The value and meaning attached to genetic relatedness among Australian sperm donors

Damien Riggs, Brett Scholz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    While in the context of western societies sperm is attributed with a wide range of meanings, in the context of assisted reproduction it has increasingly been treated as an alienable commodity. Yet despite attempts by medical professionals to encourage a disconnect between donors and their sperm, the latter continues in many instances to operate as a synecdoche for the former. This can be seen, for example, both in donor-conceived children's desire to know their donor and in donors' investments in the use of their sperm. This paper explores the latter example by providing a discourse analysis of the narratives of 30 Australian sperm donors, with a focus on how they accounted for the value and meaning of their sperm. Three broad themes are discussed: sperm as a marker of genetic legacy, responsibility for sperm as genetic material, and sperm as a "gift" to others. The implications of these understandings of sperm among donors are discussed in relation to outcomes for all parties involved in donor conception, and suggestions are made for recognizing the investments that donors may have in their sperm.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)41-58
    Number of pages18
    JournalNew Genetics and Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


    • altruism
    • genetic relatedness
    • identity
    • responsibility
    • sperm donation


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