aka: Childfree Is Not Allowed
"Woman's greatest duty is to produce a son."
We have a character who, while fertile, very much does not want children. But society, or the law, or destiny
, will not let her get away with that easily.
Maybe there's a problem in the Heir Club for Men
and she doesn't want to be involved but, since she's married to the fella needing the heir, she can't readily escape it. Or perhaps she herself is a powerful leader who needs to give birth to a successor lest chaos follow her death. Or she's in a society that's gone through a Societal Disruption
, which is urging every fertile woman to repopulate the species; but she has desires or concerns more important to her than the species
Maybe she's been prophesied to be the mother of the Chosen One
or a Messianic Archetype
, but she wants to Screw Destiny
anyway. Or she's prophesied to be the mother of The End of the World as We Know It
and is desperate
to Screw Destiny
Or maybe she's already pregnant with the kid she adamantly doesn't want but has had abortion forbidden her
for legal, moral or health reasons.
Whatever. She would rather not have children, but the law or the universe is doing its best to stop her, demanding she have children or else. (There must be a serious "or else" involved.) The law and the universe generally win these fights, but it still can be interesting to watch it go down.
Also, despite the name, this trope is not limited to female characters
Contrast Convenient Miscarriage
, which is, of course, on the opposite end of the Law of Inverse Fertility
. If the character is merely experiencing social pressure to have children but can still say no, she's on the receiving end of Not Wanting Kids Is Weird
of Chosen Conception Partner
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Anime And Manga
- The Yuki-onna of Rosario + Vampire are required to marry at seventeen and start producing children immediately, due to the fact that the average Yuki-onna hits menopause before hitting thirty, leaving very little time for them to produce the next generation of a race that can't afford to have anyone not contribute to the long-term survival of the species. Mizore doesn't want to participate... at least, not with the guy her family picked for her (She makes it QUITE clear that she is willing to go through with this tradition using Tsukune instead).
- In Elfen Lied, Lucy, being the "queen bee" of the Diclonius race, is the only one capable of actually birthing fertile Diclonii if she reproduces, as opposed to the sterile Silphelit drones that all Diclonii can create. The Big Bad fully intends to use her to bring about the rise of their species. Lucy, however, ultimately decides that she has no interest in that and that she'd much rather see her species wiped out. Being Lucy, she succeeds.
- Likely adding to her distaste for this role is the fact that the Big Bad's chosen partner for her is her own half-brother, the product of the villain capturing and raping Lucy's long-lost mother, who it is also revealed, was against Lucy's father abandoning her, and never stopped looking for her. To sum up his offer - her as an incestuous birthing machine in the plans of a lunatic who invaded her home, got the boy she loves shot, and raped her mother to the point she ended her life-and all on a mistaken basis. Yeah. In the field of pushing the thought, 'You Must Birth My Heirs',he really didn't sell this one well.
- Attempted to be invoked in 7 Seeds. The shelters that were left with provisions for the characters do not contain any form of contraceptives, since the creators of the 7 Seeds project want them to repopulate the world. Hence Team Autumn has banned any kind of sex that results in pregnancy in their group. Not that this stopped Ryusei and Kurumi.
- In ElfQuest, nature decides when two elves are ready to have a child, and the elves aren't allowed to protest. This turns into a mate or get really sick situation for several elves, most prominently Dewshine, who hates the mate that was chosen for her by destiny. But since Babies Make Everything Better, she loves her child regardless. This trope gets twisted later — nature seems to consider genetics and population when deciding which two elves are to reproduce. The Gliders, for example, have an inversion forced upon them: none of them had been able to conceive aside from Winnowill via magic in centuries, despite very much wanting to have children among them, due to locking themselves in a mountain fortress with limited space. The Go-Backs, on the other hand, have an amazingly short lifespan because of their warring with trolls and living in harsh conditions and breed like any other mammals; when the Wolfriders mention Recognition, Kahvi is surprised that they still bother with that. As with most things, the Wolfriders have the ideal balance, as they reproduce often enough to maintain a cycle of life and death, but still have Recognition and only breed genetically superior children. Except for Pike, who was his father's first attempt at Healer-induced conception outside of Recognition.
- This is ubiquitous in Shipping fic. The happy couple will have kids, even if neither of them would ever want them in their canon personality and even if neither of them has a womb. There's no such thing as contraception, and miscarriages only happen when Deus Angst Machina decrees it. And if abortion exists, we're generally treated to a tedious speech about how Good Girls Avoid Abortion — sometimes right away, sometimes after a few equally tedious scenes where they pretend to consider it. If the character isn't a "good girl" to begin with, she generally becomes one in short order thanks to Deliver Us from Evil.
