This book's comic-book cover and the word "sperm" screamed so loud from me from the shelf, how could I not pick it up? And besides, it provides nice contrast to the two previous entries about nuns, don't you think?
Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man's Most Precious Fluid (New York University Press, 164 pages, $26.95) by Lisa Jean Moore ...
... turned out to be somewhat of a surprise. I had no idea what to expect but I thought it would be on the light side, maybe a sassy, sexy, chick lit kind of thing. Not so much.
"My analysis explores how semen maintains a 'fluidity of meaning,' both literally and metaphorically, in the arenas of science, popular culture, criminal justice, and the reproductive marketplace," Moore writes. "I argue in this book that by looking more closely at sperm we can learn a great deal about men and masculinity, as well as about a wide range of significant issues — from reproduction to romance and from disease transmission to forensic science."
Sound like a thesis statement? Well, the book reads like a term paper (even when she's talking about porn!), which is its biggest flaw.
The amount of research that went into Sperm Counts is clearly evident throughout. Footnotes and study citings abound. But there's a lot of snoozy material to slog through before getting to the more readable parts, such as when she intellectualizes the scene in "There's Something About Mary," when Cameron Diaz takes ejaculate off Ben Stiller's head thinking it's excess hair gel, and then puts it in her own hair.
As I anticipated, the chapter on sperm banks was the most interesting because the author herself gave birth to her and her partner's two daughters via sperm donation. She cites a New York Times series from last year, one article in particular that discusses the fairly new sibling donor registry, an online community that enables parents, donors and children conceived through donation to contact one another.
That registry adds a whole new dimension to the definition of family in modern America, which is a fascinating discussion topic in itself. I would much rather read an entire book on that subject — hearing real people's stories and reading expert analysis of the sociological impact of such meetings — than read about the biological machinations of reproduction and the importance of the "money shot" in porn.