Rigid Scholarship on Male Sexuality

CAMILLE PAGLIA – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Copyright The Chronicle of Higher Education
Three provocative books on male sexuality recently published by university presses provide a good barometer of the current state of campus gender studies. A welcome development of the past decade has been the expansion of the gender lens to include men, who were routinely stereotyped by women’s-studies curricula as they took shape from the 1970s on. These books reflect that broader perspective and also display a more liberal attitude toward pornography, which was assailed in the 1980s by religious and cultural conservatives oddly allied with crusading feminists. By the 90s, pornography was legitimized as a field of study by gay male academics as well as an insurgent wing of sex-positive feminism. However, despite their greater sexual sophistication, the three books under review still retain traces of the old archfeminist censoriousness toward men — or, more exactly, toward the majority of men in the world who do not happen to conform to the tidy bourgeois values of political correctness.
In Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man’s Most Precious Fluid, Lisa Jean Moore, an associate professor of sociology and women’s studies at the State University of New York College at Purchase, examines how the definition and meaning of sperm has changed depending on period and point of view. This book has, hands down, one of the most arresting first sentences I’ve ever seen: “It has been called sperm, semen, ejaculate, seed, man fluid, baby gravy, jizz, cum, pearl necklace, gentleman’s relish, wad, pimp juice, number 3, load, spew, donut glaze, spunk, gizzum, cream, hot man mustard, squirt, goo, spunk, splooge, love juice, man cream, and la leche.” What mesmerizing vernacular poetry!
At her best, Moore has a frank, breezy manner that may be partly due to her practical experience outside academe: She was president of the board of the nonprofit Sperm Bank of California and also worked at a national sex-information switchboard. One chapter is based on her interviews over a five-year period with prostitutes in San Francisco. She also cites her personal history as a lesbian who has borne two daughters conceived by artificial insemination with donor sperm. Sperm Counts comes with its own marginalia: When the pages are flipped, a cartoon spermatozoon seems to race up and around the text.
Semen, Moore states, is “a mixture of prostaglandin, fructose, and fatty acids.” Sperm constitutes only 2 to 5 percent of the average ejaculate, which contains between 200 million and 500 million sperm cells and is propelled by the penis at 10 miles per hour. The unofficial distance record for ejaculate is 18 feet, 9 inches, achieved by one Horst Schultz, who also holds the record for greatest height (12 feet, 4 inches). Moore remarks that semen’s scent is sometimes compared to “bleach, household cleanser, or swimming pool water.” Hence the marketing of Semenex ($54.95 for 30 servings), a drink that promises to sweeten the taste of semen for practitioners of oral sex.
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