Real Men Are Sometimes Infertile

There has been a lot of publicity in the UK recently about the new national sperm bank only having nine active donors.  Let’s leave aside in this post the topic of whether nine donors is a triumph (given that extremely few of the men who make initial enquiries are eventually accepted) or a tragedy.  Laura Witjens, one of the Directors of the bank, wants to increase the number of men coming forward to donate by appealing to their egos and competitive spirit.  ‘Men, prove your worth, show me how good you are’, then I would get hundreds of donors,” said Witjens.

Not surprisingly, men who have found themselves infertile object to the inference that they are somehow ‘less’ than others simply because there is a malfunction with their sperm making machinery.  It’s not their choice and certainly not their fault.  As Renlau Outilie, author of an article in the Guardian earlier this month says, ” The truth is that sperm doesn’t always work. Do we really wish to pose this inevitable fact as a thing of shame? From shame can arise the urge to hide. If Dad has “failed” as a man, maybe it should be concealed, from friends and family, possibly even from the child.”

Some men who find themselves in this position will go on to be fathers by donor conception.  Others will not.  They may adopt, foster or choose to remain without children.  All will go through dark times.  Those who choose to become parents by sperm donation will have thought long and hard about the consequences.  Renlau Outilie again, “The thing about assisted conception is that it’s an elective, considered act of parenting. There’s nothing accidental about it: you get tested; you are evaluated and assessed with some rigour; you sign forms, you go back and forth, you jump through hoops – you actively make that child happen. The commitment to J (our son) started at the fertility clinic.”

Nobody is a perfect parent.  We all make bad decisions and judgements but the real challenge to being a parent is to be there everyday for your child, physically and psychologically present in their lives.  The dad by sperm donation proves himself a real man by doing  just this, day in, day out.

I think many of us would echo Renlau Outilie’s puzzlement and wish for an alternative when he ends by saying, “I understand sperm banks feel a need to be more bold to increase donations – without them I wouldn’t have a son. But it is odd for a medical organisation to associate manhood with sperm count. It might be good short-term PR, but there must be better ways to get more men to masturbate into a cup.”

Think again Laura.


About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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11 Responses to Real Men Are Sometimes Infertile

  1. Bothways says:

    Agreed, not much more to say really. Needs to be rethought.

  2. gsmwc02 says:

    As an infertile man this hurts. At first I didn’t question about whether I was a real man after my diagnosis. But now two years later I’m struggling with it. I wrote a recent piece about it posted below.

    Infertility is emasculating as it is, Laura is just adding fuel to the fire. I think there are other non offensive ways to encourage sperm donation.

  3. oliviasview says:

    Thanks for posting a link to your blog Greg. I am so very sorry you are struggling in this way and hope very much that your feelings about yourself shift again, but this time in a more forgiving and positive way. Seeking help is never unmanly.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      Thank you Olivia. I’m working through this. It’s been the toughest year of my life but I’m still standing. I’m learning to expect the unexpected in my life and that nothing good or bad is certain.

  4. marilynn says:

    I agree donating sperm is not a badge of virility or masculinity. It’s ironic if you think about the fact that the men raising sperm donor offspring could produce sperm they just could not have offspring of their own. It’s not the sperm that the clinic is asking men to donate – it’s their kids, their parental title and responsibilities. And what you say about being there day in and day out is true id does take a real responsible stand up person to raise a kid up properly and that is far more “manly” than abandoning offspring and parental responsibilities as a favor or for a few bucks. It’s pretty clear in that scenario who is acting like a shallow coward hiding from their children until they are 18 and need no support vs the guy who is going to be there day in and day out for those 18 years. Obviously the one who is more manly is the one who does not shy away from taking care of his wife’s kids even if they are not his very own.

    Donating sperm does is not a sign of virility and masculinity any more than it’s not a sign of nobility or generosity. Neither is it a sign of virility and masculinity to recklessly have children with strangers having no intention of caring for them or raising them. Manliness is not demonstrated by walking away from responsibility but rather sticking with it and owning up to it. Nothing noble, generous, manly or virile about a cowardly selfish act of turning your back on the lives you create even if some really nice get to raise a kid because you did not raise your own kid there is nothing at all to be proud of in it and nothing to aspire to either.

    A man who can’t make a kid is a million times more manly than one who would hide for 18 years to avoid responsibility and child support pretending he did it all “to help others have a family”.

    • gsmwc02 says:

      I think you missed that this is about the idea that sperm count is a way to determine masculinity. This isn’t about raising children it’s about emasculating infertile men. What you are saying isn’t relevant to this topic.

      • marilynn says:

        Wait Greg – no I did not at all. I agree completely that potency does not equate to verility or masculinity.The ability to reproduce has nothing to do with manliness. The implication is, I agree offensive.

      • marilynn says:

        Wait Greg – no I did not at all. I agree completely that potency does not equate to verility or masculinity.The ability to reproduce has nothing to do with manliness. The implication is, I agree offensive. The only way to imasculate a male is to ….you can’t you just can’t take a male and make him female it’s not possible. Even with surgery it’s pretend.

  5. marilynn says:

    Pretty sure the thing the clinic calls a sperm shortage is just what the population at large refers to as responsible sexual behavior, birth control and family planning. It’s just a sign of maturity when men choose carefully their partners and avoid causing pregnancies when they are not ready to raise all the children that result. The clinics have to really twist reality to get men to forget everything they’ve been taught all their lives about responsible male behavior. Of course they’ll say it’s a show of manliness just as much as they’ll say it’s an altruistic and generous act but it’s neither.

    If you think the men raising donor offspring are offended by these advertising slogans that equate their abandonment to gift giving, kindness and altruism? It’s a bald faced lie and an insult on par with implying that an infertile man is a whimp. It’s a lie told to garner profit. It’s sleazy.

    • oliviasview says:

      As always Marilynn, I allow your comments on my blog because I see no reason to censor the views of others, even if they are as far from my own as they could possibly be.

      • marilynn says:

        Thank Olivia but I agree with you that the advertising campaign calling sperm donors masculine is not an accurate representation of them or of infertile men. Where is it that we diverge? I think it’s unscrupulous to imply such a thing just to turn a profit.

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