Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Reconceiving the Second Sex

Reconceiving the Second Sex: Men, Masculinity, and Reproduction

Marcia C. Inhorn
Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen
Helene Goldberg
Maruska la Cour Mosegaard
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 402
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Reconceiving the Second Sex
    Book Description:

    Extensive social science research, particularly by anthropologists, has explored women's reproductive lives, their use of reproductive technologies, and their experiences as mothers and nurturers of children. Meanwhile, few if any volumes have explored men's reproductive concerns or contributions to women's reproductive health: Men are clearly viewed as the "second sex" in reproduction. This volume argues that the marginalization of men is an oversight of considerable proportions. It sheds new light on male reproduction from a cross-cultural, global perspective, focusing not only upon men in Europe and America but also those in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Both heterosexual and homosexual, married and unmarried men are featured in this volume, which assesses concerns ranging from masculinity and sexuality to childbirth and fatherhood.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-536-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: The Second Sex in Reproduction? Men, Sexuality, and Masculinity
    (pp. 1-18)
    Marcia C. Inhorn, Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen, Helene Goldberg and Maruska la Cour Mosegaard

    InThe Second Sex(1952 [1949]), French feminist Simone de Beauvoir argues that women’s marginalization emanates from their association with reproduction. Because of their responsibility for pregnancy, parturition, breastfeeding, and childcare, women are excluded from positions of power within male-dominated patriarchal cultures. As a feminist “call to arms,”The Second Sexgenerated multiple responses. It encouraged some second-wave feminists to rethink the motherhood mandate, arguing that the reproductive essentialization of women served as a fundamental obstacle to their advancement. However, other second-wave feminists embraced reproduction as the ultimate source of women’s power—power that never could be shared by men,...

  5. Part I Masculinity and Reproduction

    • Chapter 1 The Missing Gamete? Ten Common Mistakes or Lies about Men’s Sexual Destiny
      (pp. 21-44)
      Matthew C. Gutmann

      The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir writes inThe Second Sexthat “biological facts [provide] one of the keys to the understanding of woman.” Yet, she quickly adds, “I deny that they establish for her a fixed and inevitable destiny” (1970 [1949]: 29).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 that biology is not destiny. SinceThe Second Sex,our understanding of the biological facts have become more complex (see, for example, Anne Fausto-Sterling’sSexing the Body[2000]). Some hallowed...

    • Chapter 2 Killer Sperm: Masculinity and the Essence of Male Hierarchies
      (pp. 45-71)
      Lisa Jean Moore

      Sperm and spermatic imagery abound in scientific, cultural, and political arenas. As the above quote illustrates, there appears to be endless fascination with the real or imagined capabilities of this proliferating and endless resource. Although semen is understood in biological terms as a mixture of prostaglandin, fructose, fatty acids, and one percent sperm cells, there are numerous other ways to understand this substance. Though it can be seen as technology and commodity (Moore and Schmidt 1999), biology textbooks describe it as a sexual aggressor (Martin 1991), children’s books as a “friendly tadpole” (Moore 2003), sex workers as “hazardous waste material”...

    • Chapter 3 Gender, Masculinity, and Reproduction: Anthropological Perspectives
      (pp. 72-102)
      Matthew R. Dudgeon and Marcia C. Inhorn

      Since the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, in Cairo, Egypt, population and development programs and policies have increasingly adopted a “reproductive health” approach. Criticizing earlier initiatives for focusing on demographic goals such as population limitation rather than health needs, a coalition of feminist and developing country stakeholders advanced a platform that emphasized reproductive health, broadly defined, as a basic human right, rather than as a means to achieve population control through increasing contraceptive prevalence rates. As a result, reproductive health has come to refer to a spectrum of health concerns involving individual sexual and reproductive well-being and...

    • Chapter 4 Men’s Influences on Women’s Reproductive Health: Medical Anthropological Perspectives
      (pp. 103-136)
      Matthew R. Dudgeon and Marcia C. Inhorn

      Since the mid-1990s, reproductive health has emerged as an organizational framework linking more traditional reproductive issues, such as family planning and maternal and child health, to a suite of additional concerns, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), infertility, sexual dysfunction, and sexual violence. Several related factors precipitated this paradigm shift to reproductive health, including:

      the emphasis on reproductive and sexual rights by feminists in developing and developed countries(Corrêa and Rich-mann 1994; Petchesky 2000);

      the denunciation of population control as a motivation for contraceptive research and distribution (Bandarage 1997; Dixon-Mueller 1993a);

      the need to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the increasing incidence...

  6. Part II Fertility and Family Planning

    • Chapter 5 Manhood and Meaning in the Marketing of the “Male Pill”
      (pp. 139-159)
      Laury Oaks

      The marketing of new technologies will have practical and symbolic implications for men’s and women’s sexual and reproductive health and reproductive responsibilities. Men’s future contraceptive options are not merely a matter of scientific advancement. In addition, a range of important social, ethical, and health questions related to men’s and women’s lives must be faced regarding the potential marketing of new male contraceptives. These include two questions: How will advertising campaigns promoting new male contraceptives represent potential and ideal male pill users and their reproductive, sexual, and masculine identities and responsibilities? And how have scientists created their image of an ideal...

    • Chapter 6 Reproductive Paradoxes in Vietnam: Masculinity, Contraception, and Abortion in Vietnam
      (pp. 160-178)
      Nguyen Thi Thuy Hanh

      Vietnam has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, with an annual number of eighty-three induced abortions per one thousand women (Goodkind 1994). In most other countries, high abortion rates tend to be associated with low rates of contraceptive use; thus, it seems surprising that Vietnam’s high abortion rate is associated with a very high contraceptive prevalence rate. In 2002, 79 percent of all married women reported using some type of contraception (National Committee of Population, Family and Children [NCPFC] 2003). How can we account for the apparent paradox that large numbers of abortions seem to coexist with...

