a similar situation when a DNA test proved his 4 year old daughter to not be his (7). He divorced his wife but chose to pay child support because he loved his non-biological daughter. But when his wife married the biological father he couldn’t bare continuing child support. The emotional burden of paying for a another man’s child when that man is living with the child was too much.
The cases were a men are legally forced by their government to pay child support for another man’s child are unfortunate yet common enough to require acknowledgment. It becomes even more heartbreaking when the man can prove with DNA evidence that the child isn’t his but still ends up in jail. Men are in jail for not being able to pay the child support or back payments for children that are proven not to be theirs. Yet again, this is an infringement of unalienable rights specific to men.
Also see the National Conference of State Legislatures and their "Child Support 101 Series"
The case of underage boys or male students being seduced by their female teachers is a neglected topic for a number of reasons but it’s important to address in the case that it results in a pregnancy.
Boys are fertile as young as 11, about the earliest they can start puberty. A boy under the age of consent is unable to legally consent to sex with an adult, despite any desires he may have. If the boy is targeted by a predatory or opportunistic woman and becomes a victim of statutory rape, the question is, will he be financially responsible for the child. Despite being unable to legally consent to sex some courts have decided that the boy will be legally responsible for the result of the nonconsensual sex. This was the case for Nick Oliver.
Nick Oliver was 14 when he became a victim of statutory rape by a 20 year old woman (8). He did not even realize that it was inappropriate at the time. We choose an age of consent to protect underdeveloped minds from being taken advantage of like this. At 22 he received papers from the state informing him that he had a daughter and mandating him to pay child support. Not only was he responsible for future child support but unpaid child support since the child’s birth, medical bills related to pregnancy, and a 10% interest on the overdue payments totaling over $15,000 before interest. He learned of all this while in college to become a medical assistant.
Despite all of this, Nick wanted to be a part of his daughters life and is willing to pay future child support not realizing that he is a victim of forced paternity and child rape. This type of ruling isn’t just an anomaly. In 1993 the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that a boy who became a father at 13 to his 17 year old baby-sitter was in fact responsible for child support in spite of Kansas considering anyone under 15 unable to consent to sex (8). The rape was irrelevant when determining his responsibility for the result. If that case isn’t clear enough, there is the case in California soon after. A 34 year old Californian woman, convicted of statutory rape of a 15 year old boy, was still awarded child support from the boy (8).
These boys were unprotected by their legal system as well as the state social service agencies that assisted the women in claiming child support from these boys. They had no chance against the state social services in state courts and were held responsible for the results of their nonconsensual sex. These boys were held to unusually high expectations by their government’s legal system compared to the mirrored sexual freedoms of women. Boys better learn how to be an adult before he gets put into tempting or life changing situation because even in the case of an adult woman taking advantage of a young boy can result in financial obligations before they are legally able to work.
Made to Penetrate and Coercion
Adult male victims of rape from a female seems completely foreign to many. In fact, some believe it can’t happen unless it is sodomy. This is an unfortunate and widespread misunderstanding of male physiology, anatomy, and sexuality as well as an ignorance about coerced sexual contact. The details are graphic but I can say tactics include drugging and binding, erectile stimulants, blocking exiting blood flow, and physical violence or threat of violence are all strategies that have been used. You might even include sexual coercion which is a form of domestic violence that men are particularly vulnerable to.
Statistics about men being victims of forced sex can be difficult to find because it was not considered rape by many law enforcement organizations or public health studies unless the man was sodomized (see NIPSVS report). Even the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) excluded this form of sexual assault until their 2011 decision to slowly incorporate “forced to penetrate” as a new classification under the umbrella of sexual violence (9). This acknowledgment is nice but it’s clear differentiation from rape ultimately leads to conclusions that men don’t experience forced sex. This results in a lack of funding for male victims of rape, forced sex, or situations in which they were coerced or “forced to penetrate.”
