Fit to father? Online accounts of lifestyle changes and help-seeking on a male infertility board

The reproductive realm is routinely viewed as a feminised space requiring women's commitment and labour. By contrast, men's procreative contributions and 'reproductive masculinity' is represented as unproblematic, with men assumed to be fertile across the lifespan. Recent scientific research has, however, cast doubt over these longstanding assumptions, suggesting that a link does exist between 'lifestyle' factors and male fertility. The notion that fertility can be improved with effort (for both women and men) can be located within wider cultural and political shifts which construct individuals as increasingly responsible for acting on health messages and engaging in self-disciplining body projects. Through an exploration of 'lifestyle changes' within a men's online infertility discussion forum board, this paper examines how discourses of individualisation healthism and masculinity are reproduced and interlinked. Our thematic analysis indicates that 'lifestyle work' is construed as crucial for achieving conception - and as a means to demonstrate men's commitment to the dyadic goal of parenthood, which in turn may challenge and extend previous notions of 'reproductive masculinity'.

Sociology of health & illness. 2018 Apr 06 [Epub ahead of print]

Esmée Hanna, Brendan Gough, Nicky Hudson

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