Leeds Beckett University
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A Narrative Analysis of 'Morally Challenging Behaviour' Experienced by Donors and Recipients in Online Sperm Donation Communities

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posted on 2022-11-10, 14:27 authored by Georgina Forshall
Donor conception has become an increasingly socially acceptable way to deal with issues of male sterility or as a means to start a family for single women and same-sex couples. Sperm banks and fertility clinics offer a range of treatments, privately and on the NHS, but issues of accessibility and choice have led many donors and recipients to contact one another directly through connection websites and social media. While such websites are not illegal, they are unregulated. Previous research (McQuoid, 2015) suggests that recipients of online sperm may be at risk of abuse or harassment from donors when using such sites. This thesis applies a narrative approach to explore the occurrence of ‘morally challenging behaviour’ that sperm donors and recipients may have observed or experienced within the online sperm donation community. The aims of the research are to: 1) learn about donor perceptions of the kinds of norms and values that are sanctioned by the ‘online sperm donation community’ and the degree to which they condone or reject these behaviours; and 2) to discuss any ‘less than positive’ experiences recipients may have had whilst engaging with online sperm donors, the way in which they respond to difficult or traumatic experiences, and the endurance of their sense of self in such scenarios. Three prolific donors from the UK, USA and Australia respectively, and five UK-based recipients were interviewed in two separate studies using an adaptation of Brown et al.’s (1989) Real Life Moral Choice and Conflict Interview and Wengraf’s (2004) Biographical Narrative Interpretive Method. The interviews were analysed using Carol Gilligan’s Listening Guide Method of Psychological Inquiry (2015), which included four ‘listenings’ covering ‘narrative events,’ ‘the self,’ and the ‘listenings’ for the existence of two conflicting or contrapuntal voices (i.e., voices in counterpoint). Issues raised as part of the third and fourth listenings for the donors related to a rejection of fertility clinics, sexual motivations of donors, recipient screening and anonymity and, for the recipients, related to the acceptance/mitigation of risks, exploitation, harassment, and safety. The findings of these studies support McQuoid’s (2015) research which suggests that recipients may be at risk of abusive, threatening, or coercive behaviours from sperm donors in an unregulated context. This highlights the need for safeguarding and regulatory frameworks to protect recipients seeking to obtain sperm online.


Qualification name

  • MRes


Turner-Moore, Rhys; Jones, Georgina

Awarding Institution

Leeds Beckett University

Completion Date


Qualification level

  • Masters


  • eng


Leeds Beckett University

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