For whom does the clock tick? Male repro-temporality in fertility campaigns, scientific literature, and commercial accounts

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Abstract

Sperm swimming in circles or a lone sperm cell with two heads—male reproductive aging is increasingly equated with poor sperm quality, the prevalence of learning disabilities, and even schizophrenia in offspring. To discuss the construction of a male biological clock, this article asks two questions: how does the notion of a biological clock seek to regulate male reproductive bodies? And how is male repro-temporality visually and rhetorically invoked in fertility campaigns, in medical literature, and in the commercial marketing material of a sperm-freezing company? Situated within an interdisciplinary theoretical framework, the article draws upon biomedicalization theory (e.g., Clarke et al. 2003), reproductive masculinity studies (e.g., Almeling and Waggoner 2013; Daniels 2006), critical cultural gerontology (e.g., Sandberg and Marshall 2017), and feminist theories of time and temporality (e.g., Amir 2006; Freeman, 2010). This article contributes to the interdisciplinary scholarly agenda on time and temporality by conceptualizing a male biological clock as a type of repro-temporality that, in its discursive and aesthetic framing, portrays male reproductive aging as involving loss and disability. The article concludes that, while the male biological clock derives its temporal force from the logic of decay, it simultaneously cements heteronormative ideals of the nuclear family, re-naturalizes the genetic unit, and situates men as “proactive” and “modern” in their anticipation of future infertility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnthropology & Aging
Volume42
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)81-96
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Biological clock
  • Elective sperm freezing
  • Fertility campaigns
  • Men
  • Reproduction
  • Sperm

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