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Sex Cells

The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm

Rene Almeling (Author)

Available worldwide
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Paperback, 240 pages
ISBN: 9780520270961
September 2011
$26.95, £18.95
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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 Sex Cells, 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 finds that 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. Sex Cells shows how the gendered framing of paid donation, as either a job or a gift, not only influences the structure of the market, but also profoundly affects the individuals whose genetic material is being purchased.
Rene Almeling is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Yale University.
"[Almeling] pulls back the curtain on the egg and sperm market. She looks at the ways our cultural assumptions about gender roles influence not only the egg and sperm donation industry but also the people within it. As it turns out, egg and sperm donors have remarkably different experiences of the process. ‘Sex Cells’ explains how this unique industry shapes the way we think about gender and parenthood.”—Salon
“What really goes on behind the closed doors of sperm banks and other institutions that broker the exchange of reproductive materials for money? . . . Almeling learned that when it comes to donating genetic material, men and women are groomed very differently, and the way the process is marketed affects everything from how individuals talk about their donation to their perceived relationship to the resulting offspring.”—Huffington Post
“The increasing number of children born through sperm donation, and the fact that many of those children are just now reaching adulthood, is leading to a revolution in the way we define families. . . . One of the fascinating aspects of Almeling’s research is that she explored how donors, both egg and sperm, perceive their own roles in a family.”—On Parenting/Washington Post
“Interviews with sperm and egg donors reveal an interesting dichotomy: while men who give sperm think of themselves as fathers, women who donate eggs don't see themselves as moms. This may say a lot about how we view motherhood and fatherhood.”—Jezebel
“An inside look at how egg agencies and sperm banks do business.”—Law & Social Inquiry
“Because it is a clearly written book on a controversial subject, Sex Cells will appeal to not only sociologists and scholars of reproduction but also undergraduate and graduate students and interested nonacademics.”—American Journal Of Sociology
“What happens when sex cells sell? Do human bodies become degraded objects of commerce? Challenging simplistic accounts of commodification, Almeling offers a compelling analysis of contemporary markets for eggs and sperm. A superb contribution to 21st century economic sociology.” -Viviana A. Zelizer, author of Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy

“This is a highly informative book. Almeling provides a balanced approach to this highly controversial subject. Although you might be conflicted by the ethical issues, you will definitely be extremely well-informed when you finish this book.” -Alan H. DeCherney, MD, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

“Almeling offers a wonderfully thoughtful analysis and an innovative cultural lens for viewing the gendered lives of sex cells and their commodification in the contemporary USA.” -Rayna Rapp, author of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Impact of Amniocentesis in America

Best Publication on the Body and Embodiment, ASA Section on Body and Embodiment

Diana Forsythe Prize, American Anthropological Association

Sex and Gender Section Distinguished Book Award Honorable Mention, American Sociological Association

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