Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 2, Issue 1
fall 2011
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editor, John-Albert Moseley
Layout Design: Nick Appleby

"Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm"

Rene Almeling, University of California Press, September 2011

PhotoUnimaginable 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.
"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

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