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Billie Jean is not my lover.

She's just a girl who

Thinks that I am the one.

But the kid is not my son.
Michael Jackson, "Billie Jean"

Someone in a relationship deliberately causes a pregnancy without their partner's consent, by lying about or sabotaging birth control, in order to bind their partner to them - sometimes because they're just clingy and/or desperate to get hitched, but often in the belief that Babies Make Everything Better. In accordance with the Law of Inverse Fertility, attempting this even once will invariably result in pregnancy. A variation involves a woman faking a pregnancy with the intention of faking a Convenient Miscarriage after the wedding, or actually being pregnant but lying about who the father is. Can lead to a Shotgun Wedding, or a Very Special Episode about abortion or adoption, but more often, Hilarity Ensues or drama ensues, depending on what sort of show it is. While it's usually made clear that this is at least a somewhat unethical thing to do, rarely is it pointed out that it's actually a form of spousal and child abuse.

The character doing this is usually female, often a teenage girl, because of gender stereotypes that say all women are desperate to get married and have babies while all men flee commitment as long as they can (also a measure of Truth in Television, as in most modern nations a woman with enough money can escape an unplanned pregnancy via emergency contraception or abortion, whereas a man cannot legally end a pregnancy without the agreement of his partner). Because of this, female characters who are disliked by their male partner's friends or family may be suspected of planning to use this trope even if there's no evidence of any such thing. When a male character does this to a wife or girlfriend it's more likely to be portrayed as the Domestic Abuse it actually is; when a female character does this to a male, it's more often played for laughs or as an Aesop about getting over fears of commitment.

The most common example of this - poking a hole in a condom with a pin - is a mild example of Did Not Do the Research; it's possible, but much harder to do (at least without the partner noticing) than it looks on TV. Condoms are designed so that failure is usually obvious - most of the time, using a condom with even a small hole will result in the whole thing shredding apart under use.

Not to be mistaken for Baby Boomers

Examples of The Baby Trap include:


Anime & Manga

  • In the manga version of Kare Kano, Souichiro Arima's birth mother Ryouko does this to squeeze child support money out of his father, Reiji, because she knows Reiji is the son of a rich doctor. (What she doesn't know is that Reiji is illegitimate, much younger than his father's legitimate children, and actively hated by all of them except Souji, the eldest.) She is both physically and emotionally abusive to poor Souichirou, and when Reiji finds out about Ryouko's deal, he asks Souji and his wife to raise Souichiro instead.
  • Subverted hilariously early in Tenchi Muyo!, when Ryoko implies that her ship's egg is actually her and Tenchi's. Tenchi's family and even Sasami are actually happy for them (though obviously not Aeka), totally ignoring Tenchi's denials. The egg quickly hatches and is revealed to be the cabbit-like Ryo-Ohki, but some swear they still see a resemblance to Tenchi.
  • The is part of the Freudian Excuse for a pair of Creepy Twins in the Great Teacher Onizuka spinoff Shonan 14 Days: their mother was having an affair and had the kids in an attempt to blackmail the father into marrying her.
  • In the anime version of School Days, Kotonoha is convinced Sekai did this to Makoto and cuts open Sekai's belly to "make sure" after murdering her.


Comicbooks

  • In The Sandman, Shakespeare's wife implies she did this to Will and Will seems to think his eldest daughter is planning the same for her boyfriend.
  • It's been Retconned that Spawn's widow Wanda purposely stopped taking her birth control pills in hopes that a baby would change Al. He ends up punching her in the stomach, killing the baby as well as all speculation that Cyan is his daughter.
  • In X-Factor, Rahne, who is very Protestant and pregnant with a mutant-Wolf God hybrid baby, lets ex-boyfriend Rictor assume that he's the father of her baby after returning to find him about to get busy with Shatterstar.


