Friday, August 04, 2006

UK Sperm Donor Shortage and the Male Infertility Awareness Campaign

When I first saw Max's original "Don't be a Wanker" artwork (see sidepanel for campaign graphic and link) for his Male Infertility Awareness Campaign my first reaction (see 6/19/06 post) was that it was a funny joke. Yes it is crude and seen by the few donor conceived individuals that I know of as demeaning. I can honestly say that it was not its intent. The fact is that in countries such as the UK and Australia the end of donor anonymity has resulted in a reduction in the number of available donor sperm. There is some debate on this which I will not get into here. What started as fun is actually taking root among a number of bloggers, including myself, as an actual campaign to increase awareness and to promote responsible informed sperm donation. But while I will support that campaign I also support the ban on donor anonymity that has unfortunately contributed to the shortages.

For men like Richard and his wife in the UK who have limited or no donors to choose from the issue of limited sperm donors controls their ability to access DI as a viable method of creating their family. As a man whose family was created via DI my heart goes out to them. Here in the United States we have no donor sperm shortage. If donor anonymity ended here in the States whose to say the shortages now evident in the UK would not be repeated.

I have read news stories that the British parliament, or at least certain MPs, have been making noise about repealing the donor anonymity laws due to the belief, warranted or not, that these laws caused the shortages and will continue to keep men from donating. There are individuals out there that would claim the discussion to repeal these laws have emanated from the UK donor conception industry trying to regain lost profits. I cannot say but I am sure that they are not stopping the discussions.

My own belief is that to rollback the laws will do a disservice to those individuals created by donor conception. The laws try to ensure tha the DCPs have the ability, if they want it, to reconnect on some level with their genetic past. A subsequent repeal would serve to devalue their rights and to always put the rights of the TTC couples over their own and that is a dangerous precedent. Yes, I recognize that the utilization of DC itself creates the disconnect between the DCP and their genetic past but I am not here debating the legality of the utilization of DC. That is a whole debate in of itself.

To state that the donor anonymity laws should not be repealed from my position of already having my kids and not living in the UK is perhaps too easy. For that reason I have joined the Male Infertility Awareness Campaign that the Don’t be a Wanker ads support. There is a genuine need for the authorities to recruit more donors but to do so responsibly. Donors should be made clearly aware of the consequences of what they are contemplating while still informing them of the gift they are bestowing on the families that birth and raise these children. They should be fully aware of what being a non-anonymous donor means and the possibility that the donor conceived individuals may down the road want to learn more about them, the donor, and why they donated and be ready to have such a relationship if and when the time comes that contact is made.

As a DI social parent I must be truthful that the Victoria, Australia model that the donors can initiate contact bothers me. Donors made choices to give up their seed for others to raise as their own. I believe any and all contact should by legislation only be initiated by the conceived individuals. Yes, another debate, for another post.

I was asked back at a donor conception conference by a group of adult donor conceived individuals would I again use DI to create children after hearing their stories and my reply was that I had no answer. The fact was my kids do exist and I did not plan on increasing the size of my family. I still have no answer but I do feel and fully understand their pain and reasons for it. By endorsing the Male Infertility Awareness Campaign I am however supporting DI as a family planning alternative for those families that choose it.

Yes, as I state above the use of the term Wanker is a bit course and can be seen by some as demeaning based upon the reality of the act that created the seed that allows DI to continue. It is that shock value that the campaign relies on for it to become noticed. The goal is not to recruit donors from the ranks of men who are merely wanking for no purpose which would seem to demean the hoped for altruistic act of donation.

This post was originally meant to address my delay in joining this campaign. That delay was mostly due to my internal struggle to recognize and balance what the option of DI means to infertile couples TTC alongside the reality of the issue that a DCP would lose the opportunity to learn who their donor is if the current UK laws were to be repealed simply to increase the pool of willing donors. The campaign has not addressed this issue but my own views are quite clear and stated here.


MAX said...

There are campaigns asking for people to donate their blood or their organs in order to save other lives, campaigns to promote the use of condoms and educate people about safe sex in order to protect them from catching STD's but there has been very little or no effort to try to recruit gamete donors publicly.

While I understand that the word "wanker" might raise a few eyebrows in some parts of our society, there are far more important things going on in the world right now worth getting upset over rather than the terminology of a word.

Masturbation is not a dirty word, in fact some medical experts believe that it can help in the prevention of prostate cancer.

For your information the arrow symbol stands for male, the heart represents love but also life as in a beating heart.

we're asking for men to donate their sperm responsibly thus participating in the making of a life that will be loved.

DI_Dad said...

My reference to the "Don't be a Wanker" artwork as crude was not meant to be a harsh criticsm of the artwork. The term "wanker" is not really used here in the States and mjy comment meant to imply more that depending on the reader / viewer they may find the use of the term to be a bit raunchy or on the edge. I personally thought it was great.

When I referred to the act as masterbation as demeaning I was only trying to recognize comments such as that expressed by Rel that as a donor conceived person that the knowledge that your existence started as such an act is not always the most tasteful to think about. I recognize it as reality but felt those thoughts were worthy of noting.

So hopefully Max you took no offense at what I wrote as none was intended regarding the artwork or the graphic flashing button. Now that it was explained to me it made more sense as I at times am somewhat daft on image messages.

My purposes at this point regarding DI is trying to look at this issue from how my kids might and be ready to help them and also relating my experiences to other men who are dealing with these issues (in that order of priority).

MAX said...


I didn't take offense but I must admit that I have difficulties understanding some of the dynamics of anglo saxon nations.
Born and raised in France, seeing the occasional full frontal nudity on TV has never been a shock to me, I find it somewhat strange when there is such an outrage over anything remotely sexual portraying full nudity yet the horrors of war can be seen daily on the news showing bodies torn to pieces but no one will jump on the phone and complain about it.

In some ways I find that the hang ups of society towards anything sexual is partly to blame for the shame that some people may feel over the course of their infertility journey. Many people still see DI as a form of adultery and find this practice unacceptable.
It can be difficult for men to talk about their issues especially when the general public cannot differentiate between infertility, sexuality and masculinity.

Incidently there is already a US (and now UK) Masturbate-A-Thon held at San Francisco's center for sex and culture ( a non profit organisation ) to raise money to educate people about safer sex. Their catch phrase is "come for a cause"

DI_Dad said...

They say timing is everything. Per their website the event is coming to the UK on 8/5/06 tomorrow. Perhaps we should send Richard there with "Don't be a wanker" signs. It would surely make the news.

Bea said...

Loved this post and comments. Can't say there's much here I disagree with.

Call me naive and terminally optimistic, but I think there are more people out there who would be willing to donate responsibly than are currently involved. I think there are a lot of people who just need to have the thought planted in their minds, and the subsequent discussions opened up for them.