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Sex Cells: the medical market for eggs and sperm

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Abstract: 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 the United States. In this talk, 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 discusses how 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. She argues that the gendered framing of paid donation, as either a job or a gift, not only influences the structure of the market for sex cells, but also profoundly affects the individuals whose genetic material is being purchased. > Bio: Rene Almeling is an assistant professor of sociology at Yale University. She is author of the award-winning book, Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm (University of California Press, 2011). Her current research includes a national survey of American attitudes toward genetic risk, a survey of women’s experiences with in vitro fertilization, an article for the Annual Review of Sociology on reproduction, and a new book project on the history of men’s health. Her research on reproductive technologies, genetic testing, gender, and medicine has been featured in national and international media, including The New York Times and the BBC .

This talk is part of the Department of Sociology Seminar Series series.

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