The fertility industry discriminates against sperm donors, says US sociologist Rene Almeling. Her article this month in the American Sociological Review describes striking inequities in the market for eggs and sperm which, she says, reflect "gendered stereotypes of selfless motherhood and distant fatherhood".
"Staff at egg agencies constantly thank women and encourage them to think about what a wonderful difference they’re making in the lives of recipients," Almeling says. "The sperm bank staff is appreciative, but men aren’t told how amazing they are and what a great gift they’re giving. They’re treated more like reproductive service workers. They come in. They clock in and out. Their sample is checked for quality. And they’re only paid when they produce an acceptable sample."
In the market for American gametes, men are typically paid between US$50 and US$75 per donation, while women are paid around $5,000, along with bonuses and thank-you cards. While it is commonly believed that sperm donors are readily available, in fact, few potential male donors meet the standards required by the clinics, while there is an oversupply of women donors. Almeling is investigating why the laws of supply and demand do not appear to work in the gamete market.
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