Justin (and yes, that his real name), is a local 30-something guy, who’s stays pretty involved in the polyamory and sexpositive communities. If you come to one of our events, you just might see him around. His openess about his experience has provided a meaningful close to our three-part Vasectomy Dialogues series.
Settling down with Justin over Skype to discuss his experience getting a vasectomy was a real treat. Mostly because he’s a good friend of mine, and it was good to catch up with him, but also because I knew that his decision to get a vasectomy was a bit different then that of other men I’ve known. For one, he had the procedure done in his mid-twenties. When asked what made him think about comitting to not having biological children, he credits his decision to a college class he took on global issues. Justin chose overpopulation as the topic of his final project, because, “When I started thinking about it, it just seemed like every single one of these global problems and issues and everything that makes humans and other creatures on the earth suffer seems to be our overpopulation and the resources that we keep on extracting . . . from an ethical standpoint it seems to me that it would make a lot more sense to value quality over quantity of life”
Justin’s partner at the time, to whom he had been married for a couple of years before he got the procedure was also on board with his decision:
“B. was in law school, and she really wanted to change the world too, and we thought kids, our own kids, didn’t really fit into this equation going forward. I thought, if we want to have kids, if we want to change the world, the best thing to do would be to take one out of the foster system. Looking back it was more for altruistic reasons thinking we could still love other people’s kids. . . It was more or less for environmental, political, social justice, human rights issues”
Instrumental to his thinking about sterilization was the website for the organization VEHMT (Voluntary Human Extinction Movement). VEHMNT promotes the ‘phasing out’ of the human race by voluntary sterilization as a necessary condition for non-human life to thrive on earth and for the remainder of human history to be peaceful and abundant. In Justin’s view, “It (VEHMNT’s website) is written kind of jokingly. No one really believes we’re really going to go extinct. It would be good to scale back. But we do need to exist. We’re part of the universe and we’re learning about the universe, and this is the most amazing thing we’ve discovered — ourselves”
That kind of idealism, combined with being relatively young meant that some questions didn’t get asked, and that he felt differently about children and fatherhood than he does now:
“what does a vasectomy mean for me, what does it mean to not have my own biological kids — those are things I didn’t put as much thought into as I should have, looking back, now that I have kids in my life [Justin’s current partners have children]. Also I wasnt sure I’d do well as a dad. When I went to restaurants and there were kids jumping up and down, throwing shit around and stuff, I just thought eww . . . didn’t want to change diapers, but since then I’ve learned that that’s another way to connect with humans . .. I’ve since changed a lot of diapers . . . I feel a little silly about my previous thoughts”
Surprising to me, was how little hassle Justin got for getting the procedure, he said that he “didn’t get any flack from Planned Parenthood” and as a low-income college student, he paid on the low end of the sliding scale. Sure, some people questioned his decision.” Alot of people I talked to when I was getting it said ‘are you sure, are you sure?’ and I was like, ‘yeah, damn sure’.” In a lot of ways these seems an appropriate question for someone so young, but at the same time, we both laughed abou the fact that when a 24-year old couple announces that they’re pregnant, no one tells them to consider adoption or an abortion because having a child is a permenant decision and one that should be put off until they’re older.
The nuts and bolts of Justin’s procedure was similar to that of Beast’s and Michael’s. But when asked what his concerns/fears about the procedure were, he says:”mainly the pain, I am deathly afraid of needles, At the time, I had never had any kind of surgery, had myself cut open . . . I think this speaks to the level of committment I had to the procedure, because you don’t just do a totally elective procedure like that without some sort of mental wrangling. That’s how I knew I was alright with it.”
The prep offered an added benefit: “That was the first time I’d shaved too, and thought ‘oh, this is kind of cool'”
We talked a little about what the vasectomy contributed to his life and peace of mind rates high on the list of benefits as, eight years later, he still feels that he’s “never felt more right about a big decision about that in [his] life,” explaining that “it is an immensely satisfying feeling that you don’t have to worry about the pregnancy thing . . . for me it was a big worry. I didn’t want all that on my concience – bring a kid into the world that wasn’t planned for, didn’t have a college fund and that worry was immediately relieved. That was very comforting, just on the mental level”
Having a vasectomy provided Justin with a way to manage his fertility in a way that felt right for him: “Considering other people my age, getting knocked up, getting other people knocked up, I felt pretty responsible about that.” Echoing Michael’s sentiment about male responsiblity, Justin sees the procedure as ” a huge step for me as a male, to take the responsibility into my own hands which most men do not take – they just leave it up to the female. I felt really proud of myself that I was going to take that responsibility in my relationship. The alternatives for women if they want sterilization are so invasive. More males should step up to the plate and realize that this is no big deal in comparison to the options for the opposite sex.”
