Middle Eastern Masculinities in the Age of New Reproductive Technologies: Male Infertility and Stigma in Egypt and Lebanon

Abstract

Worldwide, male infertility contributes to more than half of all cases of childlessness; yet, it is a reproductive health problem that is poorly studied and understood. This article examines the problem of male infertility in two Middle Eastern locales, Cairo, Egypt, and Beirut, Lebanon, where men may be at increased risk of male infertility because of environmental and behavioral factors. It is argued that male infertility may be particularly problematic for Middle Eastern men in their pronatalist societies; there, both virility and fertility are typically tied to manhood. Thus, male infertility is a potentially emasculating condition, surrounded by secrecy and stigma. Furthermore, the new reproductive technology called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), designed specifically to overcome male infertility, may paradoxically create additional layers of stigma and secrecy, due to the complex moral and marital dilemmas associated with Islamic restrictions on third-party donation of gametes.