Last week was Fertility awareness week, and to coincide with this, Nuffield Health and the charity Infertility Network UK released findings from a survey about men and fertility. The survey suggests that fertility remains a topic that British men feel uncomfortable discussing, even with their partners. The findings also suggest that men are likely to overestimate the role of male factor issues in difficulty with conception, despite the fact that male and female factors are equally as common.
Whilst this survey shows that fertility, particularly sub-fertility is an issue which men are often reluctant to discuss or share, perhaps due to social perceptions around the ‘fertility-virility’ linkage (explained more here), that such a survey exists shows progress towards changing the landscape around men and reproduction. Articles such as this, as part of the ‘Building modern men’ series in the Huffington Post (which I previously blogged about here) go towards shifting attitudes and dialogues around men’s fertility and experiences in the reproductive realm. This years Foundation for Sociology of Health and Illness book prize was for Conceiving Masculinity– a book about male infertility, thus the academic picture is beginning to build, and the perspectives of men in the reproductive realm are more widely being included.
However, there needs to be a wider translation of such conversations into the narratives of everyday life; making men feel that it is ok to talk about fertility, parenting desires and to know of the experiences and outcomes of other men who may have experienced difficulties in the reproductive realm remains a broader goal. Academics can however help play a part in working towards this aspiration. By understanding men’s experiences, critiquing the social barriers that men face, and translating academic knowledge into a wider context, strides can hopefully be made to changing the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of men, fertility and reproduction.