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Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid [Hardcover]

by Lisa Jean Moore
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1, 2007 0814757189 978-0814757185

2007 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Winner of the Passing the Torch Award from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies

It has been called sperm, semen, seed, cum, jizz, spunk, gentlemen's relish, and splooge. But however the “tacky, opaque liquid that comes out of the penis” is described, the very act of defining “sperm” and “semen” depends on your point of view. For Lisa Jean Moore, how sperm comes to be known is based on who defines it (a scientist vs. a defense witness, for example), under what social circumstances it is found (a doctor’s office vs. a crime scene), and for what purposes it will be used (in vitro fertilization vs. DNA analysis). Examining semen historically, medically, and culturally, Sperm Counts is a penetrating exploration of its meaning and power.

Using a “;follow that sperm” approach, Moore shows how representations of sperm and semen are always in flux, tracing their twisting journeys from male reproductive glands to headline news stories and presidential impeachment trials. Much like the fluid of semen itself can leak onto fabrics and into bodies, its meanings seep into our consciousness over time. Moore’s analytic lens yields intriguing observations of how sperm is “spent” and “reabsorbed” as it spurts, swims, and careens through penises, vaginas, test tubes, labs, families, cultures, and politics.

Drawn from fifteen years of research, Sperm Counts examines historical and scientific documents, children's “facts of life” books, pornography, the Internet, forensic transcripts and sex worker narratives to explain how semen got so complicated. Among other things, understanding how we produce, represent, deploy and institutionalize semen-biomedically, socially and culturally-provides valuable new perspectives on the changing social position of men and the evolving meanings of masculinity. Ultimately, as Moore reveals, sperm is intimately involved in not only the physical reproduction of males and females, but in how we come to understand ourselves as men and women.

Editorial Reviews


“At her best, Moore has a frank, breezy manner that may be partly due to her practical experience outside academe. . . . Sperm Counts is a lively, funny read.”
-Camille Paglia,The Chronicle Review

“While nearly every point she makes about the hidden significance of sperm is a home run, ultimately, this is an academic sociological study written in an appropriately starchy style. . . . [that] results in a fascinating read packed with conclusions.”
-City Paper


“So fascinating and fresh. . . . Should be required reading for scholars in sexuality/queer studies, women's and gender studies, social studies of science and cultural studies. . .. Essential.”


Sperm Counts is careful to include the history of semen research, as well as examining its role today. . . . [Moore] approach[es] the topic of semen with precision and diligence.”


“Cartoon line-drawings of sperm wriggle over each page of text in this dissection of the ways societal views of sperm shape culture. A feminist account backed by sociological and scientific research, Moore’s academic tome is accessible to the masses.”


About the Author

Lisa Jean Moore is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies and Coordinator of Gender Studies at Purchase College, State University of New York. She is author of Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man’s Most Precious Fluid and co-author of Missing Bodies: The Politics of Visibility and Buzz: Urban Beekeeping and the Power of the Bee. She is also co-editor of the collection The Body Reader and, with Monica Casper, oversees the series Biopolitics: Medicine, Technoscience, and Health in the Twenty-First Century for NYU Press.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 214 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (July 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814757189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814757185
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,596,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sperm Counts July 23, 2007
Whatever you might call it, wherever it might spill, and whatever you think you might know about it, sperm is used to not only reproduce human bodies, but also to reproduce ideology. In this "Gospel of Sperm" if you will, Lisa Jean Moore goes above and beyond conventional understandings of sperm by taking an in depth, detailed sociological look behind the sperm scenes.

Ultimately, sperm has become defined and presented in accordance to its masculine originators. From the names we give it(soldiers, troops, little guys) to the actions we assign to it(seek, swim, penetrate), sperm takes on the gender that its male producers associate themselves with, thus turning sperm as we know it into a cultural substance rather than just a biological one. Eventually, men come to partially define themselves according to the vitality and potency of their sperm. Hence, men and their semen become codependent masculinities, each helping to define the other.

By investigating the likes of the Medical Industrial Complex, reproductive technology, science, religion, pornography, and her own personal experiences, Moore exposes the meaning behind our given definitions of sperm. She observes how sperm is presented and portrayed to children as well as adults, and analyzes how and why we come to know sperm in the ways that we do.

Sperm Counts is a superb book for anyone interested in gender studies, and in particluar, medical/reproductive studies. It is not just an account of sperm, but also an account of cultural representations and social implications.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Racing Tadpoles October 5, 2007
My most memorable conception of sperm comes from "Look who's talking" where the opening scene shows the sperm competing with each other to push their way into the egg. Apparently, there are many more meanings of sperm, and this book goes beyond the single minded understanding of man's most precious fluid.

"Sperm Counts" delves into every conceivable crevice to describe the ways in which sperm has been used to validate patriarchy and conversely how it can be an enemy to the very thing it legitimizes (by proving identity in crime scenes). American culture rooted in Puritanical values views sperm as a strictly biological substance, while Moore looks at it through a sociological and feminist lens: What do children's books about reproduction teach? What norms, values and prescriptions are passed on and learned through the ways sperm are introduced to young ones? How has the commodification of sperm separated men from the embodiment of masculinity in sperm? How has reproductive technology changed the way we view fatherhood?

Moore discusses all of these questions without bashing men or masculinity- she brings to light certain issues that threaten and hopefully change our understanding of men and their sperm. It seems that Moore's goal in writing this book is not female domination but men's liberation from the strict ideal identity of what it means to be a man. And while some may view her theories as brash or radical, after looking at her education, job experience, and methodology (often over-looked, but provides proof of her research and validity) her theories follow through and hold their own weight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, very instructive August 20, 2013
By Cedric
Format:Kindle Edition
Full of information, this book shows a new point of view of masculinity and of the precious fluid. You will never see sperm like before reading this book.
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