- The Ikaris has an implied example. Due to three billion people dying in Second Impact, numerous countries implemented laws to loosen marriage conditions and discourage divorce to encourage family development and birthrates. Japan apparently never bothered to repeal them, due to being too busy trusting shadowy agencies to build giant robots to fight off alien monsters. Asuka angrily dubs Japan "the Las Vegas of Asia".
- The Axis Powers Hetalia fanfiction A Year of Surprises has this seriously adhered to. When a nation goes through a period of prosperity, they go into heat and must have a baby (yes, even the men). If they try to resist it, they just get worse and worse, until they have sex with the closest person. If they try to abort the child, they just go into heat again until they actually give birth. By the time the story takes place, most of the nations just seem to view it as a necessary annoyance to put up with.
- Discussed in the For Better or for Worse fanfic The New Retcons, where Elly Patterson highly resents her brother and sister-in-law for not wanting children and deciding not to have them. She herself did not want kids but felt that she had to have them anyway. This was also why she lied and told everyone Georgia was infertile, cause to her that was the only 'acceptable' reason to avoid motherhood.
- In more minor examples, and overlapping with Heir Club for Men, Carleen and Weed are constantly pressured to have a kid, and Therese's father never spoke to her again after she got a tubal, since that meant she could not give him the grandson he demanded.
- As part of Sasuke's promotion to Chunin in First Try Series, Tsunade ordered him to conceive some children through artificial insemination so if he dies, the Sharingan won't die with him.
- 1984. Made hard for the protagonist as you must not derive pleasure from it and the women are literally trained to lie back and think of the party. Artificial insemination (or artsem in New Speak) is recommended.
- Camilla in Darkover Landfall: After being stuck on a Lost Colony, she gets pregnant thanks to Applied Phlebotinum and can't talk the doctor into giving her an abortion. She goes on to have a brood of children, and she doesn't seem to be happy about it. This ends up being a policy for all Darkovan women (particularly the Comyn). Later, Rohana Ardais also admits that she never wanted children, but had to have them. Later, a reaction to this trope occurs in the form of the Sisterhood of the Sword, and its successor, the Order of the Renunciates; the vows of the latter order include "to bear children only in my own time and season," and not play the Heir Club for Men game.
- Zigzagged in S.L. Viehl's Blade Dancer: Jory and Kol must Mate or Die; he wants kids, she doesn't. Jory is not pregnant by the end of the book, but is at very least well on her way to changing her mind.
- Kris in the Freedom series by Anne McCaffrey. Another Lost Colony situation in which everyone has to breed. But Kris is involved in an Interspecies Romance and is apathetic on having kids (and definitely against cheating), even if her alien boyfriend doesn't mind. She then gets injured and winds up drinking to dull the pain to the point of blacking out and having sex with other humans. Twice.
- In the Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, every Liaden is required to have one temporary Arranged Marriage and produce a child to be their heir, to whom he or she is a legal single parent. They can foster the kid to be raised by someone else, but Everyone. Must. Have. One. (The Liadens nearly went extinct due to a Planet Eater species.)
- Roger and Cecilia Checkerfield from The Company Novels didn't want kids, and Roger got a vasectomy. Too bad that Roger was employed by Dr. Zeus, who forced him to adopt one of their scientific projects as his own son.
- In Patricia A. McKillip's The Bell at Sealey Head, Ysabo is told the reason she must submit to the Arranged Marriage is to have a child; her mother and grandmother are baffled by her resistance, since she must have one.
- In Diane Duane's The Tale of the Five series, the entire human race is bisexual and both gay and poly marriages are common, but the Goddess requires that everyone must have at least one child at some point before they marry.
- Lucia and Ben of Devil's Due would have liked to have officially started dating and having sex on their own recognizance and then decided for themselves, rather than having her be kidnapped while she's passed out due to anthrax poisoning and scientifically raped/artificially inseminated with Ben's sperm by the Cross Society.
- In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the Republic of Gilead has an entire caste of women (the Handmaids) whose sole function is to breed. Abortion and birth control for any woman are outlawed and punishable by the death penalty. Part of the logic for this is that there seems to be some sort of Sterility Plague (possibly related to widespread environmental degradation). In the afterword, the Sterility Plague is theorized to be mumps.
- Subverted in Ursula Vernon's Black Dogs, where a character is raped for the sake of producing a powerful heir, but she aborts the zygote and to ensure that it never happens again she sterilizes herself.
