Boundaries of Ethics, Sperm on the Border –The Globalization of Danish Sperm

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During the past two decades, Denmark has developed into an important destination for fertility travelers in need of donor sperm. A variety of different clinics providing sperm with different modes of clinical care have developed, and an increasing number of their customers come from abroad.

One of the reasons why Danish fertility clinics have enabled women from Denmark and abroad to turn to sperm donation is, that two of the largest sperm banks in Europe are Danish. In contrast to many other countries where sperm is in demand, the Danish sperm banks are able to provide enough sperm for the national market as well as clinics worldwide. Furthermore, one of the sperm banks market sperm for self-insemination and deliver it to private customers by UPS.

Although sperm donation is an old and low technology compared to other reproductive technologies, this development has taken place at the same time as sperm donation in parliamentary debates, and in the media, often raises ethical questions.

This presentation inquires into how the bending of boundaries by “inappropriate parents”, fertility travelers, private sperm banks and fertility clinics have been part in negotiating the changes of the legislation in practice, and thus been part of developing a Danish industry of sperm banking. In this presentation, I will show how Danish sperm has become a global commodity even though, or maybe because the technology has been regulated, and continuously has raised and troubled questions of kinship, sexuality, relatedness and family by politicians and bioethicists, in the parliament and in the media. I will argue that the globalization of Danish sperm is a story of combined subversive acts by women and men using the technologies, sperm banks and private fertility clinics. I will explore what the labeling of “ethical” does to a technology and its users such as in the case of the globalization of Danish sperm, as well as I will question how understandings of normality, sexuality, race, age, gender and kinship become part of the negotiations of “the ethical”, or in the doing of ethics in practice?

The presentation is based on a multi-sited ethnography drawing on ethnographic research including observations and interviews from fertility clinics and sperm banks in Denmark during 2002/2003 and 2011- 2013, legislative documents and parliamentary debates and websites of fertility clinics and sperm banks. I follow how ethical boundaries are negotiated when sperm is on the border either by being exported to other countries, used in Denmark by fertility travelers, or when the Danish legislation on assisted reproduction is discussed and altered.

The presentation is methodologically inspired by Adele Clarke’s situational analysis based on Anselm Strauss’ social world arena theory. Furthermore, I draw theoretically on Karen Barad and Donna Haraway’s notion of diffractive readings. I use their understanding of accountability to question and intervene in the doing of ethics in practice.

Publikationsdato16 okt. 2014
StatusUdgivet - 16 okt. 2014
BegivenhedInternational Trade of Reproductive Materials and Relationships: Individualism and Radicalized Fragmentation - Seoul, Sydkorea
Varighed: 16 okt. 201416 okt. 2014


KonferenceInternational Trade of Reproductive Materials and Relationships: Individualism and Radicalized Fragmentation