16 August 2013

An Un-Birthday for the Un-Conceived: Thoughts on my Vasectomy Five Years Later

Today, August 16th, 2013 marks the five year anniversary of the day I was voluntarily vasectomized. I had planned to have a party, inviting friends out for a night of carousing so we could take pictures so that I could post them triumphantly and vindictively on FaceBook as a way of "getting back" at all the people I know who incessantly post banal updates about the quirky thing their special little unique child did this minute or the next. I should make it clear that I had not fathered any children before the vasecomy. Some people have a kid or two and then 'snip'. Not me, I struck preemptively.

You see, I have a thing about children. Well, not children really, but reproduction. Not the act of coitus either, sex is fine by me, but the result, really the whole modern social context for human procreation and the way we treat it. My little 5-y.o. vasectomy un-birthday party was going to be a cheap, immature way to talk-back (probably more like yell-back) to a culture of inconsequential breeding.

"Inconsequential, why you presumptuous, inconsiderate bastard!" you might be saying, "There are lots of consequences to having children! No free time, expensive, smelly..." etc. etc. And I would nod my head and you would feel righteously indignant, but we've all heard that stuff in school, probably no later than junior high as a way of trying to get us not to have kids (yet). (I realize that some people may not have heard this before whelping, but there is no lack of reminders in the real world. To disavow all foreknowledge of the repercussions is willful ignorance and probably a lie.*) This was a choice you made, choices have consequences and anyway, all of those problems are entirely narcissistic, focused on the negative consequences to YOU. (Which makes your concomitant parading of shitty child-art, bad baby photography and incessant cooing and prattling even more offensive.) Let's remember that children don't appear magically as if brought by a stork. The entire concept of the "accident" child is merely a social avoidance strategy. Sex, as fun and spontaneous as it may sometimes be isn't really a 'mystery' anymore, and a veritable smorgasbord of contraceptive methods are available (lets hope they stay that way) so if you get pregnant (and this is not an attack on women, I'm referring to men as well, if not more) it's not a fucking miracle. Not to mention that it takes nine months (did you forget?) before the child is born. Nine months when alternate choices still present themselves. I'm not advocating for abortion or infanticide, merely pointing out that complaining about the 'problems and consequences' of childbearing is more than a bit specious.

It might be assumed then that I, as a young man (I was 28 at the time) chose to get sterilized because I didn't want to take the 'responsibility' of being a parent. But this takes as a given that it is some kind of moral obligation to reproduce and that people who don't are 'irresponsible,' immature and possibly even socially negligent. Until we have children of our own, you seem to be implying, in order to be accepted into 'responsible', mature, mainstream society, I must have a child. To not doso it would follow, is selfish. We may have constructed parenting as a moral obligation (a construct with which I agree), but objectively it is a natural imperative, a biological one practiced by a vast number of animal species. (Are male dogs "immoral" because they don't stick around? Do we call frogs out on their lack of ethics for abandoning their offspring at birth?)

Nor does my vasectomy indicate that I want to remain unfettered by the moral obligation to care for someone else. I'm at least as narcissistic as the average person, but this was not a rash decision based on a desire to sleep around. First of all, even for a sterile person there are consequences for sex. This list of viral, bacterial, protozoal, parasitic and fungal consequences does not care if you're shooting blanks. Furthermore, although I haven't personally experienced it, I know that a significant number of women will not get involved with sterile men whether bilogical or surgical. There is a distinct social stigma against sterility as evidenced by the exhausting list of virility pharmaceuticals out there. Plus, potency (or lack thereof) socially, culturally 'says something' about your masculinity. As if that weren't bad enough, the pressure on women to get pregnant and reproduce is even greater, thus the social stigma against childlessness, voluntary or otherwise is even worse for them. Much homophobia too, stems from this aversion to non-reproducing members of society. But, although reproduction inheres responsibility, it does not imply social value.

And finally, most compellingly for me and the reason I cited at Dr. Snip's office is that there are already too many people on an already overtaxed and decimated planet. Already too many kids who need parents and don't have 'em. I feel that it would be an act of profound social irresponsibility, of selfishness to reproduce because I can, or want to continue my genetic legacy, or am in love. The environmental and economic ramifications of a single USAmerican child  over the next 80+ years is alone enough to make my head swim. Each one of us (on average) in this country consumes more energy and resources than anywhere else in the world. And this privilege of place comes at the end of a gun, a long historical, cultural gun made of racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry and colonialism. As an inheritor of that insidious legacy I feel that it is my moral responsibility to push back against the notion that 'because I have the anatomical ability to fuck and cum, and/or the economic capacity to support a child that I have some sort of "right" to reproduce.' These 'rights' are not objective things that exist outside of our minds.The consequences to other people of our actions right now are. Wars for oil and water, for food and shelter are real things that harm real people right now and into the future. If I have the supposed responsibility to contribute and and sustain human society by , doesn't the negative also apply? Isn't declining to further overburden an already catastrophically imbalanced, unjust and destructive system more socially responsible, more committed to the cintinuance of human society?

I knew that I wanted a vasectomy by the time I was 18. I waited a full decade before following through, thinking these reasons through and letting this decision mature. I had plenty of time to choose. And my reasons remain the same now as when the screening nurse asked me, as when the doctor's assistant asked me, as when the doctor himself asked me right before the procedure, as when I was 18. Rather than shirking responsibility I have always felt that choosing not to father children holds the greater moral weight because it requires restraint in the face of something relatively easy (and enjoyable.) Any desire I had to coddle a tiny version of me went out the window long ago when I realized that I bore the responsibility to care about everyone.

Being a parent also requires a great deal of responsibility, but choosing no to reproduce doesn't mean I can't be a parent. So in lieu of a party and snarky comments, you get my rant about why not having children is at least as noble as having them. There are probably as many reasons as people, but here's to foster parents and adoptive parents, to gay and lesbian parents. Here's to people who raise other people's kids, their partner's or someone else's. Here's to people who want to but can't, and here's to people who can but won't. You have my respect.

-SG


*And I'm not pretending things like we saw in Cleveland earlier this year, child rape and sex slavery don't exist or fall under the same moral heading as voluntary reproduction, they do not. There are likely a great number of factors and tangents that as a hetero white male, I have failed to consider in this essay and for that I apologize. My intent is primarily to explicate my frustration at constantly dealing with my-baby-is-the-center-of-the-universe complex, to vindicate a difficult (and costly) decision for which I have been repeatedly taken to task, and to poke a hole or two in the implied and assumed social superiority of breeders. I hope I've been at least a little bit successful.



05 August 2013

Join or Die


Finally finished this exploded view of the colonial snake. Where these came from I don't know, but exploded robot-snakes are through for the time being. I am going to try turning this into a t-shirt though. We'll see how that goes.

01 July 2013

Dread Moon Tent Serpent Mechanism










These sketchbook doodles will become something larger eventually.

17 June 2013

Musca Domestica


I've wanted to do a large housefly t-shirt for some time now...

Figure Drawing

 I took another life/figure drawing workshop over the spring and here are a few of the best sketches. The instructor, as usual didn't like my use of a sketchbook, but that's how it goes. I ride a bike, so there aint much I can carry on my back.


11 June 2013

Plagues Mini-Comic

This little mini comic features 32 pages of illustrations I did depicting various plagues. From viral to animal and social, from locusts to hubris to Yersinia pestis, the organisms and behaviors that plague us all are depicted in loving pen and ink.
Xerox printed on bright pink and yellow paper, each copy is signed and numbered on the centerfold.

The first 32 copies will come with one random original illustrated page that appears in the comic. 


Available at An Enormous Door 

or




06 May 2013

27 April 2013

May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month


This is the original image I cut out of an ad.


Between roughly September 2011 and April 2013 I drew all these in pen.

30 March 2013

Man O' War

 These rad new Portuguese Man O' War prints are navy blue on britany blue, or light blue (women's sizes) and have realistic white and pink highlights hand painted on the pneumatophore.
Additionally, there are small fish following in the tentacles looking for a free snack.
These shirts are available by contacting me direct, or at my Etsy shop, An Enormous Door.

23 March 2013

Tree Love

Pen & ink on bristol
6" x 6"
book review illustration for Real Change News

26 February 2013

Nature and Nurture

Nature and Nurture
2013
pen, watercolor and gouache
10" x 7.5" (each)

These pieces will likely hang in a show or two later this year.

22 February 2013

Japanese Army Drawings





Some pen and ink illustrations from old photos in a book about the uniforms of the Imperial Japanese Army in the Second World War.

19 February 2013

Race Against the Machine


Race Against The Machine
2013
pen, watercolor and gouache on bristol
10" x 6"

Another book review illustration I did for Real Change News, this one on
Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy  by  Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. The review focuses on the decay of job skills among the unemployed due to the rapid pace of technology innovation.