April 24, 2024

When will #MeToo blow the whistle on IVF clinic pornography?

Porn is an essential part of clinic services

Why hasn’t the #MeToo movement protested the close connection between the pornography industry and IVF clinics? Most clinics provide pornography so that men can quickly provide a sperm sample. It is an essential, if grubby, part of the clinic’s services.

Not a lot has been written about this issue, understandably perhaps. A tell-all feature in the Daily Mail Australia, however, reported that “A computer will play a range of pornographic videos and what men choose is monitored to keep the list up to date. 'Midget porn is strangely one of the most popular styles, along with secretaries,' [a] staff member said.”

It’s odd that feminists have not complained about the objectifying and commodifying role of IVF pornography. After all IVF is basically an industry created around enabling women’s fertility. It seems inconsistent to provide male partners with a cave where they can quietly contemplate women being treated as objects.

In 2016 bioethicist Timothy F. Murphy, of the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, penned a strong defence of the use of pornography in IVF clinics. This involves a defence of its use in a clinical context, but also of certain kinds or erotica and of masturbation as a legitimate expression of sexuality. He concludes

The broader debate about the morality of pornography will not … be resolvable by reference to its role in the fertility clinic alone, but so long as pornography is defensible as a matter of expression, relationships and commerce generally, it is hard to see that any particular moral significance should be attached to its use in fertility clinics.

If access to pornography in clinics requires a moral justification over and above its immediate pleasure, helping people conceive children seems about as persuasive a justification as is necessary, barring any argument that the overall effects of pornography are so harmful that no one should ordinarily produce it or have access to it.

Murphy’s article was published in December 2016 – only a few months before the #MeToo exploded after the Weinstein affair. Awareness of the degrading power of pornography is much keener now. An exposé of the types of pornography which the clinics make available might produce some serious embarrassment. Midget porn? Secretary porn? What else do they have in their library of porn?

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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