One Man Fathering 150 Children? Why Sperm Banks May Be Unethical

Choose your sperm donor from an online catalog listing his race, SAT score, hair and eye color. Big business has taken over family making for sperm donors and receivers. This is cause for concern as the selection “pool” is made up of these certain select members and they donate weekly and are paid for their “work”. These donors can be chosen by multiple clients and thus create many more possible half-siblings across the country who may never know their sisters and brothers — which has ramifications that have not been thought through thoroughly.

Dr. Rene Almeling, an assistant professor of sociology at Yale, is the author of Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm (University of California, 2011), soon on the Babbidge Library shelves. The books description reads:

Unimaginable until the twentieth century, the clinical practice of transferring eggs and sperm from body to body is now the basis of a bustling market. In Sex Cells, Rene Almeling provides an inside look at how egg agencies and sperm banks do business. Although both men and women are usually drawn to donation for financial reasons, Almeling finds that clinics encourage sperm donors to think of the payments as remuneration for an easy “job.” Women receive more money but are urged to regard egg donation in feminine terms, as the ultimate “gift” from one woman to another. Sex Cells shows how the gendered framing of paid donation, as either a job or a gift, not only influences the structure of the market, but also profoundly affects the individuals whose genetic material is being purchased.

Find additional background at One Man Fathering 150 Children? Why Sperm Banks May Be Unethical | Sex & Relationships | AlterNet.

Looming behind any scenario in which millions of women shop for DNA from among millions of strangers based on characteristics such as looks, education, attainment, culture and class is the specter of eugenics: the pseudoscience — popular in early 20th-century America and Nazi Germany and elsewhere — of improving human populations via marriage restrictions, sterilization and selective impregnation. We don’t practice eugenics in this country anymore. Or do we? Is it the flipside of death panels?

What do you think?

Dr. Sandra Harding speaking at UConn, 9/21/2011 at 4 p.m.

Dr. Sandra Harding to speak at Konover Auditorium

A talk by Dr. Sandra Harding

  • Scholar in feminist and postcolonial theory, epistemology, research methodology and philosophy of science.
  • Professor, Social Sciences & Comparative Education University of California – Los Angeles

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
4:00 – 5:30 PM
Konover Auditorium, Dodd Center, UConn – Storrs

Here is a passage from Dr. Harding’s 2009 article Postcolonial and feminist philosophies of science and technology: convergences and dissonances.
Postcolonial Studies, 12:4, 401-421.

Gender and science themes

From its beginnings, gender and science projects in the West pursued five main research trajectories. These were often initiated by groups with different kinds of disciplinary, political, or institutional interests in scientific and technological research. (1) Where are (and have been) women in the social structures of modern Western sciences, and why have there been so few of them in the arenas of the design and management of scientific and technological research? (2) How and why have ‘sexist sciences’ taken on projects of providing empirical support for the claimed inferiority of women? (3) How have technologies and the applications of the results of scientific research been used against women’s equality? Women’s health, reproductive, and environmental concerns were among the earliest such focuses. (4) How do scientific and technological education*pedagogy and curricula*restrict women’s development as scientists and engineers? (5) What is problematic about the epistemologies, methodologies, and philosophies of science that produce and support such sexist and androcentric practices?

These issues all remain important almost four decades later*unfortunately. In some areas significant progress has been made*for example, in increasing access for women to scientific educations, publications, organizations, lab and classroom jobs, and at least token presences in policy contexts. Moreover, significant changes in health and reproductive policies have occurred for women in already advantaged groups. Yet the changes have been mostly for the worse for women in Africa, South Asia, and other places around the globe. Today it is widely recognized that Western and especially US economic and political policies have greatly contributed to the increased threats to environments, health, and life itself experienced by the vast majority of the world’s citizens who are women, and their dependants (as well as adult men), around the globe. An important achievement of feminisms has been their development of epistemological and methodological approaches that deeply transform ‘the logic of scientific inquiry’ and its familiar regulative ideals. These approaches have been widely adopted in the social sciences and some fields of biology and medical research. Nevertheless, such feminist work has been largely marginalized in the mainstream science studies movements in the North. If they are not ‘studying women,’ these researchers seem to think that gender issues are irrelevant to both the worlds they examine and the assumptions guiding their own work.

