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Fixing Men

Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico

Matthew Gutmann
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Fixing Men
    Book Description:

    Most studies on reproductive rights make women their focus, but inFixing Men,Matthew Gutmann illuminates what men in the Mexican state of Oaxaca say and do about contraception, sex, and AIDS. Based on extensive fieldwork, this breakthrough study by a preeminent anthropologist of men and masculinities reveals how these men and the women in their lives make decisions about birth control, how they cope with the plague of AIDS, and the contradictory healing techniques biomedical and indigenous medical practitioners employ for infertility, impotence, and infidelity. Gutmann talks with men during and after their vasectomies and discovers why some opt for sterilization while so many others feel "planned out of family planning."

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94123-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. ONE Taming Men’s Natural Desires in Oaxaca
    (pp. 1-27)

    “Well, you know, they did it tomea few years ago. . . .” That is how I began my interviews with men who wanted vasectomies in Oaxaca, conducted during their operations. It seemed to break the ice and get the men talking. They told me why they decided to get sterilized, about discussions they had had with their wives before the procedure, and, invariably, about anxieties as to what would happen with their postoperative sexual desire and performance. Sometimes a man would get jumpy and I would excuse myself. The last thing the poor guy needed was to...

    (pp. 28-46)

    The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir wrote inThe Second Sexthat “biological facts [provide] one of the keys to the understanding of woman.” Yet, she quickly added, “I deny that they establish for her a fixed and inevitable destiny.”¹

    This revolutionary thesis that detached female bodies from female destinies has been a cornerstone of feminism and women’s studies for several decades, sometimes captured in the aphorism Biology Is Not Destiny. Since Beauvoir wroteThe Second Sex,our understanding of the biological facts themselves have become still more complex.² Some hallowed truths about bodies have nonetheless been more difficult to...

  7. THREE New Labyrinths of Solitude: LONESOME MEN AND AIDS
    (pp. 47-70)

    In contemporary Mexico, AIDS is a disease of migration and modernity. Worldwide, AIDS is a direct product of neoliberal policies that have prompted the decentralization and privatization of health care. At the same time, structural adjustments related to these changes in health care and imposed by international agencies like the World Bank foster conditions in which large numbers of people are forced to flee their homelands in search of better economic prospects in other countries.¹ This is clearly the case in Mexico, where local circumstances of impoverishment lead millions to try their luck on the other side of the border...

  8. FOUR Frisky and Risky Men: AIDS CARE IN OAXACA
    (pp. 71-99)

    In 2001, when I did my fieldwork, doctors and epidemiologists at the state-run AIDS clinic in Oaxaca admitted they were not sure how many people were HIV+, how many had AIDS, or even how many had died of AIDS. Officially, around two thousand people had been diagnosed with AIDS by 2001, although authorities were convinced that as many as fifteen thousand men and women were HIV+. And as of 2005, there were only enough funds to provide antiretroviral, life- prolonging treatments to fewer than two hundred people in the entire state. In other words, unless something dramatically changed, the vast...

  9. FIVE Planning Men Out of Family Planning
    (pp. 100-129)

    Histories of family planning and reproductive health usually focus on women, and men are rarely addressed except with respect to AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Occasionally, men are mentioned in passing, almost as an afterthought, as if men might have something to do with reproduction, but the implicit assumption is that men probably have little to do with birth control because they are generally reluctant to share responsibility for preventing pregnancy from occurring during their few seconds of ejaculation. The absence of men from the history of family planning is customary in academic disciplines that have pioneered research in...

    (pp. 130-164)

    I observed twenty-two vasectomies in three different clinics in Oaxaca City, and I interviewed dozens of other men and women in clinic corridors about male sterilization. As I mentioned in chapter 1, my opening line at the outset of a vasectomy—as I stood near the man’s head, introduced myself, described the reason for my presence, and asked the man’s permission to stay during the operation—was “Well, they did this to me six years ago. Of course, I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on down there at that time.” Most men smiled at that point and...

  11. SEVEN Traditional Sexual Healing of Men
    (pp. 165-195)

    The tradition of anthropological fieldwork has given “cultural authority to [indigenous] people who in their own regions had been disdained or even silenced for their supposed backwardness” (Lomnitz 2001:135), including in matters of medical procedure, opinion, and therapy. More than a little romance for the “authentic” has been evident in anthropological and travel writings about indigenous healers and their magic. Yet it would be foolish to dismiss anthropological studies of indigenous medicine as merely the product of romantic illusions.

    In my conversations with indigenous midwives and doctors in Oaxaca, I never felt more foolish than when I went looking for...

  12. EIGHT From Boardrooms to Bedrooms
    (pp. 196-212)

    In a mountain village of Oaxaca, there is a story told of an elderly man who, with his wife, regularly attended Mass in the local church. One particular Sunday, the priest’s sermon dealt with questions of health, affliction, and healing. Because they were elderly, it made sense that the couple followed carefully as the padre encouraged his parishioners, “If you have faith, you will be saved. You must place your hand on the affected part of your body and then you will see there a miracle.” Now, it just so happened that the old man was himself tormented by a...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 213-230)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-254)
  15. Index
    (pp. 255-265)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 266-266)