The social construction of male infertility: a qualitative questionnaire study of men with a male factor infertility diagnosis.

Although recent research has highlighted the distressing impact of infertility for men, fertility issues are still routinely seen as a 'women's issue' - even when male factor infertility is highlighted. This article reports findings from a qualitative questionnaire study focusing on a sample of men with a male factor infertility diagnosis; an under-researched and marginalised group in the context of reproductive medicine. Our analysis suggests that male factor infertility is viewed by men as a failure of masculinity, as stigmatising and silencing, and as an isolating and traumatic experience. It is also clear that these themes are shaped by wider societal discourses which present men as (unproblematically) fertile, uninvested in parenthood and stoic in their approach to emotional distress. Such norms also ensure that reproduction continues to be presented as a 'women's issue' which burdens women and marginalises men. In understanding male factor infertility experiences, the damaging nature of the social construction of male fertility is then more clearly illuminated.

Sociology of health & illness. 2019 Nov 27 [Epub ahead of print]

Esmée Hanna, Brendan Gough

Centre for Reproduction Research, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK., School of Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK.