Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico

Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico

Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico

Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico


Most studies on reproductive rights make women their focus, but in Fixing Men, Matthew Gutmann illuminates what men in the Mexican state of Oaxaca say and do about contraception, sex, and AIDS. Based on extensive fieldwork, this breakthrough study by a preeminent anthropologist of men and masculinities reveals how these men and the women in their lives make decisions about birth control, how they cope with the plague of AIDS, and the contradictory healing techniques biomedical and indigenous medical practitioners employ for infertility, impotence, and infidelity. Gutmann talks with men during and after their vasectomies and discovers why some opt for sterilization while so many others feel "planned out of family planning."


At the bedrock of our [Western] culture’s thinking about
sexuality is the assumption that a given pattern of sexuality is
native to the human constitution.

R. W. Connell and G. W. Dowsett (1992:50)

“Well, you know, they did it to me a few years ago….” That is how I began my interviews with men who wanted vasectomies in Oaxaca, conducted during their operations. It seemed to break the ice and get the men talking. They told me why they decided to get sterilized, about discussions they had had with their wives before the procedure, and, invariably, about anxieties as to what would happen with their postoperative sexual desire and performance. Sometimes a man would get jumpy and I would excuse myself. the last thing the poor guy needed was to be interviewed, I assumed. But the doctors and the men themselves would insist, “No, stick around!” I became the anthropologist-as-emotionalanesthesiologist.

Vasectomies were not common in the mountainous provincial capital of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. But I was not looking for common men— . . .

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