- The Iron Star has a thief who does not want to be a housewife or a mother or any kind of family woman. A Goddess overrules her (but the husband the goddess chose for her agrees to make life luxurious for her).
- The Doctor Who novel The Eyeless takes place on a world where 99% of the population has been wiped out. The couple of hundred remaining survivors have worked out a plan for how many children each women must have in order for the species to survive long term — and the loss of just a few children or potential parents could be devastating. The repopulation attempt is presented as an unfair, but necessary process, as it really is the only way their race is going to stay alive. At least one of the main characters, Alsa, is understandably upset about it, and her unwillingness to be a birthing machine for the rest of her life shows.
- The Warrior Cats don't often touch on this but in Bluestar's Prophecy, the title character is good with kits and raises her nephew after her sister's death but has no interest in having any of her own, Although it doesn't work out this way in the end. Naturally one of the Clan elders tells her she needs to "live her own life" now that her sister's son is grown. Because in order to live your own life, you have to have and raise children.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga plays with this. While there was always an element of Mandatory Motherhood for Vor women due to their low population, it was nevertheless understood and frequently referenced that many women might not want to have children, if only because, given the levels of technology available, it was a life-threatening risk every time. With the introduction of the uterine replicator into Barrayaran society, however, the concept of a woman who doesn't want children is erased, because the culturally acceptable 'excuse' for it is no longer valid. This has further effects, because with this new technology the Traditionalist political party won't be able to shove the new Empress into a maternity ward; she can breed an heir and still be a dominant force in the politics of the empire. Lady Vorkosigan herself has a fierce devotion to the galactic reproductive technology itself as a delayed action social time bomb; a few decades of gender selection of offspring results in an acute shortage of eligible brides, and the girls and their families are able to pick and choose from the bachelors available. A man expecting the traditional child gestation that left Miles himself teratogenically crippled finds it nigh impossible to get hitched.
- Alluded to in Terry Pratchett's Nation. It's not clear exactly how old Daphne is, but her own culture certainly considers her a child; the people of the Nation, however, have pretty much a response of 'what do you mean you've not had a kid yet?'
- In Bumped by Megan McCafferty, teenage girls are paid lots of money to be "surrogates" after a virus makes everyone over 18 infertile. They are not allowed to keep their baby and even take medication so they will not form any attachments to the baby. Motherhood is glorified and even schools are encouraged to have as much pregnant teens as possible.
- Princess Varencienne is married to Valraven to provide him with an heir in The Chronicles of Magravandias. She pretty much hates being a mother and refuses to have more children unless their son dies.
- Arpazia in White as Snow bears a child after the king rapes her. Being his legal wife, she is expected to have more children, boys in particular. She, perhaps understandably, ignores her daughter completely.
- Heralds of Valdemar: A Mandatory Fatherhood variant shows up in An'desha's backstory. As a teen, he showed no interest in courting any of the women in his clan, so his family started trying to push him into courting one of the shaych men and adopting kids. His refusal to do that (because he'd already sensed the Mage Gift stirring, meaning he would have to leave the Clans) is called selfishness.
- In A Brother's Price, it's all very well if a woman doesn't want to get pregnant. She's generally got plenty of other sisters with whom to continue the bloodline. It's also considered nothing noteworthy if she finds small children annoying. Men, on the other hand, are rare and have to marry, are seriously looked down on if they turn out to be infertile, and are expected to do the softer sides of childrearing. A husband or brother who doesn't tend crying children is not well liked.
- The Hunger Games:
- Katniss Everdeen really doesn't want to get married and have children, mainly because she's petrified of the thought of being a mother whose children end up drawn in the reaping. In Catching Fire she is horrified when she realizes that President Snow is likely to insist that she and Peeta have children and that those children will probably end up in the Games due to rigged reapings.
- It is implied that Peeta shares this fear as well, though once there are no more Hunger Games he really wants to have kids.
- In Mockingjay she does eventually become a mother out of her own free will. Though it takes a war that overthrows the government and ends the Games and even with that it still takes fifteen years of Peeta wanting children badly before she agrees.
- Dragons in the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms world are required to take a mate and raise two young dragons. More is OK, but you have to produce two. (At least, the good-aligned dragons require this. So far, the readers haven't seen much of the evil ones.) Justified by the small population of dragons; without this rule, dragons would risk extinction.
- Somewhat self-imposed by the Thulls in the Belgariad. Angarak priests won't sacrifice a pregnant woman (it messes up their quota), so Thullish ladies try to remain in that state as much as possible.
- In Poul Anderson's "Starfog", Graydal, believing her ship has slipped through to another universe and can't return, regrets that they did not come with an equal number of men and women and observes that they will have to avoid the more settled planets where Population Control means not all women bear children. The Jacavarrie concludes that they have evolved compulsive need to reproduce.