Film

  • Attempted in The Associate on a non-existent man who was, when he appeared, a crossdressing woman.
  • One weird example: In the movie French Twist, a lesbian asks her girlfriend's husband to get her pregnant. The film then picks up again after she's had the baby, and ends with the four of them (lesbian, girlfriend, husband and baby) living together happily.
    • The original release also has the husband being seduced by a guy. This was left out of the American release, for obvious reasons.
    • Another weird example: in the movie A Home At The End Of The World a homosexual man, Johnathan, is attempting to get his best friend, a straight woman named Clare, pregnant so they can both raise the baby together. When Johnathan's old boyfriend Bobby enters their life and also begins a sexual relationship with Clare, it obviously creates huge discourse within the trio. When Johnathan has finally had enough a threatens to leave them both, Clare reveals that she's pregnant, although she doesn't mention who the father is. This causes both Bobby and Johnathan to put aside their differences and they all raise the baby together as a family unit.
  • In Drop Dead Fred, the reason Lizzie's mother was so cruel to her was because she used this trick to try and save her marriage. When it didn't work, she placed the blame squarely on her daughter's shoulders.
  • Though it's a recurring point in An Officer and a Gentleman, the movie also tries something different: Lynette only claims to be pregnant so that Sid stays in a relationship with her. She spills the beans when he resigns from the military to be with her, which she didn't want. One has to wonder when she would have confessed her lack of pregnancy otherwise.
  • In the film version of Interview with the Vampire, Lestat seems to first see Claudia as the "baby" for his version of this, to force Louis to stay with him. It's interesting.
  • When Julianne Moore's character gets pregnant in Nine Months, her boyfriend and his best friend ponder the possibility of her using this trope, as he's much happier in their childless, unmarried relationship than she is.


Literature

  • Mentioned at the beginning of the first Sword of Truth book.
    • Used by Drefan Rahl's mother with Darken Rahl. Her theory was that if she could give birth to a magically gifted child and heir, Darken Rahl would shower her with riches and status. When Drefan was born and found to be non-gifted, his mother began to realize that her new son was now a liability and that her master plan was probably not that smartest thing she'd ever done. Before Darken Rahl found out about the child, she brought him to a remote monastery to be raised by monks and, in perpetual fear of the infinitely creative ways Darken Rahl would end her life if she were found, poisoned herself.
  • Quite a few romance novels have this trope, usually with a Babies Make Everything Better ending.
    • However, one case that deals with the aftermath of this is Sisters Found, where one of the lead characters had been adopted for just this reason. When it wasn't enough for the adoptive father to stay, the adoptive mother became an alcoholic and resented the hell out of her daughter. To make things worse, said daughter later finds out that she was the only one of identical triplets to be given up - one of the other two had a medical problem and the cost of hospital bills was such that it was either give up one child or lose them all when Social Services saw they couldn't support their family. Not surprisingly, she has major commitment/abandonment issues.
    • In The Secret Love Child, the hero either sabotages the condom or simply chooses not to tell the heroine that it broke. Naturally, she gets pregnant. Naturally, they get together and it is All Very Romantic. Luckily she apparently really really wanted to have babies.
    • In Maddies love-child the heroine gets into a fling with a visiting aristocrat (she lived in Australia, he in England) with the intention of getting pregnant with his child. She wasn't out to trap him into marriage or anything, however, she simply had baby fever and felt he made a great sperm donor and wasn't even planning on telling him about the baby. Said sperm donor was not thrilled when he found out.
