Wednesday, October 03, 2007

NBC Today: Some straight single men have surgery to avoid having kids

On Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007, the NBC Today show, in both the first and fourth hours, presented a heterosexual single man, Toby Byrum, from Wyoming, now 30, who decided never to have his own children and to have a vasectomy at 28 in order to close off any possibility of pregnancy of any female partner. He was interviewed by Matt Lauer in the first hour, and therapist Laura Berman joined in the fourth hour. Toby admits that with some dates, his “admission” becomes a “deal breaker” (or means “incompatibility”). To paraphrase him, he said that society is changing from a paradigm of reproduction to one of self-expression, and he is entering the most productive part of his life. Matt, in the first hour, noted that he was the only male in the particular family that could carry on the family name, and that did not seem to be a sensitive matter in this individual’s family.

The show interviewed a urologist in Chicago, a surgeon who says he does around twelve of these elective operations in single men a month now. The show indicated that the emails it got after the first segment generally were supportive, including emails from women. The physician was supportive. The show indicates that the operation can be reversible up to eight years later, but for women it is almost never reversible.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to note that this sort of thing does hit at the culture wars. Some parents might resent male children who do this and might believe that they are “entitled” to biological legacy and grandchildren, in a manner similar to the problems that some parents have with accepting gay children. The best “insurance” for such parents seems to be to have (or adopt) enough children. As for wills, the issue has attracted the attention of Hollywood (the 1999 New Line film, “The Bachelor,” for example), perhaps impacting more in comic fiction than playing out in real life. Modern western society does not accept having children as a moral responsibility the way older societies or other cultures did, and it does not accept the Vatican’s moral demand for “openness to procreation.” Laws against contraception were struck down as far back as 1965 (Griswold v. Connecticut) (Cornell law school link. However, western societies do face demographic issues with fewer children and much longer lifespans, as Philip Longman discussed in his book “The Empty Cradle” (Basic Books, 2004). Russia has recently made a lot in public of it's "Conception Day" (Sept. 12). Demographics may force family responsibility on the childless and it may be hard to carry out when one has elected not to have one's own children.

NBC recently expanded the Today show to four hours, which gives the show the chance to followup on a story with audience response. NBC recently canceled "Passions", but "Ellen" in the "Passions" spot (that soap went to DirectTV) and extended the Today show by one hour. Many cities have local news in the original "Ellen" spot.

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