- In Andre Norton's Dread Companion, at the end, Kilda is told bluntly at the end that an unattached woman in a small colony with five unattached men is unsettling; she must make her choice and settle down to a life of husband and children.
- In Island in the Sea of Time, Marian Alston had two kids prior to the Event, and lost custody of both of them because she was a lesbian. She wasn't too keen on having more. Her post-Event lover Swindapa, on the other hand, REALLY wanted kids (motherhood is very important to her people.) Because Marian loved 'Dapa, she lets her adopt two orphans that they find during their English campaign (even though one of them is obviously the child of a Coast Guard officer who defected.)
- The Last Dragon Chronicles: It's revealed in Fire Star that Liz didn't plan on having children. But she did, and she's the best at her job.
- Shahar Arameri in The Inheritance Trilogy has children not because she wants to, but first to show her devotion to Itempas, her godly lover, and later on because the religion she's become a high ranking member of requires that she pop out more babies. She's a disinterested mother at best, and turns to Offing the Offspring at worst.
- It's stated that this happens in Ayn Rand's Anthem.
- The graduates of the Schools in Anna Carey's Eve are forced to spend all their time pregnant with six or more fetuses each time.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Parenthood is the general expectation for ruling nobles in Westeros, the culture being driven by the Heir Club for Men. Most don't have much problem with it; a Rare Male Example to the contrary is Tyrion, who has a great deal of pressure put on him by his father to impregnate his new Stark bride, Sansa, so as to solidify the Lannister claim on the North. It's not so much the prospect of fatherhood per se that puts Tyrion off, but the fact that he would more or less need to rape his wife to get there. "When do you suppose she will be more fertile," he quips bitterly, "before or after we tell her that we had her brother killed?" We never get Sansa's opinion directly, but it can be pretty safely assumed that she's no more eager than Tyrion.
Live Action TV
- Gabrielle Solis from Desperate Housewives openly refused to have children for several seasons, then struggled with the idea and couldn't conceive, but finally gave birth to Juanita and later Celia between seasons. From that point all the leading characters of the show are moms.
- On LOST, Claire Littleton, left pregnant after her boyfriend walks out on her, plans to give the baby up for adoption, but a fortune teller advises her to take flight 815, which ends up stranding her on the island, where there are no adoption agencies.
- In Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), a civilian approaches Doc Cottle looking for an abortion, since she's pregnant out of wedlock and her home colony has taboos against it. But since the entire human race is now small enough to fit in a football stadium, President Roslin makes a tough call: outlawing abortions but allowing any expectant mothers to bring their child to be adopted, no questions asked.
- In the series Deadly Women, the episode "Deadly Women Who Kill Their Own" shows a woman who killed all TEN of her children because she truly did not want children, but her priest said having her tubes tied would be a mortal sin. She was only caught, at age 70, when she confessed to the killings.
- The Blacklist has a particularly twisted and horrifying example- all of the children offered by the Cyprus Adoption Agency- which specialises in offering genetically "ideal" infants to wealthy clients- are actually bred by dozens of abducted women (who fit various genetic profiles), held captive and unconscious at a fertility clinic while impregnated via artificial insemination; they are kept drugged throughout the entire pregnancy, through childbirth and beyond until it comes round to their turn again. The head of the adoption agency is the father of every single child, who wants to leave a "legacy", though the other members do it for profit (and possibly fear). In this case its not that they don't want the child- at least one does (who wakes up by accident, escapes, and is murdered), its that they don't even know they are mothers in the first place.
- One of the reasons Anthony is so despised in the For Better or for Worse fandom is the implied subtext that it was he who pressured his wife Thérèse into having a child that she didn't want by agreeing to be the primary care-giver, then reneging on the agreement just as Thérèse was going through postpartum depression. The reader is explicitly meant to see Thérèse as an unnatural monster for not wanting children in the first place (to the point where she wholesale abandons child, husband and all not much later) and Anthony as the poor put-upon hubby who 'tries to love' his wife despite her refusal to make them a 'real family'.
- In The Bible, mankind is ordered to "be fruitful and multiply," which has traditionally been seen as a command to have children if at all possible. The Patriarchs and Matriarchs, for example, went through a lot knowing that God's plans relied on them producing the Jewish people, as did Moses' parents in the wake of Pharaoh's decree.
