What occasioned this post was a request made to me by a writing partner a long time ago. I declined the request. You’ll see why. “Ten years later” is pushing the definition of a snappy comeback, but this post is really aimed at other guys who might have this idea.
John Boy, as we’ll call him, had a male character. His Vision™ for his character, he’d decided one day, included two children whom the character would raise. His request: “Mutt, will you write a female character who’ll have these children for him and then hand them over?”
As it happens, the idea of writing female pregnancy gets into some deep problems for me, and I never intend to do it. I don’t recall that I’d mentioned this to John Boy in the past, so he gets a free pass in this instance on the insensitivity front.
However, when I told him I would never be comfortable writing a pregnant woman, his suggestion? “Maybe she’s from a species where she has to breed in order to become a neuter.” OK, so… forcing a transgendered character to breed in order to line des gender up with des sex? That was insensitive. Chaps, we’re all pretty smart here. Let’s all agree never to suggest this to a transgendered person, OK?
Anyhow, those are my personal issues and we’ll lay them aside. Now here’s the response I wish I’d given all those years ago, to help John Boy understand why asking any writer to make up a woman character, in order to give your man character instant children, is somewhat on the odd side.
Actually, John Boy, my personal horror at writing pregnancy is not my only problem with this suggestion. The main issue is that you want a female character whose entire purpose in life, at least from your point of view and your plot’s, is to have children.
I hope even you wouldn’t remain unmoved if someone in real life were to say a woman’s only purpose is to be a mother… but that’s what you’re asking here. I have to admit, I expected better from you.
Consider also that your gay Marty Stu is going to have to force himself to sleep with this woman – or, more likely in your universe, use hand-wavey magical insemination, so that he doesn’t even have to touch her – and then he will expect her to give up the children and never bother him again. This doesn’t sound like an attractive offer to any self-respecting woman.
John Boy, your offer is rejected firmly and without prejudice, and I hope if you think about what I’ve said you’ll realise why. My advice to you is to write a frog woman and have them spawn in a pond, or, preferably, rethink the plot idea that requires a woman to bear your character two children and then disappear.
We’ll leave our imaginary ten-years-younger John Boy alone now. We just gave him a lot to think about. We’re older and wiser, though, so here’s another point for you to ponder…
Do you know what pregnancy does to a woman’s body and hormones? I don’t have much idea, for the obvious reason, but I know it’s huge. To take one example that might cause a particular problem with this ‘plot’ idea, women don’t always want to give up their children.
Sound obvious? But really, they don’t always, even if they were OK with the idea beforehand. This is not because women are nuts. Your mother was a woman. Everyone’s mother was a woman. And that’s rather the point. We humans evolved to what we are because mothers have a strong bond with their weak, helpless spawn, who remain helpless for about 6 years and weak for at least 8 more. You don’t put up with a burden like that unless you love it, and this is where your hormones, leaving nothing to chance, make sure you do. Sometimes they’ll go wrong or a woman will feel able to overcome the effect, but that isn’t predictable.
This is why you will read in magazines about women acting as surrogate mothers, who find themselves unable to give up children they’ve carried for another couple. Repeat, this is not because the woman is nuts, or a liar. Chances are she had every intention beforehand of carrying through with the agreement. I doubt she really wants to bring up, on her own, the child of a man who’s in a relationship with someone else. Not even for the child support payments (seriously, no woman who is in touch with reality ever gets pregnant because she thinks it’ll make her rich). But you can’t always help whom you fall in love with.
Conclusion: women don’t always oblige by breeding and then handing over their children, even if that’s what your script says.
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