Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

How Do Anonymous Sperm Donors Signal Credibility through Their Self-Presentations?

Academic journal article Health Sociology Review

How Do Anonymous Sperm Donors Signal Credibility through Their Self-Presentations?

Article excerpt

David is a 24 year-old electronic engineer studying for his M.A. He is 5'10¼' tall, weighing 173 pounds, of athletic build; his eyes are green and his hair is light brown. His astrological sign is Scorpio, his favourite cuisines are Thai and Italian, his favourite book is 1984. His favourite colour is blue, and he likes dogs. His mother is a teacher and her lasagna is great! His father is a cardiologist who enjoys playing baseball. His grandfather was a pilot who later became a politician and a businessman. His grandmother was a senior administrator; she remarried at the age of 78. David goes on vacation to exotic places and likes sports such as basketball and rappelling. If you were searching for a sperm donor, would you feel confident believing David's selfpresentation?

Most commercial sperm banks allow sperm donation users to choose their desired genetic material by viewing online donor profiles (Almeling, 2006, 2011; Kroløkke, 2009). Commercial sperm bank websites offer online donor catalogues which include standard profiles (basic information about height, weight, eye and hair colour), and also extended profiles for extra payment (USD 19-30). These information packages include photos (baby /childhood/adult), hand-written essays, and audiotape interviews with the donor as additional cues to his qualities. After the genetic screening phase, each donor is requested to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and to provide extensive information on the following areas: personality, intelligence, hobbies, likes and dislikes, sports played, and so on. Some banks require additional information about the donor's parents, grandparents, siblings and uncles/aunts. Donors receive some USD 75-100 for each vial, and therefore are likely to present themselves as positively as possible and in a credible way. But how are donors able to add credibility to their profiles, given the anonymity constraints governing a large proportion of the sperm donation industry? What tactics can they use in order to create impressions of their genetic material as high quality? How do they compensate for the anonymity constraints? This article presents a content analysis of donor profiles from nine commercial sperm banks in Europe and North America with the goal of addressing these hitherto unstudied questions.

From an economic perspective, the commercial donor sperm industry is typically framed as a laissez-faire market with only minor legislative intervention, mostly operating in American settings. Donors are selected after an examination of their semen quality and then screened for HIV, viral hepatitis, and other blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the American Fertility Society provide guidelines regarding genetic testing and limit the number of pregnancies achieved using the same sperm; however, in many clinics these guidelines have no legally binding validity and are treated as recommendations only. The scarcity of state or federal regulation means the sperm industry is considered by some to represent the 'Wild West' (Spar 2006): a free market regulated by profit-driven, cost-benefit considerations (Almeling, 2006; Pietrzak, 2012).

Sociological aspects of the interface between society and genetics

Sociological literature on the relationships between genetics and society focuses mainly on identity themes, such as the various ways in which individuals may interpret and respond to practices of genetic testing and the impact of genetic properties on human behaviour (Hauskeller et al., 2013); a related topic is the extent to which genetic information is used - and potentially abused - as a source of power and control (Raman & Tutton, 2010). The extant sociological literature on sperm donation is based on pioneering studies of donors' motives (cf. Almeling, 2011; Émon, 2012) which are shown to be mainly economic, alongside an interest to helping those who cannot conceive fulfil their desire for a baby. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.