A book signing and reception will take place in the Dodd Center Lobby immediately following Dr. Harding’s presentation. The Coop Bookstore will have copies of Dr. Harding’s books available for sale at the book signing.

These events are free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program; the CLAS Fund for Innovation in Interdisciplinary Race, Eth-nicity, and Gender Studies; the Human Rights Institute; University of Connecticut Research Foundation; the Department of Philosophy; the Department of Sociology; and the Honors Program

For more information, please contact us at 860-486-3970 or

Link to the full text of this article (for UConn affiliates).

From PNAS: Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science

Shirl Kennedy has a great new blog — Full Text Reports…. and nothing but! Great new resource. I’ve added it to the list of blogs on the right menu of this page. Reports from great sources, all full text and — I believe — open access for everyone.

Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Explanations for women’s underrepresentation in math-intensive fields of science often focus on sex discrimination in grant and manuscript reviewing, interviewing, and hiring. Claims that women scientists suffer discrimination in these arenas rest on a set of studies undergirding policies and programs aimed at remediation. More recent and robust empiricism, however, fails to support assertions of discrimination in these domains. To better understand women’s underrepresentation in math-intensive fields and its causes, we reprise claims of discrimination and their evidentiary bases. Based on a review of the past 20 y of data, we suggest that some of these claims are no longer valid and, if uncritically accepted as current causes of women’s lack of progress, can delay or prevent understanding of contemporary determinants of women’s underrepresentation. We conclude that differential gendered outcomes in the real world result from differences in resources attributable to choices, whether free or constrained, and that such choices could be influenced and better informed through education if resources were so directed. Thus, the ongoing focus on sex discrimination in reviewing, interviewing, and hiring represents costly, misplaced effort: Society is engaged in the present in solving problems of the past, rather than in addressing meaningful limitations deterring women’s participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers today. Addressing today’s causes of underrepresentation requires focusing on education and policy changes that will make institutions responsive to differing biological realities of the sexes. Finally, we suggest potential avenues of intervention to increase gender fairness that accord with current, as opposed to historical, findings.

Full Paper (PDF)

Dr. Eve Shapiro to speak at UConn Rainbow Center 2/2/2011

Date: Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Time: 12pm – 1:30pm

Place: UConn Storrs Campus, Rainbow Center @ Student Union, SU 403

Admission Fee: Free and open to the public

The Rainbow Center’s Out to Lunch Lecture Series continues the semester with a presentation by Eve Shapiro entitled, “Gender Circuits: Bodies and Identities in a Technological Age”.

Dr. Shapiro book cover "Gender Circuits"

This talk, based on Eve’s new book Gender Circuits, explores the impact of new technologies on the gendered lives of individuals.  Examining the complex intersections between gender ideologies, social scripts, information and biomedical technologies, and embodied identities, Eve will explore whether and how new technologies are reshaping what it means to be a gendered person in contemporary society.

“This smart, provocative, and readable book explores how the stuff of science fiction has become normalized in our contemporary society. The book’s accessibility is enhanced by the author’s willingness to lead the reader through her own personal and political explorations of these themes, while bringing in the latest gender and biotechnology scholarship.”—Meika Loe, Sociology and Women’s Studies, Colgate University

Dr. Eve Shapiro is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts.  Her current research elaborates the dynamic relationships between identity and community, including how new information and biomedical technologies are changing the gendered lives of cisgender and transgender people.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunches.

For more about Dr. Shapiro, see her homepage at:

More information on the lecture series is available at:


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