    • Chapter 7 Reproductive Politics in Southwest China: Deconstructing a Minority Male-Dominated Perspective on Reproduction
      (pp. 179-200)
      Aura Yen

      Soon after the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in 1950, an ethnic-identification project was conducted, which identified fifty-five ethnic minorities. These minority groups make up 8 percent of the Chinese population and have impoverished status, restricted access to education, and minimal prospects for upward mobility (Mackerras 2003). Geographically, the western provinces are home to 80 percent of ethnic minority groups; most of the smaller groups are distributed throughout southwest China.

      Across China, the CCP directs state integration and modernization toward ethnic minorities, and state policies continuously impact their lives. Drawing on the ethnic identification project’s delineations and categorizations...

  7. Part III Infertility and Assisted Reproduction

    • Chapter 8 The Sex in the Sperm: Male Infertility and Its Challenges to Masculinity in an Israeli-Jewish Context
      (pp. 203-225)
      Helene Goldberg

      “The woman suffers more in a physical way. The man suffers in a different way. It is really torture: you have to put your sperm in a cup,” insisted an infertile man sitting in the hospital waiting room while his wife’s follicles were being measured next door. What was unusual about this American-born man was that he volunteered a conversation about his own infertility as I passed, and soon after we were engaged in deep dialogue. It was late summer 2002, and I had come to Jerusalem to learn about men’s experiences with their infertility.

      A central area of focus...

    • Chapter 9 “It’s a bit unmanly in a way”: Men and Infertility in Denmark
      (pp. 226-252)
      Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen

      Low sperm count and poor semen quality seem to be an increasing problem for young Danish men compared to those in other European countries (Carlsen, Swan, Petersen, and Skakkebæk 2005; Jørgensen et al. 2001). There is every indication that an increasing number of men will be confronted with the problems of infertility. When I asked a man how he felt when he found out his sperm quality was very poor and that he would likely never father a biological child, he responded, “It’s a bit unmanly in a way.”

      In this chapter I investigate what feeling “unmanly in a way”....

    • Chapter 10 Male Genital Cutting: Masculinity, Reproduction, and Male Infertility Surgeries in Egypt and Lebanon
      (pp. 253-278)
      Marcia C. Inhorn

      For nearly two decades, female genital cutting (aka female circumcision, female genital mutilation, female genital surgery) has been a topic of global reproductive health and human rights activism. It began with a Western feminist campaign to eradicate this practice and evolved into a more culturally nuanced, indigenous activism seen in many African and Middle Eastern countries where the procedure continues to be practiced. The controversies surrounding the Western-spearheaded campaign to eliminate female genital cutting from the globe have evoked, on the one hand, images of child abuse and torture and neocolonial visions of culturally disrespectful Eurocentric paternalism (or maternalism, as...

  8. Part IV Childbirth and Fatherhood

    • Chapter 11 “We are pregnant”: Israeli Men and the Paradoxes of Sharing
      (pp. 281-304)
      Tsipy Ivry

      The front cover of a 1998 Hebrew textbook on gynecology and obstetrics depicts the triad of a pregnant woman, her male partner, and her gynecologist (Schenker and Elchalal 1998). The pregnant patient is in the center of the photograph, lying on a hospital bed while both her partner and the gynecologist gaze at her face. Whereas a firm gaze and physical contact are established between the smiling woman and the smiling gynecologist, who has both his hands on her belly, neither of them has established any contact with the woman’s male partner, who is standing behind the bed, as if...

    • Chapter 12 Making Room for Daddy: Men’s “Belly Talk” in the Contemporary United States
      (pp. 305-326)
      Sallie Han

      Daniel started each day by placing his hand on his wife Martina’s belly and talking to the baby they were expecting: “Good morning. How are you?” When Ryan arrived home at the end of the day, he told stories about what had happened at work. Kevin entertained his wife and their expected child with songs and dances. Interpreting the jabs and kicks he felt when he touched his wife Betsy’s belly, Kevin boasted: “I think that the baby knows my voice.”

      In this chapter, I describe and discuss contemporary concerns regarding men and reproduction, and how they resonate in the...

    • Chapter 13 Husband-Assisted Birth among the Rarámuri of Northern Mexico
      (pp. 327-348)
      Janneli F. Miller

      Isabel fell in love with her husband, Ramiro, because he was a good racer. She used to attend footraces with her family, and Ramiro was a frequent winner. He caught her eye and that was it—they both tell me this story one afternoon, giggling at each other. Isabel and Ramiro live on land she inherited from her parents in Basigochi. They have seven children ranging in age from twenty-four to seven years old. Only the three youngest, two boys and a girl, live with them now, as the others are at school or on their own. Ramiro boasts that...

    • Chapter 14 Stories of Fatherhood: Kinship in the Making
      (pp. 349-370)
      Maruska la Cour Mosegaard

      An increasing number of gay men wish to be fathers and parents. In spite of this, homosexuality and fatherhood is often seen as a contradiction, and male (homo) sexuality may be seen as a threat to the family as a universal, moral, and social entity (Weston 1991). The lives of gay men are seen as sexual but not procreative. While their sex lives repeatedly have been explored and challenged in studies of same-sex sex and by queer theory (see Bolton 1992, and Gutman this volume), their fatherhood has been strangely ignored. In anthropological studies of reproduction, and in Danish legal...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 371-374)
  10. Index
    (pp. 375-392)