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August 30, 2005



When I was studying anthropology, I was struck by how many children in world history have habitually slept near their parents, and have been aware of their parents having sex. In our society it's a sort of skanky idea, and Freud regarded it as the traumatic "primal scene." But it's interesting to think that these folks, since they also lived in societies without mass media and the sexual content thereof, would have associated sex primarily with parents. It really puts a different cast on it, doesn't it?


Camassia, that might be the ultimate in promoting abstinence ed. ;)


I really you are spot-on a ton of points here... I am wondering at it from an opposite direction now. la lot of women, as you must know, likewise have trouble seeing or feeling themselvs to be both mother and lover.


I agree with you and Amanda.

But I also think that some men are just very squeamish about the whole blood and guts factor and that's why they have a difficult time with childbirth.

But I agree with all the same and I think that men are looking at it all wrong if, instead of being proud and in awe of their partner, all he sees is that episiotomy scar.


When a woman goes to the bathroom, she is not doing so as a direct result of something she and her partner created together

Unless they cook and eat together. And let me tell you, squeamishness about evacuation does not generally persist after a few diaper changes....


Hah. Perhaps I ought to have been more precise in my language.


Hugo said: "When a woman goes to the bathroom, she is not doing so as a direct result of something she and her partner created together;..."

Yet some women (and indeed some men), refuse to have anything to do with oral sex or intercourse after one's partner has "evacuated" (talking about number 1 here, number 2 is a whole different ball game heh). Even after say, a shower with soap, they refuse to do it. They have to wait until some time where their partner hasn't "evacuated" in a long time to have sex or deign to put their tongue in that groin area. To me, that is patently silly and stupid when one thinks about it, but in an odd way understandable. Just as this situation is with men and post birth etc.. Human beings can be different from the "norm", weird, or you know have various hang ups with sexuality. Perhaps instead of castigating these men, we ought to help them through with their hangups as best we can. Oh, wait, men should "suck it up, be a man" and not deal with their feelings but help to understand their woman's feelings and tolerate her foibles.


Did you read my last paragraph, FP? I said it wasn't fair to ridicule (or castigate) and suggested gentle therapy (which, I know from experience, can work wonders in this area). I'm not sure you read my post completely.


ahistoricality, you beat me to it. I was thinking just that as I read the post. ^_^

My problem with the original NYT piece was that the author was trying to put the burden on the wives/expecting moms to be sensitive to the possibility that their husbands might be squeamish about watching her give birth. I think she's got enough to worry about frankly, and if a man is going to freak out about watching a birth he should own it and speak up ahead of time. It's his responsibility, not hers. She cannot read his mind.

Note that this is different from saying he should "be a man" and be around for the birth even if he thinks he can't handle it. If someone is deeply disturbed seeing their loved one in pain, I understand that. I just think he should be an adult and consider what he can and can't deal with, get counseling if he realizes he thought he could deal and really couldn't, and take responsibility for that instead of blaming his wife.

I think your last sentence is right on. I actually feel kind of bad for the author's patient... it's just the author/therapist that I think was kind of a jerk.


Hugo: I can't imagine that many women, if any, find childbirth an erotic experience.

I've read lots of women's birth stories, and there are indeed some that find at least portions of labor to be erotic. I myself found that to be the case with the light contractions during my early phases of labor. Oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates contractions, is also secreted during lovemaking and during breastfeeding.

Some couples will engage that energy further by being physically intimate together during labor (this is more accepted when the birth is taking place outside of the hospital setting). Some women masturbate and have orgasms during labor. And I read about ONE account of a woman experiencing labor as a series of spontaneous orgasms, without any external stimulation from herself or anyone else (I think that was in Birth as an American Rite of Passage by Robbie Davis-Floyd, if anyone's interested).

That is not the average labor experience, but it does happen.


LA Mom, I've heard that too about women masturbating during labor. If I'm not mistaken, orgasm is a natural painkiller for women and the contractions probably help the labor process too.