Several years and several major life-changes away for the procedure, I was particularly interested in knowing if Justin had any regrets:
“there’s nothing a person can do with their history, to change it. To have regrets seems really pointless. When I catch myself in the position of having regrets, I’m pretty resilient and talk myself out of it. I definitely consider the opportunity costs, paths not taken and that kind of stuff and thought about how it would be different,and that’s honestly led to some sadness, recently, but I have support in my life to deal with it, and it’s not a bad thing . . . but I can’t think of a number of other situations in life that would make me feel more regretful and I’m glad I’m not in one of those”
He related a episode in which those ‘opportunity costs’ really hit home:
“One night M. [one of Justin’s current partners] and I watched a movie called Chaos Theory. It was about the struggles that this guy had had about marriage and his relationship and the paternity to his daughter. It dealt with what it really means to be a dad. And that struck me to be a dad. I had planned to have a childless life a long time ago. It’s not until you have certain knowledge in your life that you have different perspectives.”This is where I feel like I really am grateful in my life to be in the situation that I’m in to have people in my life that can have kids in my life and provide the experience of having the dad role. There is some sadness that I didn’t get to see the process from the ground up, you know, the zygote stage.”
One misconception about people who are intentionally childless (or childfree, as some like to say) is that they don’t like children and don’t recognize the wonder of their growth and development. Justin’s attitude definitely contradicts this thinking: “I am exremely, estremely attracted to pregnancy, and I love pregnant women and think that they’re georgous. I think the lactation think is beautiful. it’s amazing. This seems like it conflicts with my feeling that people should be being born.”
There is no conflict between loving children and choosing not to make new ones, for Justin: “None of this etches away at the decision that I made. I have thought ‘what if I did get a reversal’ and every time I also am like ‘Justin that would be ridiculous’ but I have to be true to myself and ask myself those questions. But I don’t think of that as regrets, just being true to myself, just realizing that I took a path, and it was a great path over all”
Since this is SEX+STL, I had to ask about the sexual aspects of getting a vasectomy, and Justin’s answer was intriguing: “Here’s a strange thing to sort of admit – as I said earlier, I do find pregnancy beautiful and I find the whole process amazing and awe-inspiring. On a personal level, I also find it really sexy. When you’re not having sex with a condom you can pretend you’re having sex for reasons other than just sex, it fulfils a fantasy of ‘I love you so much, that I want to theoretically create something that will bond me with you for all of eternity” In talking more about this, we figured out that this ‘fertility fantasy’ is sort of like rape or other kinds of fantasies, in the sense that it is exactly their non-reality that makes them sexy and hot.
Since it’s not all about the sex, how does being intentionally sterilized affect relationships?
“I felt really stable in our relationship and felt like we were both really on board with the decision. If things were rocky, I would have felt differently[about getting the vasectomy]. When I was back on the dating scene, it was kind of a stigma. I feel like you have to break it to them pretty early on. Certain people, you can just kind of see their face go limp. They immediately realize ‘not long-term relationship material’. But I’ve learned that’s good, but that weeds them out too.”
Despite the dating difficulties that a vasectomy can introduce, Justin maintains that ” . . . you shouldn’t do anything to your own body for a relationship. Relationships aren’t as stable as they seem sometimes. You should do things that are good for you for a lifetime,not that are good for the length of a relationship.”
When asked about advice he’d give to other men considering a vasectomy, Justin says, “consider your options and the place where you are in life. The last thing you should worry about is the pain aspect or the medical aspect, or even the cost aspect. It’s really cheap in comparison to raising a kid. If you do decide to do it, do it for your own reasons, not for a mate, or a future mate, but if this is something instrumental to your own being, then do it for your reasons, not necessarily my ideological reasons, do it for those reasons precisely, not other peoples’ reactions, and coercions and stuff.”