    • In The Greek prince's chosen wife a woman the hero has a brief fling with tries to trap him in marriage by claiming to be pregnant. Twice. The first time was a lie followed by another lie of a convenient miscarriage. The second time she tried for real only to find out her eggs were bad. So she bullies her step-sister (the heroine) into getting inseminated with sperm extracted from a used condom. Yeah. But the evil step-sister's plan backfires when the hero decides he'd rather have the much more morally upright heroine instead.
  • In Gone with the Wind, the novel at least, Scarlett kicks herself for not thinking of this as a means of marrying Ashley after someone tells her about Rhett refusing to marry a girl he "ruined". The sequel "Scarlett" refers to this when Rhett gets into a similar situation, leading him to hastily divorce Scarlett and marry the other woman, not wanting a repeat of the scandal that drove him out of town years before.
  • Arabella, acting on the advice of her friends, uses this ploy to get Jude Fawley to marry her. It works but, oddly enough, she forgets about the baby till Jude reminds her months later. She just makes up a miscarriage and he believes her. At first.
    • Though she's certainly not above doing it, it's a bit more ambiguous than that, since she tells her friends (to whom she has no reason to lie) that she genuinely thought herself pregnant. It gets weirder though when eight years later, after they've divorced, she tells him that they did indeed have a child together, born after they were separated, and could he please look after the kid now?
  • A male example: in Morality Meat by James Tiptree Jr., a woman gets pregnant because her boyfriend pokes holes in the condoms. She found out about it after she heard him tell a friend to "keep his women a little bit pregnant". Classy.
  • In Jennifer Crusie's Welcome to Temptation, this happens TWICE. The main male character (many years before the book starts) marries his girlfriend at the time who becomes pregnant after lying to him about using birth control. A minor main character also marries a girlfriend who claims she's pregnant (also many years earlier), despite being in love with someone else. As the book puts it, "Eleven months later, sure enough, she had a baby."
    • Also used in What a Lady Wants. Armand first gets June pregnant, then when that child dies he brings home his orphaned niece so she wouldn't leave. Then there's Stormy, who poked holes in the condoms so Armand would marry her, who didn't know he had a secret vasectomy years before.
  • In Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince, this is speculated by Dumbledore to be the reason Merope Gaunt stops giving Tom Riddle Sr. love potions. She did it in the hope that he had really fallen in love with her, or would at least stay for the sake of the child she was pregnant with. Turns out he did neither.
    • It's also speculated that this was the reason the Muggles of Tom Riddle Sr.'s village used to explain why he inexplicably abandoned his previous girlfriend and ran off with a poor girl who lived in a shack - that Merope lied to him that she was pregnant with his child.
  • In Brave Story we eventually learn that Wataru's mom faked a pregnancy to get her ex (who was already in a relationship with another woman) to marry her. He does, but it doesn't end well.
  • Invoked in a supernatural and Ho Yay way in Interview with the Vampire: Lestat changes Claudia into a vampire so Louis will not leave him--if Louis leaves, Lestat will starve her to madness.
  • In the second book of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, a girl that Kostos slept with does this in order to guilt him into marrying her. In the fourth book, it's revealed that she faked the pregnancy.
  • In Kill Time or Die Trying, a girl claims to be pregnant with Kevin's child, and the group plot to steal a sample of her urine for a home pregnancy test. Successfully..


