Are there limitations to Male Fertility?

Greg Downey’s article discusses Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer‘s simulations using ovulation detection and sperm ageing to test if Moulay Ismael -Sharifian Emporer during the seventeenth century -was capable of reproducing 1,171 children circulated among four wives and about 500 mistresses at one time (over 4,000 women in total taking into consideration women forced to retire due to infertility).

The accusation is possible if Ismael had sexual intercourse three times every two days over thirty years. With this, he only chose to keep female children with his wives, and killed female infants conceived from his mistresses with the desire for only sons. There are some complications that could alter the possibility of Ismael reproducing to that extent. Studies show that more frequent ejaculation decreases sperm count, and in general, there was only a 15.2% chance he would reproduce with a mistress during their time of peak fertility. Ismael was power-hungry, sexually driven, and “strangled any wife or concubine suspected of adultery… had their breasts cut off or their teeth pulled out. Men who looked at one…were liable to be executed”.  The Sharifian Emperor took great measures to protect his pride and to have control over all his sexual partners.

This anthropological study focuses on the division of medical anthropology and the limits (or lack there of) of the human body. Science today can test even more limits of reproduction through surrogate practices and sperm donation which can use several sperm cells from the same ejaculation to fertilize multiple eggs. Along with that, the study touches base on gender roles and the political power of Ismael which carried over as sexual power.  This sexual male domination still occurs in our society as the stereotype that males are sexually driven and crave power that is acquired through sexual acts.