Due to the difficulty in labeling forced envelopment, finding cases where men were forced into sex by a woman can be very difficult. It’s even more difficult when looking for the cases of forced envelopment that resulted in a child. I know of no specific cases but based on the court’s treatment of boy victims of statutory rape, it seems there would be no legal protection for adult men in this situation. Could men be responsible for the child support after being raped? Would the court deem men who did not consent just as responsible as boys who were unable to consent? I hope we never have to find out.
RELATED READING: Manufacturing Victimhood, Marginalizing Victims
This is a developing situation especially with more same sex, female couples who want biological children. The process of in vitro fertilization can be expensive so many couples consider sperm donation from a personal friend or online acquaintance. All parties can agree on terms including no paternal contact with the child and no financial responsibility and even sign a contract. However, when the government gets involved the contract might become void.
This is another case of welfare laws getting in the way. William Marotta answered a craigslist add posted by a same sex, female couple asking for sperm so that they could have a child of their own rather than adopt or use an expensive fertilization clinic (10, 11). They all agreed that no contact of financial responsibility would be best and everything was fine until the female couple separated.
After separation, one mother filed for welfare and had to list the father of the child and she listed Marotta. The state Department for Children and Families (Kansas) filed for child support from Marotta on behalf of the mother. Luckily, the court decided he was not responsible for child support or reimbursing the state about $6,000 worth of the mother’s welfare payments (12). It’s not clear if the state Department for Children and Families will appeal the decision.
Since each state relies on their own laws for this situation, men in other states are vulnerable to similar situations that may or may not turn out as well as Marotta’s (13). The Department for Children and Families was concerned that the three people did not use a physician or a clinic and feel like it’s the role of the government to require medical assistance in fertilization cases like this. We just have to wait and see how involved each state will be in peoples sex lives as the cases roll in.
These are cases where men followed through with their their birth control duty. These are men and boys who were raped, taken advantage of, or coerced. These are men who abstained, chose sterilization, used condoms or relied on outercourse/pull out method yet they fell through the cracks. Many of these men did not want a child but unfortunately could not protect themselves from an unwanted pregnancy. They become legally obligated to finance the child's life even when DNA proves he’s not the father. Some of these men step up to this huge responsibility that they weren't ready for which is valiant and selfish but should the government really be involved?
The government’s mandates can ruin these men’s lives, leaving them with the option to pay or choose jail. Arizona for example, can legally require a man to give up to 50% of his earnings to child support. He may even find himself on the streets, unable to pay for his rent because so much of his income goes to child support. If he doesn’t pay, even if he has reduced his expenses to the point of homelessness and hunger, he goes to jail. For some men, jail becomes a preferable option compared to the paternity burdens placed on him by the government. This is an absolute insult to injury when the man has been raped, had his sperm stolen, or otherwise forced into parenthood.
These are the lives of men. In an environment that celebrates and expects sexual freedoms of women as individuals governing their own lives, we should allow men their appropriate sexual freedoms that mirror those of women.
Up Next: In Part 3 I’m going to provide a number of proposed solutions that will help men in these situations.
- ABC News, Surprise Twins: Man Sues Fertility Clinic
- DailyMail UK, Unwitting father sues fertility clinic after his girlfriend 'stole his sperm and got pregnant with twins via IVF' - then sued him for child support
- DadsDivorce, Paternity Fraud: A National Epidemic
- (blood bank source)
- National Conference of State Legislatures, Child Support 101: State Administration
- DadsDivorce, Carnell Alexander Case Shows Need For Paternity Fraud Laws
- New York Times, Who Knew I Was Not the Father?
- USA Today, Statutory Rape Victim Forced to Pay Child Support
- FBI, Rape Definition Changed
- USA Today, Kansas Wants Sperm Donor to Pay Child Support
- CNN, Kansas Court Says Sperm Donor Must Pay Child Support
- CBS News, Sperm Donor is Not Responsible for Child Support, Kansas Judge Rules
- FreeAdvice, Sperm Donors and Child Support