Getting Sterilized to Own the Cons
How do you convince a man to get sterilized?
For Datta Pai, the answer was spectacle. India’s midcentury population boom inspired Pai and the rest of the nation’s public-health clerisy to launch a sterilization campaign. Pai, an abortionist in Bombay, deplored “people pollution” and advocated population control. He felt a mass-sterilization campaign would restrict India’s population growth, particularly among the nation’s fecund working class. Pai scoured the railway stations of Bombay and the Indian hinterlands, finding hordes of working men to cajole, convince, and sterilize.
While Bombayites were initially sold on the procedure by Pai’s impassioned advocacy, many men declined to attend their vasectomy appointments. Interviews with the absconders revealed what a 1974 report called “emotional barriers to the procedure” among the “middle and lower class people whom [Pai] sought to reach.”
To reassure would-be patients, Pai brought “motivators”—men who had been vasectomized and “were from the same social class” as Pai’s prospects—to the Bombay junction. He set up a surgery station in a railway car, where men gathered by the dozens to go under the knife. Within a matter of years, Pai’s streamlined operation propelled Bombay’s annual vasectomy rate from 360 procedures per year to nearly 280,000.
Pai learned his lesson from Bombay and brought his traveling circus to the Indian hinterlands. There, he set up “vasectomy camps,” which, according to the same report,
had a carnival-like atmosphere with movies, lotteries, and other activities meant to obscure the program’s medical purpose. The majority of those undergoing vasectomy at such camps were poor, illiterate farmers.
If using carnival games to lure illiterate peasants into mutilating their reproductive organs seems immoral, Pai later admitted “there could be a certain amount of misﬁring out of enthusiasm.’’
The Washington Post seems to share that enthusiasm. On Sunday, the Post ran a piece profiling the men who have gotten sterilized, not for bread and circuses like 20th-century Indian bumpkins, but instead as “act[s] of love.”
The first man in the Post‘s profile recalled, with some satisfaction, the day of his vasectomy. After he heard local doctors were offering “discounts” on the procedure during “World Vasectomy Day,” the man immediately signed up to get snipped. His wife had experienced “unpleasant side effects” from contraceptives, he said, so he wanted to “man up” and get sterilized.
“The procedure was a total relief, almost like the covid shot—like I’m safe now,” he told the Post.
It wasn’t just a workaday flop-and-chop, of course: the man also went under the knife to support abortion rights.
“I’ve seen the miracle of life,” he said. “But I’ve also seen kids who are born into poverty and misery and don’t have a fair shot.”
His implication is the same as Datta Pai’s: The underclass breeds too much. Its children’s lives are meaningless. The “miracle of life” is not to be found among the poor and miserable. Eight generations of trailer trash are enough.
The rest of the Post piece is agitprop for sterilization—vasectomies are said to promote “family planning,” to “empower men to be responsible,” to make a “better man,” each justification designed to normalize a bastard procedure whose administration was traditionally entrusted to veterinarians and war criminals.
“Doctors who perform vasectomies say they want men to be open and comfortable talking about the procedure instead of recoiling in horror at the idea,” a urologist named Doug Stein told the Post. He lamented that stigma still attached to a procedure that represents “the ultimate way to be a good man.”
The stigma remains because a “vasectomy” is unnatural. It estranges a man from himself. Its internal logic leads inexorably to abortion, population control, and eugenics. The Post‘s piece gestures at this, but will not say it explicitly.
At least Datta Pai had the courage of his convictions.