Constructing Parents: The Heteronormative Recruitment of Sperm and Egg Donors in the Reproductive Market

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2015-08

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Abstract

This thesis explores how medical and organization procedures surrounding gamete donation are shaped by cultural understandings of family and gender. Through a qualitative content analysis of the sperm banks, egg banks, and egg donation agencies in the United States, I investigate how the reproductive market relies on heteronormative understandings of gender and family. Findings suggest that gamete banks and donation agencies adopt policies, procedures, and guidelines influenced by gendered parenting roles. Egg donors are constructed as altruistically motivated and family-oriented, mirroring cultural assumptions about mothering. Sperm donors are constructed as elite and financially ambitious breadwinners. Examining the reproductive market through a queer theory lens exposes cultural assumptions about differently sexed and gendered bodies. Egg and sperm donors are expected to provide gender appropriate characteristics, where a tall stature and education are highly valued in sperm donors, and characteristics like motherhood and altruism are valued for egg donors.

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Reproductive Technologies, Queer Theory, Gamete Donation, Gender

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