In the Middle East, many men who experience reproductive difficulties within marriage end up undergoing a risky form of male genital surgery called “varicocelectomy.” Promoted by urological surgeons as a way to enhance fertility, varicocelectomy is a form of men's embodied suffering and a little-appreciated aspect of Middle Eastern men's reproductive lives. This article examines men's experiences of varicocelectomy, particularly in Lebanon, where the surgery is commonly carried out on both infertile and fertile men's bodies, despite significant controversy and critique. Reasons for this surgery are examined, including physician avarice, masculinity expectations within homosocially competitive fertility regimes, and husbands' desires to share the burden of reproductive suffering with beloved wives. It is argued that within the Middle East, men as well as women are heavily implicated in the trials and tribulations of infertility treatment—a form of reproductive intervention that has been inaccurately “naturalized” by Western feminist scholars as an exclusively female domain and burden. Varicocelectomy is not only an important issue in male reproductive health, but an understudied and unappreciated dimension of the lived experience of manhood in the region.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.