Time and Collective Biology: Relationships Between Individual and Societal Life Course Ideologies in Mexican Men’s Sexual Health Treatment

Emily Wentzell

Abstract


People may seek to embody cultural ideals of the life course through their use or rejection of medical interventions, including but not limited to anti-aging treatments. Here, I analyze this phenomenon via interviews with men engaging with two different forms of sexual health medicine in urban Mexico: erectile-dysfunction treatment and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). I argue that, in contrast to the biomedical understanding of patients as individuals who change during their lives, my interlocutors understood themselves as components in broader “collective biologies” that change on a longer timeline. These are culturally-defined groups that people understand to be comprised of interrelated members whose behaviors concretely affect the group’s physical and social well-being over time. In both medical arenas discussed here, men used or rejected sexual health interventions in response to local narratives about the nature of the Mexican population as a collective biology, including ideas about how it should change over time away from its roots in the colonial past. They characterized predispositions to machismo and disinterest in preventative health care as embodied inheritances that the Mexican population should reject in order to achieve health-promoting modernity in the future. My analysis describes how these interlocutors sought to live out desirably modern forms of race and gender through their medical decisions in a way that they hoped would contribute to positive, embodied change in the Mexican social body over time. These findings show that, despite the assumptions of individualism generally naturalized in anti-aging treatment and biomedicine, people may make medical decisions in an effort to aid collective change over population-level timescales.


Keywords


Life course; temporality; masculinity; sexual health; anti-aging medicine; Mexico

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/aa.2021.232

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