Live-Action TV

  • Carla tries to do this in Scrubs. Later she and Turk have an open and honest discussion in which they agree they both want to have kids ... after which he starts slipping her contraceptives when she's asleep.
    • This is completely inverted with Jordan, who actually lies to Perry and claims their baby the baby isn't his, because they both have feelings for each other and she wants to make sure their relationship is based on real attraction rather than an obligation to do the right thing. They get together anyway, and he bonds with the baby before finding out he's the biological father.
    • Also inverted with Kim, who leaves the hospital and fakes a miscarriage rather than have J.D. feel trapped into a relationship. Then he finds out the truth and decides he wants to be with her, than he changes his mind but can't tell her, then he finally breaks off the relationship while she's giving birth.
  • Variation in the CSI episode "4x4". An aging non-prostitute tries to get herself pregnant by a client who rejected her as too old, via some semen in one of his used condoms. This being CSI, it ends badly for her.
  • Every daytime soap ever, and nine tenths of every hispanic telenovelas made. Often coupled with (in)Convenient Miscarriage. One version even had the man being the one to poke the hole in the condom so that he could "do the right thing" and marry his girlfriend, while several others have had the woman damaging her diaphragm rather than the condom.
  • On Desperate Housewives, this is how Orson ended up married to his first wife. Then after he divorced her and remarried, she raped him in order to get pregnant and trap him again.
    • Inverted in the case of Edie, who convinced Carlos to stay with her by promising she'd have a baby with him, but continued secretly taking birth control.
    • For a bit of irony, before the incident with Edie, Carlos managed to get Gabrielle pregnant by sabotaging her birth control, then blaming it on his deceased mother. He wanted children, and she didn't. It ends badly for everyone involved.
  • In Weeds there's a rare male case; Silas Botwin does this to Meghan to keep her from going away to college. Apparently he thought this would lead to them becoming Happily Married. It does not go well.
    • Later, Nancy does it to Esteban. This was less about maintaining a relationship than as self-defense against murder.
  • Seska, of Star Trek: Voyager, uses her pregnancy to manipulate both Chakotay and the Kazon Culluh, telling both of them the child was theirs in order to get what she wants. It's Culluh's, and Seska's manipulations end when she's mortally wounded in an explosion, and Culluh escapes with his son.
  • In Smallville, there's a male example in which Lex Luthor does this to Lana Lang. It's even more of a dick move than most because the baby isn't real; he's been slipping her hormones to make her think she's pregnant, likely intending to play the Convenient Miscarriage card on her after the wedding.
    • Not to mention that the doctor who reveals this to Lana accuses her of trying this on Lex. Admittedly it would make more sense that way to an outsider...
  • Terri on Glee discovers she's suffered a hysterical pregnancy and continues to lie to her husband about it in order to keep him. Meanwhile Quinn discovers she's pregnant and lies to her boyfriend Finn by telling him it's his When in actuality it's his best friend Puck's and she and Finn haven't even had sex. The two stories then merge when Terri contacts Quinn and tries to secretly take the baby. Needless to say, both relationships ended when the truth came out.
  • An episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air features a woman trying to do this to Carlton, who's too embarrassed to admit he never actually slept with her and thus goes along with pretending the kid was his.
  • A woman tries this in an episode of Monk. In a twist, she isn't actually pregnant, although her receptionist is. The woman used the receptionist's urine to get a positive pregnancy test for the trap. Regardless, it doesn't end well.
  • Anya tries to do this with Sav on Degrassi the Next Generation, but she ends up telling him and taking the morning after pill.
  • Sophie, Mark's baby-desperate (ex?) wife on Peep Show tries to trap Mark and/or his roommate Jez this way.
  • In How I Met Your Mother season 2, Lily considered doing this to prevent Marshall from falling for Chloe. The alternative is called "Chloe's accident".
    • When Lilly left him Marshall he laments that he should have 'knocked her up when he had the chance'.
  • In L.A. Law, a woman sues a rich Basketball player for child support. It was implied that she insisted that the man use the condom she provided when they had sex, and she had intentionally damaged the condom to produce a child, all for the money. When the man requested that she give him sole custody of the child, she got big 'money eyes' and quoted a price of five million dollars. The Basketball player's lawyers warned him that the agreement was non-enforceable, and she could well come back for more money in the future.
  • On The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Adrian plans to try this on Ben in an attempt to save their marriage since they only got married because Adrian was pregnant, and their relationship started to deteriorate after their daughter was stillborn. Since things were great when she was pregnant, she seems to think another baby will fix things. Ultimately, she gives up on the plan when her doctor talks her out of it and when Ben finds out her plan, keeps rejecting her advances, and finally confronts her about it
  • In The Office, Kelly told Ryan she was pregnant to get him to agree to go out with her again. Immediate cut to Kelly silently shaking her head at the camera.

 Ryan: You lied about being pregnant.

Kelly: Right. So?

Ryan: You really don't understand why that might make me kind of angry?

Kelly: No!

Ryan: We are never getting back together.

Kelly: (whining) Why not?

  • Subverted in Coupling: Susan tells Steve, "don't worry about it" when he asks about whether they're using contraception. He later learns in an infertility specialist's office that unbeknownst to him, they've been "trying" for six months without success. Of course, Susan later discovers that she is pregnant, in what is debatable either playing it straight or a double subversion.
  • Used a couple of times in Law and Order: Criminal Intent. One of them, the girlfriend sabotaged her boyfriend's condoms and give him some medicine to boost his sperm count and had him have sex with her boss so that they can get money from her for blackmail so that the boss' husband doesn't know.
    • Another example is when a woman got pregnant with her then rich boyfriend. She chose to keep the baby despite the fact that the baby is deformed. But the boyfriend lost all his money.
  • On Revenge Victoria apparently faked a pregnancy to get Conrad to marry her and then faked a Convenient Miscarriage to cover it up


Music

  • "Stupid Marriage" by The Specials is a song about a young woman who does this:

 He wanted to be something but she knows he never will

She's got him where she wanted and forgot to take her pill

And he thinks that she'll be happy when she's hanging out the nappies

If that's a happy marriage I'd prefer to be unhappy

  • 2Pac references it in his song "Do For Love"

 Soon as I broke away and I'm feeling happy, you try to trap me

You say you're pregnant and guess who's the daddy?

  • Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, quoted above is about this. Namely, all the "Billie Jeans" his older brothers had to deal with when they were together in the Jackson 5.
  • Dr. Dre 2001 had a track with comedian Eddie Griffin ranting about this:

 Tell the kid! "Mama was a ho. I was weak and pussy. I had you to keep the nigga. It didn't work out".

  • Referenced in the the early '70s song Stick-Up by Honey Cone:

 I'll set a tender trap

He'll be unaware

I'll wear a smile down the aisle

'Cause he's the father of my child


Professional Wrestling

  • Done many, many, many times. The most obvious recent one is Kane doing this to Lita, though he was as much trying to gain an heir for himself as to keep her around. Terri Runnels and Stephanie McMahon (kayfabe) each faked a pregnancy to try and trap Val Venis and Triple H, respectively. It didn't really end well for any of these examples.
    • Stephanie's false pregnancy was found out in a most ingenious way though - Linda discovered that Steph's "doctor" was actually some infomercial host, and showed Triple H the evidence a few minutes before the trap would have been sprung.


Theatre

  • In "Marry The Man Today" from Guys and Dolls, Sarah suggests this as one way to keep a husband from straying:

 Sarah: Have a baby.

Adelaide: Have two!

Sarah: Six!

Adelaide: Nine!

Sarah: Stop!


Visual Novels

  • In Clannad, in Kappei's path, Kappei is borderline suicidal after learning his leg has to be amputated. His girlfriend Ryou, desperate to give him a reason to live, lies about being pregnant with his child. Kappei sees through it right away, though, since he and Ryou have never had sex (Ryou had somehow forgotten this minor detail when putting the plan together).


Web Originals

  • This story tells of a man who had his girlfriend try this on him. Unfortunately for her, he had gotten a vasectomy.
  • This.
  • The Onion had one of my favorite evocations of this trope Here.


Western Animation

  • In one episode of American Dad Stan and Francine do this to another couple, sabotaging their birth control in the hope that it would make them slow down from their extreme-sports and alcohol-binging lifestyle so that Stan and Francine could keep up with them.
  • In an episode of King of the Hill, Donna mentions on her blog that she wants a baby, then jokes that she might conveniently "forget" to take her birth control pill before a date.


Real Life

  • In a recent case in Texas, a man was required to pay child support after his girlfriend performed oral sex on him and then self-inseminated herself with the gathered sperm after he left.
  • Does happen in Real Life, tragically more often with abusive couples who believe that a baby will force their partner to stay. Sadly, they're sometimes right, especially when their partner would have financial troubles or lose custody of the child if they left. Worse still, some women will deliberately get pregnant to get Child Support off of the man, since it tends to also qualify her for other forms of government assistance (assuming she's not too wealthy). While laws are slowly becoming more gender neutral, the man will probably lose anyway if the girl was someone he just had a fling with, and so this is exploited by some women. The CDC's 2010 Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that approximately 4.8% of women and 8.7% of men had a sexual partner who tried to get them pregnant or get pregnant against their will.
    • Possibly related to this, there is an increasing number of men who have chosen to get vasectomies in their early twenties. Since the childfree are still something of an Acceptable Target, many doctors will outright refuse to perform them under the belief that the man will always change his mind. Men, who have to move hell and earth to convince the doctor otherwise, will often cite this in their reasons, amongst other medical, financial, and social reasons.
      • It's not easy for a woman who hasn't had children to convince a doctor to permanently sterilise her either. Many doctors are very insistent that everyone really wants babies, even if they don't know it.
  • There are times that some of the women on Maury seem this way.
    • Although, instead of convincing the man to marry them, they usually seem to just want to extract child support out of them, since more than a few basically say they want nothing to do with him except for a check every month.
  • The case of Dubay v. Wells was an attempt to remove the ability of the state to extort men who were taken advantage of. Unfortunately, the media portrayed it as men trying to abandon their children and/or leave some poor girl pregnant. This was not the case, and unfortunately, not only did it fail, but the court ruling directly stated that gender discrimination via the law was okay.
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