Guynecology: Men, Medical Knowledge, and Reproduction

color photograph of Rene Almeling
Rene Almeling, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Public Health, Yale University
Event Date: 
April 1, 2016
Event Time: 
2239 Lane Hall
Event Accessibility : 
Ramp and elevator access at the E. Washington Street entrance (by the loading dock). There are accessible restrooms on the south end of Lane Hall, on each floor of the building. A gender neutral restroom is available on the first floor.
color photograph of Rene Almeling

Medical researchers have been making headlines with a surprising series of findings about men and reproduction. It turns out that the health status of men’s bodies prior to conception can directly affect the health of their children. As a result, many of the warnings that women receive about pregnancy - regarding their age and watching what they eat, drink, and smoke - also apply to men during the three months that sperm develops inside their bodies.

The average American man does not know any of this. That is because basic medical knowledge about the effects of men's bodily health on reproductive outcomes has only recently begun to be produced. This lack of knowledge is only made more glaring when one thinks of the enormous efforts to understand and treat women’s reproductive bodies over the past 150 years. Situated within the sociological literatures on gender, medicine, and knowledge, this book project is motivated by the question: Why did it take so long for researchers to begin asking basic questions about how men matter for reproduction?

To examine the history of medical knowledge-making about men's reproduction and its social and clinical implications, I collected medical studies and newspaper articles about sperm published from 1880–2014, conducted oral histories with prominent physicians and scientists who study sperm, and interviewed individual men about reproduction. The goal of this research is to encourage social scientists, clinicians, public health professionals, and policymakers to attend to men’s role in reproduction. Doing so has the potential to improve men’s health and the health of their children. It may also influence reproductive politics more broadly, expanding beyond the narrow focus on women to include men in discussions about how bodies and societies together wield power over the health and lives of individuals.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, and the book is under contract with the University of California Press.