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Date and Location

September 27, 2021
12:15 PM - 1:30 PM ET


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Abstract: Human fertility is in an apparent state of crisis. In July 2017, scientists reported that sperm counts among men from North America, Europe and Australia have decreased by 50 – 60% since 1973, with no sign of halting (Levine et al. 2017). For women, the story is bleak and familiar: women’s fertility decreases with age, yet women are waiting longer than ever to have children (Kincaid 2015). In this talk, I investigate this crisis by analyzing the seemingly mundane practice of measurement, i.e. the standards, methods and instruments by which the phenomenon of fertility is quantified. By comparing two widely-used measures – semen analysis in men, and ovarian reserve testing (ORT) in women – I argue that racialized gender values, norms and ideals play a significant role in constructing fertility as a measurable phenomenon. Different temporal assumptions implicit in semen analysis and ORT reflect and enforce a view of women as more responsible for – and therefore more to blame for – infertility than men. I conclude by arguing that, with respect to semen analysis and ORT, it’s not just fertility that’s being measured, but degrees of adherence to entrenched, racialized norms of masculinity and femininity. 

Speakers and Presenters

​Marion Boulicault, Postdoctoral Scholar in the Ethics of Technology at MIT


Additional Organizers

​Co-sponsored by the Graduate School or Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences