Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Advancing Research on Men and Reproduction

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Advancing Research on Men and Reproduction

Article excerpt

'We alone decide/Whether to have children or not', 'My body belongs to me' And not by chance is the standard feminist work on birth control entitled Woman's Body, Woman's Right (Gordon, 1977). (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2002, p. 70)

The right for a woman to control her fertility strikes at the very heart of feminist theory and feminist politics. Consequently, feminist work on reproduction has been at the centre of feminist politics and the sociology of gender and health. This work has not just sat on shelves, but has contributed to change in our lives. For example, in the early part of the 20th century, contraceptive practices were rooted in men's culture and it was men who initiated discussions of birth control, determining choice of methods and interacting with providers (Oudshoom, 2004). For women in high-income countries across the world, this is largely no longer the case and the feminist movement was central to these changes. In addition, fundamental to feminist midwifery practices continues to be the "re-claiming of birth" from the male and medicine-dominated field of obstetrics (Annandale & Clark, 1996, p. 28) and delivered in some parts of the world as "woman-centred care". The results of this feminist movement have been immense in terms of advancing control for women over when they become pregnant and where and how they give birth. However, the results have also meant the re-construction of family planning and reproductive health as women's responsibility and as being synonymous with femininity.

In the present article I wish to acknowledge the importance of feminist theory and feminist achievements in reproductive health care, but posit the query "how might we advance research on men and reproduction?" Building on work by others (Almeling & Wagggoner, 2013; Barnes, 2014; Culley, Hudson & Lohan, 2013; Daniels, 2006; Dudgeon & Inhorn, 2004; Gutmann, 2011; Hearn, 1983; Inhorn et al., 2009; Kero & Lalos, 2004; Lindberg & Kost, 2014; Marsiglio, 1993; Marsiglio, Lohan, & Culley, 2013; Oudshoorn, 2004; Reich, 2015; Sherr, 2010), I argue that while feminist scholarship has centred reproductive experiences in women's lives, it has inadequately explored their meanings in men's lives. Reproduction, despite its universality as a central aspect in men's as well as women's lives is little investigated in men's lives, and men are largely absent in the literature on family planning, fertility, reproductive health and midwifery (Culley et al., 2013; Dudgeon & Inhorn, 2009; Greene & Biddlecom, 2000). While acknowledging this dearth of research on men and reproduction, Almeling and Waggoner (2013) identified two types of emerging social studies of men and reproduction, namely (1) men's experiences of reproduction, and (2) social analyses of biomedical approaches to understanding sperm, including how it has been scrutinized by scientists in the twentieth century. However, they situate their provocative analysis and research agenda for men and reproduction "squarely on the medical profession" (2013, p. 824) as a significant site for analyzing how the gendered nature of reproduction is co-constructed in science and society.

The focus for the research agenda in the present article is instead on men's experiences of reproduction. Every day, in all parts of the world, men consider having children, imagine themselves as fathers, struggle as well as cope with infertility, donate sperm, consider parenting through surrogacy and adoption, receive news of unwanted pregnancies, news of foetal loss and abnormalities, make decisions about abortions, and also become parents. Men have compelling experiences of reproduction that are deserving of more attention (Marsiglio et al., 2013). Unquestionably, we have much work to do in making research on reproduction richer and in developing reproductive policies and healthcare more relevant to contemporary reproductive practices by including men's experiences and concerns alongside that of women's. …

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