You know, the father is not simply there "for the birth." He is also there, one hopes, to support his wife or partner through a very difficult and at times dangerous physical process. Would we be as 'understanding' of a husband who said "Honey, I'm just too squeamish to help you recover from that auto accident"? Or a partner who said that he was afraid it might ruin their sex life if he had to provide care for his lover when she recovered from a mastectomy?

That is not the average labor experience

Understatement of the century.


I suspect blaming squeamishness is just an excuse. What these men really object to is the devotion to the child, the permanently heavier figure with the rounded stomach, the pendulous breasts. Why put up with it when you can easily dump the wife, take the child away and find a new woman who has never given birth? There is no downside to dumping a devoted wife and mother in today's society. If you can attract a new bimbo and ditch the exhausted, worn out wife, most men jump at the opportunity.


Rainbow, you must have had some nasty experiences with men if you really believe what you say.

"Why put up with it when you can easily dump the wife, take the child away and find a new woman who has never given birth?"
Perhaps because the woman is the love of your life and the mother of your children? Most of us men take such things very seriously indeed. And whatever makes you think he can easily take the child away? Last I heard, mothers still get custody and child support in most cases.

"There is no downside to dumping a devoted wife and mother in today's society."
Perhaps you are living in a Moslem society? This is certainly not so in western societies today.

"If you can attract a new bimbo and ditch the exhausted, worn out wife, most men jump at the opportunity."
I know you have no evidence to support this, but I have to wonder why you would even think it. Perhaps you yourself experienced this and managed to find a circle of women friends with similar stories. The "false consensus" syndrome could then do its work on you. That's the only thing I can imagine that would lead you to such a cynical (and completely false) conclusion.

There are a lot of very good men out there, Rainbow. In fact, the great majority of us want what you (I believe) want - a loving, caring, secure, lifelong relationship. You may find that people (women and men) live up to your expectations of them. Raise those expectations a bit. You will be surprised at the result.


A piece of advice from a devoted father who was there and had reservations going into it:

1. Don't burden your wife with the reservations. Talk to someone else about it.

2. The most practical solution: Hold her hand and deal with her face to face. You'll also be able to see your child's head emerge and unless you look under the table or look over the doctor's shoulder you won't have to worry about squeamishness.

3. If you don't witness your childs' birth you'll regret it for the rest of your life.

She doesn't want you there for her vagina -- she wants you there for support. Believe it or not, this posture can be acheived while at the same time holding her right leg in mid-air. Grandma to be had the left one.

The Gonzman

Well, now that we have gotten the dumping on men through, has anyone considered that such men who have reservations might be nauseated by blood and guts? And that some men, after having witnessed the blood and guts, think subconsciously that "Oh my God! That's because she had sex with me! I did that to her! I can't put her through that again!"

Well, I suppose that might be giving some measure of credit to men. Can't have that, can we? It goes against core feminist doctrine that men actually have some measure of feelings and morals.

Oh - full disclosure - I was denied the right to be present at my daughter's birth, and indeed had her existance with-held from me for several years. And I was there for my son's and never lost libido. But I do have compassion for those who may not be psychologically constructed like me.

Guess among feminists that is something preached, but not practiced. Or is it just something that gets rationalized away as applies to men?


The quoted article doesn't make it appear that the reason they were tramatized was out of empathy. Seems like they were going "that's icky".

And it's not that men aren't allowed to be tramatized: it's that they shouldn't expect the woman to burden their trama. She went through her own trama, she has to worry about her own things. Bitch to someone else.


What difference does it make? I don't get all the judgementalism.. So some guys are squeamish after seeing their parner give birth?

IN fact, what is the point of having men (other than medical) around during birth anyways? they will just get in the way. They really cant do anything to help, to believe otherwize is a delusion in my opinion.

Giving birth is a womans thing. Hey, its not me who made the rules. don't yell at me. It was mother nature. She was the original sexist. The man's job in the deal is basically to shoot the load. That is reality. It may not be what we "feel" is right but it is what it is. It is only natural for men to be queamish, because their experiencing and watching childbirth is completely unnatural and is in no way linked to our natural role in the propogation of the species.

I wonder, do other mamals have the male sit around and pretend he can "do something to help" when the female is giving birth? I doubt it. A woman is likely better off getting support during birth from someone who can REALLY understand.. ie another woman, such as a sister, friends, mother, ect. A man? get real. he will never understand and likely be doing all the wrong things to help.

