The Unmotivated Wickedness Of Paternity Confidence

Applied to the field of paternity confidence, the Unmoved Mover paradigm bewails the malicious desire of men to assure themselves of paternity, which they wickedly satisfy by imposing oppressive shackles on the sacred liberty of women, and laments all the social evils resulting therefrom – while resolutely refusing to consider why paternity confidence should be so important to men, or whether steps should be taken to satisfy their need for it.

Disdain for reproductive success is most unlikely to be an inherited characteristic. Similarly, any genes that caused a male to take an intense interest in whether a child was actually his or not would tend to proliferate at the expense of alleles that caused him not to give a damn. A thoroughly cuckolded man has no posterity, whereas a man who prevented the horns being hung on him would have. Any species that endeavours or pretends to form monogamous pair bonds is thus facing the males with a choice: either to take some action to ensure that they are the fathers of their wives’ children, or to face genetic extinction.

Heavy male investment in offspring is to be found only in birds and humans. It is found in practically no mammals other than ourselves. We are thus a mammal that behaves like a bird, which suggests that fathers are not following any general mammalian programming but responding to particular reproductive arrangements from which they expect to benefit. Take away that benefit, as is proposed by those who consider paternity confidence an unacceptable goal, and the incentive disappears.

Paternity confidence is a more acute requirement in a patrilinear system, that is, a concept of family that concentrates on the vertical descent from father to son rather than the horizontal membership of a tribe all descended from some real or mythical common ancestor. In the latter system, a man ought – by the mathematics – be just as happy with a horde of nephews and nieces out of his sisters as with his own children. In such an inbred tribe, there is less reason for men to care about paternity, since everyone else shares their genes anyway, and every member of the tribe is to some degree their own posterity. This all sounds very nice; there remains merely the awkward fact that patrilinear/ matrilinear societies always seem to displace kinship societies and never the other way round. Perhaps the displacement happens whenever the group starts meeting too many strangers, whom the women of the tribe will for good genetic reasons embrace with great enthusiasm, and so the men can no longer apply the calculus of “every child in the tribe is going to be related to me”.

A feminist but not misandrist SF novelist, Sheri Tepper, has posited a utopian society based on giving both sexes what they most want; and she thinks that what women most want is to be cosseted, while what men most want is paternity confidence. Accordingly, her matriarchs enjoy the attentions of a corps of male Consorts – sterilised masseurs, entertainers, duellists and courtesans – while husbands are guaranteed legitimate issue, enforced by the death penalty for “mismothering”. This is the only time I have ever heard a soi-disant feminist thinker consider the male concern with paternity confidence as a need to be satisfied, as a quid pro quo for the satisfaction of female needs, rather than something to be automatically mocked and decried.

I once asked a couple of well-educated, progressive female friends, on separate occasions, whether a man was entitled to object if his wife presented him with a child that was not his get. They both came close to refusing to speak to me ever again, merely for the crime of posing the question. (As for me, I so dislike being placed on the condescending probation so typical of this culture that I anticipated their threats and no longer associate with these individuals.)

It was represented to me that theirs would be the response of any right-thinking woman. A husband had no right whatsoever to demand that offspring be his, they argued, but on the contrary an absolute duty to rear any child that proceeded from the womb of his current partner. The assertion that he must “trust” his partner, and their towering indignation that any man should fail to trust any woman in this department, seemed to me to fit poorly with their vehement insistence that any failure to deserve that trust should have no consequences whatsoever for the betrayer. (Male infidelity, on the other hand, was to lead to instant divorce.)

Such a progressive woman is in effect telling her husband that, provided that she is allowed to do what she wants, when she wants, and with whom she wants, and provided only that he does not dream of mistrusting her when she does so, then and only then will she feel sufficiently “respected” not to cuckold him. One does wonder how she would respond to the mugger who informs her that, provided she demonstrates sufficient trust by handing him her purse, he will refrain from running away with it.

When progressive women are outraged at the suggestion that a man might have a legitimate interest in his wife bearing children that are genetically his, this is a sound tactical move with a dual payoff. First, it is a good opportunity for demanding to be “trusted”, however little they intend to deserve that trust and however unapologetic they would be when found out; it would be a brave man who pointed out these drawbacks to their faces, and so they get to score points. For, in their moral universe, to be trusted is an automatic human right and anyone who declines to trust is the offender. (Unless, of course, it is themselves.) Second, the demand that men not care about whether the children they support for two decades or more are actually their own is a defiance of human biology. Consequently such an expectation will almost invariably be disappointed; and since, in this same moral universe, a progressive woman is under no obligation to adjust her expectations to conform to reality, her disappointment creates an opportunity for bitter complaint; and bitter complaint is very easily mistaken for moral superiority. Quod erat desideratum.

Another indication that women have more political power than they pretend, at least in the jurisdiction of these two former friends, is that we use DNA testing to track down “deadbeat dads”, in the charming UK tabloid phrase – that is, fathers who are failing to pay child maintenance to their former partners – but we do not have automatic DNA matching of the child to its putative father within a recognised relationship. For a culture that was truly as patriarchal as ours is rhetorically claimed to be would allow husbands to determine paternity before accepting such a lifetime responsibility. Other cultures have done this without having our scientific advantages; presumably, when the baby was placed on the ground before the husband and he raised it up, or refused to do so, he was going on its family resemblance or his sense of smell. The absence of any such arrangement nowadays means that women have undisturbed enjoyment of one of their most ancient and effective instruments of power, namely foisting.

The Unmoved Mover paradigm, that is, the chronic feminist inability to treat male behaviour as a rational response to incentives, thus leads to treating paternal investment in children, not as the pursuit of genetic self-interest, but rather as a form of absolute Kantian duty. Such deontological imperative incumbent on a husband, his obligation to help a woman care for the children she produces, no matter by whom conceived, would obviously be very welcome to her; and this private utility appears to be sufficient reason to insist that such a male duty exists.

Leave a Reply