Women Aren't The Only Infertile Ones Around Here

You know how ladies today are always forgetting to get pregnant, because of the Pill and feminism and everything? Well, now it's time to blame guys too. Specifically, their sperm.

Heather Turgeon's Daily Beast article on what I'd like to call the Great Sperm Decline isn't really news — studies suggesting that men's genetic material may in fact play some role in conception and a healthy baby have been around for a while. Turgeon does note a relatively new report by the European Science Foundation warning that one in five 18-25-year-old men is "subfertile," and other studies showing that the plastic additive BPA and agricultural pesticides can affect sperm quality and quantity. So, she points out, can lifestyle factors like smoking and diet. But the larger question is: are we going to pay as much attention to men's fertility as we historically have to women's? And if so, can we avoid disastrously fucking it up?

There's lots of information out there for women trying to conceive, or for pregnant women who want the best shot at a healthy baby (in the latter category, Annie Paul's Origins is an interesting read). But there's even more guilt, shame, and bullshit — women are waiting too long to conceive, they're eating the wrong foods, they're at the wrong weight, they're too stressed or not stressed enough. Or they're using fertility treatments and there's a whole extra level of armchair judgment around whether they "should" be going about having a baby that way. Through all of this, there's a general assumption that having a baby is essentially a woman's project — she decides when it happens (meaning it's all her fault if it happens at the wrong time), and she's the one who's responsible for anything that goes wrong.

Actually recognizing that dudes (or, in some cases, just their sperm) play a role in conception could reset the balance a bit — and in a way it would be nice for guys to share some of the heat women have long been feeling on this issue. But talking to men in the same blaming, shaming, finger-wagging way we currently talk to women would just multiply the injustice. We need a way of discussing fertility and pregnancy that recognizes all parents involved in the process, and that gives them the information they need without scolding them for things they can't control. We also need to pay attention to the ways we're making conception and healthy pregnancy harder for people, from dangerous chemicals to food deserts to a still-broken health care system to insufficient maternity and paternity leave. Acknowledging men's role in fertility is an important step — the next would be acknowledging society's.

Low Sperm Count: Why Male Fertility Is Falling [Daily Beast]

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