A study by Maja Bodin and Lisa Kall (2020) draws attention to how men talk about fertility and reproductive intentions, focusing on how their perceptions and knowledge of fertility and procreation are structured around social norms and expectations.
It was based on interviews with 25 men in reproductive age with no prior history of infertility, including men with as well as without children and men of different sexual orientations and gender diversity.
Although most of the interviewed men were sure about wanting children, few of them were conscious of their fertility status or had given their fertility much thought, if any. Some shrugged at first and said ‘If it’s not working then I’m born that way’ or ‘It’s all or nothing’, which meant that there was no use thinking about it since fertility status was assumed to be predestined and unchangeable. Fertility is, as previous research has shown, something many men take for granted ( Webb and Daniluk 1999; Eriksson et al. 2013), and this became evident also in this study.
The assumption that fertility problems lie with the woman is a common finding in research on infertility. Throsby and Gill argue that this assumption is encouraged by the great extent to which women and their bodies are in the focus of assisted reproductive treatment, even when it is the man who is infertile.
Since fertility was not much thought of, it was not much spoken of either. Several men questioned why they should talk about fertility if it did not present itself to be a problem, which implies that they were not used to problematizing their reproductive health in the same manner as women usually are.
None of the participants had experienced infertility but they imagined that infertility would create feelings of surprise, embarrassment, or depression, which is consistent with the emotions expressed by infertile men in the studies by Dolan et al. (2017). Infertility was also expected to cause concern in the sense that it might be a deal-breaker for the relationship if a female partner desired children more than anything else.
Concerns about fertility were present to a few of the men in the study but most such concerns were rather latent. Their fertility awareness was raised by different triggers, such as having been hit in the groin, the occurrence of a friend getting testicular cancer, or intimidating headlines in the tabloid press about adverse lifestyle and infertility.
As seen from the findings, thoughts and discussions around fertility can feel distant to men who are not in the midst of procreating, even though they are ‘in the appropriate age’ to have children. In one way, their accounts solidify the image of the male body as silent, whole and complete. However, there was recognized a latent consciousness and concern about infertility among several men which seemed to be triggered and activated during the interviews.
Source: Is it an issue before it’s a problem? Investigating men’s talk about fertility