What's up, Europe? Gender, media and European integration. The story of a a young Dane exploring the continent.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Prices on sperm as an equality issue?

A while ago the Danish newspaper Berlingske brought a feature suggesting a men's liberation movement. The starting point is artificial insemination of single women and how that is a threat to men's rights. Fathers' rights are for sure a good cause, but I seriously question the project proposed in the feature.

As the author rightfully points out there are differences in the rights and possibilities of women and men with respect to becoming single parents. Women can have artificial insemination, whereas it is a long and exhaustive process for single men to adopt. Now, I would understand if the purpose of the feature was, for the sake of gender equality, to suggest improvement of men's adoption rights. But no, instead the author comes up with this:

"He should stand up to her and make himself indispensable, but how? For example by increasing the price on semen dramatically. A women has no right to a man's semen as little as he has to his sperm cells fertilizing an egg. Sperm cells in flocks, warm, floating sperm cells, is a precious elixir that makes the world go round! Yes, it is women who gives birth to children but it is men who makes it possible. To give women the right to have children for their own sake and nothing else is to treat men as air." (my translation from Danish)

I will resent from elaborating further on the obvious heteronormativity of this statement (further underscored by a praise of the heterosexual family as society's cornerstone earlier in the feature) and instead raise two different issues:

1. First and foremost the feature appears to confuse an improvement in women's rights with a deterioration of men's rights. Come on, fight for improving fathers' rights and men's possibilities to adopt... but not to worsen the situation of single women! It is not a zero-sum game.

2. Secondly, I am puzzled by the author's anxious assumption about women being less interested in men because of (affordable) artificial insemination. The feature provides no numbers or other evidence to back up the presupposition that less men become fathers because of single women's option to go to a sperm bank. I also find it really sad that the author reduces men to, well, sperm providers. I would certainly hope that there is more to a relationship than the provision of sperm. If availability of semen is what glues the heterosexual family, the praised cornerstone of society, together, I am even more doubtful of the flattering light the feature puts heteronormativity in.

Via Kimporator


Rasmus said...

I suppose it does make sense, if you see it from a strictly economical point of view. Not that I agree, but the arguments are quite rational from a supply-and-demand principle

R. said...

Hi Rasmus,

Yes, it would make sense from a supply-demand view, if one underlying, major assumption was true, namely that women are only interested in relationships, because it makes sperm available to them (and not because of companionship, sex, love, friendship - or for that matter conformation to social norms about how to be a family :-)). If you believe in that, yes, then (cheap) artificial insemination makes sense as an alternative to a relationship.

Song said...

You know what? A person can have artificial insemination basically for free.


I know a couple who used this method and they have two children now. No cost of sperm whatsoever.