|You're cuckoo if you think it is yours!|
Who's your daddy? Who knows? And you maybe cuckoo to think it's yours!
The potential for a man to conceive without his knowledge is so complete as to defy counting.
So what's the big deal? This has been going on for millennia. Some men even find the idea of being a father without responsibilities appealing.
It certainly must be admitted that 'sowing your oats' is a strategy that is only available to men.
Nature is like that sometimes. Just as Nature gives women an 'advantage' over men by dominating the in-utero and post-partum experience, nature gives men an advantage over women on minimizing the time and energy they have to put into the offspring.
However, not satisfied with allowing Nature to run without constraint, human culture has generally imposed a number of rules or guidelines or norms on how the two sexes play together in the reproduction game – and in particular, how child-care will be managed. In most human cultures, men are expected to be responsible for their offspring. And women can demand that be the case – sanctioned and reinforced by law in many countries.
So the male power-play in reproduction is the strategy of maximizing his distribution, but minimizing his parental responsibility. However, all of this biological stuff is considerably diluted by culture, especially religious institutions. Marital ceremonies effectively link a father's parental responsibilities to one woman. Who benefits, him or her? Well, if he is the ultimate alpha male, he's probably better off spending time, uh, "distributing", but what if he's more like Homer Simpson? Without the institution of marriage, the Homer's of the world have less of a chance of procreation, so there is a benefit to the many non-alpha males that make up the world.
What about women? If she has unique access to his resources rather than fighting with several other women, she would appear to benefit from marriage, at least in terms of securing resources for her children. Did the patriarchy give this power to women, or did women win this right?
And how much power are we talking about? The woman has enough power to commit a cruel deception. She has the power to name as father a man who is not. A deception so complete that some suggest it may even be the 'perfect crime.'
Cuckolding isn't new. For as many millennia as men have been 'sowing their oats,' women with a child have been willing to attract males into raising her offspring – even duplicitously sometimes. It is also widespread in the animal kingdom with some biologists claiming that monogamy is rare rather than common.
Interestingly, the word is from the French for cuckoo. That is, the bird that dupes other birds into raising its young. Not a mother duping a father, but one species duping another. Interestingly, cuckoo in English has come to mean crazy or nuts.
It seems that this may be an accurate description of the lengths some women will go to cuckold a man, especially a high-value one. Michael Jackson's song, Billie Jean, is thought to have been inspired by his experiences with lovesick female fans who claimed he was the father of their child.
Billie Jean is not my loverToday, cuckolding in the human community is more generally known as paternity fraud. The practice appears to be one primarily about the mother gaining access to resources to raise her child(ren).
She's just a girl who claims that I am the one
But the kid is not my son
Raising a child is indisputably difficult even with another person. Doing it alone is an extraordinarily challenging task. I have nothing but the utmost respect for women that take on raising children alone, especially if they had little choice in the matter. And I have an equal respect for men confronted by the same challenge.
However, some women are prepared to deceive another man to recruit resources to aid them in their task.
How often does it happen? Well, it's really impossible to say, which merely reflects how good a deception it can be.
It is popularly claimed that about 30% of children have been fathered by someone other than the man they thought to be their father. However, these are figures from contested cases of paternity. That is, DNA testing was conducted because the father already had some suspicions. Still, the fact that his suspicions were justified in 30% of cases is disturbing.
Bellis et al. (2005) found and examined seventeen studies that provide enough information to be able to identify paternity fraud. The authors found that the estimates range from 0.8% to 30% with a median value of 3.7%. So it is probably reasonable to assume that the actual rate of paternity fraud is between 3% and 5%. More recent estimates put it between 1% and 5%.
Reasonable? Reasonable that up to 1 in 20 children have been fathered by someone other than the person they call 'Dad.' Maybe we need to revisit the definition of reasonable.
Even more disturbing in my view, and certainly supportive of my notion of a double-standard that operates against men is the fact that in Australia and many other countries in the world, the courts formally recognize the difficulty of identifying the father – and bypass the problem by 'presumption of paternity.'
For instance, the Family Law Act in Australia (1975 Section 69) states that if a woman cohabited with a man to whom she was not married during a period of 44 weeks to 22 weeks before the birth of a child, then that man is presumed to be the father.
What if she cohabited with a number of men during that period – sequentially or serially? I don't know. However, if cuckolding or paternity fraud is about resources, one might hazard a guess at which one she will choose to identify as the father. My bet is on the one with the money.
Moreover, any man that identifies himself in writing as the child's father is presumed to be the father. Even if he later denies it, and even if DNA testing proves that he is not.
The courts appear to be rather dis-interested in what may or may not eventuate in DNA testing. And the consequence is that many a presumed father must go on supporting children that are not his own.
As if this were not enough, the woman can in some circumstances have a man acknowledged as a father without his even knowing. Dr Charles Corry writes an impassioned account of how easy it is for a woman to perpetrate this kind of paternity fraud in the US. Essentially, she may declare him to be the father, he will be sent a notice to his last known address, and if no response is received, it is determined by default that he is the father.
With draconian conditions like these facing men, it is will be no surprise that there are a number of media-worthy horror stories around paternity fraud.
Liam McGill thought he was the father of three children. After he and his wife separated, she revealed that she suspected that he was not the father of one of the children.
In fact, DNA testing revealed that he was the father of only one of the three. His ex- wife had started an affair five months after the birth of their first child with a trusted family friend. Said trusted family friend was the father of the other two children.
While McGill was not entitled to repayment of child support he had paid over the years, he was at least absolved of the obligation for any future child support payments for the two children that were not his own. That was nice but does little to right the wrong.
McGill went on to sue his ex-wife for fraud and damages. He was awarded $70,000 in damages. However, his ex-wife took the case to the Victorian Court of Appeal and the decision was overturned. He then took the case to the High Court of Australia – and got nothing. In essence, it was ruled that a women can lie about the paternity of the children to her spouse.
McGill is not the only one with a sad story of the consequences of paternity fraud.
Douglas Richardson tells his story of having to pay child support to his ex-wife for both his own child and for one that he did not father. She went to live with the father of the other child. She then deserted this next man and left him with her two children. Richardson, denied access to his own child, had to continue paying child support to another man for his own child and for another child fathered by that other man.
Astonishingly perhaps, these two stories appear rather pallid when compared with that of Steve Barreras. He paid out $20,000 in support of a daughter who never even existed.
His ex-wife claimed to have his baby shortly after they separated. He countered with a claim that he had a vasectomy over one year before, and that his ex-wife had a tubal ligation years before.
By fraudulent means and aided by the adult daughter of the couple, the ex-wife obtained a birth certificate and fake DNA results. It took five years before the courts determined that there was no child.
It may or may not be the perfect crime, but paternity fraud is certainly an excellent example of how men can be disadvantaged relative to women. No woman can be deceived about being the mother, can she?
As it happens, mothers can be deceived about their parentage, but it is very rare, and certainly much rarer than paternity fraud. It is typically the result of babies having been switched at birth. So, the belief is not about whether the child was born or not, but rather about whether a given child 'belongs' to those identified as parents. Moreover, such mistaken parental identity typically extends to the father being deceived as well.
So paternity fraud is an asymmetry of power that accrues to the woman over the man. The consequences for a man deceived into believing he is a parent when he is not are likely to be significant – and they are mostly financial.
The presumed father pays. That is the way that it is. In so doing, the father's role (whether defrauded or not) is reduced to that of a cipher. The role of 'father' typically equates in our society with 'provider of resources.'
More generally, contemporary culture does a pretty good job of conveying the idea that, when it comes to babies, she has choices to make, he has responsibilities based on the choices she makes.
Language also describes what an 'accidental' or 'unwilling' father ought to do. He must "grow up," "step up," "take responsibility," "do the right thing," and ultimately "be a man." The notion of "shotgun wedding" implies even the threat of bodily violence is justified in forcing a man to meet his responsibility.
The modern phrase "We are pregnant" is ridiculous. Certainly he (or at least a 'he') must have contributed, but only she is pregnant. This is after all, the basis allowing her and not him to be an authority and often-times sole-decision maker in many matters relating to children. He is the provider of resources.
This is pretty much what it means to be a 'father' in a large number of animal species. The male provides the resources while the female is the one with 'hands-on' contact with the child. In our thoroughly modern, apparently male-favouring world, Mum can be assured of her parentage, but the man cannot.