- Onan was killed by God for refusing to have a child with Tamar, his dead brother's wife, as per the laws of levirate marriage (in short, he was required to marry his brother's wife and their first son would be his brother's, to continue on his brother's family line). Of course, he told her he would(thus avoiding public shaming and being cast out of his family) and then performed coitus interruptus to prevent it.note
- It should be noted that, under OT law, while there is Mandatory Fatherhood, there is no Mandatory Motherhood; a man is obligated to marry and produce children if he can, but a woman is free not to marry, or, by extension, have children. However, there were two very good reasons to have children. Having children was a mark of prestige, and secondly, your children were supposed to take care of you in your old age. If you hadn't had children, you would've been out of luck in your golden years.
- And then Paul, writing in the New Testament, subverted the blazes out of it by saying it was fine for men and women not to marry, or marry, as they chose (though if "not", they were to abstain from sex). note
- While the above was aimed at the Christian population in general, Paul plays it straight later on in his writings to Timothy. He says that a man is not fit to run a church unless (among other traits) he first has experience running a family. note
- Some sects of the Abraihamic religions view it as their moral duty to have as many children as possible to provide endless soldiers for God.
- In the Book of Genesis, Sarah gives her maidservant Hagar to sleep with Abraham and bear children on her behalf. That seems like a somewhat strange thing to do from the viewpoint of modern audiences, but she did it because she'd been infertile for many years and was approaching (or possibly going through) menopause. The Code of Hammurabi stated that if a wife could not bear children, she was to get one of her slaves to do it for her, as the primary purpose of marriage back then wasn't so much love and companionship as producing a legitimate heir, strengthening sociopolitical alliances, economic reasons, etc. She was just doing her duty under that code.
- Terrestrials are strongly encouraged to marry and have babies regardless of sexual orientation, since theirs is the only sort of Exaltation that's hereditary. That said, in the Realm, a Terrestrial's obligation to breed is done as soon as they have produced two children. (Note that, on all other counts, male and female Terrestrials are socially and politically equal.)
- Inverted with the Abyssals, who suffer divine (or at least infernal) punishment if they procreate. The Neverborn created them to get rid of all those pesky living creatures, damn it, not to go around making new ones! There's a twist, though: if the child is with their Lunar Mate, the Neverborn can cry about it all they want, but they can't do a damn thing.
- A sore point for many fans of Werewolf: The Apocalypse is how werewolves are expected to marry kinfolk (humans who carry the recessive shapeshifter gene) and hopefully make werewolf babies, since lycanthropy is passed through plain old sexual reproduction in this game, regardless of whether or not either one has other plans. It's treated like Arranged Marriage at best and flat-out rape at worst.
- While it is possible for a Black Fury to reach a leadership position without having born at least one child, few will take such seriously without a high-Glory Battle Scar to explain the lack of a working womb.
- In Twelfth Night, one argument used on Olivia.
Lady, you are the cruel'st she alive
If you will lead these graces to the grave
And leave the world no copy.
- In Much Ado About Nothing one argument used by Benedick on himself.
No! The world must be peopled. When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.
- In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo laments that Rosalind neglects her duty in this, cutting off her beauty from all posterity.
- In All's Well That Ends Well, Parolles tells Helena that preserving virginity neglects this duty, which could produce ten virgins from losing hers.
- In the Mrs Hawking play series, the title character has no desire for marriage or children whatsoever. But we learn in the first installment that she was at one point miserably pregnant with a baby she continually wished would just go away. When she finally bore the stillborn child, her husband was devastated and she became wracked with guilt that it was her fault it had died. To this day, she still dislikes hearing or saying the name Gabriel, the name her husband wanted to give the boy.
- In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the fourth game in the series, every last female character recruited in the first half of the game has two kids if she falls in love with someone. One boy and one girl each, no exceptions. And it's a massive Generation Xerox for classes depending on who the fathers are.
- While not strictly mandated, the Quarian race of aliens in Mass Effect, forced to live on an enormous fleet of mostly hand-me-down starships after having been exiled from their homeworld by their own robotic creations, and this trope may or may not be in effect depending on the state of the fleet. The Quarian Flotilla will occasionally be put into a state of overpopulation so they have incentives to have fewer children, and when they are underpopulated they will start giving things like tax breaks and other rewards to people who have multiple children. Fewer births is the norm though.
- There is a prompt to "Do your part in repopulating species" from Half-Life 2. However, this was a short time after a sterility field had gone down, so this is not so much an obligation to reproduce, so much as an announcement that people are finally free to make babies again.
- Any straight couple that engages in "woohoo" in The Sims Medieval may produce a baby. Unlike in other Sims games, there is no way to prevent this.
- Though this is a more justified example since, you know, birth control hasn't been invented yet.