aAt her best, Moore has a frank, breezy manner that may be partly
due to her practical experience outside academe. . . . Sperm Counts
is a lively, funny read.a
--Camille Paglia in "The Chronicle Review"
aWhile nearly every point she makes about the hidden
significance of sperm is a home run, ultimately, this is an
academic sociological study written in an appropriately starchy
style. . . . [that] results in a fascinating read packed with
conclusions.a -- "City Paper"
aSo fascinating and fresh. . . . Should be required reading for
scholars in sexuality/queer studies, womenas and gender studies,
social studies of science and cultural studies. . ..
aSperm Counts is careful to include the history of semen
research, as well as examining its role today. . . . [Moore]
approach[es] the topic of semen with precision and
aCartoon line-drawings of sperm wriggle over each page of text
in this dissection of the ways societal views of sperm shape
culture. A feminist account backed by sociological and scientific
research, Mooreas academic tome is accessible to the masses.a
Moore has analyzed religious, social, erotic and
medical-scientifc investments in sperm, singular and
aIn Sperm Counts, Moore's new book about the cultural meanings
of sperm, she tells this story to illustrate her own childhood
naivetA(c) about a substance that, as she now sees it, is far from
simple. These days, according to Moore, sperm has tremendous
cultural meaning--and looking at it in its many contexts, from
children's books to pornography, can tell us a great deal about the
skittish state of American masculinity. . . .Sperm Counts is a
serious book, and the first on its subject. But it also includes
anecdotes from Mooreas life, lending it a more conversational tone
than most academic works. The bookas margins are even squiggled
with sketches of sperm--flip the pages and they swim around. (This
is a subject matter, after all, that requires a certain degree of
levity.) Moore happily lists spermatic nicknames (ababy gravy, a
agentlemenas relish, a apimp juicea) before skewering, in a later
chapter, the burgeoning home sperm-test industry (sample ad slogan:
aI donat know how that semen got in my underwear!a).a
a[Moore] examines how sperm is seen through a variety of social
lenses, including pornography, sperm banking, childrenas books on
reproduction and criminal DNA evidence.a
--"Between the Lines Magazine"
aIrresistable. . . . A really rich read.a
aIncredibly well researched and captivating read.a
aA clever yet comprehensive look at the asubstancea of manhood.
Moore goes where few scholars dare to tread, and uses bodily fluids
as a revealing window through which to observe the current nature
of sexuality and gender relations.a
--Michael S. Kimmel, author of "Manhood in America: A Cultural
aSperm Counts is a serious book, and the first on its subject.
But it also includes anecdotes from Moore's life, lending it a more
conversational tone than most academic works. The book's margins
are even squiggled with sketches of sperm -- flip the pages and
they swim around. (This is a subject matter, after all, that
requires a certain degree of levity.) Moore happily lists spermatic
nicknames ("baby gravy," "gentlemen'srelish," "pimp juice") before
skewering, in a later chapter, the burgeoning home sperm-test
industry (sample ad slogan: "I don't know how that semen got in my
"In this intriguing feminist sociological account of sperm,
Moore takes a subject we think we knew all about and proceeds to
examine the multi-dimensional facets of its cultural subtexts. What
is so unusual about this provocative book is the way Moore meshes
history, technology, medicine, criminology, gender studies,
children's books, and porn in her depiction of sperm as a
manifestation of masculinity. Sperm Counts is witty, erudite, and
informative-- a gem of social constructionist scholarship."
--Judith Lorber, author of "Paradoxes of Gender" and "Breaking the
aMoore has crafted a smart and surprisingly funny book about
semen. Original and refreshing, Sperm Counts follows the alittle
guysa through laboratories, childrenas books, sex work, crime
scenes, and bodies, illuminating varied meanings and
representations of manhood and masculinity. This is engaged
feminist scholarship at its best.a
--Monica J. Casper, author of "The Making of the Unborn Patient: A
Social Anatomy of Fetal Surgery"
It has been called sperm, semen, seed, cum, jizz, spunk,
gentlemen's relish, and splooge. But however the "tacky, opaque
liquid that comes out of the penis" is described, the very act of
defining "sperm" and "semen" depends on your point of view. For
Lisa Jean Moore, how sperm comes to be known is based on who
defines it (a scientist vs. a defense witness, for example), under
what social circumstances it is found (a doctor's office vs. a
crime scene), and for what purposes it will be used (invitro
fertilization vs. DNA analysis). Examining semen historically,
medically, and culturally, Sperm Counts is a penetrating
exploration of its meaning and power.
Using a "follow that sperm" approach, Moore shows how
representations of sperm and semen are always in flux, tracing
their twisting journeys from male reproductive glands to headline
news stories and presidential impeachment trials. Much like the
fluid of semen itself can leak onto fabrics and into bodies, its
meanings seep into our consciousness over time. Moore's analytic
lens yields intriguing observations of how sperm is "spent" and
"reabsorbed" as it spurts, swims, and careens through penises,
vaginas, test tubes, labs, families, cultures, and politics.
Drawn from fifteen years of research, Sperm Counts examines
historical and scientific documents, children's "facts of life"
books, pornography, the Internet, forensic transcripts and sex
worker narratives to explain how semen got so complicated. Among
other things, understanding how we produce, represent, deploy and
institutionalize semen-biomedically, socially and
culturally-provides valuable new perspectives on the changing
social position of men and the evolving meanings of masculinity.
Ultimately, as Moore reveals, sperm is intimately involved in not
only the physical reproduction of males and females, but in how we
come to understand ourselves as men and women.