Mr. Bad

Guys, we can't win. Just check out the responses here: When we want to be around for childbirth, we're just "getting in the way" because we "can never understand what women go through during childbirth." When we opt out, we're being selfish, whimpy, squeamish, uncaring, irresponsible, etc. There's no point for men to even bother discussing this any more. We can't win, so we should just butt out, let the women complain about it amongst themselves in peace, and decide how we want to handle the birth of our own children ourselves without interference from feminists or anybody else.

IMO the mixed messages that men get about childbirth are the most powerful force driving this conflict and misunderstanding.


"A woman is likely better off getting support during birth from someone who can REALLY understand.. ie another woman, such as a sister, friends, mother, ect. A man? get real. he will never understand and likely be doing all the wrong things to help."

Sorry you feel that way, Neil, because when a man chooses not to be present for his child's birth he loses something very precious and denies the mother an irreplaceable kind of support and comfort. When I had my kids I didn't care about having any mother, sister or friends around--I wanted my husband, the one I'm closest to and love the most. And I didn't care if he understood what I was going thru or not. I just wanted him to be next to me and support me with love and strength. Which he did. I had C-sections both times and he sat beside me through both, held my hand and talked to me about what was going on, made some jokes to ease my tension, watched the incisions with interest and wielded the camcorder with a steady hand as the babies were being pulled out. It would have been a very cold and lonely experience without him there, watching our kids being born and being the first to hold them. Those were among the most thrilling moments of our lives.


Gonzman & Mr Bad, were you even listening? I believe I pointed out in my comment there is a blood and guts factor here that probably appeals to no one. Quite frankly, I don't want to be around for that either but biology doesn't give me much of choice in the matter.

Mr. Bad

Yes Stephanie, in fact I was listening - not only to you, but to the others here. And that's what I'm talking about: We get as many different, and many times conflicting, messages as there are participants here.

Which is precisely why I figure we men should just forget about the issue, ignore all the chatter and make our own decisions, irrespective of what others may think or say.


Sorry, I did not mean to misrepresent what you were saying. I think what most women are saying though is that they would actually like for their partners to be around during childbirth. I realize that it's not a pretty sight watching a human emerge from the vagina but it's a frightening and very painful time for the woman. I think what she wants and needs at that time is love and support from her partner. When she feels she's not getting that, I think it naturally upsets her.


Actually, gonzman, I think I *did* mention that it would suck to see a loved one in pain. And I think Stephanie mentioned the aversion to blood and guts.

>Which is precisely why I figure we men should just forget about the issue, ignore all the chatter and make our own decisions, irrespective of what others may think or say.

Um, I hope by that you mean that both parents should make that decision together, irrespective of what others may think or say. But basically, I agree... I wasn't getting all angry about a man not wanting to be present for a birth, that is the couple's decision alone. But take responsibility for the decision you make, be honest about your feelings on the matter. That is simply the adult thing to do. Maybe I was reading different blogs than O'Rourke was reading, but a lot of the anger I saw was over the fact that the author of the original piece implied that the mothers should worry about their partners' squeamishness, whereas I think it is the responsibility of each partner to make clear how they feel about the matter. Does that make sense?

craichead, thank you so much for your perspective and advice. good to hear that from someone who's been there. and your handle cracks me up.

Neil, there are plenty of cultures where men don't attend, indeed aren't allowed to be present, during childbirth. There are also cultures where the sexes are pretty strictly separated and while men and women get married and have kids, ones friends are always ones own gender. But I think for most of the people posting here, we can be friends and share feelings and experiences with people of the opposite sex... my boyfriend is also my best friend, and very good at supporting and comforting me when I need it, is that "natural"? If *you* don't want to be around during birth, that is your and your partner's business, but please don't tell me that I shouldn't want my best friend there if I give birth someday. We can figure that out for ourselves.


>worry about their partners' squeamishness

or to be precise, anticipate the possibility of their partner's squeamishness, which may or may not exist, and which would require a mind-reader if their partner won't speak up about it.

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