Is The Sperm Race A Fairy Tale? : Short Wave A lot of us were taught that conception happens with a survivor-style sperm race — the fastest and strongest sperm fight to make it to the egg first. In this Back To School episode, we revisit this misleading narrative and learn just how active the egg and reproductive tract are in this process.

You can find Ariela @arielazebede, Lisa @CampoEngelstein, and Kristin @kristin_hook on Twitter. Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

Editorial Note - The introduction of this episode has been updated to reflect anthropologist Emily Martin's crucial role in first making this issue widely known.

REFERENCES:
The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles, Emily Martin (1991)
Revisiting "The fertilization fairytale:" an analysis of gendered language used to describe fertilization in science textbooks from middle school to medical school, Lisa Campo-Engelstein & Nadia Johnson (2014)
Misconceptions about Conception and Other Fallacies: Historical Bias in Reproductive Biology, Virginia Hayssen (2020)
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Is The Sperm Race A Fairy Tale?

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Is The Sperm Race A Fairy Tale?

Is The Sperm Race A Fairy Tale?

Is The Sperm Race A Fairy Tale?

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Human egg cell, computer illustration. Kateryna Kon/Getty Images/Science Photo Libra hide caption

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Kateryna Kon/Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

Human egg cell, computer illustration.

Kateryna Kon/Getty Images/Science Photo Libra

A lot of us were taught that conception happens with a survivor-style sperm race — the fastest and strongest sperm fight to make it to the egg first. In this Back To School episode, we revisit this misleading narrative and learn just how active the egg and reproductive tract are in this process.

You can find Ariela @arielazebede, Lisa @CampoEngelstein, and Kristin @kristin_hook on Twitter. Email us at shortwave@npr.org.

Editorial Note - The introduction of this episode has been updated to reflect anthropologist Emily Martin's crucial role in first making this issue widely known.

REFERENCES:

This episode was produced by Brit Hanson, edited by Viet Le, and fact-checked by Rasha Aridi. The audio engineer for this episode was Ted Mebane.