Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man’s Most Precious Fluid. By Lisa Jean Moore, New
York University Press, 2007. 203 pp. $26.95 ISBN-13: 978-0-8147-5718-5
Rebecca L. Burch
Gordon G. Gallup Jr.
Published online: 27 March 2008
Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008
The author of this book is a lesbian and a feminist, but she
is no stranger to semen. Lisa Jean Moore is an Associate
Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies and Coordinator
of Gender Studies at SUNY Purchase. She is also a former
president of the Board of The Sperm Bank of California.
This book provides an eclectic and somewhat eccentric
perspective on sperm from the vantage point of academic
research, sex education texts, pornography, advertisements
for sperm donors, and personal experiences by the author
working in sperm banks and sex hotlines. The book is
written from a cultural, social, gender study standpoint, and
provides useful insights for an interdisciplinary and cross
cultural examination of masculinity. “Sperm now have the
power to convict or free men, identify paternity, and
fertilize in perpetuity... Yet all of these technological
advancements have, ironically, given more power to
women than men, as women can now control and be
protected from sperm in ways that were not previously
Masculinity not only includes gender roles, machismo, and
fatherhood, but also how semen and sperm are viewed by
culture. While pornography may be examined (particularly
themes of dominance and other behaviors) from a variety of
perspectives, the portrayal of semen in pornography, sex
education, and forensics has been largely overlooked.
Moore makes the point that hardworking industrious,
brave, strong, and fast are qualities that are attributed to
sperm in sex education texts and examinations of fertility,
but these clearly map onto cross cultural female preferences
in mates as well—as evidenced by the preferences and
advertisements for particular sperm donors. To further this
with cross cultural comparisons of preferences in mates and
depictions of sperm would be quite interesting.
Moore also does a nice job explaining the various
options of sperm donation and in vivo fertilization. She
writes “...there are multiple ways to procure and disseminate
sperm—through ejaculating penises or surgical techniques, by
vaginal penetration, syringes, turkey basters, and catheters”
(p.69). This can be a useful perspective for the growing
number of women (as Moore states) who are considering
conceiving a child by themselves’.
Moore does a good job discussing the recent criminal-
ization of semen and its effect on perceptions of masculinity.
From reactions of sex workers to real life crises in the
pornography industry to depictions on crime dramas, Moore
explores the views of semen as dirty, diseased, and evidence
of criminal behavior. She writes that “...most men produce
semen that is gross, diseased, genetically inferior, incompe-
tent, lazy, and unwanted” (p.90). All of this is bound to impact
societal views on semen, sex and men.
Sex The book is replete with interesting bits of information
on semen and the male sexual response. Sperm counts,
morphology, motility, even ejaculation distance are covered
and make for an informative read. The depiction of semen
in pornography is as intriguing as it is graphic. The promos
of pornographic videos excerpted in the book are disturbing
not only in the portrayal of women, sex, semen and
ejaculation but also the clichéd and ridiculous wordplay.
Clearly these graphic promos of women begging for and
ingesting semen sell the product and that says something
about male identity and fantasy.
Sex Roles (2008) 59:294–295
R. L. Burch
State University of New York,
G. G. Gallup Jr. (*)
State University of New York,