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the politics of (fake) pregnancy


This week, news came from the US of a bizarre product which has become available online. Entrepreneurial pregnant women have been selling their positive pregnancy tests to people online via the Craigslist website – on which you can find just about anything.* Even more interestingly, women have been posting ads wanting to buy tests with a positive result. The target market: women after a hasty marriage proposal, or a laugh.

A quick Google of the issue’s key terms prove it’s not just pregnant women peeing on sticks that are cashing in on the phenomenon. For the squeamish – i.e. most people, because handling something drenched in unfamiliar bodily fluids is just creepy unless you’re a doctor, nurse or pathologist – positive pregnancy test kits are listed on eBay minus the urine residue and not a single word proclaiming its illegitimacy on the packaging. Furthermore, there are online tutorials on how to fake your way to a positive test as well.

If women are using fake pregnancy tests to scare men into relationships – and it may be a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but bear with us, it is interesting to look at why such a step could be taken.

Looking to statistics, it would seem heterosexual marriage is on the decline. The Centre for Social Justice think tank forecast only 57% of families will be run by married couples in 2031, dropping to 49.5% in 2047. Married adults dropped from 72% to 54% over a forty year period at 2010. The reasons to get married are becoming fewer in a more liberal Western society: we can have sex, have a gaggle of children and be financially self-sufficient without putting a ring on it. Only one in five females aged 9 – 21 (an interesting age group to study) rate marriage as a marker of success in life and 70% of surveyed Americans found marriage to be weaker as an institution. So why is there still a desire to pursue a proposal with a false positive pregnancy test?

To ignore the joke aspect of pre-peed on positive tests would be remiss, considering there are postings on Craigslist asking for revenge against a cheating partner. Again, the eBay testing kits advertise their product primarily to play a prank – perhaps for legal reasons. That said, one cannot rule out the desire of some women to push their way into a shotgun style wedding with these fake tests.

But it’s not fair to say that these individual women are the sole culprit (for lack of a better word) in manufacturing a marriage, nor have they done anything inherently wrong as their behaviour is symptomatic of broader trends.

Despite the aforementioned figures, social pressure to marry is still prominent in Western society and the ethnic minorities within it. People are still being told love and marriage goes together like a horse and carriage at their temple, from their cultural traditions and even in pop culture. This is especially the case where planning for children is involved.

For all the pop culture jokes and data correlating with love and marriage in fact going together like chalk and cheese, marriage remains a socially designated step in the trajectory of adulthood regardless of the trajectory zigzagging to and from major milestones.

While it’s arguable more parents are worried about not getting grandchildren than being seeing their daughter walk down the aisle, social shame still occurs at in many ethnic diasporas where having a daughter left on the shelf (e.g. Shanghai, China) is worse than her being self-sufficient and single.

Faking a pregnancy to advance a relationship brings to light a number of ethical problems. Building a relationship on lies is never a good thing, especially when the end result is a ceremony with economic and legal repercussions… and the emotional stuff, but really the economic and legal factors is the shit that sticks. As opposed to ditching an uncommitted partner, these tests enable a woman to get hitched quickly by pushing the out-dated stigma about the ‘bastard child’ back into the public conscience. Or, you know, hone in on traditional gender roles pressuring men to conform to the idea of a provider.

But this isn’t just a trap for men as the media may label it. A 2008 study by University of Pennsylvania academics for the American Law and Economics Association found women to be less happy with their marriages than men, with unhappiness increasing over the time one has been married. Given this information and the possible negatives of a union forged by a phantom pregnancy, not to be too condescending, but it’s unlikely to result in happily ever after.

Considering the ethical ramifications and the emotional impact this could have for couples in the long run, fingers crossed more women are forking out for false pregnancy tests for a laugh… even if the ‘joke’ isn’t all that funny.


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*The tests linked to this article were sourced after the original news story broke. It is not known how many pregnancy tests were available online before the first article appeared. This article primarily focuses on the suggestion that women would use the fake tests to ‘trap’ a man, and the implications of that suggestion.

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