Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid

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NYU Press, Oct 1, 2008 - Social Science - 214 pages

2007 Choice Outstanding Academic Title
Winner of the Passing the Torch Award from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies
It has been called sperm, semen, seed, cum, jizz, spunk, gentlemen's relish, and splooge. But however the “tacky, opaque liquid that comes out of the penis” is described, the very act of defining “sperm” and “semen” depends on your point of view. For Lisa Jean Moore, how sperm comes to be known is based on who defines it (a scientist vs. a defense witness, for example), under what social circumstances it is found (a doctor’s office vs. a crime scene), and for what purposes it will be used (in vitro fertilization vs. DNA analysis). Examining semen historically, medically, and culturally, Sperm Counts is a penetrating exploration of its meaning and power.
Using a “;follow that sperm” approach, Moore shows how representations of sperm and semen are always in flux, tracing their twisting journeys from male reproductive glands to headline news stories and presidential impeachment trials. Much like the fluid of semen itself can leak onto fabrics and into bodies, its meanings seep into our consciousness over time. Moore’s analytic lens yields intriguing observations of how sperm is “spent” and “reabsorbed” as it spurts, swims, and careens through penises, vaginas, test tubes, labs, families, cultures, and politics.
Drawn from fifteen years of research, Sperm Counts examines historical and scientific documents, children's “facts of life” books, pornography, the Internet, forensic transcripts and sex worker narratives to explain how semen got so complicated. Among other things, understanding how we produce, represent, deploy and institutionalize semen-biomedically, socially and culturally-provides valuable new perspectives on the changing social position of men and the evolving meanings of masculinity. Ultimately, as Moore reveals, sperm is intimately involved in not only the physical reproduction of males and females, but in how we come to understand ourselves as men and women.

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Guh. Just a mish-mash of scarecly-connected topics wrapped in the intensely irritating analysis that only sociologists seem to manage. Some interesting facts, but little history. Minor questionable errors (see for instance, the claim that Bartolomeo Eustachi, who died in 1574, was a homeopath; homeopathy's first concepts were first published by Samuel Hahnemann in 1807). A lot of popular culture (apparently Moore watched a lot of CSI). Perhaps because I am not a sociologist and not trained in the inscrutable analytic methods used, it really just looks like a lot of cherry-picking and interpretation. I particularly found annoying her criticism of the treatment of sperm in children's books on reproduction. Criticizing children's books for anthropomorphizing sperm in books aimed at six-year-olds strikes me as questionable. EVERYTHING is anthropomorphized in children's books, since children anthropomorphize EVERYTHING. Essentially a long treatise on how sperm isn't actually masculine, which is valid I suppose, but accomplishable in a single sentence. Even though only men produce sperm, sperm itself is a cell and has no masculine traits.
There. I just saved you having to read the book.


Sperm Autobiography
In the BeginningThere Was Sperm
Lashing Their Tails Science Discovers Sperm
My Sperm in Shining Armor Childrens Books
Overcome The Money Shot in Pornography and Prostitution
The Family Jewels Sperm Banks and the Crisis of Fatherhood
The Little Bit Left Behind Semen as Evidence
The Future of Sperm
Becoming a Sperm Researcher

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Page 20 - And the fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea ; into your hand are they delivered.
Page 175 - Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990...
Page 100 - ... [Y]ou suck the semen into a needleless hypodermic syringe (some women use an eye dropper or a turkey baster), gently insert the syringe into your vagina while lying flat on your back with your rear up on a pillow, and empty the syringe into your vagina to deposit the semen as close to your cervix as possible.
Page 25 - They moved forward owing to the motion of their tails like that of a snake or an eel swimming in water; but in the somewhat thicker substance they would have to lash their tails at least 8 or 10 times before they could advance a hair's bredth.
Page 24 - ... animalcules were smaller than the corpuscles which impart a red colour to the blood; so that I judge a million of them would not equal in size a large grain of sand. Their bodies were rounded, but blunt in front and running to a point behind, and furnished with a long thin tail, about five or six times as long as the body, and very transparent, and with the thickness of about one twenty-fifth that of the body; so that I can best liken them in form to a small earth-nut with a long tail.* The animalcules...
Page 180 - Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York: Free Press, 1996); Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States...
Page 115 - ... use drugs; to experience educational, health, emotional, and behavioral problems; to be victims of child abuse; and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married parents.
Page 123 - The FBI Laboratory's COmbined DNA Index System (CODIS) blends forensic science and computer technology into an effective tool for solving violent crimes. CODIS enables federal, state, and local crime labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking crimes to each other and to convicted offenders.

About the author (2008)

Lisa Jean Moore is SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Purchase College, State University of New York. She is author of Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man’s Most Precious Fluid and co-author of Missing Bodies: The Politics of Visibility and Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee. She is also co-editor of the collection The Body Reader and, with Monica Casper, oversees the series Biopolitics: Medicine, Technoscience, and Health in the Twenty-First Century for NYU Press.

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