Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The secret life of sperm

Salon Life:
Why do you think that semen is a substance worth studying?

Initially, like most people, I thought it was basically just a substance that was necessary for human reproduction. Then I started to think about it as an erotic substance, and as criminal evidence. What I do in the book is look at how people make sperm meaningful and what that says about men and boys and their relationship with their sperm.

What do you think is wrong with the ways in which kids are taught about sperm in children's books?

Secular children's books want to anthropomorphize these little sperm cells and make them interesting, heroic and exciting, people we would identify with -- kind of like Dr. Seuss characters. They have very masculine personalities, of purpose, competition and aggression. They give sperm qualities that we would want our fathers to have. Just like 'Daddy did this for you, the sperm did this for the egg cell.' But sperm carries the X or the Y, so technically it's not really he or she.

The narrative is so monolithic. It doesn't say, wow, most sperm cells are in a shape that isn't healthy and most don't swim right, and most don't have tails, and it's actually sort of miraculous that people get pregnant because semen is a highly unpredictable substance. Children's books also create this narrative of children always being wanted, always being planned, always being predicted, and of the sperm cell having some cognition of that. It never bangs into a diaphragm or the back of a condom. It never comes out in the air because the guy is jerking off.

From a conversation about Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid, Lisa Moore's new book about the cultural meanings of sperm.

Blogging does seem to make one more daring (or, perhaps, lacking in judgment or judiciousness). Who woulda thunk it?

Actually, it gets serious further down:
Technology has made sperm so pliable, so knowable, something that can be so sterilized, and so flexibly used, that women can now begin to use it. It can be extracted from male bodies and men can be bypassed in the process of reproduction. [Having] semen available in a marketplace radically changes the definitions of paternity, paternalism and fatherhood, and the fatherhood rights movement is reacting to that. It's finding that incredibly threatening to their ability to maintain notions about the heterosexual-male-dominated family.

Why, it's bioethical!

No comments: