Men say fatherhood defines manhood
Women shoulder birth control burden as males refuse vasectomies
From as early as 18 years old, Leon wanted to become a father; it was to herald his entry into manhood.
His girlfriend of two years, though a year younger than him at the time, was desirous of helping him to make it happen. But after four years of trying, two miscarriages, and several doctor visits, there was no baby and the two parted ways.
Leon, now 25, never admitted to her that this was his main reason for ending their relationship, but he told All Woman it was. After doing all he could to get her pregnant, including spending thousands of dollars at the doctor, he said he'd had enough and the cheating began.
As a result, another young girl became pregnant with his child, but weeks into the pregnancy, she called one night in tears to tell him she had lost the baby.
"Every man fi have him yute fi carry on him name," Leon said. "If you really check the meds [meditation], you can't be a complete man unless you have your own youth to share certain things with."
Today, Leon is the proud father of a daughter who is a year and seven months old. Her mother is 19 years Leon's senior and has another daughter who is a year younger than he is.
"Having a child makes me feel like a real big man still, mi nah lie," Leon said smiling. "Mi can't understand how some man have all them yute and don't recognise them."
Delroy, a freelance photographer, also feels that having children is what makes a man 'a man'. He is the father of nine children with seven women.
"I look after all of my children," he said when questioned. "I don't get to spend enough time with all of them, but I try to see them as much as I can. If you don't have children, the race will die out so the more you have, the better. I love children."
"Having children is not the only thing that makes you a man still, but it is one of the main things. If you peepee nuh bun grass you anuh man," he declared.
Male development specialist Marlon Moore agreed that men view having children as an integral part of manhood. He noted that one needs only to engage inner-city men, for example, to see the truth of this.
"Within the inner-city communities or under-served communities, so to speak, the idea of having children is very integral to manhood, and that is separate and distinct from being a father within the context of roles and responsibilities," Moore said.
But not all men hold this belief.
Forty-year-old Anthony Stewart has no children, but it does not make him feel any less of a man.
"Whether or not you have children is not what determines your manhood; your maturity level does," Stewart said. "Anybody can have a child. Even a child can have a child, but it takes a man to be a father. You can have 10 children and it doesn't make you a man, it's about how you handle the situation that will make the difference."
"Some people may feel having a kid will complete them, but it doesn't make you a man. How about someone who would go out and get six children and is not supporting any of them? Does that make him a man?" he questioned.
Still, the belief that a man is not a man until he fathers a child or if he is unable to father a child has resulted in women having to shoulder the burden of birth control — whether through tubal ligation or the use of other contraceptaives.
"One of the main reasons men do not have a vasectomy is that they think it affects their manhood, their virility and their image as a man," said general surgeon Dr Alfred Dawes.
"So basically, if they lose their ability to have a child, they feel they are less of a man. They think that once you cutting down near their testicles, it will affect their libido, their ability to perform," the doctor added.
This is not surprising, according to gender and development specialist and chief executive officer for the Family Medical Centre in Montego Bay, St Rachel Ustanny.
"In a social environment like Jamaica, manhood or masculinity is connected to fertility or the reproduction of children," she said recently.
Meanwhile, Dawes said public education could well serve to enlighten at least some men as to the use of vasectomy as an alternative form of birth control.
"Maybe with public awareness you will have men coming in and asking for it because it's a fairly simple operation that can be done at pretty much all the type B and type C hospitals that have a surgery service. It does not require a specialist to do it, but mostly it's done by a urologist," he said.
Leon, for one, has said he will never do a vasectomy.
"Me? All if me have 10 pickney, nobody can't get me do that [vasectomy]," he said. "If you realise how the thing set up, a woman can have a child up to age 45 and then she done. But a man can get pickney up to all age 60! That mean he should not put any limit on himself."