Has the Globalized Sperm Banking Industry Committed the Baudriallrdian 'perfect Crime'?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Ya'arit BOKEK-COHEN , Ariel University, Israel
Limor Dina GONEN , Ariel University, Israel
Assisted reproductive technologies constitute a fruitful soil for cultural Sociology theorization. In particular, the sperm donation industry is a unique arena in which personal emotions and dreams encounter the constraints of technological and medical reality as mediated through economic transactions.  The article proposes some sociological insights into the sperm donation industry, derived from a qualitative study of sperm donor profiles in nine sperm banks from Europe and US. We started our analysis acknowledging our a priori assumption of semen commodification. We content analyzed extended profiles and conducted a visual analysis of baby photos of 135 randomly selected donors who appear in the catalogues. Browsing for the ideal donor while reading the 'perfectionized' profiles is a technology which aptly illustrates Baudrillard's concept of "hyper-reality". Borrowing Baudrillard's terminology we argue that extended donor profiles are not "real"; rather they are hyperreal. These profiles are an "authentic fake" of the fathers and families desired by women in today's postmodern era. We examine the way the sperm industry uses personification practices as a tool to add an emotional context, resulting in a re-enchantment of the postmodern spirit. Inspired by Jean Bauldriallrd's and Eva Illuz's writings as well as  Zygmunt Bauman's insights on ‘liquid modernity’, we show how sperm banks de-commodify sperm, personify donations, and add an emotional context to the economic transaction. Sperm donor profiles are a meaningful and important postmodern text; as such they deserve to be interpreted by means of sociological theorization. As products of socially constructed mechanisms, analyses of the ways  these profiles are displayed and produced certainly communicate much about the contemporary spirit of 'liquid modernity'. This creates a powerful reenchantment mechanism counterbalancing the alienation and disenchantment characteristic of donor insemination technology and the postmodern spirit in general.