Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“In Sperm Counts, Moore’s new book about the cultural meanings of sperm, she tells this story to illustrate her own childhood naiveté about a substance that, as she now sees it, is far from simple. These days, according to Moore, sperm has tremendous cultural meaning—and looking at it in its many contexts, from children's books to pornography, can tell us a great deal about the skittish state of American masculinity. . . . Sperm Counts is a serious book, and the first on its subject. But it also includes anecdotes from Moore’s life, lending it a more conversational tone than most academic works. The book's margins are even squiggled with sketches of sperm—flip the pages and they swim around. (This is a subject matter, after all, that requires a certain degree of levity.) Moore happily lists spermatic nicknames (‘baby gravy,’ ‘gentlemen’s relish,’ ‘pimp juice’) before skewering, in a later chapter, the burgeoning home sperm-test industry (sample ad slogan: ‘I don't know how that semen got in my underwear!’).”
-Salon.com

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“You may never look at the family jewels the same way again”
-Conceive Magazine

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“Written from a cultural, social, gender study standpoint, and provides useful insights for an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural examination of masculinity. . . . Anyone interested in semen, sperm, sperm donation, sex education or pornography will have something to learn.”
-Sex Roles

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“[Moore] examines how sperm is seen through a variety of social lenses, including pornography, sperm banking, children's books on reproduction and criminal DNA evidence.”
-Between the Lines Magazine

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“Incredibly well researched and captivating read.”
-Girlwithpen.blogspot.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814795620
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 214
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Jean Moore is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies and Coordinator of 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 the forthcoming 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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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments ix Preface: Sperm Autobiography 1
1 In the Beginning, There Was Sperm 7
2 Lashing Their Tails: Science Discovers Sperm 19
3 My Sperm in Shining Armor: Children's Books 45
4 Overcome: The Money Shot in Pornography and Prostitution 71
5 The Family Jewels: Sperm Banks and the Crisis of Fatherhood 92
6 The Little Bit Left Behind: Semen as Evidence 121
7 The Future of Sperm 147 Methods Appendix: Becoming a Sperm Researcher 155 Notes 165 Index 187 About the Author 203
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