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Volume 18, Issue 3 (May 2016) 18, 403–408; 10.4103/1008-682X.173937

Infertility, impotence, and emasculation – psychosocial contexts for abandoning reproduction

Erik Wibowo1, Thomas W Johnson2, Richard J Wassersug3,4

1 Vancouver Prostate Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2 Department of Anthropology (Emeritus), California State University, Chico, CA, USA
3 Department of Medical Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia,

Correspondence: Dr. E Wibowo (erik.wibowo@vch.ca)



From a Darwinian perspective we live to reproduce, but in various situations genetic males elect not to reproduce by choosing medical treatments leading to infertility, impotence, and, in the extreme, emasculation. For many men, infertility can be psychologically distressing. However, for certain genetic males, being infertile may improve their quality of life. Examples include (1) men who seek vasectomy, (2) individuals with Gender Dysphoria (e.g., transwomen, and modern day voluntary eunuchs), (3) most gay men, and (4) men treated for testicular and prostate cancer. Men who desire vasectomy typically have a Darwinian fitness W >1 at the time of their vasectomies; i.e., after they have their desired number of offspring or consider themselves past an age for parenting newborns. In contrast, prostate and testicular cancer patients, along with individuals with extreme Gender Dysphoria, do not necessarily seek to be sterile, but accept it as an unavoidable consequence of the treatment for their condition undertaken for survival (in case of cancer patients) or to achieve a better quality of life (for those with Gender Dysphoria). Most gay men do not father children, but they may play an avuncular role, providing for their siblings' offspring's welfare, thus improving their inclusive fitness through kin selection. In a strictly Darwinian model, the primary motivation for all individuals is to reproduce, but there are many situations for men to remove themselves from the breeding populations because they have achieved a fitness W ≥1, or have stronger medical or psychological needs that preclude remaining fertile.

Keywords: emasculation; impotence; infertility; psychological distress

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