Sperm Donation: A Seedy Enterprise

pornographyIn 2011, Yale sociologist Rene Almeling published Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm, a fascinating book that details how sperm and egg banks do business. Of particular interest are the different ways potential sperm and egg donors are marketed to during the recruitment process.

Egg donors are told they are “an angel” and helping someone have the child of their dreams. For women, marketers appeal to one’s altruistic sensibilities. However, when it comes to men and marketing to potential sperm donors, a different strategy is employed. Sperm donors are encouraged to sign-up to share their good genes and demonstrate their virility.

A new article just out in VICE adds to this discussion—evidencing just how much this seedy enterprise relies on smut to make these dreams of childbearing possible.

The practice of sperm donation relies, of course, on masturbatory emissions, and this new article details the extent to which sperm banks go to accommodate the desires of their donors. “This is the Porn You Get at a Sperm Bank” (warning, NSFW: the content is graphic and offensive) leaves nothing to the imagination—and makes it clear that sperm banks go out of their way to enliven the imaginations of their donors.

Special consultants often weigh the best types of pornography to make available to donors. Careful consideration is given as to who purchases the porn (usually the owners so the employees can’t claim they are being sexually harassed). And an increasingly wide selection to accommodate an ever-growing market of tastes and preferences are on rotation. It’s an elaborate production.

In reading the article, I couldn’t help but consider just how degrading this practice is—both to the donors and to children conceived from such acts. An entire enterprise has been created that relies on another industry—the pornography industry—that is already well known to be exploitative and abusive.

But what’s even more disturbing is that one day a child will grow up. Children like Alana, Stephanie, or Barry who are featured in our documentary film Anonymous Father’s Day. They will learn the circumstances of their conception and want to know more about the practice that brought them into existence. They may even stumble across this article or one like it and learn that part of their conception involves animated Japanese pornography that includes a schoolgirl and an older man.

Is that really a sign of virility? Sounds more like vulgarity than anything else.

Reprinted with permission from the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Christopher White is the Director of Education and Programs for the Center for Bioethics and Culture.