Secrets of the sperm bank: What do we want from a donor? Hidden dynamics of the fertility industry
Since the economic downturn, a growing number of Americans have begun making money off their bodies. Since the recession began, the number of aspiring sperm and egg donors has surged dramatically in the United States. In 2009, some sperm banks saw a 15 to 20 percent increase in applicants, while, in 2008, egg agencies reported a similar rise—including, at one company, a 40 percent increase in wannabe egg providers. At a time when other industries are collapsing, the sex cell business seems to be doing well for itself. But what is it actually selling?
Sex Cells, a new book by Rene Almeling, an assistant professor of sociology at Yale University, pulls back the curtain on the egg and sperm market. She looks at the ways our cultural assumptions about gender roles influence not only the egg and sperm donation industry but also the people within it. As it turns out, egg and sperm donors have remarkably different experiences of the process. “Sex Cells” explains how this unique industry shapes the way we think about gender and parenthood.
Salon spoke to Rene Almeling over the phone about the strange rhetoric of the sex cell industry, which donors are most valued and what this says about the American family. Read InterviewBy Mandy Van Deven